Posts Tagged ‘On the radio’

Education, education, education!

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Heard an interesting article on the radio this morning about the International Physics Olympiad, which is being held in Vietnam this year. I think it sounds like a nice idea, to hold a competition for something more constructive than running around after a ball, but then I would say that wouldn’t I, since I never had much success at catching the ball, or knowing what to do with it when I did accidentally catch it.

But anyway, the article focussed on the difficulties of the British team. They said that twenty years ago the UK A Level Physics syllabus pretty much matched the international standard that the competition demanded, but that nowadays our A Level students know only half of what they should. That appalled me. We all know about the lowering of our educational standards over the years, and the consistent denials of it by our government (who of course only do these things because they love us, and want what’s best for us).

To be told that our students had to cover about an extra year’s worth of physics (in a space of a week) just depressed me a lot. I know when I did physics, (and that’s a long time ago – not very far off twenty years), we were often told of things that we wouldn’t be learning because they were no longer on the syllabus. That used to disappoint me, that there was knowledge that was being deliberately withheld from us, where previous students got to learn about it. And things have continued to go downhill since then.

But where does it end? If standards aren’t falling around the rest of the world, what will happen to us? Are the British going to become the stupidest people on earth?

Only time will tell.

Religious Leaders

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I happened to catch an interview this morning on the Today programme on Radio 4 with the Dalai Lama (which may still be available here). What an interesting chap he is!

He was asked about all the things you might expect – Tibet, China, the Olympics, Buddhism. Pretty serious subjects – he wasn’t given a particularly easy ride. And yet throughout he remained positive, and you could hear the smile in his voice throughout. He said that his aim is for an autonomous Tibet within China, to benefit both sides as a compromise solution, and continues to re-iterate that they must only use non-violent means.

What a guy!! He is surely the Mohatma Gandhi of our generation, unhappy about the treatment of his people, but absolutely refusing violence and negativity, and wanting to make progress through compromise and negotiation. And let’s face it, he has not been very successful thus far, but he is passionate that he will not support any other way.

And what a great spokesperson for a religion, and for a country. As I said, you can hear him smile when he speaks. Even when he is talking about things that are very serious and important to him, he comes back to that gentle, smiling tone. He is very human, and a real contrast to the other religious leaders of his stature (who I guess are the archbishop of Canterbury, and the pope). When you hear them speaking, it is in sermons and press releases – formal, complex communications. When the Dalai Lama speaks, he is not looking thoughtful and serious – he wants to connect with people on a human level. I’ve even been told that he’s been known to sneak sweets to people when he shakes hands. Can you see the Archbishop of Canterbury doing that?

I have no intention of becoming a Buddhist, but I can’t help feeling that if we all were a little more like him the world would be a better place. And that goes double for politicians, church leaders, and managers!

PS. But now that I think about it, there is one other church leader who exudes that feeling of inner peace and joy, despite coming through difficult times – Desmond Tutu, another man who I have the most profound respect for. Now I definitely won’t have to become a buddhist. Only be a bit less white…