Archive for 29 January 2010

Creating aspiration through work and education

I read in the Western Mail that the Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Newport East said, ‘It’s Labour’s fault for dropping exam standards so every Tom, Dick & Harry goes to Uni’
I know the candidate, Dawn Parry, as she used to attend the same speakers club as me in Cardiff before transferring to the Newport one.
I think she’s wrong for saying that not everyone should be able to go to university, but the sentiment that you should be of calibre to go to university is something that should be aimed for. All too often people leave school unable to write essays, or to have critical and creative thinking abilities. These are the skills that I think are needed for people to have independence of mind and the drive to take on any challenge and see it though. I think with the Welsh Assembly Government’s skills-based curriculum things are moving in the right direction, where it is not what people learn that is important, but how they learn and express it.
It disturbs me that there are generations of people who do not have a decent education or working life; people who know no way of life beyond being on welfare benefits. At present the government stops those in fulltime education claiming benefits, but I think it should be compulsory for anyone claiming money from the State, whether benefits or tax credits to be engaged in further study or work experience. People doing voluntary work could claim Tax Credits instead of other benefits, and those who want to stay on income support or employment and support allowance should have to be taking part in training or a further/higher education course.

Review of the electoral arrangements for the County Borough of Rhondda Cynon Taff

I note the draft proposals from the Boundary Commission regarding Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council and its impact on my ward of Treforest.

The proposal appears to suggest combining the Treforest ward with the Rhydyfelin wards to create a new three member ward called ‘Treforest’.

I support the creation of multi-member wards as a means of giving voters more choice and more effectively enabling political parties to introduce equality measures such as gender balance.

I think however the boundary commission needs to take into consideration the local situation. The relationship between Treforest and Rhydyfelin is like that between Manchester and Liverpool or Spain and Portugal.

This said, the local Labour Party of which I am a member has merged its Treforest and Rhydyfelin branches and a current councillor for Rhydyfelin was a previous councillor for Treforest. I think it may be more appropriate to name the combined ward ‘Taff Vale’ as a more neutral name because of its location in relation to the River Taff and the fact that the former Taff Vale railway runs through it.

Larger wards I feel is a must in order to move councils away from the parochial politics that has dogged local government in South Wales for centuries. I would like to think that the move towards larger wards could lead to local councils (community and town) covering bigger areas that could double as smaller Assembly constituencies to meet the larger membership of the Welsh Assembly recommended by the Richards Commission. This could also lead to the reduction of the number of local authorities to perhaps reflect the Assembly regional seats or the Wales Spatial Plan areas.

It may be prudent to consider whether these larger local authority areas could also double as multi-member constituencies for the Westminster parliamentary elections. Such a cohesive approach to local and national government boundaries could lead to a US-style town hall feel, where legislators and councilmen/women of the respective levels of government work together to create accountable and effective democratic units.

On elitism and choice for schools

The Tories plan to make teaching elitist if they are ever elected to government. As a co-operator who believes in choice I think all schools should have only the best teachers and the choice of school should be based on other factors.

All too often choice is too much focussed on the ‘best schools’ with the ‘best teachers’ with the ‘best students’. I’d like to see choice based more on what the school offers, such as whether they provide after school clubs specialising in music, IT, science, etc. or the particular help they are able to offer people with behavioural difficulties, disabilities or other special educational needs.

When people choose a mobile phone they don’t only consider whether their friends recommend it or whether a magazine says it’s the best on the market, but also a number of other factors, such as its features and the applications it runs. Choosing a school should be similar; it should not only be its reputation that is consider, but also whether it offers the experience that meets the needs of the user.

Community and sexuality – Do they have similar structures?

I went to an event commissioned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission yesterday, which three young members of political parties expressed their difficulties getting into Parliament. The discussions we had made me rethink the definitions I give to the terms I use in my research.

The people at the conference were a Monster Raving Loony for a low income background, a Liberal Democrat from a minority sexuality background (LGBT), and me from a disabled minority and member of the Labour and Co-operative Parties.

It was the discussion with the LGBT representative that got me thinking the most. We were discussing the outing of Simon Hughes and Jane Hill, who both said that they had relationships with both men and women, and how the media portrayed them as gay rather than bisexual, which we both detested as we both believe sexuality is not binary.

It got me thinking about people whose minds may be gay or bi, yet whose actions are what would be considered straight. That is people who think one way and act another. Whether this is because of personal preference or social pressures does not matter, but it got me thinking that there could be a virtual sexuality, which is what we think, an organic sexuality, which is what we do, and an imagined sexuality, which is what others perceive us as.

This has led me to redefine virtual community as ‘a distributed community where its members enable its existence through their continued participation in its activities’, organic community as ‘a geographically-constrained community where the actors within it enable its existence through remaining within its boundaries’ and imagined community as ‘a community that does not exist other than in the minds of those that perceive it’. My definition of community remains the same as ‘a network of actors whose commonality is their dependence on the existence of each other.’

Considering the work of Norah Jones on her ‘Blended Learning Continuum’ I think there is also an ‘Emotional Paradigm’. That is that at one end there is Emotionally Driven (ED) and at the other end Emotionally Challenged (EC) and in the middle Emotionally Reticent. I think at the ED end are the average woman and gay men, at the EC end are autistic men, and in the middle are autistic and lesbian women and heterosexual men. This is a theory which I would like other scientists to test, but I will accept it for now.

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