An idea whose time has come

More on a similar theme. Thanks to Eamonn for drawing attention to Platform for Change, a new campaign that’s a real antidote to despair. It’s the brainchild of Robin Wilson, the academic and journalist who ran the much missed Democratic Dialogue, NI’s only think tank and a past editor of Fortnight. Its aim:

The next assembly election in 2011 can not be allowed to become, like the European Parliament poll in 2009, a political arms race as to which
‘community’ will be represented by the first minister. Over time, the hope has to be to move towards a more conventional political argument, between those who seek to expand the public realm and those who favour the private sector. But this means we must also lift our heads and adopt a more outward-looking political perspective.

Platform headlines below the fold. The Platform urges

Substituting “ both and “ for the “either or” zero sum game

An end to Orange and Green Assembly designations

An end to the culture of intolerance ( by adding a new pledge to the Members and ministerial codes?)

For a shared future, replacing “ parity of esteem” with a policy of integration, making savings from inefficiently duplicated services, building intercultural educational contacts, voluntary shared neighhourhoods

A Green economy, mostly locally controlled under devolution, to create thousands of jobs, refurbishing work premises and homes and building more social housing.

School performance to be assessed by exam at 14 not 11 and build area based school partnerships to extend curriculum choice.

PSNI to ensure universal rule of law to provide the security to bring down the peace walls

Zero sectarian appropriation of flags and emblems

A Bill of Rights to guard against majoritarian power

Co-operation without restriction, north-south and in the context of UK devolution

A full Platform for Change agenda, ready for next year’s Assembly election supported by thousands of signatories.

The Platform’s bold prescriptions are well worth reading in full. Many politicians would agree with much of the diagnosis, if not all the remedies, as they tend to blame the other side for the glaring failures. One of its strengths is that it appears to chime in with the unfocused but very critical public mood. Its problem is how to nudge the political class towards a better place and prevent reform being highjacked as a device for isolating Sinn Fein. If the Platform is complemented by a hard-nosed reform strategy that goes with the grain of public opinion and the better side of MLAs, it could become a real catalyst for change at a time when all the parties are feeling insecure. It’s a breath of fresh air that deserves to blow away the fug.

  • I second the Platform for Change. …… and would Propose that an Easily Mentored and Monitored Virtual Governance Program with SMARTer Transparent Intelligence Input Channels for Media Programmed Output would be a Quantum Leap Forward to Propel and Carry Northern Ireland into a Future Existence Model which can be Exported and Servered around the World with IT being specially modified/tailor made for alien fields/foreign administrations also tasked with providing Increasingly Better Lives and Sustained and Shared Global Prosperity to All.

    An ESPecially Phormed Program for Virtual Machines into HyperRadioProActive IT and NIRobotIQ Networks InterNetworking JOINT Applications ……… Sophisticated Apache Projects and Renegade AIR&dDs;

  • Alan

    I fully support all the items on the Platform’s Agenda. . .

    But you can’t elect a signature!

  • BryanS

    When is the next train to Mars?
    I would only disagree with testing at 14 rather than 11.

  • BryanS

    there are some more pressing subjects for discussion that are curiously absent from Slugger.
    Like the ridiculous increase in rates in Belfast for business premises. Take the Lisburn Road for example, there are 37 shops to let from the kings hall down to bradbury place. It is not rents that sre too high – they are negotiable – it is the exhorbitant rate bills that are killing business. Poots wants to fire civil servants. What about firing the councelors who are supporting such rate rises. Are any of them in business or are they all on benefit or civil servants?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    So how would Mr Robin Wilson actually achieve this by 2011.
    By forming a political party and actually contesting elections.
    Hmmm……how exactly do you stop people designating themselves Orange and Green.

    In other words its all a load of nonsense. Supported by the usual suspects in the OVERCLASS.
    Academics. There will be a module at QUB no doubt.
    The non sectarian Workers Party types circa 1973
    The “I believe in civic society” people
    “I wanna vote Conservative but dont live in England” types
    “I demand the Labour Party organises here” types
    And of course our local “comedians”.

  • BryanS

    you really are an angry young/old man/woman. But you have a point!

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Actually BryanS….I am never angry.
    Im much too old to be angry at anything. Nobody over 43 gets angry.
    As a wise person…..Dr Phil on the Oprah show once said (or perhaps Oprah said it on Dr Phils Show)
    “Eventually we outlive our fears”
    I did that years ago. And have no intention of ever getting worked up about anything. Except of course to be mildly amused at people old enough to know better than to get worked up about anything…especially Norn Iron.
    Peopletake themselves and their opinions way too seriously. I merely provide a certain balance.

  • BryanS

    I am delighted to hear that. I have been concerned about you since I recently came to read slugger. Glad to hear you are as laid back as you claim. lovely day today, much too nice to be sitting in the house. Also glad to hear that you feel you provide balance, an element of moderation in a confused place. Good luck.

  • [quote][i]
    you really are an angry young/old man/woman. But you have a point![/i] … Posted by BryanS on Feb 19, 2010 @ 03:11 PM[/quote]

    Fitz also has an extremely paralysed and polarising cynical negative attitude, BryanS, which does No One No Good.

    Fortunately, by IntelAIgent Design, is Negativity not Shared in IT Circles of Advancing CyberIntelAIgents.

    Orange and Green together create Alien Tones/Memes/Genome Sequences.

    What do you know of Pirates with AI Party Manifests ……. Politically Correct ProVisions.

    A little something [a few quantum bits] which Loughside can advise you on, would you dare to care.

  • BryanS

    the train now leaving on platform ……………

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Ah BryanS……this is the retirement of which I dreamed.

  • Coll Ciotach

    In short – if the taigs became like us it would be so much more civilised

  • [quote][i]
    In short – if the taigs became like us it would be so much more civilised [/i] … Posted by Coll Ciotach on Feb 19, 2010 @ 04:54 PM[/quote]

    What’s to say that they are not waiting up ahead for you to arrive at their level?

  • granni trixie

    Cant see the point in RW new wheeze. If he wanted reform he ought to have hung in there with a political party. There is something a bit patronising about his line of preaching. And if I had a penny for everytime I had heard talk of ‘new politics” blah, blah,blah.

    The heavy lifting has been done.

    BTW, women will not b e missing Democratic Dialogue – they had no place in it.

  • Coll Ciotach

    13 Do not be ridiculous – we are the people

  • David Crookes

    Great cookery book. Some excellent recipes. How does the author propose to change things in the kitchen? If he starts up a New Sensible Party, the Not-An-Inchers of both traditions will represent it as another Alliance Party.

    Maybe it will take a set of bad election results before Mr Wilson and his friends get a hearing. Good luck to them! They deserve to be heard.

  • PACE Parent

    The failed structures must be broken down and the rent-controlled tenants evicted before rebuilding can begin. A government with opposition would be a good place to start.

    Dr Robin’s list is an Alliance Party prescription and who better to present it to the dispensing pharmacist than Brian Walker?

    Item 1 Selection at 14.
    Educationalists: “We can only dispense the generic comprehensive solution. It doesn’t work very well but the manufacturers have become rich selling it. Will that be acceptable for your child?

    Parents: “No thanks Neither I nor my children are that sick”.

    Item 2 Extended/Revised Curriculum.
    How many of the 24/27 subjects taught in a 190 day school year (with each day lasting 6 and a half hours) consequent to a quarter of pupils leaving primary school with sub-standard levels of numeracy and literacy are useful to employers/universities?.

    Teacher: I don’t know but it allows for more teacher employment

    Parent: How is my child performing at school?

    Teacher: (S)he is happy, works well with others and enjoys playing. There is nothing to worry about.

    Parent: What about test results?

    Teacher: Both your child and I agree with the above self assessment and the ETI concurs. Surely you are not questioning our professionalism or effectiveness. Sorry – must move on – I have other parents to confuse.

    Read Jim Fitzpatrick’s Newsletter for commentary on the political blame game. “A plague on both your houses”.

    Now which house do the Brians live in?

  • David Crookes

    PACE Parent (#17), a long time ago people realized that they could do very well without phrenologists and their absurd notions. Some day people will realize that they can do very well without educationists and their absurd notions. What is sometimes construed as the SF agenda for education is really the doctrine of educationists who have sold their dangerous wreck of a car to an elected representative. A New Sensible Party will be worthy of its name only if it undertakes to get rid of educational ideologues. Genuine ‘teaching’ should not involve the proliferation of jargonized imbecilities.

  • Democrat

    Transfer at 14 would be a sensible educational reform. The 11+ examination is a terrible trauma for young children and should be scrapped. Transfer at age 14 is much more sensible and can be done on an elective basis when the pupils choose which courses they wish to study for GCSE.

    Selection at 11 is not worth the damage that it causes. It is not worth putting children through that brutal trauma, just to enable the grammar school minority to achieve slightly better grades. The pro-11+ lobby here always denounce the English education system as a failure, but the overall difference between their results and ours is narrow. Indeed, any direct comparison ignores the fact that NI does not have the large immigrant populations that England has to contend with, nor the second language problems which that entails, so the results do not compare like with like.

    The supporters of selection at 11 tend to see the selective system only from the side of the winners. All that they see of the great weeding-out is the smiling faces of the successful ones. Perhaps if they considered the effect on all the children deemed to be losers, then their attitude to selection would change.

    Many, many parents are on record describing the state of anxiety that their children got into as the 11+ examination approached. It is painful for parents to see their children becoming so anxious and worried. And there is little that parents or primary teachers can do about the stress that the children feel because the children understand that how they perform in those tests will determine whether they are good enough to go to the grammar school or not. They might not understand that the outcome will affect their life chances, including their careers and their social circle, but they can see a great weeding-out looming up. And so the whole class becomes tense and nervous, and the parents and teachers have a herculean task trying to allay their fears. Crying, sleeplessness, incontinence, worry – these things are commonplace. And so parents want to know if this early segregation into winners and losers is absolutely necessary. Which brings us straight to the objective fact that not a single Conservative LEA in England has reverted to the old grammar/secondary modern system.

    In short, eleven is too young an age at which to make these all-or-nothing decisions about a child’s future. 14 is a much better age at which to decide what kind of education best suits the pupil.

    Platform for Change have got the right policy.

  • BryanS

    What a lot of piffle ‘Democrat’. I have two kids one got the 11 plus without any incontinence or stress, the other one I knew had no chance so moved him to a school where he wouldnt have to sit the exam. He would have floundered in a grammar school whereas he blosomed in a secondry school. The one who passed the 11+ managed to get a few O levels. neither were academic but neither were they stressed out.
    your point about england’s average being downgraded by so many immigrants is irrelevant. that has only happened in the last 10 years as a result of labour’s social engineering. NI results have traditionally been the best in the UK for 40 years. By the time kids are 14 it is much to late to guide them to the right stream for their talents. Piffle did I say PC gone mad more like.

  • Coll Ciotach

    This stress business is a nonsense – my children went through the 11 plus easily – the reason is because I did not put pressure on them. The source of the pressure is the over bearing parents. Ten they complain about it. We need to test the children, we need to streamline educations in order to educate children properly. All comprehensive education will do is create a miasma of mediocrity. But never mind – everybody is equal in that scenario so it is fair – isn’t it?

  • granni trixie

    Expereicnes as a secondary school teacher brought it home to me just how ‘not passing the qualie’ impacted negatively on the esteem of children. You had to spoend years trying to build it up again. How can that be fair? There must be a better way.

  • Democrat

    The education system in N. Ireland must be one of the most divisive in Europe. Not only are the children segregated on the basis of religion on their very first day at school, they then have another division inflicted on them at age eleven when the top third go to grammar school and the remaining two-thirds are sent to ‘intermediate’ schools.

    It is an education system dedicated to the ‘them and us’ ethos. First there is the sectarian version where ‘them’ is the other side of the religious divide and the children are taught which side they ‘belong to’. Later there is the great weeding-out, when the winners get a grammar school place and a career, while the non-winners get a different type of school and a job: in short, a ‘them and us’ of social class.

    Do these two processes interact?

    By the time that a boy or girl is eleven, they have experienced seven years of religious segregation. They probably know where the schools for the ‘other side’ are and have learned to classify local school uniforms on a ‘them and us’ basis. Doubtless, they have heard their parents talking about the Troubles and have seen riots and destruction on TV, if not on the streets. And so the sectarian segregation which they have experienced at school is given a context and becomes part of the way that they understand the whole society. The child learns that the two communities are mutually hostile and feels that segregated schools are the result.

    Now let us suppose that this boy or girl finishes the seven years of primary education, sits the transfer tests, but is not awarded a grammar school place. Surely that is a situation where disappointment can easily turn into resentment? The child sees former companions going on to the grammar school, with its promise of a better career, while he/she is left to go with the rest to a less prestigious school. So they feel some resentment against the system which has branded them in such a way. And the natural channel for that resentment to follow is the one provided by all those years of sectarian segregation. There is a target ready-made, just right for the antagonistic feelings that the 11+ rejection has stirred up.

    Could that be true? Could the divisiveness of the education system be a major source of antagonism in Ulster society? Are feelings of rejection after the 11+ finding an outlet in sectarian animosity?

    Supporters of selection and segregation will say that this theory is mere speculation, has no foundation in empirical evidence and cannot be tested. But that is not the case. One testable implication would be that grammar school pupils will be found to be under-represented in an analysis of the educational backgrounds of people actively involved in the Troubles. They will be under-represented because 11+ success will have prevented the resentment which fuels sectarian animosity. So if research reveals that 40% or more of those imprisoned during the Troubles attended grammar school, then the theory above has been disproved. But if research shows that only 20% or less attended grammar school, then the theory has been confirmed and must be taken seriously as a criticism of a divisive and dangerous education system.

    Let us hope that the necessary research will soon be under way.

  • BryanS

    ‘Not only are the children segregated on the basis of religion on their very first day’

    Ask yourself why.
    you dont have to send your child to a sectarian school.
    many parents don’t.

  • Coll Ciotach

    The people have spoken the bar stewards, they choose to send the children to the schools they want – and the schools of choice are grammars and religious – get over it and move on – petty dictators trying to tell us who to raise our children

  • PACE Parent

    Sounds like the perfect job for Tony Gallagher the conflict resolutionist and also Head of School of Education at QUB. Tony did such a good job a decade ago with his attack on the selective system. Why not endorse him to conjure up another masterpiece so that the conflict resolution industry can perpetuate itself for another ten years of profiteering and meddling. Of course the problem of academic selection has been solved via an entirely unregulated system but the educationalists cannot leave well enough alone. In the meanwhile important issues such as improvement in primary school numeracy and literacy standards remain unaddressed.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Well in fairness the Conflict Resolution people at QUB do a great job, junketing around the world to show the Afghans and Iraqis how to achieve peace.
    And in return the Afghans and Iraqis junket back to QUB to have a slap up banquet and the Vice Chancellor gets his pic taken on the lawn ….with warring factions from all around the world.
    Its a success story.
    I wont hear a word said against QUB Conflict Resolution School.

  • [quote][i]
    Well in fairness the Conflict Resolution people at QUB do a great job, junketing around the world to show the Afghans and Iraqis how to achieve peace.
    And in return the Afghans and Iraqis junket back to QUB to have a slap up banquet and the Vice Chancellor gets his pic taken on the lawn ….with warring factions from all around the world.
    Its a success story.
    I wont hear a word said against QUB Conflict Resolution School.[/i] …. Posted by FitzjamesHorse on Feb 21, 2010 @ 12:32 AM[/quote]

    The Epic Fail you have already articulated, FitzjamesHorse, but it does keep the little tenured dears in touch with their egos and alter egos.

    It is such a Shame that they do not see that it is Id and Super Ego needed in Leadership and Mentoring Role Plays.

    And an Epic fail because, of course, where is the Peace and Conflict Troops withdrawals.

    Yeah, we know, … they’re only there for the gear, and another good harvest this year.

  • LabourNIman

    While I support the platforms launch it does nothing to build a coalition of the centre parties in NI.

    While I’m sure they will all be there for the free press, this will likely die a death over the next twelve months.

    The 4 main parties here have no interest in this (dispite what conall might say) or the issues it’s addresses.

    We need a political party to take the fight on. I wish I could say my party would be it, but we seem to have a hard time tying our laces these days.

  • A short list (in both senses) of sensible ideas, but it’s nothing that isn’t already being said by others. The education proposals in particular are spot on, but unless they are taken up and pushed hard by one or more of the big four parties, they’ll get nowhere. Yet another example of the dearth of meaningful policy in Stormont.

  • Greenflag

    Democrat ,

    ‘In short, eleven is too young an age at which to make these all-or-nothing decisions about a child’s future. 14 is a much better age at which to decide what kind of education best suits the pupil.’

    I agree . How a child will perform in the 11 plus is very often related to the social and economic background of the parents. From the very earliest age the children of the ‘poorest ‘ classes get to watch more TV -read less books -spend less time at homework and get less parental attention and ‘academic’ assistance than their better off age cohort.

    For these children it makes sense to extend the age limit for choice of further schooling to about 14 . By which time they will have had a chance to overcome early childhood handicaps .

    Those who are demanding the maintenance of the present status quo in NI are the usual suspects -the Churches and those who have and want to hold on to what they have in terms of educational privilige for THEIR children. As for those others well ‘shag ‘ them -it’s their own fault inn’it !

  • Greenflag

    Brian Walker ,

    ‘Over time, the hope has to be to move towards a more conventional political argument, between those who seek to expand the public realm and those who favour the private sector. ‘

    Not much of a hope Brian . The conventional political argument has been seen to be somewhat of a chimera in todays ‘globalised ‘ economy . Of course for NI such a move would be seen as progress from it’s present stasis .

    We should all know by now that Communism represents 100% public sector with Somalia representing 100% private sector . Somewhere along the percentage gradient between these extremes recent economic history has provided various ‘combo ‘ packages . Norway iirc has about a 50% public sector component whereas the UK has about 40%. At the height of the Celtic Tiger economy the public sector was circ 30% of the economy . In NI almost 70% of GDP is funded by Government expenditure (NI plus UK contribution )

    It seems that those countries which have a high public sector component Denmark appear to be coming through the recession with less ‘aggravation’ and social turmoil than other developed economies . Of course that may be just as much a cultural reaction as the more obvious economic facts of life .

    The USA copes by keeping 3 million behind bars and waging wars in the Middle East in order to ‘prove’ that the American way is the best way and democracy is fundamental to economic and social progress . America’s main trading partner i.e China does not agree with the premise and instead has chosen a one party authoritarian capitalist model to ‘catch up’ on the West.

    Somehow the belief remains out there that the new technological revolution be it in ‘green technology’ or ‘innovation’ brought about by the creative destruction wrought by the financial crisis on many economies will provide the ‘hope’ for recovery .

    NI does not have much room for ‘economic policy manoeuvering’ regardless of which combination of local parties are in power at Stormont .

    I’d guess it’s a lot easier for the local NI parties to focus on band parades , irish language issues , and the latest sectarian attack or scandalised politician than to attempt to grapple with the core issues which are confronting not just NI but both these islands and indeed the developed world .

    As for ‘Hope’ ? Well there’s always that 😉