Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Information & democracy

Posted: September 6, 2010 in Finance, Politics, Technology
Tags: ,

Where is our information coming from? I don’t mean reportage. I don’t mean news. I mean INFORMATION. Data. Figures. Facts.

Information on politics. Information on finance. Clear information about where money is going. How else can we be expected to make informed decisions, when it comes to voting?

How do we know what we know? An article in a newspaper. A blog post. Occasionally a report. Isolated. Often vague. Sometimes biased. Hard to read up on. Often featuring jargon. Sometimes gossipy.

The internet has made it far easier to get these snippets of information. It hasn’t made it any easier to get clear, consistent, up-to-date information.

The lifeblood of a democracy is the people, making decisions based on what they believe is right according to the facts. If the facts aren’t available, the very concept of democracy begins to fade as only those in the upper echelons of power know what we as a country are dealing with. The people become susceptible to misinformation, to misunderstanding, to giving up (as remarked upon by this article.)

Those people I know who are apathetic as regards politics and finance say it’s because they don’t understand. I don’t understand much more than they do. I try, but it’s difficult. And that’s because there’s little in the way of clear information out there, worded in a way that the lay person can understand. Because after all, when the votes are in it’s the lay person calling the shots.

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Does anyone else know anything about this policy that was proposed in July to give teachers greater powers to search students and to confiscate mobile phones and music players? I came across an old article (July) about it and there doesn’t seem to be much online about it.

And why aren’t we concerned? A personal search is demeaning and will drive wedges into teacher-pupil relationships. Ever wondered why a lot of people really don’t like airport staff? Yep, that’s right, personal searches.

Teachers and pupils need to have respect and trust in each other to get the best out of the educational system. I’m not saying it’s perfect now (hmep hmep… that’s my sarcastic laugh), but if personal searches are made more widespread it will become worse.

I don’t object too much to the idea of searching for knives and other weapons – although it’s definitely not ideal, it’s better than having weapons on school campuses – but how do teachers arrive at the people to search? They can’t search everyone.

But back to the mobile phones/music players. Yes, they can be disruptive for learning. I’ve done it, most people who’ve been in a classroom since they became widespread have done it. But surely initiatives conceived by both staff and pupils together would be more effective? In one class I did, we had the policy that if you weren’t confident of not using it, you put it in a cardboard box. Then, if a phone not in the cardboard box went off or a music player was discovered being used, it was confiscated. It sounds pretty crap, but it worked. And it was surprising – the classes in which pupils liked and respected the teacher had a very low incidence of device usage.