Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Degrees - Another Keeper

It just so happens I DO have a degree (it's a Desmond in a Mickey Mouse discipline from a Polytechnic but it is, nevertheless a degree). I have also, through work, private study and plain curiosity, gained degree level knowledge or higher in several disciplines (or sometimes parts of those disciplines if those were the only parts that interested me).

Much of this was gained from, what I DO consider to be Britain's major educational assets. That is the public library. I read statistics some years ago (back in the late seventies) comparing public libraries per head of population in various countries of the world. The top three were UK, Switzerland and the USA. But that doesn't show just how far ahead we were in Libraries. Switzerland had six times as many libraries per head of the population as the USA... and Britain back in the seventies had ninety three times as many as Switzerland.

Since then, successive Governments have stopped investing in Libraries although I imagine we're still well ahead... but more importantly, Libraries have become less important with the availability of information on the Internet (provided we know how to sort the wheat from the chaff).

Now, what's my point? It's not the degrees themselves that matter, but the knowledge represented by those degrees. If the degree is devalued in terms of content, but upgraded in terms of its essential character, do we lose that knowledge that was going around the country?

Such knowledge reached a peak in this country between 1890 and 1950, roughly the time when Workers' Education Associations flourished. Now, it's falling back and it wil be a shame to lose it.

As for degrees as qualifications. I don't believe the state should be involved. Qualifications exist to help employers choose among candidates, who is the most likely to be able to do the job. Let us separate these functions. Let the state fund education in its abstract sense, but let employers fund their own sifting exercises.

__________________The 53 State Timeline - Buddy Holly as President and 75,000 people on Mars http://alternatehistory.com/discussi...ad.php?t=63105

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Godverdomme!... in Portuguese

I know there are gaps between my posts. This is not unrelated to the fact that I can never remember how to access them. That's neither here nor there though. Today, what I want to talk about is my recent holiday. It was so recent that I woke up in Portugal this morning (hence the swearing in Portuguese).

For the first time, I decided to book a holiday on the Internet. Nice and convenient, I thought, cheaper than the high street so I could afford a better holiday. Es Verdad? Well, es up to a point, verdad.

My wife and I just spent a relaxing week in a five-star hotel in Vilamoura (a thoroughly English resort in the Algarve). My room had a view of the sea along with a stretch of undeveloped land and some broken down shacks. That's the clue. At the other side of those shacks was the village of Quarteira. Quarteira is every bit as Portuguese as Vilamoura is English. We crossed no-man's land, under the watchful eyes of the people living in the shacks and visited a real, Portuguese supermarket, where things were about a third of the price charged in Vilamoura. On the way back, there were Gypsies dancing, not for Tourists but for themeselves.

There were even two marinas. Visible from our room at the other side of no-man's land, was the harbour of Quarteira, full of real fishing boats belonging to real fishermen. At the other side of our hotel and past a couple more was the Vilamoura marina, home to about 1500 yachts and surrounded by English pubs, Italian icecreameries, chinese restaurants and even a Swedish place.

But anyway, the week was relaxing. That's what I wanted. A chance to sleep when I wanted, slob around and generally behave indolently. All was well.

Getting there and back was less as desired. We flew out with Monarch Airlines. For an extra 30 quid, extra leg-room was available (and I, of course, availed myself of this). No amount of money, however, would buy extra arse-room so I spent 2 and a half hours each way (actually more like 3 and a half on the way back because our flight was delayed an hour) in a seat designed for an infants school.

Getting back, Gatwick to Victoria was no problem. "Here's 29 quid", thank you Sir and Madam, that gets you to Victoria in 35 minutes. I thought we'd take a taxi home but the taxi driver said he wouldn't go to Tottenham because there was too much traffic. (Or maybe because my wife is black - definitely a reason I can't rule out).

No Taxi, so we tried the Victoria Line... "Alles kaput".

No Victoria Line so we tried a number 73 bus, which (hours later) dumped us in Tottenham Court Road (for those who don't know London, it's no where near Tottenham). Somehow, we limped, heavily laden with suitcases, to Euston and a 476 bus that this time did bring us near enough to home.

To make matters worse, while on holiday I won... a holiday. I'll be going to the Canaries in September.