2Oth Century fiction and 21st Century Facts – trying to find the words

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.18.12

Sometimes it is hard to write. Like many people I am struggling to comprehend and article what is going on in the world right now.  Catherine found some beautiful words as did Anne Marie calling it like it is.  Audrey reminded us of the need to teach history.   Being able to connect with the Hybrid Pedagogy folks last week once again reminded me of the joy, simplicity and complexity of connections and context.

During a conversation last week I mentioned that I had never read any John Le Carre. The next day I was given a copy of Call for the Dead, the first outing of his quiet (anti) hero, George Smiley.  Reading that book which is set post WW2, pre cold war, in a post cold war, as close to the start of WW3 as we’ve been this century, almost a century on from the end  WW1 was quite something. Particularly for someone who grew up during the height of the cold war. I have been reflecting if that is why I’ve never really engaged with thriller/espionage fiction.  It all comes back to context.

The narrative is still relevant, governments are still involved in covert operations based on political and economic ideologies,  but the pace is almost surreal in the 21st Century. Our hero gets bashed on the head, spend three weeks in hospital and is still able “hot on the trail” when he sort of recovers.  In our instant, internet age that would never happen? Well it would be very unlikely and certainly in fiction, everyone would have been “locked and loaded” within about 3 minutes.

Last night just before listening to the fabulous radio adaptation of Midnight’s Children (again particularly relevant as we mark the 70th anniversary of the partition of India), Salman Rushdie said in relation to the current political climate in India

“the world is full of things no one saw coming but here they are”

But maybe we did see them coming, we just didn’t want to talk about the consequences of displacing millions of people, the consequences of a President not condemning white supremacists, a government using “the will of the people” to justify an weak, unstable and unplanned exit from the European Union.

We need to talk, we need to call out, we need to share, we need to be able to contexualise – as educators we need to help our students contextualise this increasingly crazy world, to understand the need for context for politics, for action, to question status quo news narrative, to help create and share the truth.

I still don’t have the right words, but I do know now, more than ever our political leaders need to find them. They need to be able to articulate their views, to lead with compassion, with humanity, with grounded understanding of history and the consequences of inaction, of meaningless and provocative soundbites.  They will be judged, but by then it might be too late for the rest of us.


  1. Well said, Sheila! I think it is vital that educators find the time to stand back from the (increasing) everyday pressures of the job and look at their role in a broad historical context – which is what you have done here. And I guess that August is the month to do this, as there is, even these days, a (slight) reduction in the inexorable imperatives of the ‘to do list’ at this time of year.

    I really like: “as educators we need to help our students contextualise this increasingly crazy world, to understand the need for context for politics, for action, to question status quo news narrative, to help create and share the truth.” But this aim is so much harder to achieve now than it was when I started my career as an educator 46 years ago, because education has in the meantime become a sort of game in which both the individual and the institution have to clock up as many ticked boxes as possible at the lowest financial cost (apart from the vice chancellor’s wages, of course).

    Please continue through your blog “to talk, … to call out, … to share, … to contexualise”. This is so much more important than obsessing about Teaching Excellence Framework ratings, or whatever the latest reductive government fetish happens to be:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s