Category Archives: Uncategorized

A wake up call?

Was directed by colleague Nigel Rayment towards an interesting article by George Monbiot called ‘The man in the mirror’ ( which offers a challenging perspective on the US election and the rise of Donald Trump as arguably the most feared person on the planet.

There are hundreds of such articles out there and a recent trip to London with my eldest two children readily turned into who could spot the best ridiculing or dismissing of Trump – not a difficult task, from the burger restaurant offer the Rump Burger as its thickest burger ever (just about avoiding the libel there I guess) to the Big Issue with its Halloween-style cover of the prospective President.

What makes the Monbiot article so interesting to me is the focus on values and the straight up challenge he lays down for us all in suggesting that Trump is actually the manifestation of all that is (and we know it is) wrong with society, politics, consumerism and our general way of being.  It is not an easy read, but neither it is an easy challenge.

I have for many years felt we have been sleepwalking into a future that very few of us actually want, but that a state of apathy and learned helplessness (often masterfully directed by those who benefit most from this unwanted future) prevents us from doing much about it.  Perhaps we need a few more Trumps to wake us from our slumber and shock us into taking action and doing something about it.  We certainly need more people to at least discuss the issues and so thank you George Monbiot.  I don’t agree with all that you say in this piece, but I most certainly agree that it needed to be said.

A useful set of articles

I have been enjoying reading a recent set of articles of public morality in Australia.

They offer some very useful insights and provide a good provocative workout for the brain cells. They are also a stark reminder that there is so much more in the world of learning and values than the current British govt offering of Fundamental British Values which is distracting many a school from a more authentic engagement with this vital area of learning.

I plan to write again about these articles once I have finished with them as they offer a good opportunity to review and refine my own thinking and practice ahead of a new publication we are producing to consolidate our past ten years of work in values related learning and a new Masters level accredited module that is set for launch in 2017.

I’d love to discuss these articles with fellow bloggers and readers so do pick this up through the comments and let’s see where we can take each other in our learning.

A caricature of character education? Morgan needs a broader vision

Another contribution to the wider narrative – including some very useful comments. Let’s keep the discussion alive.


John White

The Department for Education has just invited schools and other bodies to bid for money to support projects in character education. Since her appointment last July, Nicky Morgan has shown an especial interest in this area. In a recent talk at Birmingham University, she spoke of “ensuring that young people not only grow academically, but also build character, resilience and grit”.

She went on: “We want to ensure that young people leave school with the perseverance to strive to win…. We want pupils to revel in the achievement of victory, but honour the principles of fair play, to win with grace and to learn the lessons of defeat with acceptance and humility.” These values are reflected in the bidding invitation. Pride of place is given to perseverance, resilience, grit, confidence,

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It’s been a while: for the world we want

Not much blogging over the long warm summer – not due to hours in the sun, but due to a major relocation of home and professional life – the lines of which are now even more blurred, but in a positive way.

Watching the children explore the very modest and frankly ramshackle grounds of the farmhouse from which I know write was a heartwarming experience as I trundled with yet more nondescript boxes to add to the Tetris forming along the bedroom/office/hall and kitchen walls. They marveled at tiny bugs, sat for hours watching ants under stones and slabs, and used their imaginations to turn anything and everything into instant amusement.  Then there was the passion for adventure, the excitement of the possible as we took on the challenge of a property stood empty for 5 years. The bonding around an evening bonfire and the eating out almost every meal has only added to the experience. And the chickens. Yes at long last, they can have the chickens and they are loving getting to know them, care for them, and enjoy their produce.

This then is why I have been absent from the blog, but the soup has still been simmering and many new ingredients have been added with new contacts, exciting new projects and some great new ideas for the future.  But the biggest contribution has been the taking a step back, to make the transition, to observe my family do the same and to grow together, making choices from our own back yard that contribute to the world we want.

I was minded of this when, on returning to work, someone shared with me the short animation that trails One World Week 2014 from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).  Three elements in particular struck me as I wound back into professional mode for the new school year and the challenges ahead:

‘We ask ourselves and the people we care about, these two questions:

What do you want your world to look like?

What are you going to do about it?’

I can’t think of many more pertinent questions and these will stay long in my mind as I continue the transition into a new way of being that is slowly emerging out of the summer exertions.  I look forward to asking many of you these questions and to engaging, through values and learning, with these key questions.  Keep stirring….

And the link to the animation should you want to use it is

From Plantation Thinking to Rainforest Thinking

This is precisely the sort of systems thinking that drives our work at and through our projects such as

I love the use of metaphor and especially so when drawn from the natural world that I think we have so often overlooked as a source of inspiration and learning. We have had rivers, rice paddies, coral reefs and our own learning through values tree (within the rainforest) and much of this pulls on eco-literacy thinking.
Wonderful to find this and makes useful reading in my current work on resilience and learning for which I had already begun turning to nature and rainforests in particular for some valuable insights.


An analogy I draw upon increasingly to help with my thinking about teaching, learning and school leadership, is the contrast between a plantation and a rainforest.  In general terms I feel that our entire education system is deeply inhibited, shackled and spoiled by Plantation Thinking. This affects government policy, school leadership and the day-to-day of classroom practice. The solution to a lot of our difficulties lies, I believe, in embracing another paradigm: Rainforest Thinking. 

First of all, let’s consider the characteristics of the plantation:

The mono-cultural world of a plantation. The mono-cultural world of a plantation.

The natural environment is heavily managed with interventions of all kinds to protect againsts pests and disease. There is a narrow view of what the desired outcomes are. Anything that grows outside clearly defined parameters is weeded out. It is important for all specimens to reach certain minimum standards but there is little or no room for diversity. This tendency…

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