From education to employment

Reporter Daniel Wallis on Education

“The World Cup is back, writes Daniel Wallis for FE News.

Another chance for England to win, if only in the Tim Henman sense of the word. Sven’s last outing, Wayne: will he, won”t he, Crouch “dancing” for victory. Sun-soaked Brazil, rain-soaked Germany, beer-soaked Australia. A million red and white flags fluttering in the summer breeze in solidarity with The Boys as they head for cheery Berlin, in car windows, shop fronts and on the back of David Cameron’s bike. The anniversary, 40 years ago exactly, just a little added pressure to get it this time, the reunions, the comparisons. Diving, scoring, hacking, dancing, crying. Free kicks, red cards, disallowed goals, a million work hours lost to daytime coverage (boo hoo!). This nation will for the next few weeks, and more than usual, live, breathe and dream in football.

Money and Blushes

And here come the sponsors! Paying half a million quid a time for advertising on the perimeter: Coca-Cola the Official Soft Drink, Budweiser the Official Beer, McDonalds the Official Food, Gillette the Official Shave. A time when every possible product uses advertising to reveal that it and only it is football’s oldest and dearest friend, especially now. The message is simple: we and our product are proud supporters of England and the World Cup, only traitors and outcasts buy otherwise. Buy this and you are accepted as a genuine supporter of England (as you clearly were not before); you need not worry now that we, your credit card company and all those customer service people know where your loyalty lies.

Then come the embarrassments. The discovery of MPs getting much coveted tickets from McDonalds over and above fans. The brat who thought he”d won the honour of leading England onto the pitch, even getting a phone call from football legend and new McDonalds mascot Geoff Hurst, only to find that he has actually won the pleasure of leading Germany out. And then, the inevitable reports of shocked Germans reacting to England fans who”ve had a stein too many.

Belief in a Chocolate Form

This week, Mars has announced that, as part of its “Believe” campaign, it will be holding a “Believe-athon” rally in central London, where host Uri Geller will help focus fans” energies on winning the Cup. According to one of Mars” competition adverts: “Uri will be joined by Bill Lever (an advertising character played by an actor, Bill Lever, Be-liever, geddit?), the face of the new MARS Believe campaign (read: eat more mars bars), rallying the support of the nation (which must be dangerously low in support). Like MARS and Uri, Bill really believes that as a nation, we can inspire England to victory if we all “Believe”.” (Support, therefore, from a fictional character, a highly dubious “psychic” magician, and a chocolate bar)””Parentheses are mine”¦Unbelievers can see for themselves at Mars” “Believe” website.

But, the really scary part is that there will actually be some who respond to these somewhat blatant exploitations/endorsements of the World Cup, the sport of football and the nation of England; subconsciously, there is a chance of attributing all the positive, enjoyable aspects of the world’s biggest sporting event to Mars bars, or Coca-Cola drinks, or Hyundai cars. The power of association is a big factor in the success of advertising, like standing next to someone famous and hoping that you too are therefore special by proxy, so virtually every product worth advertising has painted itself red and white in the last few weeks hoping for a little of England’s glory to rub off on them.

Why Not FE Too?

Why not FE, then? This week saw the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Sector Skills Council (SSC) launch an initiative to offer language and skills training to those working in boxing and rugby league clubs in Yorkshire, all part of a measure to increase skills and also use sport to keep young people on the straight and narrow.

Imagine the impetus the FE community could get by riding the wave of the World Cup! Football clubs and jobs for every town, paid for instantly by people fearing being branded anti-England at this time of heightened patriotism, plus unprecedented newspaper coverage joining the acres already being written on the Cup. It would be shame to waste the enthusiasm generated amongst the young by football, when it could be diverted towards education and away from Mars bars.

In terms of skills and knowledge, football is the great leveler, with academics failing to acknowledge even simple aspects of the game, such as players” names, while the “uneducated” display memory and analysis skills worthy of Chomsky; I know of people who are fazed by world politics or “high” art, but can speak about football and its players with the tactical expertise and insight of Napoleon before a battle; no lack of skills potential here. And here’s another unspeakable idea: how about asking the famously lucrative British football industry to give a financial hand as well””the power of the Cup compels them!

Skills levels increase, crime falls, everybody is happy; maybe then we can finally win that damn trophy again.

Daniel Wallis

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