TV and radio: Robin Buss's pick of the week

The BBC's Bitesize revision in the run-up to Christmas is all about science, starting with biology and chemistry: life processes, chemical reactions and so on. On Thursday, we get chemistry plus physics (the usual suspects- acids and alkalis, electricity and magnetism, light and soundI) before moving up to the higher tier in all three subjects shortly before dawn.

Light Fantastic

BBC4, Wednesday, December 8, 9-10pm

Professor Simon Schaffer's series continues with a lot of sound and motion, chiefly of the arms, as he describes some of the stages in the human discovery of how light works - and, indeed, argues that the study of this phenomenon was crucial to the development of scientific method. In the first of these programmes, he showed how the Greek idea that light emerged from the eyes was disproved by the Arab scholar Alhazen before Newton's theories brought further discoveries. This week, he tells us how science, art, craft and philosophy have contributed to the making of telescopes and the understanding of how light operates. Fascinating stuff.

Locked in Paradise

BBC2, Tuesday, December 7, 7.30-8pm

Troubled teens 1: tough love doesn't come any tougher than in Tranquillity Bay, in Jamaica, where rich American parents send their problem children.

This is one of several camps, where a stay costs almost as much as Eton, but gives access to a less exalted social circle and a lower standard of education. Academic it isn't. The teenagers sent here (sometimes after being led away from home in handcuffs) are seen as out of control and at risk from drugs or other perils. They are subjected to punitive discipline and denied communication with their parents until they have shown that they "deserve" it; they even have to earn the right to look at the sea. UNICEF is worried that the regime in these camps may amount to child abuse and some former inmates say that the memory of this alma mater still gives them nightmares. "They're trying to criminalise adolescence," says one commentator.

Bricking It

C4, Wednesday, December 8, 9-10pm

Troubled teens 2: this three-part series is the story of how 10 young people with few or no qualifications were put to work on a building site at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and taught to transform a warehouse into a luxury apartment. The challenge was for the trained staff of builders and decorators to pass on the necessary skills, many of which the workforce had not learnt at school; and for the workforce itself to acquire the skills and learn to get to work on time. According to Heather Rabbatts, managing director of 4Learning, "Bricking It contributes to the ongoing nationwide debate about how the conventional education system may not be delivering the best career opportunities to huge swathes of young people, and questions whether a more vocational, apprenticeship-led approach to lifelong learning may offer such youngsters a more engaging, motivational and realistic approach to their futures." In English: does education prepare plasterers for working life? Discuss.

Full listings can be found at:


* www.channel4.comlearningmainprogrammestv_schedule.htm

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