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Looking Back on the Week that Was with FE News!

What is time?

It must be admitted, at this point, that the motivation behind discussing time stems from a secret fascination with the thinking and theory behind some of the science fiction writing and films of today. As much as fiction is fictitious ““ even the media cannot claim anything else, it is right there in the name ““ there are many noted thinkers who believe that our use of fiction represents our attitude towards reality and further acts as a manifestation of our desire for action or simpler truth in the world we live in.

What Can Fiction Teach and Show?

Take, for instance, the writing of Niall Ferguson in his work entitled “Colossus ““ The Rise and Fall of the American Empire”. In his book, he uses the parallel of the Star Wars films in contrast to other films from the 1970’s. He places the trilogy (without the brash and often ill ““ fitting prequels that cheapened a cinematic masterpiece) in the genre of “post Vietnam war” films, in the company of Apocalypse Now and the like. He also says that their remarkable popularity came in part from their timing, as they coincided with the representation in the public consciousness of the desire to see the United States as a force for good, supporting a small band of freedom fighters against an overbearing monolithic force from the “Dark Side”.

On the subject, Mr. Ferguson says: “The imperialism of anti ““ imperialism had come fatally unstuck if it was the United States that was cast in the role of the empire. Small wonder that the most successful post ““ Vietnam movie of them all was in fact a science fiction fable in which the audience was invited to identify with a ragtag collection of freedom fighters battling for an underdog Rebel Alliance against a sinister Galactic Empire.” (Colossus, by Niall Ferguson, page 102.) He also goes on to draw the comparison even more directly, writing: “¦George Lucas [in Star Wars] perfectly expressed the American yearning not to be on the dark side of imperialism.” (Colossus, by Niall Ferguson, page 102.)

Can You Handle Time?

Having assuaged my guilt for using fiction as my inspiration, let us proceed. Time to move on, you might say. Let us see what time is in terms of FE, then. Time is”¦a circle? Is that supported by the wealth of evidence in FE? Well, there is certainly a body of thought that believes that FE has now come around to a restoration of its role in the 1950s and 1960s. The vocational agenda is firmly back at the heart of thinking, and the FE world is being tasked with making the workforce truly competitive in the future, rather than haemorrhaging jobs to newly up-skilled economies elsewhere.

So, Time is a circle. Which would make Father Time extremely fat, indeed of such an impressive girth that he possesses his own gravitational field that forces everything to revolve in wobbly and erratic orbits about his midriff. In fact, these orbits might even bring the FE orbit into the path of the HE and Schools orbit ““ further evidence for the circularity of Time, given the overlapping of provision within school sixth forms and the FE Colleges.

Or is Time a straight line? Certainly, that would be an easier argument to live with comfortably. After all, that would mean a logical process of cause and effect, where an action leads to a consequence. Thus, increases in funding would be more likely to lead to an increase in achievement and satisfaction. Further support for this would seem to be found in the way in which, no matter what is done to stem the natural displacement of labour according to economic patterns, jobs and work continue to flow our of Britain (and indeed all developed nations).

Inexorable Pace

Fighting the inexorable pace of that educational and developmental swearword “globalisation” would seem to be a losing battle. Thus the line, or continuous path perhaps, of Time in FE in this case is full of potholes that keep on smashing the chassis of skills challenges, policy papers and good intentions. Mr. Ferguson also comments on “globalisation”, making an interesting point; essentially, he states that what we describe so glibly as “globalisation” is actually a failure to implement “globalisation” in terms of truly free trade, equitable markets and the like. What we really tear our hair out about is not a sinister evil empire of an economic system; it is the misappropriation of an economic truth, the displacement of economic forces, to support the status quo.

There is, however, a third alternative. This alternative is that Time, far from being a progressive creative stream or force based on forward motion, is in fact whatever remains before it is sucked into an abyss by some kind of gigantic vacuum cleaner. Thus so much of what we perceive as Time is in fact non existent. My evidence to support this”¦? Well, the fact that at a recent conference that shall remain nameless only 40% of the time was dedicated to actual conference speeches and workshops; the remaining 60% was dedicated to that veritable black hole of public sector meetings, “networking”.

Finally, further support for this argument; has anyone else noticed how quickly education ministers vanish into that black hole and disappear? They must be going somewhere“¦

Jethro Marsh

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