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The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education



So the summer's nearly gone, but it doesn't mean the fun has to stop!

The next Brighton Salon, 24th September at the Open House Pub, is on something that a lot of us will have strong feelings about. Maybe a fellow Splasher would like to write it up in their blog?

"The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education" with Kathryn Ecclestone

Thursday 24th September - 7 for 7.30 pm at 'The Open House' (see map)

Today, it is not a knowledge deficit that is addressed by education but an emotional one, where building self esteem rather than engaging in ideas and concepts is the goal.

Education has taken an inward turn

Is this a progressive step toward a more enlightened and compassionate society? Or is it a trap that is stifling creativity, undermining Independence and deflecting subjectivity?

"'The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education' is eye-opening reading for every teacher, student teacher and parent who retains any belief in the power of knowledge to transform people's lives. Its insistent call for a serious public debate about the emotional state of education should also be at the forefront of the minds of every agent of change in society... from parent to policy maker."

We have a limited number of places available so Please could you let me or the organiser Dan Travis know if you would like to attend.

The value of University



I recently received copies of an email to a few mailing lists I'm on, on autonomy and education, which I'm quite keen to respond to. The full email is below:

The London Free University

We believe there can be no right to annex thought and learning, to erect
concrete buildings in which to lock up knowledge.

Their universities create obedience, uniformity of thought and docility.
Beyond their gates is our intellectual freedom - within them are
the resources we need. Until these gates are opened for all we shall
remain alienated from each other and from our futures. We want to question access
to knowledge, the uniformity of success and production, and to experiment
with alternatives and the redistribution of knowledge. We invite you to cross
 these borders and see where we can go with the freedoms we create for

We're starting by doing, by learning how to hack, pirate and redistribute
knowledge whilst building alternatives. Join us in this exciting new
project and come to a planning meeting at LARC, 21st October, 6pm.

If education is not a commodity then can it be stolen?

I disagree with the directions proposed in this statement, but they're based on real concerns and deserve consideration.

As members of a university we have access to the wonderful library, but the point is that not everybody is able to attend university (or stay affiliated with one forever), and knowledge which is currently somewhat locked behind university doors could be easily made available to everyone. I am a big supporter of open access in publishing, and believe that restricting the distribution of scholarly works is ridiculous. Parts of this are being addressed. The open access journal movement is building in momentum, and some academics (particularly around my field of social science of the internet) are making their articles and books available to download freely online [incidentally, some advice to budding academics: if you have trouble finding a book chapter or article, email the author and ask for it - they want their work to be widely read, considered, and referred to, and will be very happy to hear from someone interested in what they love].

However, traditional Universities still have value far beyond mere distribution of knowledge. Interaction with academics and students interested in thinking the same subjects creates possibilities for far deeper understanding than merely reading and thinking alone (vital as these are to the process of learning). Learning is not a passive process, from books and teachers to students, but a discussion.

This discussion is what is most important and differentiating in Universities. I'm absolutely supportive of sharing course materials and recordings of lectures as widely as possible (as MIT pioneered with OpenCourseWare), but this can be done without undermining the unique value of universities to learning. To put this in economic terms, publications, recordings of lectures, and course material such as slides, are non-rival, and should be shared as widely as possible. However the time and attention of students and academics is rival, and this is where universities still have unique value.

While I sympathise with the call to 'hack, pirate and redistribute knowledge,' doing so risks causing a rift with the academic community, which would only be counterproductive to (re)building a vibrant and thoughtful society.

As for the statement that 'universities create obedience, uniformity of thought and docility', I cannot disagree with more, based on my experiences in university. I have learned to question and critique quite effectively in university - as well as outside of it - but it is especially my university experience which has encouraged and helped me to think and question with greater depth.

elitism at its worst



100 people at Sussex are going to lose their jobs. 40% of the Informatics Department is being cut, and 5 people in English. Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing makes a quarter of a million pounds.

This situation is typical of big-business thinking, which has insidiously crept into higher education and is trying to turn universities into businesses. People like Michael Farthing don't understand the value of education for its own sake, the importance of investing long-term in a population that can think critically. All they understand is money. They want more of it for themselves, and they have no scruples about who they have to fire to get it. If the VC really cared about the dire state of Sussex's finances, he'd volunteer for a salary cut himself. But no. As usual, the people at the top continue to rake in fat paychecks while the people beneath them lose their jobs.

This is unacceptable. The government, easily prostituted as it is, bails out banks and failing businesses and passes the loss onto us, students, ordinary people who don't have the benefit of a prestigious job with a bloated salary. They eviscerate funding for education and hand the money over to the people who caused the recession, people who will do this again and again and again because they have seen no consequences for their greed and incompetence. MPs abuse their expense accounts and try to justify their greed and avarice. It's outrageous.

There is a protest today at 1pm in Library Square. We will be marching to Sussex House with P45 forms for Michael Farthing, our greedy and incompetent Vice Chancellor. But it can't stop there. It doesn't stop there. Farthing is just passing the buck that the government has handed him, instead of standing up for the students he's supposed to be helping. He is only part of an overall system that privileges people in business and stomps on everyone else. Write your MP. Write them a lot. Inundate them with angry letters. Demonstrate. DO something. There are more of us than there are of them.

Stop the Cuts: 26 November 2009



Over 200 students gathered at Library Square yesterday to protest the massive cuts that Sussex is facing. About 100 staff members are to be made redundant across a variety of departments. Meanwhile, top university administrators pull in 6-figure salaries.

Continue reading 'Stop the Cuts: 26 November 2009'...

Stop the Cuts: 3 December 2009



An emergency meeting of University Senate took place on Thursday morning to discuss management's proposals for cuts, and students and staff turned out in large numbers to make their voices heard. Over 500 people made their way to Bramber House in a procession half a mile long, chanting, "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!"

Continue reading 'Stop the Cuts: 3 December 2009'...

microcosm and macrocosm



Everywhere you look, management is passing the buck. VCEG claims that government higher education funding cuts have caused the deficit here at Sussex. They point the finger at Lord Mandelson, the elitist peer who wants unis to run like businesses. What VCEG doesn't tell you is that they've spent the last ten years grossly mismanaging Sussex. In "From the Top Down," they discuss several projects that executive members of staff put themselves in charge of, whether they were qualified to oversee them or not. The result, naturally, was that the projects went over budget. When official university communication says that management was incompetent, you know it's bad. Apart from that, £3m is lost in Icelandic banks because whoever invested it made a poor choice.

But VCEG doesn't answer to anyone but VCEG. Over the years, they have increasingly consolidated power into their own hands and used Senate and Council not as consultation tools but rubber stamps. "Your job is to comment, not vote," Michael Farthing told University Senate last week when they demanded a vote on the proposals to cut jobs. It is this sort of totalitarian governance that is the problem here at Sussex.

Now the management has created an email address: They claim they want feedback from students and staff, but instead of meeting with us, speaking with us, they want us to fill out a questionnaire or send in an email. Why? Because those are easily ignored. Management will cherry-pick select bits from these emails, no doubt, and find some way to use them to justify their plan to eviscerate this university.

We demand more than just an email address. We demand real consultation, especially given the gross incompetence that management has displayed over the years and their complete failure to be held accountable for it. We also demand that management produce the research they allegedly did into alternatives to job and service cuts. So far they have refused to produce any such document. We demand transparency.

Sussex management is reproducing the global financial crisis in microcosm. They fail to plan properly, they invest badly, they mismanage, and the result is a deficit. Management knows that their salaries constitute a large portion of the university budget, but they have refused to consider any kind of pay cut for themselves. If they have the university's best interests at heart, as they claim to, they will put themselves on the chopping block first. But like bankers that still demand huge bonuses in the midst of a recession, VCEG refuse to be touched by the recession. They see themselves as above accountability, above the consequences of their actions. They caused this deficit, and now they are profiting from it.

time to get back to the grind-- also, stop the cuts



I haven't written here in more than a month. I spent most of December being a lazy bastard and consequently a good portion of January flailing about and panicking about my term papers. They turned out pretty well I think-- at least, I thought so until it came time to turn them in. But I can't worry about them now. They're out of the way, out of my hands, and I can commence shitting myself once again when evaluations come in. Now I've got to focus on my current seminars.

Which brings me to my next point. One of my tutors this term is going to be made redundant. If the cuts that management is proposing go through, this woman will lose her job. I've already slagged off uni management and their plans that are clearly based on information from an imaginary Sussex full of business students, but it bears repeating: this is ridiculous. Higher education funding is being cut across the board-- because apparently the UK government want their population to be as uneducated as possible. I find it ironic that a country with such a long history of xenophobia seems obsessed now with bringing in international students (like me!). Why the hell would you deny your own people the right to an education? It just doesn't make sense. Not that that's ever stopped any corporate toad before.

So there's another demonstration. This Thursday morning at 11.30. Be there or watch your education be pillaged by people who can't answer a simple question and instead of listening, just wait for their turn to speak.

Speaking of questions. I will be at Postgraduate Open Day. And I will have many questions. I'm not just showing up to start trouble either; I genuinely want to know how Sussex thinks it will bring in the best and brightest if it sacks so many of its staff and cuts courses. Michael Farthing claims that Sussex needs to have courses students "really want." So is that why Chinese was cancelled? You know, the language that over a BILLION people speak? One of the languages that's going to be hugely important in the coming years? As usual, management's rhetoric proves to be at odds with their behaviour.

Lots of things going on. School of English Society needs setting up. Stop the Cuts campaign continues in all its myriad forms. Full-time officer elections are next month. I've got to do some reading. More rabble-rousing to come.

take action



There are a lot of things you can do to fight the cuts at Sussex on a personal level. You don't have to march or chant or chain yourself to a door. What's most important is that we get people involved and make them aware of the cuts and how to stop them.

  • Boycott the NSS. The National Student Survey is used to rank universities. It's one of the only things VCEG cares about, so we are refusing to fill it out. Computer surveys and website rankings are not an adequate judge of education. And contact the NSS to tell them that.
  • Talk to people. Tell them about what's going on. A flyer or a poster don't have nearly the same impact that face-to-face conversation have.
  • Read the Defend Sussex blog, which has the latest information about the cuts and the campaign.
  • Get involved on a School level. Lots of the Schools facing cuts have their own sections of the movement, like the School of English. Find out what your fellow students are doing.
  • Be creative. There are lots of ideas in the pipeline for Stop the Cuts events that are unusual and creative.
  • Speak out. Write your MPs, write to the Sussex management, write to the press, contact anyone who might listen to tell them what's going on here and how we all oppose it.

We can stop these cuts, and support from outside the university is growing every day. But we need everyone to get involved. We're all in this together.

acceleration, a whistling kettle, a rocket blasting off



The next Stop the Cuts rally is on Monday 8 February at 2pm. We're going to have speakers talking about the various segments of the campaign and hopefully some people from the community. Support for us is growing every day. UCU is balloting on strike action soon, the City Council has officially condemned the cuts, and Monday's rally promises to be the biggest yet.




This week has been amazing. We've struck a few key blows against management and against the government's plans to eviscerate education.

  • Leeds University has won against the threat of several hundred compulsory redundancies
  • Students at Aberdeen University stormed the management building and staged a sit-in
  • Sussex University went on strike for a day, with immense support from students and other workers
  • Sussex University also saw, after a week-long occupation and intense pressure, the full reinstatement of the "Sussex Six"
  • The Sussex University Students' Union passed a motion of "no confidence" in the Vice Chancellor's Executive Group (VCEG)

    Continue reading 'victories'...

SEN GREEN PAPER - 14 June 2011, Friends Meeting House



Information Evening Richard Rieser discusses SEN Green Paper . June 14th 7pm , Friends Meeting House , Ship St , Brighton .
An invitation to an information evening on the green paper 'Support and Aspiration: A new approach to Special Educational Needs & Disability'.

Please make sure you are able to come -
If you feel strongly about equality in education
If you have children - with or without SEN - who are happy and making progress in mainstream schools
If you would like to improve access to teaching and learning for all children in mainstream schools
If you have concerns about such radical changes happening at a time of significant cuts in budgets 
If you have questions about the green paper and its effect on equality and inclusion for all pupils

Our speaker is Richard Rieser, a campaigner for equality and inclusion for all children in mainstream schools, a teacher and trainer with knowledge and experience of the education system in the UK of over 30 years, a consultant on inclusive education worldwide.

Influences on the effectiveness of homework interactions: the child, the parent, and the dyad



Doctoral Researcher Georgia Leith discusses parental support during homework activities

What aspects of parents might affect how they help during homework? Is it to do with their personality, their ability to empathise, or their expectations for their child? Is it also affected by the child: their temperament, their attitudes towards schoolwork? Or alternatively, is it down to the quality of the parent-child relationship: the warmth between them, the consistency of parenting and discipline?

Homework plays a large part in a child’s education, and has the potential to make a very useful contribution. Parents are expected to help with homework in the early school years, as they are assumed to make homework time more effective by guiding their child through the challenges. However, parents vary in the ways in which they give support; this affects the usefulness of the homework process on their child’s learning. What’s unclear is what might cause this variation between parents. To address this, my doctoral research (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) explores a number of possible influencing factors.

Collaborating with Drs Nicola Yuill and Alison Pike, my three-year project aims to disentangle this web of potential influences by following a number of families through the first 6-12 months of formal schooling. Using a range of methods including puppet interviews, questionnaires and observations at home, I shall investigate which of these factors are the strongest influences on parental support during homework activities. In addition, I hope to uncover whether these influences remain just as strong over time.

Our conclusions will shed light on a relatively unknown part of every child’s education; the school work completed back at home. Policy-makers value homework, and teachers set it regularly; my research will add to their understanding by revealing the personal, and interpersonal, influences on the homework experience.

You can find out more about me and my research on the ChatLab website:

Short Burst Activities in Lectures Part 1. Herd Immunity



Short Burst Activities – Introduction.

My teaching philosophy is that the most effective teaching fosters an active participation in learning and in my roles as a University professor and as a leader of outreach activities I consider myself primarily as a learning facilitator.

A worked example makes it easier for others to understand how readily this can be achieved and so I am compiling a series of ‘how to’ guides for ‘Short Burst Activities’ within lecture theatre teaching teaching of Bio-Sciences. Some are very specific but others could be readily adapted to other topics.

I would be greatful for feedback and if you would like me to add your activities to the blog, or add a link to them please contact me.

Part 1. Herd Immunity

Learning Objectives: to illustrate the value of herd immunity (year 1 BSc)


In advance bring a method of identifying a set of students eg napkin on head.

  • Give a set (approx half the class) of napkins to some students in middle of the front row

  • Instructions are to take one and pass backwards (2 minutes)

  • If available give a toy to two students on left hand side to represent vunerable people

  • Set an infection going in one corner of the class (right hand corner in illustration)

  • Instructions are to stand up when infected and to pass the infection by shaking hands with anyone you can reach easily

  • After a couple of minutes you will see that the majority on the right hand side are infected and none on left hand side are

  • If your lecture/teaching space is not full then the immunization will be patchier and the results less clear (as in life)

  • Watch the spread of infection and pause transmission at an early stage to illustrate some herd protection then let it continue to show a poor outcome

  • Then either cluster the students together to re-run or show the diagram of the outcome with good coverage

  • for a pictorial account please see:

I would be greatful for feedback and if you would like me to add your activities to the blog, or add a link to them please contact me.