Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean - at world's end

If someone tells me there’s going to be a firework display just down the road and that the organisers have blown $200 million on the thing, I’m definitely going to go along and have a look. With that philosophy in mind I went with the family to see the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie – At World’s End.

We sat there dazed by moments of brilliance from the legions special effects teams, stunt performers, martial arts choreographers, set designers, and actors. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the little bits that made up the film. But saying that is as meaningless as admiring all the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The question is, did it work as a whole?

When I walked out of the cinema some three hours later, I found myself relieved that it was over.

‘That was kind of fun,’ someone said, ‘but there wasn’t really a story.’

I begged to differ. There was too much story – none of which I found myself caring about. Every character was double-crossing everyone else. No one said or showed what they really felt. None of the many heroes of the film had a discernable inner journey. Sure they were in danger. But did I or any of the other members of the audience really give a damn? We were just waiting for more explosions and cameo performances.

The next day, my daughter, as keen a Pirates of the Caribbean fan as ever you are likely to meet, confessed to me that she couldn’t really remember any of the scenes. But it was fun, she said. And that about sums it up for me. If movies were only measured by the weight of gunpowder ignited, this would be a classic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Dyslexia Debate Rumbles on

When a story leaps into the news without any obvious event to kick it off, one has to ask the question - who has been working so very hard behind the scenes to put it there? So it is with the recent dyslexia debate. The shocking story has slammed into the news, again, that some people believe dyslexia is a myth.

I'm sorry? Did I miss something? How did this story get taken up? I know it came just after a bank holiday, but was it really THAT quiet a news day? Someone must have been sending out reams of press releases and talking to influential friends in the media.

Taking a wild guess, I'd say that the way the Special Educational Needs budget is divided up could a motivating factor. Not that I'm any fan of conspiracy theories.

On the other hand, how to teach children to read and write is a good question for debate. How the resources are divided up is important. For myself, I am sceptical of one-size-fits-all teaching methods. But that's just me. I'd only point out that the history of educational theory is littered with discarded methods that were once going to banish illiteracy forever.

I'm more concerned that in this narrow debate, the general public might become confused about the obvious and undeniable truth - there were dyslexics around long before writing was invented. And dyslexia isn't 'cured' once a student has achieved a 'C' grade or above in their GCSE English exam. It is a life-long condition, a difference in the hard wiring of the brain that conveys some advantages as well as disadvantages.

Please, let's not lose sight of that.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Not Blogging but Teaching

Instead of writing a blog entry this time, I thought I'd try a video podcast. This was supposed to save time. Ha! It took me far longer - and now I am writing a blog entry as well to explain myself.

If you are having trouble viewing the above video, you could try watching it at YouTube