Category Archives: For parents…

In Defence of Desks. 

There was a classroom a long long time ago when there was no bickering over who sits next to who, it was treacherous to copy your neighbour and the current plague of migrating pens, pencils and photocopies was non existent. It was the golden dusk of the Thatchereich, it was 10% interest rates, the IRA, Black Wednesday, it was the age of Desks. 

These boys are now 10x richer than you and can still say rude things in Latin…

Rows of ordered wooden boxes contained the necessities of life, fountain pens, pencils and your text books, there was no need for separate cluttered boxes and plastic trays. The more sensitive and less dominant members of the class were inherently separated from the more wilful; and the socially awkward were not humiliated when no-one wanted to sit next to them. It was also easier to focus on your work when other pupils were not elbowing your writing hand and creasing your worksheets.

For the year that you had your desk you owned it, it was your responsibility and so was the area around it. You were praised and reprimanded for the state of your property. In the current faddish, open plan, “hot seating” world no single pupil is responsible for the tidiness of any single area. If you cannot be called to account for your untidiness or rewarded for your neatness then you are unlikely to try and keep anything ordered. For anyone who has lived with filthy housemates you will understand the situation, when one housemate doesn’t make the effort to clean up after themselves in shared areas of the house it just stays dirty. It’s the same dastardly principal that made the Soviet Union so polluted and why the EU’s common fisheries policy is not popular with fish. In many schools with majority shared space the teachers now seem to clean up after pupils, an unnecessary task that definitely does not teach children about the realities of life. 

Preparing children for life in Utopian Telly-Tubby land…. 

Ordered rows of desks benefited teacher access to pupils. While completing an exercise you would feel the silent gaze over your shoulder and perhaps the muttering of encouragement. With labyrinthine table arrays barring access to pupils it’s sometimes only when the books are handed back in that a teacher realises which pupils are struggling. 
 
Although this could all be seen as moaning I should say that I am a great believer in the cyclical nature of things including education. Open plan classrooms were probably around before people realised the excellent noise cancelling properties of walls; Socrates probably got fairly fed up when swordplay was scheduled in close proximity to his Philosophy class. The Northern Europeans were struck by the idea of open plan schools in the 1970’s but over the next 30 years managed to see sense and brick in the gaps between classes. I’m fairly sure the current fads for hot desking, yoga balls and the overextended buzz of “collaborative working” will also revert at some point. 

When the money is available where do the global elite want to send their kids? To the best schools for results and these are still overwhelmingly traditional, rigorously academic, competitive relics (desks or no desks). 

160026-Singing-Bird-2 house of marbles

Affordable gifts for the kids who have everything.


Header Image: Clockwork Songbird, House of Marbles Online.

8th February 2016 by Thomas Murr

For the kids who have everything the monetary value of a gift is completely irrelevant, a quadcopter is just another quadcopter, right? Another iPhone? Stack it with the others, you only need two anyway…

When you get to a certain wealth level it can be easier to send your PA out on the mission to buy something for your friend’s son or daughter than doing it yourself. You give them a budget and they return with the new iPhone, remote-controlled helicopter or, yawn, drone. If it’s a birthday party and the father is a hotshot you can expect to see a pile of these wrapped gizmos on a giant table, tribute to the family’s status and power. The intent is good and I’m sure the thought will be appreciated but what if there was another way, a new way?  Imagine seeing that golden child, their cherubic face filled with genuine glee, holding your gift aloft and shouting praise!  Their Parents turn in surprise to scan the faces of the guests, who realising that it’s not their electronic wonder, pretend not to have noticed. An assistant leans in and whispers into the fathers ear, looking up, he sees you, a rare smile across his usually stern face. Very good Karma indeed….

If you really want to make an impression with your gift you will need to put the effort in, research the interests of the child, ask the family’s staff members or the parents directly what their offspring are interested in. You usually don’t need to spend a lot of money to get something that will make an impression. Remember it’s not a money thing, the key is to simply match the child with a gift.

There are some rough guidelines that I should think will help you find your target.

  • Get them something they don’t already have.
  • Something that doesn’t require batteries will probably be novel and can be used without any set-up.
  •  Don’t get them anything that is too complex for them to use by themselves.
  • Immediate novelty value, something to pique the curiosity of the child so they will not be able to put it down until they understand what the present does or how it does it.
  • Something usually unavailable to them in their location.

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Prevention of the disease is much easier than finding a successful cure.

A newly classified disease and how to prevent it spreading to your children.

Published on 01/02/2016 By Thomas Murr

I have seen the symptoms up close and personal and it’s not good. Once treatment begins you shouldn’t hope for the best, those who are infected cannot be cured quickly. It’s symptoms can include, nihilistic apathy, depression, rudeness, feelings of worthlessness, deceptive practises, introversion and recklessness. It can strike early in childhood and usually cannot ever be truly cured once caught.

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