Hiking Activities for Kids

Hiking is not just good for the body and mind, it is also a great time to create lasting memories with your children. When you hike with your kids, you spend more time with them and increases the possibility of creating more commonalities that will bond your relationship even more. It is a great opportunity to encourage your children to be more aware of the natural world around them. With advance planning, you can make a hiking adventure that the whole family will treasure for a very long time. Keep engaged with some of the most interesting hiking activities for kids, like those we included below. Also, do not forget that hydration is a crucial aspect of hiking. Having said that, you need to make sure that you keep your children properly hydrated. Bring one of the best water bottles for hiking and encourage them to drink at regular intervals so that they will stay hydrated and be more appreciative of all the things that you have in store for them. Here are some interesting ideas for your next hiking trip Nature Drawings Younger kids will need frequent rest for water, snacks, and bathroom breaks. You can also use the time to encourage your children to draw. Bring pencils and sketchbooks so your kids can draw the plants, trees, animals, and whatever they see around them when you go for breaks. You can make a journal with all of their artwork or put them together and make a collage. This will be a great conversation piece while all of you gather at the dining table or when you plan your next hiking trip. Scavenger Hunts for All Ages Create a checklist of items that your kids would most likely to find on your hike so all of you can have a great scavenger hunt. There are several ways you can go about this activity, including those provided below. You may ask younger kids to find things of different colors and shapes. For older children, you may ask them to find specific items that they’d need to identify. Make sure, however, that you remind your children to leave flowers, plants, and other wildlife undisturbed. Rainbow Hunt Game To do this activity, simply ask your kids to find things in “rainbow order”. Younger children will be most delighted to take part in this activity. You’d ask them for things that are of the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. You may  also include other colors as you think necessary. Keep a checklist and once a color has already been spotted, cross it out from your list. Senses Hunt Game Your kids will be excited to participate in this game. All you have to do is to list different smells, sounds, and textures that your children should identify. Keep a close eye on your kids as they might touch or smell something that may not be good for their health. Hiking Journal Older kids will want to do more challenging activities. You can help them find interesting items on your trail and help them list the items in a journal and keep track of the things that they spot as you go. Ask them to add notes, sketches, as well as an update each time you go hiking. You may instruct them to use binoculars to scan the skies and far distances while you’re taking breaks. They can add whatever comes to their minds as they gaze upon the natural beauty around them in their journal. Some reminders: Your kids may be so focused at what they are doing that they will forget an essential element of their activity — hydration. Remind them to drink every 15 to 20 minutes so that they will remain hydrated while they are enjoying any of these activities that you have prepared for them. Squeezing in some lemon juice or fruit will add flavor to their drinks. This will encourage them to drink even more. Allowing them to bring one of the best water bottles for hiking of their own choosing will make them want to drink more often from their water bottles as well. One of your options would be this Thermos Funtainer. This unique water bottle is designed with vacuum insulation technology for maximum temperature retention. It has a durable stainless steel interior and exterior that can hold cold water for 12 hours. It comes with a hygienic push button lid with a pop-up straw and integrated carry handle. For some of the most interesting features and designs you can find for the best water bottle for hiking. Have you tried any of these activities? Perhaps you have other activities in mind that you have asked your kids to do while hiking. How was your experience?

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Why is it important to be properly hydrated in school?

Your child might not be drinking enough water in school. This could just be true as a nationwide study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health indicates that more than 50% of the children and teenagers in the US are not properly hydrated. As a matter of fact, 54.5% of the total 4134 participants in the study, which were aged 6 to 19 years, were found to have urine concentrations that qualified them to be having below the minimum daily water intake level. However, if you train them to bring one of the best water bottles for school, you can be assured that they will have access to clean water or their favorite beverage any time they have to. Don’t wait until your child says, he or she is thirsty Insufficient water in children will affect their cognitive functions as well as their physical health. However, a child’s thirst mechanisms is immature. That means their thirst mechanisms are not yet fully functional at their age. As such, they may have already lost much of their body fluid and are, therefore, already hydrated by the time they would sense that they are thirsty. There are different severity when one is dehydrated. It could be mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body fluid is lost and is estimated by the loss in bodyweight. A child is mildly dehydrated when the loss in the body weight is about 5 to 6 percent. A loss of 7 to 10 percent is considered moderate dehydration. Severe dehydration or a loss of over 10 percent of body weight is a life-threatening condition and will require immediate medical care. Even if mild dehydration isn’t life-threatening, a child who is not properly hydrated will have an impaired cognitive function. He or she will experience headaches and even nausea in severe cases. Younger children, on the other hand, will be very fussy, rarely urinate, have dry mouth, and will have no tears when the child is crying. Factors influencing children’s hydration A child’s hydration attitude and practice can be affected by several factors, including the intensity of the activity that the child is engaging in, the environmental conditions, the availability of fluid, the characteristics (flavor, temperature) of the beverage available, as well as the physiological features of the child. It is best that they are trained to drink regularly to ensure that any fluid that they lose will be replaced right away. Hydration is essential for children in school As already mentioned children do not have properly functioning drinking mechanisms, that is why they need to know the basics of hydration. They are also actively engaging in sports and other school-related activities that may cause them to release more body fluids. If they are constantly disregarding their need to replace lost fluids or are hydrating poorly, their school performance, bladder control, and, even, their overall health will be affected. Factors affecting children’s consumption of water. Other factors affecting a child’s hydration level has to do with their personal preferences. Children prefer sugar-sweetened beverages than water. A study shows that children consume seven times as much soft drink as water. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks are one of the reasons why there are more obese and overweight children in school. Children prefer these alternative liquid replacement sources, which are not actually healthy. Even with the government’s effort to encourage young students to consume water and other healthier alternatives, many still remain insufficiently hydrated in school. The water in the school fountains or dispensers is not cold. Children prefer cold drinks. Water stations, however, do not provide cold, clean water that the children can drink any time they would want to. In addition to this, the water fountains and dispensers are poorly maintained. It can be too taxing or exhausting, as well as time-consuming, to find a drinking fountain or water dispenser. Children are quite active most of the time. They will need much liquid replacement, but there might be times when the water fountain or water dispensers are placed in an area within the school compound that is at a distance from where the children are. Instead of going to the fountain to drink, they’d rather drink whatever beverage alternatives that they may see near them, which, most of the times, are not really healthy. Training your child to drink adequate water when in school Once the child understands the important roles that water plays in his body functioning, as well as in his performance in school, sooner or later he or she will accept the fact that he/she will need to drink up as much as his/her body needs so he/she will feel well and perform better throughout the day while in school. Buy your child one of the best water bottles for school One way to encourage your child to drink up when he/she is in school is to provide him with his own water bottle. There are so many brands and makes that will provide your specific requirements. Once they are trained to bring their own water bottles, it will be easier for them to stay hydrated, especially if you store beverages that they really like (of course, I’m referring to the healthy options here). There are water bottles that can keep beverages, either hot or cold, for 12 to 24 hours (sometimes, even longer). These bottles are available in different materials (PBA-free plastic, stainless steel, or glass). You can choose from a wide-mouthed bottle, push-pull cap soft bottle, filter bottle, collapsible bottles, and more. It’s better to have these reusable bottles than have your kids buy bottled water in school. You’ll save more in the long run and you’ll also contribute to others’ effort for a greener earth. Remind your children of the importance of water and allow them to take responsibility for the options that they take. Once they are fully aware of these and you provide them with an easy to access water source, you’ll see that they will prefer drinking from their own reusable drinking bottles soon enough.

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What You Should Not Wear While Pregnant

Pregnancy brings with it a lot of challenges for the mom-to-be. That’s the reason why any pregnant woman needs to be extra cautious in everything that will affect her general health as well as the safety of the child in her womb. One of the concerns of any pregnant mom is the type of maternity outfit, like the best leggings for pregnancy, tops, shoes, and, of course, the things that should not be worn while pregnant. One of the common challenges that a pregnant mom would have would be the comfort that an outfit could provide her while she is wearing one. While choosing the best maternity outfit is more of a personal choice, there are certain types of outfits that are better worn only before and after pregnancy. Not that they may pose any danger to the child, but as they could just add up to the uncomfortable feeling that a pregnant mom already feels. Why would anyone have to deal with that when it can actually be avoided. Why should you stick to comfortable clothes when you are pregnant? During pregnancy, you experience a myriad of changes. These include morning sickness, headaches, exhaustion, sore breasts, swelling, mood swings, as well as weight gain. As your pregnancy progresses, your body continues to expand to accommodate the developing baby in your uterus. The discomfort that you experience will vary from month to month, and will just seem to intensify as you near the time to deliver your baby. You may not be able to change how the hormones can affect how your body will respond to your pregnancy, but you can definitely adjust your lifestyle to compensate for the drastic changes that you will experience along the way. Ease Pregnancy discomfort with the proper maternity outfit One of the ways that can make you feel more relaxed and ease much of the discomfort while you are pregnant, is to opt for comfortable pregnancy outfits. It can also lessen the probability that mood swings will occur as well. Don’t you find it easier to go about the day when you think and feel that you are dressed properly for the day? The right maternity wear will give the needed support for your bulging tummy. As it feels and looks right, there is a greater chance that your body won’t manifest any irritation. Sweating will also be not much of a concern as you will feel comfortable while wearing the right maternity outfit. For instance, if you wear the proper pair of footwear, there will be a greater chance that you will not feel any pain in your legs, nor see them swelling. Fashion can mean so much to you, but as an expecting woman, you need to understand that you and your baby’s health are your primary concern during this period. You can’t just go about picking clothes that many celebrities are flaunting on their social media accounts. These pieces of maternity wear are usually tight-fitting and not cut or styled as how a doctor would rather want you to cover your body or provide you comfort while you are still heavy with a baby. ‘One size bigger’ is the general rule of the thumb when it comes to maternity wear. But as there is no one-size-fits-all thing with a condition like pregnancy, you still have to consider a number of things when choosing the best maternity outfit. Knowing what you should not wear when you are pregnant will give you a better idea of what will best provide you with the most comfort during pregnancy. Things that you should NOT wear while pregnant There’s no denying that your condition can put you through a lot of stress when you are expecting. You also cannot change the fact that the dresses and footwear that make you feel best before your pregnancy won’t be able to provide you with the same comfort now that you are having a baby soon. You need to choose between outfits that will be most beneficial to your condition than those that can pose danger not only to you but also to your baby, such as those listed below. Tight Clothing Any outfit that clings too well on your skin will only intensify any discomfort that you may already be feeling while you are pregnant. If you prefer wearing leggings, you may still want to look for the best leggings for pregnancy as they are specifically designed to provide support to the growing bump, as well as to your back. Putting on anything that will add pressure to your abdomen is definitely a must NOT wear. Oversized clothes It’s not that you want to feel comfortable that you will just buy and wear oversized clothes. Yes, you need to wear something less straining on different parts of your body, but that doesn’t mean that you’d just pick one that’s super loose that you will look like ages younger than you really are. You can find one that’s well-fitted yet can make you feel not too restricted and still look appealing. Do not sacrifice your looks for comfort. Remember that you can always have both at the same time. Meterial Clothes made from synthetic and non-breathable fabrics. Polyester, chiffon, georgette, and other synthetic fabrics will make you feel hot and cause you to sweat more when you are pregnant. Opt for maternity clothes made of cotton, combed cotton, organic fabrics and other fabrics that will let your skin breathe instead. High Heels Wearing high heels can only add discomfort to your back and lower body. Flats are more comfortable and a lot safer to wear when you are pregnant. Wrong underwear Your breasts will grow as it prepares the body for nursing. It will also feel sore and more tender. Needless to say, you need to wear bras that won’t add to the discomfort that you are already experiencing. Avoid padded bras and those made with an underwire. Choose bras that will provide enough coverage, optimum support, and will accommodate your breasts as they grow with your pregnancy. Conclusion Again, you need to wear the most comfortable and clean maternity outfit that will also provide the confidence to go through the rest of your pregnancy months. If you have a favorite maternity attire, do mention them in the comments below.  

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For TES: “Send in the gowns …”

I’ve a piece in today’s TES on the value (and under-valuing) of ritual and academic symbolism in schools. You can read the whole thing in the paper, or here if you’re a subscriber. (If you’ve not yet had the chance to pop down the shops this fine New Year’s Day, there’s an edited preview here. But the longer version is better and contains a description of how the gown of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford came to be, so you should definitely pay for it.)

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“Beware the Ids that march” – to the barricades for Ofsted at Michaela

Here you can watch my debate with Katie Ashford as part of the Michaela Debates held recently. I stood up in defence of that most maligned of educational institutions: Ofsted. You can hear my whole argument above, obviously, but the key points are: Accountability is an essential feature of all modern educational system, on grounds of both the cost of state education and the importance of educating the young. Schools should thus be held accountable for: 1) proper use of public money; 2) outcomes; and 3) day-to-day practices. 1) is handled by the audit process; 2) by league tables and destination data; and 3) is best handled by inspection. Some might suggest that there is no need to inspect practice, if outcomes are what is desired and money is spent appropriately. But it is always possible to manipulate any accountability system, and outcomes can sometimes be achieved by unscrupulous means (“gaming”) and it is essential the day-to-day practices be inspected. Of course, Ofsted can likewise be gamed, but the “mixed constitution” of outcomes, financial audit and inspection makes it harder to game one without exposing problems elsewhere. Further, Ofsted does not exist for the benefit of teachers directly, but to help build trust between teachers and those we work for: the government who pay for schools, and the parents whose children we educate. Of course, it may put teachers under pressure and feel our work is being scrutinised, but it is that scrutiny which is essential for parents and government feeling trust about the value of what teachers do. Unconditional trust of professionals working with children, absent any real accountability system, is precisely what produces problems such as those that led to the collapse of Kids Company. But even if teachers being happy with Ofsted is not necessarily a measure of Ofsted’s success or legitimacy, it is also the case that Ofsted had changed in the past four years in response to complaints raised regarding the validity and value of their work. Short of full abolition, most teachers would have wanted: an end to graded lesson observations an end of out-sourced inspections shorter inspections no preference for particular teaching styles All of those now feature in the new Ofsted inspection frameworks. Of course, Ofsted may not achieve those things and it also should be held accountable for them, but when challenged by arguments with a strong evidence base, Ofsted is not an unchanging behemoth, and this should be acknowledged. The strongest arguments against these positions raised in the debate was, I think, the idea that Ofsted’s existence generates and perpetuates bad practice amongst teachers. But I’m afraid I can’t accept that: the many examples of poor practice suggested (triple-marking, VAK, only marking in green pen, and more) are all, I think, monsters from the Id of the teaching profession that, as I have long argued, is not remotely mature enough in regard to its own practice, ethics or the research base for its work to effectively police itself. But seriously, watch the video for a cracking Shakespeare paraphrase and a load of musical theatre references.

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PXed2015

On Saturday, Policy Exchange held an excellent conference on the future shape of education policy after the next General Election. It really was a invigorating day. In a previous post, I have argued that those of us who favour on-going educational reform need to ensure that we are airing our differences as much as our agreements, and work to shift the debate onwards away from the more reactionary elements of the educational crowd, and I think PX managed that exceptionally well. In particular, Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston, a former education adviser to President Obama, was inspiring (Tom Bennett–who evidently has nowt but stone for a heart–mocks my rapture at Mike’s speech in his post about the event here, but I sense even he’d had his heart melted by the end of the day). You can watch videos of all three keynote speeches (Johnston’s, Michael Gove’s and Tristram Hunt’s) as well as the panel sessions, following this link. The video it’ll bring you to first, though, is the one for the panel I was on (my speech is 19m-25m), about curriculum, assessment and workforce. My speech addressed a phrase Tristram had used earlier in the day: that of a “mature profession”. My contention is that teaching is not a mature profession: we lack the conviction in evidence, the ethical clarity and–largely–the responsible leadership to claim ourselves a proper profession; I hope the write more about this in due course. The others on the panel all made excellent contributions, although if you have time for only one, click to 31m (runs to 39m) and watch Tim Oates – a genuinely wise discourse on how the education research community in England is not giving policy-makers what they need to create excellent policy; turns some key issues on it’s head and is well worth the time. p.s. Tim Oates was also responsible for the finest and most devastating heckle in the history of education policy: when the National Secretary of the Anti-Academies Alliance claimed in the final panel session there were no private schools in Finland, Tim pointed out that this wasn’t true, but it was illegal to charge for private schools in Finland, so essentially the country has a voucher system. “Less than 1% of schools,” came the disdainful reply. “37% in the Helsinki area,” came the devastating response.

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Vince Cable has made the mistake of being accidentally correct

I’m not a huge fan of Vince Cable*, but two things strike me about his statement that “teachers know nothing about the world of work“. The first relates to general dissatisfaction I have with the nature of a lot of discourse about education, and especially about teachers: hordes of people turned up on Twitter berating Cable for having said it, and saying how mean he was being about teachers. The same thing happens every time Gove, or indeed Tristram Hunt, says anything about teachers: teachers complain they are being disrespected, as though no politician can be permitted to talk about education without first saying how absolutely lovely and hardworking teachers are. This is plainly absurd and a mark of a profession peculiarly uncertain about its status. Do we honestly need to be love-bombed by Westminster’s finest every time they speak about our field? Are we so unsure of the value of our work that we need politicians to tell us it is any good? It is a tedious discourse, taking offence when it’s probably best left lying where it is (which would, incidentally, have the effect of blunting a significant number of the DfE’s media attacks, but that’s a different matter). It was abundantly clear that Cable wasn’t writing off all teachers as idle shysters who’d managed to bandy access to a blackboard into a lifelong laze in front of the class, so the outrage was utterly unnecessary. It was also unhelpful, because it obscured a chance to discuss something quite interesting (and this is my second point): Cable is pretty much correct. Cable’s point was clearly that teachers are not especially good at preparing their students for the world of work. Not only is this mostly true, I would argue that it is pretty much as it is supposed to be. Between myself and the state, quite a lot of money has been spent training to make me a history teacher. My job is to induct students as best I can into the discipline of history. That I should necessarily be expected to also acquire to skills of a careers advisor and interview coach seems to me a misallocation of resources: I have one job the state pays me to do, why do I need another one? This is not to suggest that schools shouldn’t take a very large role in careers training, but why expect a profession made up, in the main, of people who pursued academic training in a particular subject to suddenly acquire a profound insight into how to persuade organisations as diverse as Gregg’s and GoldmanSachs to give students a job. I’ve had five jobs since I left university: one I was elected to, and the other four were decided by interviews in schools, three of which involved teacher a demonstration lesson. None of these experiences are even remotely representative of the ways most students will find work. This requires dedicated attention and skills, yet career responsibility in schools remains largely an additional responsibly put on top of a teaching load. Of course, many such teachers do their jobs well, but inevitably most don’t have either the time or the space to focus on developing the strength and depth of careers advice, links to the local employment market and quality work discovery and work experiences that are required to make careers training truly effective. Fundamentally, this needs to be a role that belongs to someone full time; at present, the non-teaching full time staff of a school include admins, site supervisors, nurses, EWOs and data managers. In such ways are the things schools find important reflected. Full time careers officers in school are a vital part of improving careers advice. But a final point, and this is what Cable should really have been criticised for: although schools should be the site of great careers advice, a significant portion of the responsibility should fall on companies (like those led by those Cable was talking to) themselves to build links to schools. That’s the message he should carry to them: if you want schools to help you, it’s time to help them. * I’m not a huge fan of any of the Coalition LibDems, notwithstanding that their politics are more congenial to the Labour Party than their Tory colleagues: it will take a long time for the generation sold a pup by the LibDems on tuition fees to trust in politics again. They were probably right to put up fees, but when your only distinctive policy is that you won’t, and you make absolutely no effort to defend that policy (as the memoirs of the Coalitions negotiations make clear they didn’t) you’re engaging in pretty cynical politics.

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Tis Pity He’s A Law (Unto Himself)

The BBC experimented with a new form of public history over the weekend, in which a lecture presented by Niall Ferguson on the causes of World War One became the keystone of a debate on air and online, which as well as being open to all those who tuned in and had internet access included a truly stupendous lineup of academic historians. Despite some misgivings, about the format generally and some of Ferguson’s history specifically, I think the idea was a great one and should definitely be repeated. I thought I’d jot down here some more comments about the whole thing. The History Ferguson’s star power was clearly a big selling point for the BBC, and he very much took pride of place – I’ll address some of the problems that created in a moment, but I also wanted to highlight some of the very real problems in Ferguson’s historical argument. Ferguson is no academic lightweight and has written directly (in a book also titled The Pity of War) on the points he covered in the programme. Moreover his central thesis–that WW1 was a straightforward conflict of imperial conquest, and Britain would have been better off out of it–is on the face of it a reasonable interpretation of the facts. However, in arguing his case, there were points where Ferguson dismissed or failed to even mention evidence in a manner that was slapdash at best: commenting that a higher percentage of the French population was in military service than that of Germany ignores the fact that France has a smaller population; bringing up the spate of German surrenders in the closing months of the war whilst failing to mention the Ludendorff Offensives of early 1918 avoids making clear that the Allies decisively defeated them (thus undermining Ferguson’s argument about the superiority of German soldiery, itself based on some suspect use of statistics which ignored the strategic disposition of forces); implying that a Kaiserreich customs-union would have been substantially similar to the European Union is a piece of counter-factual reasoning too obtuse to be of any use (as someone else commented, “What if the Aztecs had attacked, what then?”). These are the kinds of historical cheap shots which undermined the seriousness of Ferguson’s argument, and for the first time made clear to me why he is rumoured to be the basis of Irwin in The History Boys, offering easy controversy as a substitute for complex reasoning. The Format That said, given that Ferguson was clearly calling the shots on this programme, he deserves significant credit for being willing to cede a lot of screen time to a line up of academics who, by and large, tore his argument to pieces. Heather Jones, Gary Sheffield, David Reynolds and Hew Strachan amongst others responded to Ferguson’s arguments robustly. This was by far the best part of the programme and the BBC should be congratulated for having gathered such an impressive line up… But the very fact of how impressive the line up was made it frustrating that we didn’t hear more from them, and more discussion between them. The role assigned to the historians was to dispute with Ferguson, and given how outlandish some of his claims were and how easily knocked down, this seemed a waste. I’d have preferred if the programme had addressed itself to, say, five key questions about the war and asked a different historian to take each in turn before that historian could chair discussion on that issue. Gary Sheffield suggested to me that the BBC is overly obsessed with celebrity historians: my only response is that every single historian interviewed that night could clearly carry a programme on their own, indeed some of them already have, so why not expand the pool of celebrity historians? Other aspects of the format also jarred. All the shiny special effects were unnecessary, and indeed illustrated to be so by the occasional sudden flashes of AJP Taylor talking directly to camera with nary an animated map or neon bar graph (though he was rocking a quite exceptional green shirt and tie combo). The “final thought” speech from Ferguson at the end was not just a bit cheesy, it also summed up a debate that hadn’t happened (i.e., one in which anybody else had agreed with Ferguson). Overall, Ferguson had too much of a commanding role, was at times bending the rules of history to suit himself and left a sense that most historical debate is just statements of personal preference rather than evidenced rigorous debate. But all-in-all, The Pity of War was a welcome mark of the BBC treating history as a serious endeavour and historians as people worth putting on the tele. Now, if it can only strengthen that commitment, it’ll be doing very well indeed.

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The Cordelia Question; Or Would You Rather Be Thomas More or Thomas Cromwell?

The Cordelia Question When I was 17, I had to stop studying A-level English Literature, mostly because I couldn’t bear the writings of Sylvia Plath (although You’re is a poem I only love more and more as I get older). But the final straw was a spectacular argument I managed to stage between me and everyone else in the class. The question was something like “Who is the most moral character in King Lear?” and everyone seemed pretty clear that it was Cordelia, the daughter who tells the truth for the good of her father even though it hurts him, rather than her nasty sisters who lie to get part of the kingdom. I disagreed. I said not only was Cordelia not the most moral character in the play, she was the most immoral: it is her refusal to say a few words her father, evidently old and going senile, wanted because she felt he was being a bit needy that gets pretty much everyone killed, including herself and her dad. The immortality of this act derives from the certainty of negative consequences that will flow from it: Lear had made clear what he is intending to do, and Cordelia knows for certain that if she doesn’t do as requested (she doesn’t even have to lie, she actually does love her father!), Goneril and Regan will do terrible things to the country and her father. But she doesn’t do it – a principle is at stake. Sadly, her time to reflect on the value of that principle as her dying father carried her lifeless corpse out of a prison cell was probably pretty short. Cordelia is a woman in a political world, with a political role, who will not bend herself just a little for the benefit of the commonweal. Her purity kills everyone. Well done, Cords.* Which Thomas is better? It was on watching Diarmaid MacCulloch’s excellent recent documentary on Thomas Cromwellthat I realised that Cromwell and that other famous Tudor Thomas, St Thomas More, reflect exactly the same choice. Each is posed what might be called “the Cordelia Question” – will you serve the royal will, even though its edicts are not all you want and some you disagree with, and in doing so attempt to deliver something of what you do want and believe is for the good of all, or will you stand upon your principles, bring about your death and rob the king and the nation of your service? More chose death rather than accept the Royal Supremacy–or rather he chose silence, which he knew would eventually bring him death–and he is remembered as something of a hero: immortalised by the Catholic Church as a saint (although not till the 20th Century) and vividly brought to life in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons (he even gets played by Charlton Heston in one version!). Cromwell, on the other hand, cleaved to the king and delivered what he desired: the divorce of his first wife, the death of his second, the cultural and socio-economic vandalism of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the grisly death of the abbot of Gloucester … the list goes on. And history did not remember Cromwell kindly. Seen for a long time as a brute and a dark-hearted Machivell, it is only with Hilary Mantel’s recent Wolf Hall that he has received a popular attempt to grant him any graces at all. MacCulloch, like Mantel, clearly rather liked Cromwell, and had him as a man of religious principle achieving a Bible in English by adroit management of the king, aiding Henry in difficulty in order to deliver projects he felt made the realm better, including founding a (very) proto-welfare state. Most, I imagine, would not go so far as MacCulloch and Mantel in rescuing Cromwell’s reputation, just as few would go as far as Mantel in condemning More (in Wolf Hall he is an authoritarian bigot, hypocrite and monstrous egotist with not a single redeeming feature) but I think it is undeniable that Cromwell left a far greater and more important legacy to this country, and indeed the world, than did Thomas More–the innovation of using Parliament to deliver and validate the Royal Supremacy is much more the cornerstone of modern Parliamentary democracy than Magna Carta–yet More has a halo and a lot of churches and schools, and Cromwell has not very much at all. It turns out we don’t like people who answer the Cordelia Question the hard way, the way where you have to set your principles in a political context and ask which are deliverable, and to what extent, and act accordingly. Where you don’t complain because everything isn’t exactly as you want it to be, but instead work to make it as good as it can be. Teaching and the Cordelia Question The Cordelia Question faces all those who work within a political context, and of course that includes teachers. And I fear that, as a profession, our public persona answers the question all wrong: we will list our complaints endlessly at union annual conferences, and seem to take pride in our disdain and derision of politicians engaged with education. And we also condemn those teachers who do try to make a difference within the system: bloggers who offer suggestions for improvement in ways that might make ministers think, teacher groups who want to build free schools to show they know what they’re doing, academy chains employing outstanding teachers to support and mentor the others. These are seen as having betrayed the purity of Thomas More; they are dissolving the monasteries and are castigated for it. In doing so, the corporate voice of teachers seems totally unwilling to build a better future. We have become the Martyr Profession: endlessly suffering our lot, and making sure that everyone knows about it, with the desire for relief but no will to get it. Of course, in the end, answering the Cordelia Question the way he did, didn’t keep Thomas Cromwell’s head from a traitor’s spike, but then, politics is a risky business with high stakes and uncertain outcomes – a trait it shares with teaching. But, though lifeless yet, Cromwell’s eyes in death looked out on an England made anew largely in his image because he was willing to bend his own principles into those of his political master’s to deliver a workable synthesis of both. I can’t help but feel there is a lesson for education in there somewhere. — * There was obviously another side of this argument which everyone else felt was a lot more convincing than mine, but this is my blog, so you just get my one. The other side is probably something to do with virtue ethics or Kant or something. Have fun with that.

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For Independent Voices: How a Labour government could help our schools

I’ve written a piece for the Independent’s online comment section, building one of the 14 ThingsI suggested Stephen Twigg could do, outlining ways Labour can work with academy chains, Outstanding local authorities, universities and others to build a better school improvement system for all schools. Enormous changes to the structure of English education have taken place since 2010. As the next election approaches, with Labour likely to win, many will welcome the greater policy clarity Stephen Twigg has offered in his recent article for the New Statesman: a fully-qualified teaching force, improved post-16 vocational pathways and a requirement for schools to be part of collaborative partnerships for improvement. The last of these, whilst a positive commitment from Labour, will require careful thought about how, and by who, such collaborative arrangements should be developed. You can read the rest on the Independent’s website …

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