It is essential for students taking IELTS examinations to develop their critical thinking, to understand and discuss current issues, and be able to write about them in essays and in Task 2 of the IELTS Writing examination.
Here are 29 topics for you to read about and study. Essays and articles have been provided to help you develop your critical thinking and your understanding of complex current issues.
There are references used in essays on each topic to help you search for your own reading, and there are also other references that you might find useful.
Read as much as you can on each topic and make notes to help you remember what you have read.
Comprehension questions and answers have been provided for each essay and each article.
A glossary of important vocabulary has been provided with each section to help you understand the words that have been used and which you will be required to use when writing your essays and examination papers.
According to a report published by the
The figures quoted in the report compare today’s 15 and 16-year old boys with those of the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s teenagers, the report says, have a much greater chance of having a range of behavioural difficulties than their parents’ generation. Rising crime figures have confirmed that the great majority of offences are committed by teenage boys.
Another significant statistic is that the rate of divorce in
B. Problems faced by children
The difficulties of growing up today could be a factor contributing to this increase in crime
Growing up without two parents in the home can and does mean that children, and particularly boys, do not get the right amount of discipline. That is not to say that mothers do not discipline their children, but traditionally it is the father who metes out discipline to sons, for example.
If parental involvement is equated with care and attention of children, and there is evidence that children often view even handed discipline in this way, then it is little wonder that many children today suffer from low self-esteem, lack of confidence and the need to feel valued by their parents and the need for their parents’ involvement in their young lives. When children lack self-esteem they often become aggressive and easily angered. Christle et al (2000)
Similarly, parents who take an interest in their children give them self-confidence, meaning that when parents show little or no interest in what their children are doing, they come to lack self-confidence. Having self–confidence means that children become more resilient. Resilience has been defined as, ‘the ability to recover strength and spirit under adversity on both internal (self) and external (family, school, community) factors for a positive outcome.’ Christle (ibid) Resilient children are less prone to becoming aggressive or easily angered. Resilient children have fewer behavioural problems.
Another difficulty children face, and one that may not be fully understood by parents, is the pressure exerted upon a child from its peer group. Children are often bullied at school if they appear different in any way to other children. This may take the form of being made fun of, or of being physically abused, or both. To avoid being bullied, a child may change his or her behaviour so that it is more in line with what is considered normal in the child’s peer group. An example of the way peer group pressure can force children to act in certain ways is illustrated by smoking cigarettes at school. Many children, usually boys, start smoking because their friends smoke. Pressure in the form of bullying or just a need in a child to conform to what is expected by friends can make children take up smoking cigarettes at an early age.
C. Problems faced by parents
As well as the difficulties faced by children inside and outside the home, parents also face difficulties. First of all, the social conditions in which people live militate against high levels of involvement in a child’s life. Today, millions of single parents, invariably women, have to balance the need to provide for their children with a need to become more involved with their families. At times when children are off school, for example, a mother may still have to go out to work every day, leaving the child unsupervised, and alone with other children in the same position. It is easy to see that children can get into mischief in such situations.
The age we live in brings additional difficulties for parents: most children have computers these days, with access to the Internet. As is well known, there are all sorts of temptations online for the unwary. The incidence of physical abuse taking place after a child has got to know someone through a chat room has increased, and is a constant cause for concern with parents whose children regularly access the Internet without supervision or their parents’ knowledge.
Today children are continually exposed to temptations that were much less in evidence even just twenty years ago. The selling of illegal drugs in schools is widespread these days, despite all attempts by the authorities and by parents to stop it, and children can become addicted much more easily. With this comes secrecy, as the child fears being found out. Petty criminal activity follows, to pay for the habit, and the cycle of substance abuse (illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol) and criminal activity becomes strengthened.
On a more psychological level, parents often do not really know the best way to bring up their children, often using violence or threats of violence to stop children behaving badly. However, several things need to be stated here. The first one is that violence or the threat of violence is not an effective way of ensuring a child behaves in an acceptable manner. Child abuse and neglect bring on the early onset of anti-social behaviour in children. McEvoy & Welker (2000)
In addition, using physical forms of punishment teaches children that hitting is an acceptable way to express feelings of anger and disappointment. Children mimic their parents’ behaviour, albeit often unconsciously, but nevertheless, it is a fact that a child’s main role model in life is his or her parent/s.
Lastly, and for the reasons just mentioned, mothers and fathers bringing up children, do so in the only way they know how: somnetimes in the same way they themselves were brought up. If children are physically abused by parents, there is a good chance that when they become parents, they will physically abuse their children in lieu of other forms of parental discipline. Christle (ibid)
First and foremost, a realization by parents that there is a problem in the home, that the child’s life is adversely affected in some way is vital, for without that realization, without admitting to oneself that one’s child is suffering, no attempt to change can take place.
Counseling is one form of action that can help parents cope with bringing up a child. The ability and the opportunity to talk to skilled and experienced counseling personnel can be instrumental in showing parents more effective and loving ways to treat their children. As stated earlier, many of the ways parents discipline their children, can often have completely the reverse effect intended. Violence in the home does not stop violence outside the home. On the contrary, it may exacerbate the problem. Parents need to know what effects their behaviour is having on their children, and more importantly, that there are alternatives to the ones that have already been tried.
Lastly, a willingness to want to change is a vital ingredient in any improvement in a child’s life. Parents, no less than children, must really want to change. Being the adult in the relationship, it should be the parent who takes the initiative in instigating changes in the way children are treated in the home.
As for the children’s willingness to change; being shown more love and respect, seeing that their parents are more interested and involved in what they are doing, and having a better role model to look up to, should ensure that their wishes are the same as their parents.
If this willingness is translated into real and lasting changes in family life, inside and outside the home, there will be changes at many different but related levels. First of all, levels of trust between parents and children should increase. This means that parents will know that their children are behaving well, even in their absence at school holiday times, for example. They will know that their children can be trusted, and this works both ways; children know that they are being trusted and this makes them live up to that trust.
Being trusted and trusting others brings other advantages and benefits to a child’s sense of well-being; the child so treated will feel valued by her parents, and this will lead to increasing amounts of self-confidence, which in turn will serve to bolster the trust that has been established between parent and child.
Increasing trust in a relationship leads to more ‘bonding’ between parents and children. Seeing the other’s point of view is one such way bonding takes place, and this is vital to both parent and child; it is akin to bridging the generation gap. Knowing what a child is going through at school, for example, and realizing that it is not the same as one’s own experience of school, will give a parent empathy with her children. Understanding is enhanced by trust. Empathy is increased by understanding.
Trust, bonding and parental empathy must surely lead to changes in a child’s resilience to disappointment and adversity. A child’s behaviour is often a product of her reaction to events and the people who help to cause them. If a child knows she is valued and trusted, she is more likely to have what it takes to refuse to go along with what she knows is wrong.
Having succeeded in resisting pressure means being more self-assertive, and this can only lead to an increase in self-confidence, which in turn must lead to deep-rooted happiness. Children who know what is expected of them, and who live up to those expectations and feel valued for it, quickly learn to behave responsibly; they behave responsibly to those around them, to their families, and most of all, to themselves.
Being seen to be acting in a responsible manner earns respect. If it does not earn the respect of those who formerly encouraged the child to act irresponsibly, then so much the better. A child will more quickly learn to shun the acceptance of such individuals if he is held in respect by a majority of more law abiding people, including his own family members.
Mc Evoy, A., & Welker, R. (2000) Antisocial behaviour, academic failure, and school climate In Journal of Emotional and Behavioural Disorders, 8, p130-140
i) A brief history of the Internet
ii) The reach of the Internet
iv) Convenience and speed
ii) Addiction to the Internet
1. Common causes of stress
i) The Internet as a force for good or the Internet as a potential force for evil
ii) Personal responsibility
The Internet represents the most astounding development in technology in modern times. The telegraph, telephone, television and radio preceded it and set the stage for its unprecedented capabilities in the integration of global communication. 
For the people who had a hand in its development, people like Barry M. Leiner, Robert E. Khan, Leonard Kleinrock, and Stephen Wolff, to name but a few, and for us, the users of the Net, it is, ‘one of the most successful examples of the benefits of sustained investment and commitment to research and development of information infrastructure.’ 
In laymen’s terms, the Internet has brought us ‘the enormous growth of all kinds of “people-to-people” traffic. 
The influence and interest that the Internet has generated worldwide, and is still continuing to generate is pervasive. On a recent trip to
i) A brief history of the Internet
It all started, as they say, as early as 1966, when researchers based at MIT developed what was to become the forerunner to the Internet. In 1969, Kleinrock from UCLA and others, who had been working on developments in the field, made the
By the end of that year, other host computers were connected, and the ARPANET, the infant Internet had come into being.
Since those early beginnings, the words of J.C.R. Licklider of MIT; that he ‘envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site’ have materialized; the Internet is up and running and provides its millions of users with those facilities.
However, probably the most important issue related to the future of the Internet is not how technology will change, though that is undoubtedly important, but how the process of change and evolution itself will be managed, and how and whether the Internet can be controlled and policed so that it continues to live up to the ideals that its initial designers had in mind when they took the first steps in creating it.
B. The advantages of the Internet
ii) The reach of the Internet
The reach of the Internet is global, not restricted to any particular geographical location. The only proviso is that a potential user has a computer and usually, a telephone link. Of course, this does severely limit access to the Net, and currently, the online population of the world is estimated to be in the region of 729 million people. 
35.8% of these use the English language, 14.1% Chinese, 9.6% Japanese, 9% Spanish, and 7.3% German, reflecting, broadly, the distribution and scope of language use globally. 
Expressed in economic parlance, the Internet is responsible for 31.3% of world economy in European languages other than English, which translates to a massive Gross Domestic Product of $12, 968 Billion. Even in a small country such as
In advertising alone, the amount of revenue spent on the Internet totaled nearly $2.3 billion during the first three months of 2004. 
Apart from the advantages to trade and advertising indicated by the figures given above, the Internet has speeded up methods of communication. As stated earlier, email users now refer to conventional surface mailing systems as ‘snail mail’, meaning that it is funereally slow in comparison to electronic mail. The Internet has been responsible for the greatest improvement in communications since those other inventions, the telephone, television and radio.
iii) Convenience and speed
The speed of the Internet is measured in bits, which can travel at the speed of light.  Early modems could transfer information at speeds of 300 bps (bits per second). However, recent advances mean that data can now be transferred at 56,000 bps. Still, there is the limitation of the phone line network. Every user knows that the speed of the Internet varies with the time of day one is trying to get online. During peak hours, access can be infuriatingly slow, while at other times it can be surprisingly rapid.  There is no doubt though that the Internet provides its users with an incredible diversity of services available online, and all at the click of the mouse. Practically anything from an airline ticket to a take-away meal for two can be ordered and paid for online.
C. The disadvantages of the Internet
Despite the numerous advantages of the Internet, there are many disadvantages too. Would-be Internet users need a computer, of course, and a telephone link to a server, although the Internet can be accessed in certain areas in towns and cities without a line. Most people need a telephone line, however. One of the main worries people have about using the Internet, though, concerns issues of security, particularly when divulging credit card details when purchasing on line, for instance. Web sites can learn a lot about you when you cruise the Net. 
Hackers can obtain information you send online, and forms you fill out, credit card details and any other personal information can be the subject of ‘sniffing’ by hackers. However, most sites that allow you to make credit purchases are secure; your message and their message back to you are both encrypted, making it practically impossible for someone ‘listening in’ to decode the transmissions. 
Cookies - little bits of information deposited on your computer – are generally good for you, though some can sometimes be a nuisance, returning over and over again to enable web sites you have visited to recognize you and to keep track of how you like things. Sometimes though, cookies are made to save information that you do not necessarily want other people to have, an example being your email address. Divulging this can mean you get junk mail from other sources. In newer browsers, a cookie can only be retrieved by the web page that deposited it, though that is not the case with some older browsers.
The publicizing of recent events has made more people aware of the dangers to children posed by the Internet, particularly if children access the Internet without supervision. Several things need to be made clear here. First of all, there are some sites online that are not suitable for children, to put it mildly, and adequate supervision and checks are needed to ensure that children do not access such sites. Unfortunately these days, many children have computers in their bedrooms and can access sites without their parents knowing. Only proper instruction and trust can eliminate this problem, although computers do record which sites have been visited, and many severs now block sites that are deemed to be unsuitable for access by users.
Divulging their complete identities in ‘chat rooms’ has led children to be abused by persons pretending to be friends. “The Internet is like life in the city, there are nice neighbourhoods and not so nice neighbourhoods.” It is impossible to tell who is who through a computer link to the Internet, and parents and teachers should inform children of the dangers they face by giving away such information. 
Identity theft is ‘the deliberate assumption of another person’s identity, usually to gain access to their credit or frame them for some crime.’ 5
This kind of offence, it is said, is the fastest growing type of misdemeanor in
Even though credit card identity theft costs American businesses a staggering $5 billion per year, companies are loath to make credit card information secure since that would make it more difficult for buyers and would probably discourage them from purchasing online. 
This being the case, it makes sense to limit how often you use your credit online, and keep a close check on accounts that are used for online purchases or at ATM machines. Regular checking is much more efficient than waiting for your monthly statement from the bank.
Finally, to reduce the possibility of your becoming a victim of identity theft for whatever reason, limit the amount of personal information you publish on the web.
ii)Addiction to the Internet
Addiction to anything is harmful, and the Internet is no exception. Using the Internet, like other activities such as writing, is a lonely use of one’s time. Apart from the dangers formerly mentioned online, too much time spent in front of a computer may damage your eyesight, and it will certainly reduce the time you spend with others.
1. Common causes of computer stress
Although computers are useful, and the Internet can be a valuable tool in helping you to organize your life, both can nevertheless be a great source of stress. In fact, it is said that stress from working with a computer is the same as stress from any other facet of life. 
Doctor Morton C. Orman M.D. suggests 10 common causes of computer stress. 
Failing to anticipate problems
By not using backup files, you are heading for a fall when crashes occur.
Saving money buying sub-standard equipment usually does not help.
Trying to go it alone and not asking for help and advice from others adds to your exasperation with the problems you encounter through your own inexperience or lack of know-how.
Instead of blaming the technology when things go wrong, be both philosophical and practical. Things can and do go wrong, and it is invariably the users fault. Realize that and you are half way there.
Using hardware without even looking at the manual is one recipe for heartache later. The new “Plug and play’ mentality doesn’t help.
Expecting everything to work the way you want it to do is hardly realistic.
When you make mistakes you are showing that you are human. Everybody does it.
Sharing a computer is often stressful, as is waiting for replies to ‘urgent’ emails.
More research means better results. Less means worse.
Using without buying or acknowledging is wrong, and you know it. Why do you do it when you know it will lead to problems later? 
Finally, the more you understand and concentrate on the real, underlying causes of computer related stress, the more you will come to terms with it, understand it, and suffer less from it.
2. How to find out if you are addicted to the Internet
An Internet Stress Survey is available online, and you would be well advised to take it, if you think you are at risk of being addicted to the Internet. 
Questions range from: ‘Do you think you are spending more time than you should surfing the Internet?’ to ‘Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to curtail you use of the Net?’ If you answered ‘Yes’ to 7 out of the 9 questions asked, you may well be addicted. 
Dr. Orman  suggests there are certain basic elements all addictions have in common, and addiction to the Internet is no different.
All addiction involves a certain amount of denial, which seems to be a vital ingredient, for without denial no addiction would become established. People tell themselves they don’t have a problem, and that’s when there is a problem.
Denial, of course, is accompanied by a failure, or at least a reluctance, to ask for help. “I can beat this thing myself,” is a commonplace here. Asking the wrong kinds of people, and not taking advice from the right sort is also common with addicts. Professional help is often the best, chiefly because it is the best informed, and also because it is given disinterestedly.
People who lack other stimuli in their life are at risk from becoming addicted. People who spend a lot of time looking at their computer screens are often described as ‘nerds’. What is important is to have something to replace the addiction, something that will give you pleasure or interest or both and which is not addictive.
Addictions are usually symptomatic of other deficiencies, which may be the reason why many addiction therapies are not successful; they treat the addiction in isolation, when it is really part of something bigger. Attempts to overcome loneliness lead many people into repetitive behaviour that can turn into addiction. The addiction stems from another problem in a person’s life. Dealing with one without the other will invariably be ineffective.
When giving anything up -‘cold turkey’ – makes a return almost irresistible. Anyone who has given up smoking knows the truth of that statement. Mastering your thoughts means resisting urges, and overcoming temptation. Like people giving up smoking, staying clear of the stimulus is vital. Get rid of the cigarettes from your lounge and you lessen that chance that you will be tempted back to smoking. Not turning on the computer, or going out whenever you feel the urge to go online coming on will help you cope with the difficulty of resisting temptation.
This is similar to not giving in to temptation; it is not deceiving yourself, not making excuses for yourself, and keeping your word. Lying to others may be easy for some, but lying to oneself never is.
Setting a schedule for action to be taken is the key to beating an addiction to anything. With Internet addiction, they might range from setting an absolute time you spend on the Net daily, placing self-imposed restraints on certain types of service that you find ‘pleasurable’, and often not of vital importance to your life, applying these restraints until you are out of danger, finding other things to do besides spending time on the Net, asking for help from others, to avoiding the environments that encourage you to return to your addictive behaviour. This last one could, for instance, involve going shopping in a mall that does not have an Internet café, rare as that might be.
Finally, situations will inevitably arise, after you appear to have kicked the habit, which drive you back to the addiction. Overcoming loneliness to remove the root cause of an addiction might not be permanent. Relationships fail, and have to be dealt with so that subsequent and dependent problems do not re-occur. 
i) The Internet as a force for good or as a potential force for evil
Like all technological innovations, the technology itself is neutral with regard to its uses. It is an inanimate object. No blame can attach to it. It is ultimately the uses and abuses man puts it to that are right or wrong in a moral sense. Unfortunately, the universality of the Internet means that no single body, be it a national government or an internationally recognized body such as the United Nations, is able to exert any meaningful control over what goes onto the world wide web.
ii) Personal responsibility and
accountability: the ultimate answer
Like the world in which we live and in which the Internet exists, the forces of good and evil are ranged on either side and no amount of pontification will alter that fact. Where it is possible to encourage good in people, it should be done, and where it is feasible to discourage bad in people, that should also be done. However, and be that as it may, each and every one of us using the Internet has a duty to ensure that our children and our young adults, and especially the most vulnerable in society, do not suffer because of it.
i) Definition of illiteracy
ii) Size of the problem
1. The statistics and the definitions used by government organizations
1. Case study:
1. The Freirean approach to adult literacy education
ntroduction: A review of the situation
Adult literacy is a worldwide problem, with no country escaping it, though the extent of the problem does vary from region to region, from continent to continent. In the developing areas of the world the percentage of the adult population that is considered illiterate is vast. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, approximately 43% are considered illiterate.  In Latin America and the
Adult literacy though, is not confined to the developing world. Despite compulsory education and high percentages of Gross National Product (GNP) being spent on education in the developed world, a significant proportion of the population of the developed world still has difficulties with reading and writing.  A recent survey revealed that young people in
The survey also reported that at least 15% of adults in
Definition of illiteracy
Any data on any situation is only ever as good as the definitions it uses to convey the severity of the situation. Of course, where counting heads is concerned, a lot of other varieties of problem rear their heads to render much information and many statistical analyses not altogether valuable.
Determining the extent of the problem of illiteracy among the adult population of the world is no exception.
Here are some things a person should be able to do to be considered ‘literate’.
According to some experts in the field (Fingeret 1982)  “our understanding of literacy has changed from a focus on individual skills, separated from meaningful content, to seeing that literacy is connected to the social, political, historical, cultural and personal situations in which people use their skills.” 
Sissel (1996) further states that, “the ‘one-size-fits-all’ programming” for adult literacy students cannot continue in the future if practitioners are to be responsive to learners’ need.” 
When asked to state what kinds of skills they needed, students on adult literacy programmes responded by outlining 4 kinds of skill.
Ø Literacy for access and orientation – to have access to information and to orient themselves in the world.
Ø Literacy as voice – to state their ideas and opinions vocally and to have the confidence that what they say will be heard and taken into account.
Ø Literacy as a vehicle for independent action – to solve problems and make decisions on their own, acting independently as a parent, citizen and worker, for the good of their families, their communities and their nation.
Ø Literacy as a bridge to the future – to be able to keep on learning in order to keep up with a rapidly changing world.  (Stein 1955)
Educationalists have discovered that large numbers of adults with literacy problems choose not to take advantage of Literacy Programmes in their areas, seeing such programmes in terms of conventional schooling, and not meeting their needs as adults living and working in a community. 
Since most adult literacy schemes look the same as school  (Quigley 1997), it would seem sensible to change the way programmes are structured and delivered if participants are to be attracted to them and attend them. 
i) The size of the problem
In spite of advances in the field of adult literacy training over the last 50 years, it is estimated that 20% of the world’s population (861 million people) still cannot read or write or participate fully in their societies.  (UNESCO) Two thirds of these are women, and another 113 million children are not receiving schooling despite being of school age.
Furthermore, this problem is not confined to the developing world. Recently the International Adult Literacy Survey reported that in 12 industrialized countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA) 25% of adults failed to reach minimum standards of literacy proficiency considered necessary for coping with the demands of everyday life and work in the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 
1. The statistics and the definitions used by government organizations
The definition used by many countries when reporting on the numbers of people with problems with literacy, is that a person is literate if s/he has completed 5 or more years of schooling. . However, the problem with this definition is that it either assumes that people are either ‘literate’ or ‘illiterate’, or that people with less than 5 years schooling are functionally literate, which in fact is not always the case.  However, the fact that using this definition provides cheap and quick estimations of a country’s population’s literacy problems in perhaps the main reason why so many governments use it 
Such methods however, do not provide very reliable results; those require more money and more time. All assessments involve sacrificing either quality and reliability, or time and finances.
Another factor is that because literacy rates for women worldwide are lower than for men, and because mothers’ literacy and education levels are often of vital importance in ensuring children’s health and education, government agencies target females in their efforts to increase literacy rates and hence their economic viability in the global marketplace. 
1. Case study:
The Seti Project targeted young girls and women in poor rural villages along the banks of the
Women in the adult classes were introduced to basic medical procedures like re-hydration of children suffering from dysentery, and the importance of disposing of waste in latrines and garbage pits.
The Seti Project was a success. Here are some of the yardsticks that were used to measurer that success:-
· More than 8000 out-of-school girls attended, increasing their awareness of health and hygiene while increasing their own standards of literacy.
· Over 150,000 schoolchildren were reached by regular education initiatives.
· 30,000 adults, many of them women, attended evening classes.
Because health and hygiene were the major themes of the Project, the whole community benefited from what had been learned, and improvements in literacy were achieved in the context of what were of real and lasting importance to the participants as well as to the community as a whole. Adult classes had strong learner input related to course themes and materials to that the most pressing felt needs were addressed. [11
1. The Freirean approach to adult literacy education
This approach to adult literacy education takes its name from its originator, Paulo Freire, and has been variously named since as the problem posing approach, and the learner-centred approach. 
Because, Freire argues, unjust social conditions are the cause of illiteracy in many parts of the world, ‘literacy for social change’, the purpose of such education, Freire believes, is “to enable learners to participate actively in liberating themselves from the conditions that oppress them.” Freire (1985) – 
Working with anthropologists in
The Freirian approach to adult literacy education firmly rejects what it calls the ‘ banking concept of education’ in which educators decide what should be taught and how it should be taught and then ‘deposit’ it in the minds of learners. Freire (ibid)
Rather, Freire and others like him see education as a genuine two-way thing with both teacher and learner facing each other as ‘knowledgeable equals’, the teacher having knowledge of language systems and the learner having knowledge of the social, cultural and political context in which learning is to take place.
Realising the enormity of the problem posed by adult’s relative lack of adult literacy skills at a level that allows them to function properly and fully in society, the British government has launched the ‘Skills for Life’ initiative for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills. 
The scheme targets several priority groups:-
· People who need help with basic skills
· Unemployed people
· Minority ethnic groups
· People with disabilities
· Lone parents
· People over 60 not involved in learning 
The scheme hopes to tackle several integral problems, and acknowledges that “ the largest single cause of poor vocational achievements is failings in literacy and numeracy.” 
Again acknowledging that learning offers many benefits to adults, the site provides a ‘one-stop’ source of learning information to all adults in
waytolearn.co.uk co-ordinates a plethora of sites related to adult literacy and adult learning generally and presents it in meaningful and useful ways. 
Examples of reading material for teachers working with people with literacy and numeracy problems include the following:
· AVID – a teachers’ resource for teachers working with women in prison
· Basic Skills for Life series – Materials for adult learners, designed for teaching literacy and numeracy by focusing on subjects that learners can relate to 
The whole thrust and direction of literacy programmes these days is that of integrating literacy and numeracy with other life-enhancing skills and knowledge, rather than merely teaching people to read and write.
As far back as 1970, the British Cohort Study and the National Child Development Study found that individuals who improve their basic skills also improve in the following ways:-
Improving people’s literacy and numeracy skills gives benefits to everyone: to the individuals who participate in schooling and educational projects and schemes, to their families, to the larger community, and to society generally. Having healthier, more well-balanced, literate and numerate individuals in our midst is bound to benefit all. Helping people overcome their difficulties with literacy and numeracy is a worthy challenge for educators, for government and non-government organizations, and for teachers.
4. Fingeret H. A. (1992) Adult Literacy Education: Current and
5. Sissel P.A. (1992) Reflections as vision: Prospects for future
literacy programming In. A community based approach to
literacy programs quoted from: http://www.ercicfacility.net
6. Stein S.G. (1995) Equipped for the future: A customer driven vision for adult literacy and lifelong learning Institute for National Literacy Washington DC (July 1995 – ED 384 792) In. www.ericfacility.net
8. Quigley B.A. (1997) Rethinking adult literacy: The critical need for practice-based change In www.ericfacility.net
9. UNESCO (2003) in United Nations launches Literacy Decade
12. Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the oppressed New York The Continuum Publishing Corporation In
i) What is urbanization?
ii) Effects of increases in urbanization
a) The case of
b) The case of ‘commuter villages’ in
i) Crime in
i) Primary causes of criminal activity
G. Breaking the link between urbanization and criminal activity
The world we live in is changing: the effects of globalization – the urbanization of Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) – is being felt in ways that are not always beneficial. The splitting and separating of communities and the isolating of the individual within huge, new, urban conurbations has led to increases in crime that are unacceptable in civilized, democratic societies.
i) What is urbanization?
Urbanization is the increase in the proportion of people living in towns and cities.  In many countries, this increase is due to the migration of people from rural areas to towns and cities. In any migration that is not forced by mandate, what are known as push-factors and pull-factors exert influence over those moving to the city. Included in the so-called push-factors are things like extreme poverty, desertification and general environmental degradation, which make farming more and more difficult, ethnic pressure, and lack of resources and facilities in rural areas.
Pull-factors include the attractions of full time employment; better living conditions; more facilities such as schools, hospitals and clinics; increased security; and opportunities that are perceived to be present in urban areas but absent in rural ones.
Finally, there are factors that are neutral and regardless of push or pull-factors. Decreasing death rates and increases in the birth rate of a country, or a city contribute to increases in population in urban areas.  Population growth in rural areas often forces people into cities.
ii) Effects of increases in urbanization
Since most migration to towns and cities in Less Economically Developed Countries (LDCs) is unplanned, a large proportion of those coming to live and work in cities have no accommodation arranged beforehand and furthermore, often cannot afford it, if it is available. Such people, invariably poor people, are therefore forced to build some sort of shelter to protect their families, and since local authorities have no way of knowing how many people need to be housed, they are not in any position to be able to provide even temporary accommodation for newly arriving families. The result is an enormous increase in overcrowded, poorly built ghettoes, with few amenities and virtually no sanitation or clean water supply. 
a) The case of
The rapid growth of the city has led to a severe shortage of housing, and is typical of how such cities are wholly unable to cope with such a huge and rapid influx of people. Similarly, the newly arriving people find shelter by building their own houses. ‘Shanty towns’ spring up on the outskirts of the city, and of course, these are unplanned and consequently have no amenities and are massively overcrowded. In such areas – called ‘favelas’ in
The areas chosen by these settlers are on the edges of the cities, often close to industry: transportation in such areas is minimal; hence the need to be close to places offering employment. In
The Brazilian government is providing assistance by setting up ‘self-help’ schemes and by providing materials with which to construct pavements and fairly rudimentary roads, leaving other vital resources for the provision of water pipes and waste disposal facilities.
The case of San Paulo is fairly typical of cities in LDCs. In developed countries, the migration to cities is much less common, with people moving out of town as the improving of arterial roads makes living in pleasanter, rural areas and commuting every day to work a much more attractive proposition, though this too presents problems for rural districts; the number of facilities rapidly becoming inadequate for the numbers of people who live in so called ‘commuter villages’.
b) The case of ‘commuter villages in
In developed countries such as
The demand for housing in rural areas pushes house prices up, making it virtually impossible for young, ‘first time buyers’ to purchase a home in the area where they grew up. In these cases, a sort of reverse migration happens with the more affluent people from the town moving to villages, and the less affluent, often younger villagers moving into the towns and cities where house prices are within their reach.
When villages become inhabited by cars owners, local shops suffer from a lack of trade as those with their own transport choose to shop in supermarkets in other areas, where prices are cheaper.
In addition, poorer, indigenous young adults are often marginalized, or at any rate feel that way, and this variety of alienation becomes a breeding ground for activities such as substance abuse and petty crime to finance it.
Problems associated with urbanization are not exclusively peculiar to LDCs, though such problems occurring in developed countries are different in nature, and of far less magnitude, though still very serious for those directly involved. In both types of country though, urbanization can and often does lead to problems other than those of housing and the provision of facilities.
Unplanned urban areas are difficult to police, and in countries like
Even in countries like
In cities in LDCs, though, a vicious circle is set up. It is generally acknowledged that societies that are stable and have low crime rates, secure and safe environments and rational means of dealing with conflict and ‘rule-breaking’ attract investment into their economies, with the corollary to this also being true; those countries which are relatively unstable, with environments that are insecure and unsafe, do not attract investment and this lack of financial resources impacts upon the poorest sections of population who are subject to high rates of unemployment and poor housing conditions. In poor areas, crime flourishes as more conventional means of earning a living are denied to more and more people. 
1. Crime in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, for example, which is ranked sixth in the world in terms of the ratio of police to number of inhabitants (640 police per 100,000 in 1994- ) criminal activity is increasing in this former British colony. Increases in various types of crime: violent crime against persons, and crime against property have pointed to the fact that, “the effects of industrialization and urbanization weaken social control.” Dobinson. 
The effects of industrialization and urbanization, viz. the weakening of social control and an increase in crime rates, occur in Hong Kong despite what have been termed ‘the protective value of cultural and ethnic homogeneity combined with the preservation of traditional Confucionist values and extended kinship structures.’ 
Once such cultural norms and values have been breached or destroyed, they are hard to re-establish. Urbanization can be and often is responsible for the relocating of families and individuals, which means that any normalizing relationships such as extended kinship structures become under great strain or rendered ineffective. The policing of densely populated areas seems to be in danger of becoming similarly ineffective as a deterrent against crime or as the enforcement of law and order.
D. Priorities in urban areas
i) Primary causes of criminal activity
Need and the opportunity to commit crime do not make people commit crimes. In some extremely poor areas of the world, crime is virtually unknown. In other, more affluent areas, crime is rife. What makes one area crime free and another crime ridden? Studies related to children’s behaviour, have found that setting influences behaviour. 
According to Whiting (1986), there are three relevant aspects of a setting: the space and contents of the space; the characters who are present, and the activities that occur in the setting. For children living in overcrowded, poor ghettoes on the edges of massive cities, it is easy to see how this might be true. In studies of six populations, which include children in Okinawa, Japan, the Philippines, Northern India, Kenya, Mexico City and the United States, Whiting and her colleagues found that the characteristics (ibid) of the setting evoke and reinforce habits of social interaction, which become the “core of a child’s behavioural profile.” 
Living in the midst of what is often deviant social behaviour, a child’s contact with altruistic, self-reliant models becomes diminished, preventing him from learning helpful and responsible behaviour. On the contrary, such characters in such settings force the child to increase his egotistic behaviour and his covetousness, and resort to the use of aggressive techniques when interacting with other children. 
Particularly vulnerable are children who leave home to live ‘on the street’. According to studies 8 there is a circle of experience which links street migration and behaviour on the streets to the way children are treated in the justice system. Causes of street migration are primarily poverty, ruptured family relationships, urbanization, and in certain parts of the world, HIV/AIDS. 
It is said () that rapid urbanization of the type discussed and described earlier, is associated with an increase in crime rates, and the disruption of social support networks. As migrants to cities move into ghettoes where identification is lost and a postal address unknown, it is easy to see how people become removed from the types of support they are most in need of.
Children who leave rural areas for urban ones end up living on the street, and then fall prey to criminal elements that exploit their anonymity and their vulnerability. 
“Municipal restructuring [including rapid urbanization] contributes to a spatial exclusion, which inhibits the socialization of the youth that live in this space and leads to specific patterns of crime.” () The socialization that young people do receive may come from the members of gangs that ‘control’ such areas and exploit the young.
In deprived peri-urban areas (areas on the periphery of towns and cities) there is a shortage of amenities that promote appropriate leisure activities and so children hang around in groups and fall prey to older youths in street gangs.
In such peri-urban areas where petty crime proliferates, the young on the streets become criminalized often before there is any evidence that they have committed an offence. 
Just being on the street at night often means being taken away and locked up for the night. Once inside a lock-up, children become abused, beaten up and generally ill-treated. Is it any wonder then that such children turn to ways to escape capture and join gangs for some form of protection.
From there it is only a short step to substance abuse and crimes that are associated with selling and using drugs.
According to the Undugu Society of Kenya, 60% of boys living on the streets have health problems associated with taking drugs. The most widely used substance being glue mixed with petrol. 
To then further add to the plight of poor street children, they are usually all assumed to be drug addicts, which has the effect of restricting their access to basic services such as health clinics, while still rendering them susceptible to verbal abuse and humiliation at the hands of the police and the general public, and this is regardless of whether or not they are actually involved in substance abuse. 
The circle of experience becomes complete as children become victims of the criminalization of homelessness. 
ii) Removing the causes: the role of education in urban areas
Poorly educated parents invariably have poorly educated children, either because the schools in their areas are poor, or because children do not do well at school and are not encouraged to do well, or because of truancy, or due to all three.
Truancy – the staying away from school without good reason – is rife in urban areas. Children that play truant meet other children who are also staying away from school, and boredom together with lack of supervision become the prerequisites to children misbehaving.
The reasons why children play truant are various and range from issues that affect particular individuals, and those issues that affect most children. In the case of the former, a child may dislike a particular teacher or lesson; he may be due for some punishment on the day he is absent, or some pressing need at home may keep him from going to school that day. As far as the latter is concerned; truancy having more generally applicable reasons, such things as a lack of any aspirations to do well, or peer group pressure by which a child comes to think that staying away from school is normal or beneficial, or more insidious reasons such as gang activities in the daytime may be the causes.
It is easy to see that children who come from deprived areas in which opportunities to achieve something real and lasting are scarce or practically non-existent, are drawn into petty crime and deviant moral behaviour. To behave otherwise in such communities is often to invite censure and punishment.
A child faces exclusion from school if truancy continues, or isolation from his peers on the streets and in the playgrounds if it doesn’t. Faced with such a choice, a child might well opt for the former, particularly when education is perceived as a waste of time.
A study of the links between truancy, school exclusion and substance abuse has been conducted by the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transition and Crime and reported by Lesley McAra. 
The key findings of the report were as follows:-
· Truants have a significantly higher drug use, underage drinking and smoking than pupils who do not play truant.
· Long term truants exhibit a higher incidence of all forms of substance misuse in comparison with other categories of truant.
· Illegal drug use and smoking significantly predict truancy, taking into account other variables such as school experience, victimization, parenting, and a range of personality characteristics such as low self-esteem and impulsivity.
· Pupils who have been excluded from school display higher incidence of illegal drug use, underage drinking and smoking than do pupils who have not been excluded.
· Substance abuse is less strongly associated with exclusion than it is for truancy.
· Early intervention targeting health risk behaviour plays some part in lessening truancy rates.
· Substance abuse is only one part of a complex set of behaviours and adverse circumstances associated with both truancy and exclusion.
· Future policies need to take into account gender differences: early truanting is predominantly a male activity, while in secondary education, girls truant more than boys. However, where exclusion is concerned, boys form the overwhelming majority of those excluded from schools. 
The study also found that truancy and exclusion are closely connected to low educational attainment, and are particularly prevalent amongst children from deprived areas. Again, this has the ring of a vicious circle with low achievers coming from deprived areas, and being either excluded or truanting from school and thereby significantly lessening their chances of attainment at school, which means that ultimately they have less chance of finding employment later on. In short, the very children likely to go wrong before, during, and after schooling, are those same children who are placed in the position in which they are most susceptible to getting involved with criminal elements in society.
The vexing question of how to break this cycle; perception – action – reinforcement of perception can only be achieved by educationalists working with parents and community leaders, and sponsorship by local and national government in the form of the provision of financial resources and expertise.
The ‘truancy and exclusion’ study () concurred that policies are likely to be effective when aimed at discipline in school, and fostering pro-school attitudes among young people as well as their parents with the aim of increasing parental involvement in school.
In addition, some form of community policing seems to be the best way of tackling the problem of children committing petty crimes outside school when they should be sitting in a classroom. Recognizing that one thing is symptomatic of another rather than just something to incur punishment for would surely be a helpful way of beginning the sensitive policing of such areas. 
Of course, a greater involvement on the part of parents would be a necessary prerequisite too. Initiatives in which parents are encourages to become involved and discover the roots of problems in their own way and using their own language (rather like the Freirian model of tackling problems of adult literacy) are more likely to be successful than those schemes where parents are told what to think and how to bring up their children.
Of course, any educational programme must, if it is to be effective, be tailored to the context of those being educated. In developing countries, such educational schemes invariably include a large amount of practical assistance, particularly where women are concerned. Typical goals of such schemes include:-
· Learning to b assertive
· Learning to form their own opinion and express it
· Learning to listen to others
· To build a stronger self-image
· To achieve competence in human relations and practical knowledge 
In such course, for example, women are empowered; encouraged to tackle things they haven’t done before. 
Of course, in an urban context in, for example, Newcastle Upon Tyne, some of the things women haven’t done before might include standing up at a parent teacher evening and making a point in public. This type of learning would typically involve all or at least most of the categories outlined above.
In Khartoum, Sudan, it might involve learning how to recognize and treat the early stages of malaria or dysentery, with the practical knowledge taking priority over issues such as gaining self-esteem.
If life in the situation in the large urban areas we call cities, but which now might be termed something else, several things have got to happen. First, the numbers still migrating from poorer rural areas will have to diminish considerably. Already stretched social services and amenities could not cope with more people arriving to be housed, fed, and generally looked after. Second, the situation for those already living in these urban areas will have to improve if crime is not to increase. Lastly, life in rural areas will have to improve to the temptations the city holds for many rural dwellers; the ‘push’ factors will have to be reduced. The massive problem of poverty in rural areas means that city life appears more attractive, even though reality does not bear this out. Education and the provision of facilities like clinics will go some way to helping people feel less likely to want to uproot and move to the city.
G. Breaking the link between urbanization and criminal activity
In urban areas in which people are susceptible to criminal activity, increasing the involvement of parents in schooling, home education, and monitoring children’s behaviour on the streets seem vital if the criminal activity of the young is to be stopped.
As far as children who live on the street are concerned, closer ties between communities and police and security forces would seem to be the answer. In some cities curfews have been authorized in an attempt to ensure that children do not break the law under the cover of darkness.
The setting up of supervised hostels for homeless children and mandatory schooling to educate such children into more socially acceptable patterns of behaviour would surely alleviate the problems encountered by children on the street.
Lastly, re-educating police and security officials and a changing of attitudes towards children at risk would be a necessary prerequisite to a more humane way of dealing with children whose only crime may be that they do not have a roof over their heads or a family to share it with.
The measures outlined above: educational, social and attitudinal, would have to become part of government initiatives in areas where criminal activities are linked closely to the conditions in which people live. Such schemes need financial resources and planning; they need trained personnel and facilities, and they need time for implementation and sustained effort that will yield results that enhance the lives of everyone in our cities.
However, if nothing is done in rural areas to remove the temptations that living in the city is perceived to offer, then any work in urban areas will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of those still migrating to our bigger cities.
8. Petty C. and Brown M. (eds), Justice for children Save the Children June 1998
9. Urbanization, social exclusion of youth and street crime. From
10. Human rights Watch, Police abuse and killing of street children in India,
12. Human rights Watch, Children of Bulgaria: Police violence and arbitrary
confinement, September 1996
13. McAra L. (2004) Truancy, school exclusion and substance abuse
Centre for Law and society. University of Edinburgh
14. Making learning attractive and strengthening links to working life. In15. Preventing crime and creating safer communities in www.environment.uwe.ac.uk
There are times in every student’s life when it seems that education is just the worst thing on Earth. In the middle of revision for examinations, or worse, during exams, it seems like a great idea that has gone awry. Everybody knows the value of education, but, like youth, it seems wasted on the young sometimes.
It’s easy to say that education is valuable from your armchair, smoking your pipe, wearing your comfortable slippers, whilst watching TV. It’s actually taking part; being a student that is difficult. Knowing that it is for your own good just isn’t enough sometimes.
The answer is that it should get you a better job, although a lot of young graduates will tell you otherwise: it is still difficult getting a good job these days, with or without a good education.
What exactly will it do for you? I think I can answer that question, but it will take me a little longer than you might expect.
First of all, if you want to know what your education will do for you, you have to ask yourself what you are prepared to do for it.
If you are serious about becoming educated, getting an education, you will have to put into it what you hope to get out of it: a lot.
To do this, I would like to look at the work of Abraham Maslow, who is best known for establishing the theory of the hierarchy of personal needs. (1954)
He tried to explain what energizes and motivates us. His hierarchy was grouped into two sets of needs. He said that a higher level need is sought after lower level ones have been satisfied.
The first four levels are:
1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts
3) Feelings of belonging and love: the need to affiliate with others, be accepted by others.
According to Maslow, these first four needs must be met before the so-called growth needs are ready to become initiated.
1) Cognitive: to know, understand and explore
2) Aesthetic: symmetry, order and beauty
4. Self- ascendance: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
He believed that human beings are basically trustworthy, self-protecting, and self-governing. They gravitate towards growth and love. He believed also that violent or evil behavior is a manifestation that some human needs are not being met.
Maslow’s view of human nature was more optimistic. Choosing between the two is
The physiological needs constitute our very basic needs for food, air, water, sleep etc. If these needs are not met, we feel sick, irritable, discomfort or pain. It is easy to see that for many people in the world, the satisfaction of these needs takes a great deal of their energy, whereas in a modern, well ordered society these needs are relatively easy to meet.
The need to love and to feel that you belong is the next up the hierarchy. Human beings are essentially gregarious. We join groups throughout our lives, and we need love, acceptance, kindness, and consideration.
If you give your mother a bunch of flowers, it is the thought that she really appreciates: that you were thinking about her enough to want to show it. The flowers are pretty, and look nice in a vase, but it is the thought that counts.
Higher up the ladder, the need for self-actualization becomes activated. This can be summarized by the modern slogan: “Be the best you can be!” What that is, is out there for you to find, and in my experience of life changes, naturally.
Advances in technology produce patterns in the communities with which they interact and into which they become assimilated. Some facet of life is replaced, enhanced, or altered forever, sometimes for the worse. Our ability to predict which of these paths the advance will take on in our lives never seems to improve. What look on the face of it like huge benefits to society often turn out to be less so, to varying degrees.
There is no doubt in many people's minds that these advances have indeed the potential to radically alter that way we educate our children, and ourselves.
Before these advances are transferred into our lives in the classroom, our motives for wanting such
The personnel often charged with responsibilities in the decision making process when considering whether or not to adopt such technology in classrooms are usually found to be those people least affected by the changes they so eagerly and persuasively propose.
Consultation, a great deal of thought and research, common sense, and honesty should be the watchwords, rather than ones like fashion and modernity. How we benefit from today's wonderful advances tomorrow L35
The vexed question of how new technology is going to affect us, however, is not a new one though.
The answer to the first depends to a certain extent upon the answer to the second. Part of the answer must surely be though, because we want to improve the quality of learning, and this will surely have implications for the type of learning too. If the answer is anything less than this wish to improve learning, then we should expect other things to be different.
Line numbers L45
1. You have been reading up on a topic, and you have to write an essay about it for homework.
2. You are reading about an unusual event and you want to know why it happened.
3. You are curious about why some people behave the way they do.
There are so many theories, ideas, and slants. There seems to be so much information on any given topic that reaching the right conclusions rather than jumping to them is difficult, if not impossible. At
There are ways to reach sensible conclusions, and realizing that there may not be any right answers to complex questions is one such way. There are sensible, plausible answers, but most of the time, there is rarely just the one that is absolutely correct.
The physical sciences seem to represent the closest we get to ‘right’ answers, but any scientists will tell
you that what is considered correct only applies at a certain level of analysis.
A friend of mine was recently informed by a doctor that his apparent deafness was due to a spinal degeneration that was limiting the amount of blood getting to the ear. Another doctor examined him and told him he had a an ear infection from swimming in water that may not have been chlorinated enough to prevent contamination.
Occam’s razor states that: ‘One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.’
(Principia Cybernetica Web)
Or in other words, and to quote from ’Principia Cybernetica Web’ again:
‘A problem should be stated in its basic and simplest terms. In science, the simplest theory that fits the facts of a problem is the one that should be selected.’
Here is a real life example of Occam's Razor in practice.
(1) Crop circles began to be reported in the 1970s. Two interpretations were made of the circles of matted grass. The first one was that UFOs had made the imprints. The second was that someone (human) had used some sort of instruments to push down the grass. Occam's Razor would say that given the lack of evidence for UFOs and the complexity involved in UFOs arriving from distant galaxies, the second interpretation is the simplest and therefore the one most likely to be correct.
Of course, both explanations could have been wrong, but again, the second was by far the simplest, and so, applying the principle of Occam’s razor, would be the one most likely to be correct.
For a given set of observations or data, there is always an infinite number of possible models explaining those same data. This is because a model normally represents an infinite number of possible cases. (1)
We talk about reaching conclusions, and we talk about jumping to conclusions, and while it is true to say that the latter is usually applied to more day to day matters, it is also true to say that reaching conclusions based upon examination of sound evidence is always
Acceptance of a proposition based upon incomplete evidence is known as prejudice. To be honest though, prejudicial behavior is usually displayed in connection with issues that concern people rather than, for example, with scientific phenomena.
A complete, in depth understanding of complex issues or equations demands that we examine all the relevant data before we pass judgment or define something, or decide upon something.
It is the awareness of the existence of other variables that is necessary, along with deeming them relevant or otherwise.
In this age of the information super-highway, the Internet, it is those who are able to select relevant data and use it sensibly who will be more successful, and a plethora of information increases the difficulty of
Daydreaming can be considered a special form of conscious awareness because it reflects a state in which “conscious awareness is to some extent decoupled from the current situation” (Smallwood et al in 200
Daydreaming often begins with wondering: ‘What if…?’ ‘If only I could….’ ‘Suppose….’ ‘Wouldn’t everything be better if….’
That kind of thinking has been responsible for some of our greatest creations. The subsequent planning and working through the logistics of many daydreams may well have rendered most of them totally impossible, but if a few get through, daydreaming has been worthwhile.
‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’
And while it is true that most of these films started out as successful paperback novels, the original ideas probably started from a glimmer of an idea, originating from the speculation and fantasizing that is normally referred to as daydreaming.
In the world of civil engineering, think of the Eiffel Tower, Burj al Arab, Jumeirah Palm Island, and the Millenium Dome in London. In more idiosyncratic constructions, think of Mount Rushmore, USA, the terra-cotta armies in China, the sphinx and the pyramids in Egypt: the ancient and modern wonders of the world.
The beauty of daydreaming or doodling is that it costs nothing, involves no one, need never be outwardly stated to anyone but the person daydreaming or doodling.
I once wrote about a new way to get students to think of ideas for an essay they had to write. Conventional brainstorming techniques involve a bubble on a piece of paper, and then branches out of it with words on the end. This sometimes works, but more often than not it doesn’t particularly help and the teacher ends up labeling the diagram. My way involved writing a word that was central to the subject of an essay they were writing, in a new way on the board.
I wrote the word, Pollution, vertically. Like this:-
I asked a bemused class of university undergraduate students to copy this into their exercise books. The next thing I did opened mouths with incredulity. I started writing words next to the vertical capital letters on the board. Like this:-
Ordinary people cause pollution Out of hand
Students then added --Life is not good because of it Life is threatened
Up to us to stop it Untold damage to Earth
In our rivers and seas If not, it will stop us
On television every day Ordinary people can stop
Nothing can stop it Nothing can stop us
Shapes, colors, numbers, letters, words, signs all achieve significance if they are allowed to. All you need to get going is a concept.
Here goes: Concept = New hotel
Shape: Tall lozenge (doodle) High
Color: White or silver (like a sail) Overlooks Dubai
Number: 1 (an upright figure) Tower
Word: Arab (In the name) Leader in the world of hotels
Sign: Icon (Symbol of Dubai)
Result: Burj al Arab Hotel, Dubai
Now, the last think I want anyone to think is that using your creative powers is something that only ‘clever’ people can do. Anyone can be creative.
To begin with, you need the will to do it and a little bit of control over your thought processes. When I say ‘control’ I really mean introspection: the examination of one’s own mental thought processes. This is necessary to get things started.
My object stimulated me to wonder, then to ask questions, and finally to apply reasoning to provide me with reasonable answers to my questions.
Smallwood JM, Obonsawin MC, & Heim SD (2003 A). Task Unrelated Thought: the role of distributed processing. Consciousness and Cognition
Fielding R. L. (1996) Preparing students to write In: Teaching English Winter 1996 #3. Oxford University Press Istanbul
To a greater or lesser degree, we all have it. We all possess the quality of intelligence.
Exercising those faculties that contribute to and are part of our intelligence is something that we do to a certain extent automatically, every day of our lives. How many of us make a conscious effort to exercise those faculties creatively?
Those mental faculties: reasoning, using our judgment, planning, and inferring, are not unlike the muscles of our limbs, in that if they are not exercised readily they lose some of their power.
Exercising your creative powers does not have to be Earth shattering. It can start from thinking about the most seemingly insignificant things. Concentrate on the process rather than the end product. If you do that, your thoughts will flow in all directions. If you try to force the issue by thinking purely about your ultimate destination, the journey will be spoiled. Here is an example of what I mean.
Sitting in a restaurant, trying to use chopsticks for the first time in my life, recently, I came to wonder why some people use them while other people use the knives and forks.
I remembered thinking that it probably had nothing to do with their effectiveness as utensils: Chinese people can remove food from their plates just as quickly as I can with my metal knife and fork.
Of course, tradition has something to do with it. I was taught how to use a knife and a fork at a very early age, and have used them ever since. No doubt the same is true for those people who use chopsticks every day of their lives. The answer to the question lies somewhere else.
It surely has something to do with the materials they are made from, and the way they are made. A couple of straight shoots from a bamboo plant will suffice for chop sticks, whereas knives and forks are made of steel, usually stainless steel, or chrome plated steel, and so can virtually only be made using heavy presses and precision-made press tools, in factories, by skilled craftsmen.
Chop sticks tie in with rural economies, knives and forks with industrial ones, which almost certainly means chop sticks predate metal utensils, and probably by many thousands of years too.
The exercise of thinking involved in reaching that conclusion was not anything brilliantly intelligent, but it did include reasoning, judgment and inferring, though not planning, but it did involve combining known facts with a certain amount of reasoning until something new emerged.
Without planning, without direction, mental activity of that kind is usually referred to as daydreaming. I was always being ticked off for doing it at school, I remember.
Considering problems logically without jumping to conclusions that cannot reasonably be supported by evidence or rational judgment is what having an inquiring mind is all about.
The corollary of this proposition is its opposite: considering problems without full recourse to reasoned judgment and jumping to conclusions that cannot be supported by evidence is prejudice. That is reaching conclusions that are based on incomplete or unsubstantiated evidence.
On the face of it, this doesn’t sound very different to the definition of intelligent behavior outlined above. In fact, the main difference is in the absence of the word ‘sensible’ in the second definition.
‘Sensible’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: ‘Having or showing good sense – reasonable – judicious – moderate – practical’.
The word ‘reasonable’ is defined thus: ‘In accordance with reason – not absurd – having sound judgment – within the limits of reason’.
And in turn, ‘judicious’ is defined as: ‘sensible – prudent – sound in discernment and judgment’.
‘Moderate’ is: ‘Avoiding extremes – temperate in conduct or expression’.
There seems to be a certain amount of circularity in working out what intelligent behavior consists of, but that circularity is mainly semantic.
In more practical terms, intelligent behavior is that which has a large component of what we refer to as ‘common sense’.
Reaching sensible conclusions based on incomplete evidence must be tempered with common sense. If the conclusions are reached are based on factors such as personal bias and motivation then the chances are that they will not be reasonable, judicious, moderate or practical.
This is not to say that emotions have no place in rationality, in making reasoned judgments, but rather that an undue amount of emotional input can be detrimental to an argument one is putting forward or that one is defending.
Instead, exercising one’s rational judgment is nearer reaching those conclusions that any other reasonable individual would reach, armed with the same knowledge. It is rather like utilizing the intelligence of other intelligent people in order to verify one’s own thoughts on a particular matter.
The largest organism in the world is a grove of some sort of shrub in the state of Colorado that botanists thought were unconnected. They subsequently found that all the shrubs in the grove had root systems that were, in fact, interconnected.
In terms of mankind, perhaps we constitute an interconnected state too. What reasonable people would call reaching reasonable conclusions based on common sense would surely constitute some kind of interconnectedness, wouldn’t it?
Set in a historical framework, and taking into account the fact that Western modes of thinking constitute only a fraction of the totality of modes of rationality, having an inquiring mind is tantamount to no less than inheriting the critical faculty of one’s predecessors, and passing it on to those that follow.
The speed of change in the economy is too fast for some organizations, and too fast for most of our educational programs.
‘The new economy: strong growth in the service sector, increased levels of productivity growth and globalized markets, means that the nature of work is different from the past. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) has changed the ways firms do business and create value, it has increased the flexibility of capital goods, making capital investment more productive and encouraging firms to substitute capital for labor. This trend contributes to the globalization of markets and has changed the nature of work and has implications for workers’ education and training. www.dest.gov.au
Who will benefit from changes in education and training?
Education and training helps improve employee job performance and the quality of goods and services firms offer. Individuals who take advantage of training get higher wages and increase their chances of promotion. It makes sense to upgrade your skills and change.
If companies don’t get the workers they require, they will:
· Go somewhere else to get them
If companies go abroad for workers, or relocate entirely, those jobs will be lost to the economy forever
· Do without them
So, some companies will do without the right kind of worker with the right kind of skills, some will go out of business because they do not have workers with those skills.
· Have to train people themselves
Training their own workforce is a possibility, but could be too expensive for some.
· Get other organizations to train people for them
Getting other organizations to train people for them could be another option for firms, but this can also prove too costly for many firms.
Training needs to take into account that the workplace and what goes on in it has changed.
“In industries where a large proportion of the production process has been computerized, workers need a broader underpinning knowledge to effectively manage the production process, and the capacity to solve problems of a diverse nature.” www.dest.gov.au
Change is the only thing that you can depend upon.
Work changes, and then everything else has to.
Research organization in the UK have already identified skills needed for most jobs.
Working in teams builds loyalty, strengthens commitment and one’s sense of responsibility.
· Problem solving
Problems come from many different sources and so solutions come from accessing different disciplines, ways of thinking about the problem, and changes in attitudes to problem solving.
This is the big one; if you can’t communicate, you can’t operate, be effective, adapt to new situations, or pass on your knowledge or air your views.
This doesn’t just mean what CEOs do. Everyone has to manage; manage time, finances, resources, and interpersonal relationships.
Research has found out what small businesses want:-
· Entrepreneurial attitudes
This is a major change in thinking. Traditionally, people leaving school or university expect companies to employ them in ways that the company determines. This is still true, but employees now have to think as if it was their own business, take risks and create wealth.
· Capacity to identify and exploit employment and wealth possibilities
Again, instead of looking at the business world as a given, workers are expected to think laterally, creatively and in ways that often overturn norms and values.
· An ongoing capacity for learning
The idea that you stop learning when you leave school, graduate, or get promotion is long gone. Everyone in an organization is faced with continual change and has to adapt or become redundant.
Large businesses want:-
· Skills in oral and written communication
Communication channels include email, fax, telephone, video-interviewing, oral presentations supported by Powerpoint, for example, face to face dialogue, and written report.
· Skills in interpersonal relations
Informal/formal communications require different skills; cooperation and congeniality, firmness and warmth are the new watchwords.
Every business has the need for skills in math, accounting and all forms of numerical data.
· Economic literacy
Being aware of economic best practices, the financial constraints associated with capital ventures is paramount in the ‘new economy’.
· Understanding of cultural values
The world is a village, cross cultural exchanges are much more common and tact and understanding are top priorities for companies operating in global markets.
Being ‘street-wise’ has found respectability in trade and industry. A knowledge of how the world turns is vital.
· The ability to apply knowledge
Merely knowing is not enough: Being able to adapt and apply knowledge to changing and changed circumstances is at a premium.
· Ability to recognize, accept and constantly seek opportunities for change in the context of world best practices
Opportunities don’t necessarily merely present themselves, they have to be looked for, and they have to be recognized. Recognition of opportunities is as vital as searching for them. www.gradlink.edu.au
To face changes in the workplace, you need to be pro-active, you need to initiate change right now. Ask yourself three questions:
· Where am I now?
Deciding where you are now requires honesty and courage. Realising that you are not anywhere near your personal frontiers can be a shock. Be prepared to be shocked. If you are prepared, it won’t come as too much of a shock, but you may need something to jolt you out of your complacency.
· Where do I want to be?
Again, honesty, self-awareness versus romantic notions and idealistic ambitions. Those last two are not completely useless. Dreams can and do lead to fulfillment in life.
· How do I get there?
Take advice from those who are there to assist you, from those who have done it, and from those who have your very best interests at heart. Listen, listen, listen.
You need a roadmap.
· Organize your time effectively
Time is always at a premium, you just don’t realize it all the time. Keep notes, keep diaries, use anything that works for you but manage your time more effectively than you are doing. Be brutal with your time, but leave yourself some quality time for those personal things that matter, friendship and family, they will sustain you when you most need it.
· Identify steps needed to reach your goal
Be informed - Be careful cutting corners – Be constantly aware of consequences.
· Prepare ‘just in case’ plans
Have other plans just in case things don’t work out – Keep to your main plan, but recognize failure too. The tragedy of failing is failing to know you’ve failed or are about to fail.
· Monitor and evaluate your progress
Watching your progress carefully will help you avoid failing to recognize that you are not succeeding along the lines you planned.
The most important thing is:
DON’T STAND STILL, EVERYONE ELSE IS MOVING
In 1997, the Dearing Enquiry recommended students to received structured opportunities to become:
· More aware of themselves
Know your strengths and your weaknesses – Listen to others, and listen to your own instincts; they are often the most reliable facets in knowing yourself.
· More aware of how to learn
Self-reflection in all things, particularly in learning – Knowing what doesn’t work for you is equally as important as knowing what does.
· More aware of how to improve personal performance
Set yourself standards – Be proud of your attainments and your successes – They are worth as much as gold in the world you want to be a part of.
· Better able to cope with the transition to their chosen careersAll change, even change for the better, even voluntary change is stressful and can sometimes threaten your sense of worth, of who you are and of what you want to become.
Everybody likes a good joke. We like to be made to laugh, it seems, and we like to make others laugh. Since doctors inform us that laughter is good for us, it is fortuitous that we feel this way. However, just why we laugh, and what makes us laugh is difficult to say.
We laugh at visual jokes, which we call 'custard-pie' or 'slapstick humour', and we laugh at jokes that involve language. Hal Roach, the well known director of silent films was a master of what is termed the 'slow-burn', which is the equivalent in humour of suspense in more dramatic genres. With this form of gag, all the conditions for the outcome/punchline are steadily built up for the audience, with the final denouement happening at the most opportune moment, for audience and protagonist and, most important, the maximum amount of mirth.
'Slapstick', visual stuff, usually involves variations on the man slipping on a banana skin, and as long as nobody gets seriously hurt, we find it funny. Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton were all masters of this form of silent humour. What is interesting about it is that it doesn't seem to wear thin with age. People still find Chaplain, and Laurel and Hardy absolutely hilarious, and that despite the fact that their films are often 'silents', and in black and white, and about things that have changed.
Humour based on language however, does seem to date, and we outgrow certain forms of it. For example, the type of joke appearing in a children's comic might not seem very funny to an adult reader. Here are two examples of this type of joke.
1st man: What do you have for your lunch ?
2nd man: I have a pie. If I'm hungry, I cut it into four pieces and I eat all four pieces.
1st man: What do you do if you're not so hungry ?
2nd man: If I'm not very hungry, I only cut it into two pieces.
Good books: The Haunted House by Hugo First
Falling off a cliff by Eileen Dover
Similarly, puns that were once popular often lose their appeal in later life.
1st person: How did you get that black eye ?
2nd person: I walked into a bar."
1st person: "Did you get into a fight or something ?
1st person: No.
2nd person: Then how did you get your black eye ?
1st person: I told you, I walked into a bar.
2nd person: I still don't understand !
1st person: It was an iron bar.
That might not suit everyone's taste as a funny joke, but then that only serves to make my point; some things are just not funny any more. Here you might argue that the reason why they aren't funny is because they are such old jokes, or are what we call 'corny jokes', which seem to fall under the category of jokes that are unsophisticated, and therefore just not funny.
Jokes at other people's expense have come into vogue, or perhaps they never went out of fashion. Try the following.
"I went into a Turkish baths, took off all my clothes and sat on a chair and went to sleep. When the steam cleared a little, I woke up and discovered I was sitting in a busy Fish and Chip shop."
Some jokes are connected with some of the issues of the day.
Woman: When human organs come to be freely available for sale, I think a woman's brain will cost less than a man's brain.
Man: Why do you think that ?
Woman: Because the woman's brain will actually have been used.
Some are at the expense of certain minorities.
A man from Poloonia goes into a shop and asks for a packet of cigarettes. The person behind the counter says: "You are from Poloonia, aren't you ?" The customer says, "How can you tell, is it because I've got a different accent ?" The shop assistant says, "No, I can tell because this is a chemist's."
On the day buses in Manchester changed and had drivers who collected the fares from passengers, instead of conductors, a bus crashed into the front of a large store in the city centre. The Police came along immediately, and asked the driver how the crash had occurred. The driver replied that he wasn't sure because he had been on the top deck collecting fares at the time of the accident.
While some seem not to target anyone in particular, and have some charm.
The teacher of Class 2A asked her pupils to write a short essay describing their family pet. Robert and Gillian Fielding, twins in Class 2A submitted their descriptions the following day. The teacher said to Robert, "Your essay is exactly the same as your sisters. The words you used are identical to those your sister Gillian used. Can you tell me why ?"
"That's simple," Robert replied, "same cat."
Some are just plainly ridiculous and perhaps touch our funny bone because of that quality.
"An armed thief bursts into a Chinese chip shop and demands the money in the cash register. The Chinese woman looks at him calmly and asks, "To take away ?"
And we laugh despite the ridiculous nature of the proposition in the joke.
The three men lying in the morgue looked very different. One man had a look of pure agony on his face.
"What happened to him ?" asked one of the attendants.
"He was hit by the 2.15pm to London."
The next man also looked as if had died in some pain.
"How did he die ?" asked the attendant.
"He was involved in a car crash," was the reply.
The third man had a nice smile on his face.
"What about him," asked the attendant. "How did he die ?"
"Oh, him," said the other attendant, "he got struck by lightning." The other attendant looked puzzled. "Why is he smiling then ?"
"He thought he was having his photograph taken," replied the other.
A man went into the doctor's surgery walking with a limp.
"What seems to be the trouble ?" the Doctor asked. The man lifted his hat and showed the doctor a huge lump on his head.
"A bucket full of concrete fell thirty feet and hit me on the head," he said, in some pain.
"What about your foot ?" the Doctor asked.
"I was standing on a nail at the time, Doctor," the patient replied.
The question still remains the same: Why do people laugh at certain verbal conundrums? And why do we find such jokes in certain formats funny? Consider the following formulaic jokes.
How many surrealists does it take to change a light-bulb?
Answer: A fish.
How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Just one, but the light bulb has really got to want to change.
Who's there ?
Felix my ice cream again, I'll get really angry.
Late arrivals: Mr. and Mrs. Butter and their son, Roland.
What do you call a woman who has just dropped her bus-fare?
Here is a news broadcast; A ship carrying red paint has collided with a ship carrying blue paint in the Gulf. Both crews have been marooned.
Did you hear about the man who thought Sheffield Wednesday was a Bank holiday?
Did you hear about the man who thought that Sherlock Holmes was the name of an estate agent's ?
These last two rely on the listener having some specific cultural background, while the one about the ships depends on one word having two meanings. They strike us as amusing because they force us to change our frame of reference, or force us to think laterally in order to see the funny side. The fact that they are in many ways silly and yet still make us laugh, probably indicates that they appeal to a side of our nature that we so often deny in the world we inhabit; the child in ourselves. Now, the fact that some do not find these types of jokes funny, and would never be heard telling them may testify to the amount of self-alienation they have undergone in the name of 'getting on' in the world, and trying constantly to appear rational, sensible and thoughtful.
Interestingly enough, when an adult gets the chance to play with a train set, they often find it easier to excuse their behaviour if it is their own son's toy. Most adult males would probably never own up to enjoy playing with a toy train set, but would play endlessly with their own children's set, justifying it to themselves as showing their kids how to use it.
Humour, particularly the unsophisticated type illustrated above, probably illustrates a similar trait. They are the type of jokes we find hilarious with close friends and relatives, but nothing like as funny when we find ourselves with those with which we wish to create a certain impression.
Some jokes are peculiar to the male of the species. Among these are those jokes we call 'dirty jokes', and while laughing uproariously at them in male company in a public house, we certainly would not find them amusing were they to be told in mixed company.
Likewise, we may laugh till we cry at the type of humour that is made at the expense of a certain minority, and yet be totally embarrassed if that same joke were to be told in the presence of a member of that minority.
The type favoured by me are those that are not made at anyone's expense, but rather depend for their power to amuse on the unusual nature of their endings. A pun, a play on words, a formulaic joke, all fall into this category, and all have one very useful quality. They can be funny or not, but this depends as much on the listener's sense of humour as it does on the humour displayed in the joke. They invite the listener to participate. In the shared act of creating amusement, both find something in common.
Since the first wheel appeared, in Mesopotamia, some 5,500 years ago, its impact upon the lives of those who used it has been dramatic. Its first uses most probably would have been close to its primary uses today; aiding the movement of something or somebody over some distance, with other uses including the milling of wheat to make flour, for example.
Later, some 4,000 years ago, the henges (stone circles) of Britain were built and used to mark the days of the year, early calendars, and used to study astronomy generally with the portals marking the solstices and the stones arranged in a circle to mark important times in the year. In what was then becoming an agricultural world, seeds could be sewn with some predictability, and crop harvests increased because of the optimum use of the growing season.
During most of the 20th Century, and more particularly in the latter half of it, the wheel figured prominently in the developments that changed the lives of everybody. In the fields of science and technology, in mechanical engineering, the wheel was and still is instrumental in producing everything from the airplane to the knitting needle. Even flat surfaces, toothed racks and the teeth of gearwheels are all generated using the wheel, revolving as a cutter, milling flats and shapes into metal, grinding precision components to dimensions accurate to tenths of thousandths of an inch. The sleek profiled curves of automobiles and planes, and the round plastic surfaces of children's toys are all manufactured using the rotation of the wheel at some points in the manufacturing process. Presses and drop forges make their mark on huge, red hot billets of steel, and gleaming sheets of aluminium and stainless steel, die-casting machinery moulds hot, malleable plastic or alloy into familiar household containers, tubes, bottles and packaging, all using the rule of Pi and its circular derivative creations to complete the pressing into shape of the submissive and ubiquitous substances: iron, steel, plastic and glass.
In the shaping of our landscape, in the damming of rivers, culverting of streams and draining of swamps, and in the construction of bridges, motorway flyovers, canals and docks, the wheel has been and continues to be the prime mover.
Circularity is so pervasive today that is has become part of our thinking. We talk of circular arguments, vicious circles and the like, probably without always consciously realizing the extent that the geometrical shape influences our lives, but a shape approximating to the circle would have only been evident prior to the invention of the wheel because of the natural world: through the sight of the moon and the sun in the Heavens above, and in the shapes of flowers and in cross sections of felled trees.
Similarly, in the related fields of history and culture, the wheel, the circular shape, figures prominently. The myths surrounding Camelot, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have become metaphors for justice and right; forums and meetings are ideally held around round tables. Theatres in the round dominate the cultural life of many British cities. There is something democratic and empowering about the circle, and its utility in the form of the wheel is inestimable; the round table has no corners, and everyone sitting at it has no more advantage due to their position on its circumference than anyone else.
As a concept as well as a shape, the circle is related to revolution, the overthrowing, often violently, of the social order. In Thomas Kuhn’s terms; “political revolutions aim to change political institutions in ways that those institutions themselves prohibit.” Essentially, in simpler terms, the coming to the top of those that were formerly underneath, the underlying principle of the circle and the wheel, and this suggests the principle of 'catastrophism' (Whewell 1837), which assumes that conditions on Earth during the past were so different from those existing at the present that no comparison is possible.
Similarly, in terms of scientific revolutions (Kuhn 1962), the replacing of those scientific paradigms that can no longer satisfactorily include and account for new data, the concept of ‘catastrophism’ also seems to apply more closely to developments in the advance of scientific progress. In Kuhn’s own words, a scientific revolution occurs “when an existing paradigm ceases to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself previously led the way.” (Kuhn 1962)
Finally, in mathematical terms, the circle remains an unfathomable puzzle, with the ratio between circumference and diameter evading a truly definite, absolute value, pi.
Now, when half the world has moved away from primary industries such as mining, and even partly away from manufacturing, to tertiary, service industries, pride of place is given to the center of the technological revolution, the microchip. The wheel is still as useful as it ever was, but in a world where the movement of information is dominant, it has virtually no place. For in terms of anything substantial moving along the so called ‘information super-highway’ and telecommunications generally, little in the way of physical material actually moves. The advent of the microchip though clearly marked new ground in terms of what had gone before it. It can be looked upon as “a new phenomenon emerging without reflecting destructively upon any part of past scientific practice.” (Kuhn ibid) It replaced but did not destroy, in a similar way that the invention of the wheel per se merely replaced more laborious means of transportation without actually destroying anything.
For Daniel Bell ('The Coming of Post-Industrial Society'), and other writers such as Alvin Toffler ('The Third Wave', 'Future Shock'), the tertiary/post-industrial phase is characterized, not by man overcoming nature (primary industry) or man overcoming the man-made world (secondary manufacturing industry), but by overcoming man himself, putting curbs and checks on ‘human nature’, and using it in fields such as marketing. In this last ‘conflict’ the microchip is arguably as important as the wheel was to those who invented it and subsequently came to use it.
There is something as mysterious in the microchip as there is in the circular form, particularly to the uninitiated. The chip is a marvel of miniaturization, and the functions it can perform are staggering, but the dimension that is truly amazing is the time taken to perform an operation. With miniaturization has come the furious pace of micro processing.
Consequently, in terms of what has gone before, the spectacular changes in velocity and range, made possible by the advent of the micro-processor, amount to or will amount to, in retrospect, something more closely related to the principle of 'catastrophism' (Whewell ibid.), and while that notion is generally applied to the geological formation of the planet, it is a useful concept in any explanations relating to the history of the wheel and the micro-processor. Social and historical commentators looking back on the events that surround these two technological developments, viz the wheel and the microchip, may well come to view the history of them in precisely that way.
The other major differences between the two inventions are the visibility or otherwise of each event, and the dissemination of each. With the wheel, the concept of rotation would have been well known, visible and logical, and thereafter the wheel would have become freely available to those needing it, in the area in which it came into being. The introduction of the microchip, on the other hand, involved relatively small numbers of specialists with technological expertise and access to certain resources not freely available, and the invention would not have been 'visible' to those not involved, and nor was it freely available initially, being protected by patents and by secrecy.
The massive, almost cataclysmic change in the temporal velocity of the processing of data made possible by micro processors is most easily demonstrated by the following comparison. At a time when England was most productive, the Victorian era, when manufacturing industry was in its heyday, and virtually everything produced had the words ‘Made in England’ stamped on it, the cutting of material into the shape of a gentleman’s jacket was dramatically speeded up by the introduction of powerful and accurate presses that had been modified to cut shapes in cloth rather than metal. Thousands of suits could be cut daily, removing the onerous task of cutting each one by hand.
By the time the micro processor had made its mark on the same process, different sized jackets could be cut just as accurately and far quicker one by one than the multiple cuttings of the heaving presses of Victoria’s age. Furthermore, the machine could be programmed to cut each length to different dimensions, a feat that would need a major re-tooling operation in former days. Many different sized jackets can now be cut individually much quicker than could a single stamping of say twenty uniform sized pieces of cloth.
This comparison of modus operandi may be a simple one, but it is one that can be readily comprehended by those only used to thinking in terms of mechanical movement and limited speed.
In the waging of modern warfare, from the horrors of the Great War in Europe, and more recently, to the ultra high-tech deluge of weapons raining down on those below, the wheel is still a force to be reckoned with. Tanks and guns, tank transporters, personnel carriers, helicopters and planes all rely on the predictability and certainty of the wheel. Shells and bullets fly more accurately and deadlier to their targets because of rifling in circular barrels. However, now, instead of a speeding bullet or shell going in a straight line, we have the so called ‘smart bomb’, which is directed to its target by computer, turning right and left as the need arises. The rifling in the circular barrel suddenly has much less importance.
For this is the nature of the world we inhabit, and in which the microchip holds sway; one in which a once productive sector of the economy has become virtually extinct, and with it, a significant proportion of the working population has found itself in a world it doesn’t understand, nor feels it will ever be able to.
The transition from a world where the wheel was the dominant form/icon to one in which a motionless piece of silica is dominant, has been a swift and unnerving one for many, and a welcome and empowering one for those who can adapt.
Wheels run on tracks, roads and lines, and have probably contributed to perceptions tending to be linear. The directions around which the micro-processor operates, on the other hand, are numerous and have causes us to challenge our ways of thinking, so that now, a more lateral rather than linear approach to the solving of problems is more usual and indeed vital. The old remedies and ways are giving way to a new, sometimes confusing plethora of answers and possible solutions.
Guns still fire bullets out of circular barrels, and four-wheeled tractors still plough land, but in the management and governance of people and how they spend their time, both in and out of the work place, more traditional modes of thinking have given way to what I will call a ‘multi-path approach’ to management.
Now, many more dimensions can be called up and utilized because of the speed and power of the micro-processor, and consequently, people have to attempt to ‘keep up’ or perish as others progress and succeed.
The development in information technology that has changed all our lives, of course, is the Internet. The World is a ‘global village’ and everyone is linked to everyone else. This is not quite true though; perhaps a majority of the people inhabiting the planet Earth still do not have access to clean, running water, proper sanitation or electricity, let alone a telephone connection to the Internet, or a pc to communicate with the rest of the world online.
For many of those unfortunate people crowding round the peripheries of our biggest cities, living in sprawling slums and ghettos, there is little use for the microchip or even the wheel. Manpower, or more usually womanpower, is still the dominant force; without roads or any sort of infrastructure, these poorest areas have little provision for the wheel, none at all for the micro-processor.
The Earth is round, but some of those living on its surface are differently positioned with regard to its wealth and opportunity. The true benefits of the wheel and the microchip have still not reached all four corners of the Earth.
Kuhn, Thomas (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions University of Chicago Press
Our lives are full of repetition, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
Our lives are so replete with repetition, from breathing, from the beat of our hearts, to the things we eat, drink, say, watch and do, that the English language has a prefix to deal with it. Repetition in its varied forms figures heavily in how we use language to communicate, particularly in the written word.
In the repetition of letters, syllables and sounds we have alliteration, assonance, and consonance, for example. When repeating words we can use anadiplosis, antistasis, and epistrophe among others and when repeating clauses and phrases we use mesarchia, and repotia.
Apart from the obvious physiological movements and workings of our bodies, which repeat processes thousands, if not millions of times a day, other facets of our existence are full of repetitive and repeated phenomena. The Italian philosopher, Vico proposed that history was cyclical in nature, and consisted of four stages; The Divine Age, The Heroic Age, the Human Age and the Ricurso, which brought us straight back to the Divine Age, and looking at our own times it is not difficult to see that we are perhaps in an age between the democratic and the chaotic. Vico's view of history also presented James Joyce with a convenient framework for his novel, 'Finnegans Wake'.
In the world of art, the phenomenon known as 'serial music' is, ' the harmonic successions resulting from controlled juxtaposition of various row forms giving serial pieces their coherence. These forms are the prime, retrograde (pitch order reversed), inversion (interval direction reversed), and retrograde inversion'. (Bartleby.com)
In music's grander forms repetition figures heavily. In symphonic tone poems, from Honegger's ‘Pacific 231’, in which an express train is depicted in sound, to Berlioz' ‘Symphonie Fantastique’, in which the recurring theme, what is referred to as the 'idee fixe', runs through the whole symphony in a series of notes played on various different instruments and provides a ‘leitmotif’ for the whole symphony.
In literature, masters of the written word all knew the value and effect of repeated themes, words and phrases on their readers. The memorable opening and closing lines of Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities', and the opening line of Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited', used in the title of this article illustrate this point.
Repetition, at least partial repetition, is one of the devices writers and film makers use to show their audience that things have changed, or to illustrate how much things have changed, which is not quite the same thing. Macbeth's predicament is highlighted by his words when he says: "I am in blood stepped in so far that to go back were as tedious as to go o'er." There is no turning back for Macbeth. The mistakes he has repeatedly made ensure this.
Michael Henchard, 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' in Hardy's novel, comes to see how low he has stooped through a series of partial repetitions which begins with the chance meeting of his wife many years after he sold her in a tent at a show in Weydon Priors at the beginning of the novel. The reader is shown what he has become through an almost chance series of encounters, and his plight is made more trenchant by these recurrences that Hardy marshals to make his point. The denouement of the novel reinforces Henchard's fall from grace.
Music hall songs and monologues, and Gilbert and Sullivan's timeless operettas, are all full to the brim with repetition; the favourite, 'A policeman's lot is not a happy one', illustrates the use of repetition to advantage, as do many, many more of the songs of W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.
Repetition has always been an important part of storytelling, and in most stories told to children, the major parts are repeated regularly. Children learn through repetition. In schools, children were once taught their multiplication tables through rote learning; the forced continual, verbal repetition of Items to be memorized, in this case multiplication.
In the precision world of the hard sciences and technology, as well as in the social sciences, repeatability is one of the cornerstones of scientific validity and objectivity. If an experiment can yield quantifiably similar results every time it is performed then it is deemed worthy of inclusion into the particular canon of scientific knowledge to which it belongs.
Sociological constructs are only held to accurately represent reality out there, so to speak, once they have provided repeatedly reliable findings.
In the field of commerce, manufacture, and trade, the ability of experts to repeat operations precisely, minutely and in a measured manner has given us the factory system, production line, and piece-work.
From the work of Sir Richard Arkwright and Henry Ford, from Isembard Kingdom Brunel to Bill Gates, repetitiveness has given the world scientific and technological progress, and has made the world what it is today.
Its largely unsung heroes have transformed manufacturing industry, for example, from little more than a cottage industry at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, to a highly integrated, automated continuous process at the end of it.
Both F.W. Taylor and Henry Ford were responsible for the breaking down and repetition of processes into simple tasks, effectively de-skilling processes that had formerly required skilled artisans to perform them. The principles of Taylor's 'Scientific Management' were used by Ford to produce cars on the forerunner to what is now the modern assembly line, and economies of scale together with repetition of tasks broken down to their simplest ensured that automobiles were made cheaply by largely unskilled labour. The Model T Ford was the result, and Henry Ford built his empire on Taylor's principles.
Ford once said, famously, that' "A customer can have any colour he likes as long as it's black." While this is somewhat amusing and reminiscent of Sam Goldwyn in the film industry, it points to an important aspect of manufacturing, then as now; that lower costs in production are achieved through systematic repetition of tasks, components and products.
Bringing that concept up to date, we have the fast food chain giants, and the worldwide repetition, of not only what they can eat, but the packaging it will come in, the type of service that will be responsible for dishing it up, the types of chairs and tables it will be eaten at, and the general ambience of the facilities in which it is purchased and consumed.
This would be nothing extraordinary were it not for the monopoly such establishments have over consumers' tastes, in almost every country in the world.
Today, if you want a quick fix on your hunger and you happen to be in a shopping mall in an urban conurbation, the choice open to you is more or less limited to one of the better known fast food outlets, and occasionally several of the lesser known ones. There is little difference in any of them. Choice is limited, as it admittedly is in any restaurant. The difference though, between one of these establishments and say a family run place on a street corner is that in the latter, the chef may be able to fix you something especially for your own dietary needs. He may be able to rustle up a lasagna without meat, a drink of some kind without sugar, or any manner of specific meal to suit the customer, who, we were always led to believe, was always right, but these days, he takes what is on offer.
This doesn't mean that he has no choice. On the contrary, he has lots of choice. What it does mean, however, is that his choice must be made from a limited set of articles, and which no one in the establishment has the power, or indeed the will to change.
One swift glance behind the counter at any of these fast food outlets is enough to show you what has happened to the catering industry in this sector. It has been 'Taylorised', which means that it has been broken down into repeatable steps that do not require the presence of skilled chefs to produce what is on offer. The machine dictates the number of chips dispensed for the price paid, the size of the bun for the particular variety of burger, and the quantity of fizzy drink equal to the container into which it is poured. Everything is repeated, everything is quantifiable, and with that, costs are cut, profits are increased and tastes are dictated.
Even the youngest customer sitting eating her burger and her fries, and drinking her Cola knows exactly what she is entitled to and what she gets. Everything is that simple; a three year old can understand it fully.
For the ancient Greeks, however, repetition was deemed to be impossible. Stepping back into the water, so to speak, involved change. For the person stepping gingerly back into the water, her frame of mind would have changed, and the water, the air and the whole atmosphere would not be exactly the same.
In modern times, though, we are too rushed and too prosaic to appreciate that point; repetition, for us, is ubiquitous and all consuming.
While this is reassuring on one level, it is less so on many others. Where will such 'engineering' end? Will it be applied to other parts of our lives in which the free ability to choose between many options is vital in a democratic, liberal sense? Has it already been applied to some of those areas, and if so, who is doing the limiting of choices and for what reasons, and to what ends?
However, whether it is motivated by altruism or otherwise, repetition is and has become perhaps the most ubiquitous concept in our lives. It fulfils several of our most basic needs; the need to make meaning of our lives, and the need for stability and permanence. One might almost say that repetition keeps us sane.