Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Rant - and a Rave

I don't usually rant here - I save my Blog for my raves, as I think they're more productive, but I got so annoyed yesterday evening with a news story that I just have to comment. The reason for my rant is yesterday's news story that there has been a major rise in school truancy and the level is now at its highest since records began. My response was that it is hardly surprising given that in England (a) children are tested on anything and everything from the age of 5 (with SATs) to the age of 18 (with the much maligned A Levels). In between they're tested twice more with SATs, and then at 16 with GCSEs and with AS-levels at 17; and (b) the Literacy hour is killing off the interest of even the most ardent readers. If I was a child I doubt I'd be terribly inclined to stay in school either these days (and as a child I was ardent about learning - something that remains true to this day). I don't know what the Government thinks it is achieving, besides turning off a generation of school children from learning, yet it claims to believe in life-long learning - presumably this is necessary to make up for the lack of education acquired by children who were turned off learning when they were school age and are then finding a lack of knowledge to be a handicap as adults ?

Rant over. I will share a rave now, just to make up for ranting, and point you at the marvellous Turning Pages exhibitions online at the British Library's website. I haven't been able to check out the latest addition - the original Alice in Wonderland - as my work PC doesn't have Shockwave installed, which you will need for the animations (although there are non-Shockwave versions of the Golden Haggadah, the Lindsifarne Gospels and Blackwell's Herbal), but I know that the Lindisfarne Gospels version is stunning ! If you get the chance (you'll need a good half hour at the minimum to view any one of the 14 online books), do take a look at the exhibitions. The Turning Pages project is an excellent example of the use of modern technology to bring rare books to the view of the general public, without the need to trek to London to see the originals.

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