BigL and her brood are alive and well

17th October 2003 at 01:00
Hi there! This is Lifelong Learning, aka Big L, speaking. I have recently been reading some mischievous and muddled stuff about my apparent demise and I have just got one thing to say. Do not believe a word of it!

The rumours come from the usual suspects. There is Frank Scoffer from the University of Rescuers which stands for Really Socialist Cunning Emigres and Researchers. (See Frank Coffield's articles on lifelong learning, TES, September 5 and 12, 2003.) And, of course, there are the people - many of them teachers, lecturers and trainers - who see me as a threat to their way of life.

I am tempted to say "a pox on the lot of you!" But, of course, I must not show my ill-breeding. You see the truth is that the whole world has wilfully misunderstood me. I was not invented, as some have suggested, 31 years ago. What arrogance! I was around before the Greeks. I am older than the hills. I pre-date public examinations. I am the golden seed within everyone. I am curiosity. I actually like making mistakes. I am at my happiest when the world is changing fastest and all the old certainties are challenged. I am no one's pet idea. Let me be clear with you. I will be around until homo sapiens do something so daft that the race ceases to be.

Naturally, I threaten people. Like other important ideas - loving and feeling come to mind - I am complex. Few would deny the existence of loving as a concept, but you try to measure love! But just because you cannot create a formula for "loving" does not invalidate the concept. It is the same with me. I am not amenable to many of the more traditional kinds of research. I mean, in the main, that used by the army of bean counters that has been crawling over me in recent years.

When you listen to people whose lives have been transformed by my efforts, then you get a sense of what I am about. Of course, most people hate the fact that I am so slippery and do not fit into their systems. You see, some 90 per cent of what I do is informal. (Some of you are using posh phrases for this like "tacit knowledge". A word of warning, if I may. Keep it simple, stupid. Or you will just put sensible people off me.) But I digress. I am sure you will also want to be reassured that most of my extensive family are alive and well. I am proud of three of my children, Reppy, Fammy and Howsy. Reppy is doing marvellous things with organisations called trades unions, where she goes by the name of Learning Rep.

Then there is Fammy. She has been busy with schools and community groups in almost every local authority where she goes under the name of Family Learning. She has become so popular that she even has a whole weekend devoted to her (October 10-12 this year). And that nice Mr Clarke is talking about the importance of enjoying me in his big fat new strategy, Excellence and Enjoyment.

And then there is Howsy. He is getting people thinking about how they learn. Thousands of teachers and trainers are rethinking their approach to how I work and exploring the workings of their minds. I love it! The days of the 3Rs are numbered. Nowadays it is the 5Rs. (That is inflation, I suppose). But they really make sense. Resourcefulness, resilience, remembering, reflecting and responsiveness. The funny thing is that, if you develop these sorts of attributes, you just get better and better at doing me! It is like you are going into a mind gym and emerging fitter and better at learning! And you know what? Even the Government has had to agree that learning how to learn is turning out to be a damn good way of raising standards too! (Heaven help us. We will have the national learnacy hour soon.)

So you see, all is far from gloomy. Naturally, any family has its mishaps.

I am thinking of poor little Ila, of course. Such a brilliant, naive child.

And definitely ahead of her time. And what of Ila's older sister, Ufi? Well, after a shaky start, she is doing fine, thank you. Although, I am not sure about all this "direct" stuff. It makes me sound a bit too easy for my liking.

If only Mr Blair had said "learning, learning, learning". He would have saved me a lot of trouble explaining that I am not the same as education.

For I am the triple L - that slippery, wonderful drug that some of you have already savoured. And I will be around for a lot longer yet. I am only just beginning. So watch out all you scoffers. I am seeping in everywhere despite what you may want to think.

Bill Lucas is an internationally renowned expert on learning and the author of many books including Power up your mind; learn faster, work smarter, and from 1997-2002 he was the CEO of the Campaign for Learning

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