In brief

15th November 2002 at 00:00
It's About Learning (and it's About Time)

By Louise Stoll, Dean Fink and Lorna Earl

RoutledgeFalmer pound;14.99

Nothing grates so much as to hear some celebrity almost boasting of knowing nothing of computers and the internet. For as these authors say, in their first sentence: "In a fast-changing world, if you can't learn, unlearn and relearn, you're lost."

And yet, as this latest title in the What's in it for Schools? series goes on to say, in the one place where you might expect to find an emphasis on learning - the nation's education system - what you find is a focus on delivery targets, league tables, Ofsted, national tests and the like. "Somewhere along the way, in the name of educational reform, policy makers may have confused structure with purpose, measurement with accomplishment, means with ends, compliance with commitment and teaching with learning."

But the message is about much more than the importance of learning in the classroom. It starts from the imperatives forced upon us by the rapid growth of globalisation, and links all of this to pupils' and teachers'

learning. There are chapters, too, on Leadership for Learning and the Learning Community. This attempt to link the broad sweep of time and global change to the point where pupil and teacher meet is ambitious and not always easy to follow, but the result is a challenging and interesting read. Quotations, points for discussion, and reading lists are interspersed as the book goes on.

The Devil's Dictionary of Education

By Tyrrell Burgess

Continuum pound;4.99

As the author acknowledges, the satirical dictionary is a well-proven form. He reminds us that the original "Devil's Dictionary" was compiled by Ambrose Bierce almost a century ago. ("Education. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.") My own favourite in the genre was by J B Morton ("Beachcomber" of the Daily Express) in the Thirties. ("Angel. A small dog.") Burgess pours scorn on the frantic attempts of our masters to improve the education system. Hence "Didactic: adj. Given to excessive instruction, a deadly sin in teachers, and one officially encouraged." He also has "England", offering us, with the aid of Oscar Wilde, "A country in which 'education produces no effect whatsoever'." (I go for Beachcomber, though. "England. Eleven cricketers.") I'm not sure that every entry works - there are times when Burgess has a fit of Meldrew-like prolixity and over-eggs the pudding. But it's a lighthearted piece of work that deserves to be much read aloud in staffrooms.

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