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Sailing close to the wind

SALLY BROWN certainly started something when she introduced the sailing metaphor into her General Teaching Council lecture last week. The noted educationist suggested that the purpose of teaching should be the equivalent of "enabling the learner to learn to sail".

There was no holding back GTC vice-convener Gordon Kirk as he came to the bridge to deliver the vote of thanks. His thoughts turned to a drifting ship in choppy waters, with a damaged mast, probably a leak somewhere, perhaps a mutinous crew, and with a skipper whose one hand was on the tiller but who held a bottle of whisky in the other as he railed against the storm.

Which institution or educational leader could he have had in mind?

The metaphor also reminded him of Jmes Michie, Grampian's former director of education, who came across a plaque in one of his schools adorned by a ship and bearing the motto "the mind has no horizons".

"What do you think that means?" he asked a young lad. "Nobody knows where we're going," came the impressive response.

Brown was giving the second in the GTC's lecture series, initiated last year by Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, who has since been further ennobled. Or as Kirk put it: "Everyone who has delivered the GTC lecture so far has ended up in the House of Lords."

Incidentally, it was pleasing to see so many representatives of the Scottish Executive at the lecture. "Just our works outing," said one of them disarmingly.


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