Friday, December 14, 2007

Fat Geese

Yesterday, Eid was declared, also Arafat Day, thus everyone is girding their loins for battle at airports, in the stampede whereby two-thirds of the country decides they don't like it here any more and heads off to either find relatives or snow. Two more 'teaching' days to go and papers to mark, before the fairy lights and advertising penetrates my consciousness. Thereafter, I shall enjoy some peace and quiet - all hail the festive eve being celebrated without a fat goose this year. Applebee's has Far Eastern staff bedecked in Santa hats, just for the Americans, one supposes, but mercifully, the beery bonhomie so characteristic of the UK is conspicuous by its absence. I am delighted to report that I shall not be sending Xmas greetings this year, instead a SmileBox, perhaps. Watch this space. Or not, as you choose.

My beautiful car has suffered another black eye - this time at the hands of a dirty Mercedes-Benz which was damaged much worse than mine. Traffic in Shuwaikh resembles the retreat from Baghdad at the best of times, crossways being unpoliced and free of all inconvenient encumbrances to progress like traffic lights, thus the mentality is at best impatient - much cacophony with shouting and horns - and at worst, savage. Driving on the pavement is commonplace and, in some places, de rigueur. The body shop will replace my front bumper, unlike the Merc which will need a new wing and doors. That'll teach him to attempt to drive away...

Friday, December 07, 2007


Blogtrawling today I came up with small, bright nuggets which illuminated, sharpened perspective and made me realise that I had been skateboarding across the emotional surface for a while.

I have no idea who this man is, or the happy little guy with the new pair of socks, but I found it strangely heartwarming...

Edited from a blog by Bethany Gaddis, a young mother from Florida. "Wherever we are, our surroundings have an "understory." - references to the life unseen and often unacknowledged within the interstices of everyday events and images, like a tale of the riverbank, existing and thriving without our awareness but are crucial to the livelihood of our environment. " The phrase stuck with me, a metaphor for "The Wind in the Willows".

We all have an understory. There are things happening under the surface of our daily lives that go unseen, sometimes even by ourselves. Yet they are an integral part of who we are and how we interact with the "seen" parts of life. They surface, like underground streams, sometimes briefly, almost unnoticed. Yet, if we miss the light catching on the water, we impoverish ourselves.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

cogito ergo sum

I think there must be almost zero tolerance for "intellectual" discussion of any sort in the educational atmosphere here. It seems that such talk is perceived as toxic, unnecessary and, dare we say, downright dangerous to 'learning'. Consequently, there is a significant problem for anyone who seeks to move education away from its emphasis on classroom “techniques and tactics” and toward the “intellectual reasoning-through of important content.” What is more, “intellectuality” and its significance to learning and instruction cannot easily be understood, assessed or transmitted. There is a developmental process necessary here. To understand intellectual work, it is essential to understand reasoning as an intellectual process. To understand reasoning, in turn, it is essential to understand basic structures integral to it — for example, assumptions, inferences, and implications. Moreover, to understand these structures, it is essential to understand intellectual criteria crucial to the assessment of these structures in action. Finally, one understands all of this only by becoming intellectually disciplined oneself. This is not, of course, a matter of becoming an “intellectual” in some snobbish sense of the word. My students are only interested in 'passing'. The staging post is defined, theirs is not an interest in the process, or even the principle, merely the acquisition of the necessary piece of paper, thus for them the concept of "intellectuality" has no meaning. Except for the one or two, who are willing to peer through the gloom and catch a glimpse of something more exciting, abstract, beautiful, diffuse or unreal. Raise a glass - the smooth, the blushful Hippocrene, to them and listen with them for the song of the nightingale. It's been a particularly good year for Hippocrene.