Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Posted on June 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

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I love the poetry of Robert Frost. Somehow he just gets it! Whether he is talking about life and taking ‘the road less travelled’ to experience the difference that has made, or whether he is commenting about the idiocy of man who believes without question in the prejudices he has acquired in his childhood. Frost clearly understands the human psyche.

Now it’s a big jump from Frost and walls to the ridiculous situation where we find ourselves in South Africa today – or is it?  I have watched with interest over the past while as an election looms and the present incumbents are playing very interesting games to ensure themselves of re-election.

But before I get side-tracked, take a step back with me to the approval of our Constitution in 1996. Internationally acclaimed as a visionary and progressive document, it enshrined the concept of human rights. A government that had emerged from the rigid Apartheid era was determined to see equality for all and ensured that the rights of minorities were safeguarded.

So why is it that eighteen years after our first democratically elected government took power, we are looking at a very different scenario?  Two weeks ago all hell broke loose when a satirical painting depicting our president taking up a stance much like the famous one of Lenin ( but with his genitals exposed) became the focal point for incredible racial tension. The powers that be decided that this was a racial slur upon a leader; that his dignity had been impugned and that not only should the painting be removed from the gallery where it had been hanging, but the courts were called in to have its image removed from the website of the newspaper that had taken it upon themselves to report on this matter.

The artist in question was declared persona non grata despite the fact that his brand of satirical work had been employed most effectively by them in anti-government propaganda items while the previous regime had been in power. The gallery owner was made to offer a public apology for daring to show the painting and much was made in parliament recently about freedom of expression not being a more important right than the right to dignity.

Add to all this the hotly debated ‘Suppression  of Information’ Bill earlier this year, which threatens to put a muzzle on the press and I am left shaking my head and wondering with George Orwell whether some animals are not after all  ‘more equal than others’.

Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past as we refuse to get rid of the walls that separate us?  Will we continue to mouth blithely that ‘good fences make good neighbours’ while, in fact, not seeing that we just don’t know how to allow those who are different from us to simply live?

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To Whine or Not To Whine

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I did not submit a blog last week, despite my undertaking to write one every week as part of my discipline of writing.

Why? I was just so depressed. Once again my beloved profession has had to suck it up at the hands of an education department that mostly doesn’t know its nether regions from its elbow.

Ever since we became a democracy (?) the powers that be have been doing a duck and dive with regard to their demands and expectations of the
teaching profession. I can understand their wanting to move away from a system that perpetuated the wrongs of the past regime, but surely one does one’s homework before throwing it all out?

Instead, since then we have been revising the revisions of the revised OBE system. Every two or three years, amendments are made; an enormous
amount of money is spent; teachers are ‘trained’ by trainers who read long documents badly. Then things carry on for a while and before you know it, the process starts again.

The latest in a string of these is something called CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) – methinks the word Research should have been added after Curriculum 🙂  Once again a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing and very little transparency has educators now facing another spate of ‘training’. One week ago we were told it was going to happen now – in our July Holidays!  Fortunately, our unions were awake and reminded them that we need a term’s notice before they take our holidays away. So, guess what we have to look forward to in September?

Needless to say, we were not a happy bunch of campers.

Until tonight, that is.

I have the privilege of teaching at an amazing school where, although sport is worshipped (we are South African, after all) matters cultural really have an important place both in and out of our curriculum. We are regularly treated to the talents of our various school bands, one of which has won acclaim nationwide in band competitions. Two years ago we produced the South African première schools’ version of the musical of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, playing nightly to full houses.

But tonight I was invited to an open rehearsal of the choir and our fledgling strings ensemble. It is cold, pretty much the middle of winter, but I needed to show my support so off I went. I was entranced. The strings opened with a beautiful rendition of Hornpipe by Handel, followed by a choral piece of Elgar’s. Then some angel voices captivated us with a range of numbers from Domine Deus by Regnart  to A Boy and a Girl by Whitacre. The concluding number was a combination of strings, choir and an additional bass guitar section in a compelling interpretation of Iris by Goo Goo dolls ( from the sound track of the movie City of Angels)

It was only an hour’s performance, but I left there totally transformed. My previously disheartened outlook had lifted and I began to remember why it is that I teach. I have a poster in my classroom that reads, “The Wonder of Teaching is Watching Caterpillars Turn into Butterflies”.

Tonight I saw Butterflies

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