Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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30/10/16: always a price to pay

When I was in the UK about a year ago I mentioned in this blog the use of what I was then calling, "Swipe and go" but have subsequently discovered is actually called 'Contactless'.  So, if paying for items up to a certain limit, all you have to do is hold a credit card near a detector until it pings, no need for an exchange of cash, a signature or even a PI number.

(Parenthetical thought: grief I'm such a pedant!  Of course, PI number - PI standing for personal identification - is strictly correct, as is PIN.  But not PIN number!  No, that is not right!  That is saying personal identification number number!  End of parenthetical thought).

Anyway, on this visit I did actually get as far as using it, particularly on the London underground.  And it really is very convenient, there's no way of getting round that, get your credit card out, swipe it across a sensor, and on you go, charge is then added to your bill the following day.  Don't forget to swipe as leaving the station at the end of your journey, otherwise you could end up with a large charge assuming you made a much longer journey than you actually did.

So, what is it that I dislike about contactless so much?  I think it's the sense that you're not really paying any money, getting something for nothing.  When I was waiting in a London underground station there was an announcement encouraging people to use contactless rather than the predecessor Oyster card, including the line, "You'll never need to top up again."  Well, yes you will, most of us call it getting paid.  Similarly advertisements for items to be bought on credit can rather give the impression that, again, you're getting something for nothing, rather downpaying the repayments which will need to be made, sometimes hugely in excess of the original sum borrowed.

Education is also a forum in which the impression can be given that changes bring only advantages no disadvantages.  So, in working with teachers I advocate a range of teaching methods, engaging them with discussion about advantages and disadvantages of each, broadly coming to the conclusion that over time we're looking to use a range.  What I find is that teachers used to working in a very teacher-centred manner, when shown more student-centred approaches, can think that this is a totally one way street, working in a student-centred way brings only benefits.  But I think that experienced teachers attempting to do this would agree with me that it isn't quite that simple, we maybe try to guide students towards their own understanding but not all get there in the time allowed, so what next?

Also, in a UK context, the fresh interest in grammar schools is broadly similar.  Proponents seem to proceed on the basis, again, that this is a one-way street of improvement, but surely it is clear that this is not the case, that there are choices to be made?  Particularly, occasionally proponents of grammar schools refer to selection, I do not recall ever hearing anybody calling for a return to secondary modern schools which, as rightly pointed out by the head of OFSTED, the school inspectorate, is the inevitable consequence of selection.  It's likely that in this paragraph I am giving away my views on the debate, but I'm really trying not to, the point I'm wanting to make is that there are choices to be made, advantages and disadvantages to whatever we do.

Think that's enough on this theme for this week, as always, very interested to hear what you're thinking about this.  Two final things: still in the UK, expecting to fly on 11th November, even if the work permit hasn't come through by that time.  And, further to my prediction of a Clinton victory last week, I'll make a further prediction: that the net effect of the FBI involvement with Clinton's emails will end up in Clinton's favour.  Remember, you heard it here first!

4 Comments to 30/10/16: always a price to pay:

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Carolyn on 30 October 2016 15:57
There was a young fellow called Tennant, Who referred to himself as a pedant. His sister-in-law smiled as his story beguiled, Cos she too was a pedant named Tennant!
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Geoff on 31 October 2016 02:25
Thank you, Carolyn, thinking I should respond in a limerick but nothing's coming. Like the 'young'....
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David Warman on 31 October 2016 06:44
I enjoyed reading your blog on Education. It amuses me when they try to associate Grammar schools with what they call "choice". Choice for the chosen few! But what about the rest? Grammar schools tended to play Rugby (or "Rugger")while down the road those boys in Secondary moderns played soccer. So never the twain shall meet!
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Geoff on 31 October 2016 07:48
Great to hear from you, David, thank you for contributing. Absolutely agree that the notion of 'choice' needs thinking through, I can think of a number of places where parental choice apparently means single sex education for girls and mixed education for boys! As to grammar schools, looking at things from a whole population, systemic rather than an individual, social justice point of view, one might consider that they had a place in the 1940s and 1950s but, as expectations for all children have grown, they make increasingly less sense as a way forward. Another prediction: this proposal will not get going until after the next general election, again, you heard it here first!

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