Forty Years On: Reflecting on Good Fortune

I saw of a copy of Alan Bennett‘s play Forty Years On (1968) in a second hand  bookshop this week.

By coincidence it is forty years ago this week that I went to the University of York to start my social sciences course. Ironically I should have been on my way to the University of Reading to study French and German!

Heslington Hall

Revision for my final year school exams in 1970 were distracted by the Football World Cup in Mexico. I am not sure whether it was the excitement generated by the World Cup or my lack of study skills that led to some final grades that prevented me from going to Reading. York kindly offered me a clearing house place.

Looking back I believe I was enormously fortunate to take up my place at York. My experiences there gave me a real desire to follow a polymath interest in society, culture and learning. Over the years I have maintained a fascination with language that may have been different had I studied it formally.

Later in my course at York I read Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden’s (1962) Education and the Working Class. Recently I looked back at a 1986 edition of the book and appreciated the subliminal impact of their approach on my thinking.

I went to University as the son of a steelworker and postwoman. I had no idea what University education was and was ill equipped to study with peers who had come from completely different backgrounds. As a ‘new’ university York was a rick mixture of people like myself and many who had come from the private education.

I went to York two years after events of May in Paris,  a year after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a few months after Brazil, with Pele in the team, defeated Italy to win the World Cup in the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City and shortly after Leonard Cohen’s appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a time when anything was possible.

York nurtured this sense of the possible and enabled me to pursue a path that Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden championed. My first week there was spent in a pre-season training camp with the University’s rugby team. The group really welcomed me and may have been over-anticipating my ability. I had told them correctly that I was from Wales and played outside half. I think they were anticipating a Barry John!

Attendance at the training camp introduced me into the University and ever since I have been grateful that sport does offer distinct social inclusion possibilities. I could not have blogged about my experiences at the time. I would have needed thousands of these:

to program a third generation computer so that I might take advantage of “a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite” in the early 1990s!

Forty years on it is wonderful to reflect on good fortune. I am more convinced than ever that personal learning environments must celebrate biography and work with our ‘taken-for-grantedness’.

Photo Credits

1970s photographs of the University of York taken from the Alumni site.

GWS and the University of Canberra

On Thursday 9 September the University of Canberra will sign a memorandum of understanding with the GWS AFL club.

The ACT4GWS campaign statement is:

After years of false starts and short term playing deals with cash strapped Melbourne based AFL teams, supporters of AFL in Canberra and the region have been offered a partnership that will benefit the game at all levels.

This partnership will enrich the AFL community of the ACT and Southern NSW region, grow participation numbers and assist AFL to compete more effectively with the other professional football codes (League, Union and Soccer).

The aim of ACT 4 GWS is to secure 5000 $50 pledges as well as significant local and regional corporate support.

In return:

  • GWS will play up to 40 games in Canberra over the next 10 years
  • AFL in Canberra and the region will have a seat on the GWS board
  • GWS will continue to invest in local talent academies
  • GWS will establish a training base in Canberra and the region
  • GWS will conduct community camps in the region
  • GWS will field a team in the AFL Canberra competition or in a second tier AFL competition that will feature Canberra clubs.

The opportunity for the AFL community of ACT and Southern NSW to join GWS has been described as the game’s best and last chance to establish a meaningful presence in the region.

This is our opportunity to become a significant part of our national game. It’s our time. Let’s secure our national game for our national capital region.

The University of Canberra in general and the National Institute of Sport Studies in particular see the memorandum of understanding as a way to grow community sport. GWS has a clear commitment to community development that resonates with the University’s plans to engage with the Capital Region.

Whilst preparing for the formal signing of the memorandum of understanding I came across Greg de Moore’s article in the Sydney Alumni Magazine (July 2010). Greg’s article The man who invented AFL provides an insight into the life of Tom Wills. Greg notes that:

The introduction of an AFL team into western Sydney is regarded by some as an invasion. But Tom Wills might disagree. In fact one could say that, when the new AFL team takes root in western Sydney and Israel Folau kicks his first goal, the game of Australian Rules football – our great and unique contribution to world sporting culture – will simply return to the family “home” of the man who started it all.

It was interesting to read that “Wills was born in 1835, near the township of Queanbeyan in NSW.” So the GWS/UC link has a double homecoming to celebrate.

Greg de Moore’s biography of Tom Wills (2008) provides a fascinating insight into the codification of football. Previously Eric Dunning had discussed in detail the development of football in nineteenth century England and provides a context for understand Tom Wills’ experience at Rugby School. J A Mangan’s study of Athleticism adds to the knowledge of the environment in which Tom Wills went to school.

As I attend the signing ceremony for the memorandum of understanding I will be thinking about Tom Wills and the role that biography plays in developing sport. I think Kevin Sheedy, the foundation coach of the GWS team and Tom Wills would have had a lot to share and discuss about their lives in sport and their visions.

It is great to think that the National Institute of Sport Studies can be part of this journey in Ngunnawal Country.

Photo Credits

Recreation Reserve Goal-Posts

KC Power

Talent and Giftedness

I have written a great deal in this blog about the impact CCK08 had upon my thinking and practice. Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my on-line companions from CCK08, Carmen Tschofen. We came together to discuss talent and giftedness. Our conversation drew upon some exchanges we had during CCK08 and subsequently after I wrote this post about nature and nurture.

I was fascinated to learn from Carmen about the Lighthouse Program in Minnesota (some background information here). A Lighthouse Program student is:

  • In possession of an insatiable curiosity
  • Drawn to complex ideas
  • Comfortable with ambiguity in learning
  • Self–directed in learning
  • Eager to learn the practice of experts from discipline
  • Capable of working effectively with team members
  • Capable of a sustained focus to resolve questions
  • Recognized as highly able in performance, as well as, potential
  • Currently 7-18 years of age
The Lighthouse Program comprises:
  • Accelerated pace of learning
  • Non graded, multi-aged grouping
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Opportunities for On-line Learning
  • Opportunities to experience the practices of experts
  • Depth of study in complex Inquiry
  • Student focused learning
  • Teacher/facilitator focused on students’ learning
  • Connections to rigorous high school options
  • Collaborative and Competitive Opportunities

Meeting Carmen and her colleagues gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore and reflect on generic issues around talent and gift that had prompted me to write about performance and share some early ideas about the identification process.

Our conversation used Elluminate and this is a recording of our hour-long exchange that linked early morning Australia and lunchtime Minnesota.

During that time we discussed:

2:40 Supporting and defining talent on an individual basis

5:15 The role of personal volition/motivation/environment

8:30 The importance of allowing time for self-discovery and play

14:30 On being the same/being different

20:00 The meaning of growth potential and potential triggers for growth

23:10 Resilience, persistence, and the issues with electronic entertainment

27:50 Understanding personal talent development through biography and narrative

30:30 Who guides talent development?

33:40 Values and ethics in coaching and mentoring

36:10 The “Birth Year Effect,” the development of talent over time, and “the system”

40:00 Relationships and life lessons

43:00 The role of deliberate practice, the problem of instant gratification, and computer games

48:35 The difficulties of “elite performer” lifestyles, the problems with shallow praise

51:50 Extrinsic rewards and the issues of ownership and autonomy

54:00 Self-ownership and self-accountability

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Carmen and her friends. It was quite difficult to go back to bed (4 a.m.) after such a stimulating conversation. I am hopeful that this is the start of a close link with the Lighthouse Program. Sport has a great deal to learn from innovative educators within and beyond its cultural contexts.

I am convinced that any approach to talent and gift must have a profoundly personal focus that celebrates learning biographies. I am keen to explore the interrelationship between context and opportunity that can permeate personal stories.

Photo Credits

Lighthouse

Girls skipping at an athletics carnival