Sunday, December 11, 2016

Food for Thought: Reason why school needs to be redefined

Dear all,

As we move in to the last week before the winter break I'd like to thank you for all the hard work and effort that you have contributed towards making this another good semester for student learning, engagement and empowerment this semester. We have continued to investigate how we can redefine the school experience for our students. We started with a new 4/5 class room area which has certainly increased the possibility for collaboration and connectivity between students and teachers and provided a first insight into the new learning environments that will dominate the refurbished primary and new secondary campus in the not so distant future . Our year long inquiry into 'who we are' links perfectly with our second step on the road to becoming a Positive Education school, and is raising some interesting questions for us to solve. Gaining a deeper understanding of the 10 positive emotions has helped us look more deeply into ourselves as we search for self awareness of who we are as educators at ISHCMC. Of course there has been so much more that just these few examples but I selected these because of their focus on the individual and their contribution to the whole. I believe this is a key constituent that under pins a redefinition of education. We have to be looking at breaking the industrialized conveyor belt model of education and making it about individuals and what is best for their social, emotional and intellectual being. This includes all our stakeholders.

The readings in this week's Food for Thought are quite long and hence I am sharing them with you ahead of a vacation. I will not be writing another Food for Thought until the 8th of January.. The aim of this weeks Food for Thought is to provide further depth of understanding as to why it is time for school's to be redefined. These two article do not directly talk about education but are fundamentally linked to the need to redefine the purpose of school.
Arizona Parrot Flickr via Compfight cc

The first is an easy to understand economics article, 'The American Dream, Quantified at Last,'  which looks at the economy of the USA and how it has changed and the impact of this on the psychology of society. It touches on Trump's electoral victory, the potential ways forward and the challenges that lay ahead. Overall it is positive but again clearly makes the point that we are living in a changing world and cannot take for granted the same economic prosperity and growth that have for the most part prevailed since the 1880's.

"For babies born in 1980 — today’s 36-year-olds — the index of the American dream has fallen to 50 percent: Only half of them make as much money as their parents did. In the industrial Midwestern states that effectively elected Donald Trump, the share was once higher than the national average. Now, it is a few percentage points lower. There, going backward is the norm.
Psychology research has shown that people’s happiness is heavily influenced by their relative station in life. And it’s hard to imagine a more salient comparison than to a person’s own parents, particularly at this time of year, when families gather for rituals that have been repeated for decades. “You’re going home for the holidays and you compare your standard of living to your parents,” Grusky, a sociologist, says. “It’s one of the few ties you have over the course of your entire life. Friends come and go. Parents are a constant.”
How, then, can the country revive Adams’s dream of a “better and richer and fuller” life for everyone? The solution has to involve some combination of faster economic growth and more widely shared growth."

maryturck Flickr via Compfight cc

The second article, which you can listen to instead of reading by clicking on the curio button, again looks at economic change. It is an essay from AEON magazine by James Livingston, who is professor of history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Although the title may be off putting, F..k Work, , it asks the very important question, 'what if jobs aren't the solution any more?' In the past the solution to economic woes has been a move towards full employment but is this possible today and will it solve the problems created by a changing world? What happens if life isn't about your value as a worker? So many of the parameters that western society, in particular those that are structured around the protestant work ethic, has as foundations would now need rethinking with a new rationalization to why we exist. The essay suggests that it is time to rewrite our moral and ethical thinking about work and its place in society. Of course this change links with some of the concepts that we have been developing at ISHCMC based around the need to produced employers not employees, students who are creative and can innovate, are confident in their skills, resilient to face failure and make changes, flexible as life long learner and are able to recreate themselves depending upon their environment.

"These days, everybody from Left to Right – from the economist Dean Baker to the social scientist Arthur C Brooks, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump – addresses this breakdown of the labour market by advocating ‘full employment’, as if having a job is self-evidently a good thing, no matter how dangerous, demanding or demeaning it is. But ‘full employment’ is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules, or in whatever else sounds good. The official unemployment rate in the United States is already below 6 per cent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call ‘full employment’, but income inequality hasn’t changed a bit. Shitty jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problems we now face.
Don’t take my word for it, look at the numbers. Already a fourth of the adults actually employed in the US are paid wages lower than would lift them above the official poverty line – and so a fifth of American children live in poverty. Almost half of employed adults in this country are eligible for food stamps (most of those who are eligible don’t apply). The market in labour has broken down, along with most others."

There is lots to be thinking about as we move towards 2017. We know that technology has transformed our world very quickly, the question is can the world now adjust and counter these changes or are we entering an era of reactionary government pretending to empathize with the masses whilst protecting the wealth of the minority.

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing winter break.

Have a good Sunday,

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Food for Thought: How much do we need to be happy?

Dear all,

The end of another very busy week at ISHCMC. I am sure that there will be a lot of secondary students as staff who worked on the excellent musical Honk catching up on a lot of sleep this weekend. I would just like to publicly congratulate all of you who have been involved in the recent productions, for the quality of acting and musical accompaniment  that you managed to encourage from our students and the obvious commitment and engagement that they all demonstrated through their performances.

This weeks Food for Thought is  bit a different, although it does tie very much with our mission and vision. The first part links to a website of a young (ish) man who has developed a sustainable lifestyle in California. When I trawled through his website and watched several of his videos it certainly made me reflect upon a number of things. Firstly, how happy he seemed and how this appeared contagious to those he met. Secondly, how little we really need in our lives to be happy. Thirdly, the importance of being positive and seeing good in the world rather than bad. Finally, the big question how much do we need to have a good and happy life?

This video captures many of my reflections. It is how Rob Greenfield tested out his simple theory that people are inherently good not bad.

In addition to browsing Rob Greenfield's site I would like you to take the time to read this interesting article  about how our diet impacts the environment. 

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” That’s what the French lawyer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who happened to have a deep love of gastronomy, wrote in 1825. A century later, a diet-hawking American nutritionist named Victor Lindlahr rendered it as: “You are what you eat.” I propose revising it further: Tell me what you eat and I will tell you how you impact the planet.
Most of us are aware that our food choices have environmental consequences. (Who hasn’t heard about the methane back draft from cows?) But when it comes to the specifics of why our decisions matter, we’re at a loss, bombarded with confusing choices in the grocery-store aisles about what to buy if we care about planetary health. Are organic fruits and vegetables really worth the higher prices, and are they better for the environment? If I’m a meat eater, should I opt for free-range, grass-fed beef? Is it OK to buy a pineapple flown in from Costa Rica, or should I eat only locally grown apples?
The science of food’s ecological footprint can be overwhelming, yet it’s important to understand it. For starters, in wealthy societies food consumption is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of the total footprint of a household. Feeding ourselves dominates our landscapes, using about half the ice-free land on earth. It sends us into the oceans, where we have fished nearly 90 percent of species to the brink or beyond. It affects all the planet’s natural systems, producing more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gases. Farming uses about 70 percent of our water and pollutes rivers with fertilizer and waste that in turn create vast coastal dead zones. The food on your plate touches everything."
Have a good Sunday,