Saturday, 30 June 2007

One Man's Ethic - Policies?

Gordon Brown has chosen his cabinet, and the key to it is - well, they are all, but for Jack Straw, up and coming younger ones. Thus the boss is the boss. As Chancellor, Gordon Brown had his tentacles in every part of government, and he will know the branches of government better than his ministers - at least for some time. The BBC Political Correspondent Nick "Bilko" Robinson says that the luckily thwarted terrorism events met inexperienced Brown and Smith, forcing them to learn very fast. This baffles me in respect of Gordon Brown, who was very much in the top of the government and not some new face. Gordon Brown's pals are in the cabinet, and no doubt he will listen to them, but also there is no doubt that his vision is the only real one, whatever it is. I suspect it is something to do with the Protestant work ethic translated into soon to be announced various policies. So, to take a couple of relevant areas related to that...

He could start by having a revamp of the unemployment system. People exist on next to nothng now when unemployed, especially long term, and there are an ever increassing number of compulsions that threaten those who find it harder to get work the longer they are unemployed. People end up going through the motions of pointless employeer contacts (that must drive employers silly) in order to produce the appearance of effort. What it needs is not the bureaucracy of officialdom, rules is rules, all the time, which produces this daft merry go round of going nowhere and the appearance of doing something - and the proliferation of telephone lines to get money mistakes sorted out as the staff are cut back - but a wholly different approach. This would involve case workers who take someone on, understand the person and listen to them by going through what they have done in the past: in other words, this would be a qualitative approach based on actual individuals and skills rather than the current daft situation of handing out off the cuff inappropropriate compulsory job suggestions so that staff have handed out something, recorded on a computer. The case workers could do some ringing up themselves, and be able to draw on many different levels-based and skills-using schemes with employers that give the individual real and actual experience. In other words, these schemes are an employer of not even last resort. The dole office should be like the old Job Club (what a stupid cost-cutting decision to get rid of them), set out with tables and computers and telephones, with free stationery and stamps, where for a few hours on several days people could go in and get on with looking for work. This would allow a mental organising of self and time for getting work. Of course if people are not looking for work then bring in compulsion, but do not assume it: no one could live for long on the meagre benefits now received, but also who actually wants to do this? Furthermore, it does remain an economic fact that unemployment of resources must exist, including human resources. Such is capitalism, cyclically and in technological transition, and structurally it also happens because education and training mismatches the world of work either through noddy schemes or many employers' lack of flexibility regarding what education offers to then train people themselves.

The approach at present is targets based, and recording fragments of work-seeking activities, in an atmosphere of compulsion, which potentially can be not only be a show by the staff but a show by the unemployed. It has to change, because it serves no one who really needs help and assistance.

It is just like the targets and appearances of results in schools and colleges, the processing by which now every sixth form and college achieves 100% A2 passes and each one puts them on websites as if this makes a claim for success. We all know that processing people through exams is not the same as education, and how it is that students are passing more exams and doing more quantity of work than ever before and yet such "successful" students can get to university seemingly without the skills and understanding to study, spending the first year as if doing the A level all over again with a less processing approach to study. Ah - but now the Schools department has been separated from the Universities department. What was the point of that then? Appearances, probably.

The change needed is that academic students must be taught principally how to think, with a huge effort on study skills (incorporating literacy and numeracy and use of ICT), with a push towards abstract learning and understanding in most of their subjects. This means reducing the numbers of students in mainly pure academic subjects and increasing the numbers in an all round education that emphasises literacy, numeracy, ICT and applied subjects. This means applied education (not simply vocational training) of a more concrete nature. There must always be the opportunity for individuals to move from one emphasis to the other, and so the academic people must do some applied subjects too. Those who seem better suited to the mainly abstract academic from the applied side can change emphasis, and vice versa. Then the universities might get better thinkers, and some of these universities and colleges in specific courses can also attract the more applied types.

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