When books are banished or school is trademarked: dystopian novels in our libraries

Did you know that Senate House, the striking high-rise building next to the main UCL campus, features in two different very dark futuristic novels: The day of the triffids by John Wyndham (1951) and 1984 by George Orwell (1949)?

Orwell’s Ministry of Truth is at the heart of a totalitarian superstate, the ultimate place of disinformation and oppression. A recent staged reading in the same building brought the classic text to life; eerie bluish light in a large dark room illuminated scenes of torture and brainwashing, with the latter no less unsettling than the former. You can still watch the show online at the Orwell Foundation’s website; just dip into those eleven and a half hours of terror…

Many of you will recently have watched dystopian visions of the future, perhaps various movies of The handmaid’s tale and Bladerunner; but have you read the stories which inspired them? The first cinema film of Bladerunner was based on the quaintly-named novella Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood, of 1986, is thoroughly disquieting for women in particular and, as we can see from the news stream about systemic sexual exploitation, as relevant as ever.

Drawing of imagined spacecraft and space station, 1953.To envisage creatures which may or may not be humans or robots, or else animals or robots, in 1968, as Dick did, was quite a feat. To conjure up monstrous hybrid plants as a result of genetic engineering and biological warfare in 1951, as Wyndham did, is no less astonishing.

Similarly, radios plugged into your ears, television screens filling your walls, and soap operas with audience involvement seem almost ordinary to us, but to describe them in 1953 was truly prescient. This is what Ray Bradbury did in Fahrenheit 451, a book mainly known for the scenes of book-burnings, but less so for the audio-visual technology replacing print.

In his American cities there are also, apparently, secret databases of the citizens’ every step, every word, even of the chemical composition of their bodies: total surveillance for total control. If you commit a crime, if you behave in a suspicious manner, you can be tracked down, hunted down – and it may be broadcast live on TV, as a deterrent and as entertainment for all.

Bradbury lived to over ninety years, well into the 21st century, and must have been bemused to see his bold visions materialising. Even the nuclear weapons which threaten the ragged remains of our civilisation in Fahrenheit have not, as we are constantly reminded once again, vanished with the Cold War.

If Nineteen eighty-four is widely studied and Fahrenheit 451 also well-known, why does the more recent Feed by M. T. Anderson remain obscure? Will we elevate it to cult status only when it is almost too late? When the internet has taken over our lives and our minds and any resistance, whether from inside or outside the loop of ceaseless entertainment and advertising, is bound to fail?

Hungarian stamp with spaceship, mid-20th c.When people let the forests and seas die, protected in their glass bubbles: their domed suburbs and personal aircraft, their shopping-malls and night-clubs on the earth and on the moon? When your health insurance is exclusively based on your customer profile and School™ is openly marked as a commodity?

Anderson, too, must be bewildered by the degree of realisation already emerging as time passes since he published his science-fiction in 2002. The idea of an incoherent and uncouth, patently inept or corrupt US President named Trumbull is positively prophetic. Pupil-teacher interaction replaced by holograms and curricula rewritten by corporations do not seem far off, either!

This gripping story, told from the view-points of fifteen-year olds in their slang is likely to appeal to any teenager, surely even those who do not normally read fiction. If you are a teacher or tutor, include it in your programme: it is the text that we need now, before it catches up with us.

The links in this article lead you to copies at the Newsam Library, UCL Institute of Education, but there are more at other UCL libraries and probably in your local library. Of course, on our library catalogue, UCL Explore, you will also find DVD’s of the films and plenty of background material. You can link to Senate House Library from your search results or search their catalogue directly and borrow from them… and while you do that, have a look at the stupendous building!


Illustrations: Drawing of imagined spacecraft by Helmuth Ellgaard on magazine cover of 1953 (CC BY-SA 3.0). – Hungarian stamp with spaceship. (Scanned by Darjac) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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LILAC in Liverpool

LILAC 2018 (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) is aimed at librarians who teach information and digital skills. Each year, the three day conference includes keynote speeches and parallel sessions covering a range of different libraries including school, public, academic and national. This year LILAC is hosted by librarians at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University.

Over 370 librarians from around the world have come to LILAC to share and compare. Today, I met librarians from at least 15 different countries, attended 5 sessions and a keynote speech and there are still two days to go. Tonight, we have a networking event at the World Museum Liverpool featuring the terracotta warriors.

After one day at LILAC, I’m feeling hopeful and dizzy about what is possible.  I’m thankful that we are putting some of this good practice in action already in our essential IOE LibGuides. Even so, there is always more to learn. In fact, I can’t wait to try out Database Speed Dating. Don’t laugh, I’ve tried it and it’s a novel way to make databases interesting.

So whether we’re in Liverpool, London or Lisbon, we librarians all know that information literacy skills are essential to coping with research. Sharing good practice in conferences like LILAC makes our way ahead a little more bright.

 

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DERA (Digital Education Resource Archive)

DERA is our Digital Education Resource Archive, a repository of official publications in the areas of education, training, children and families, managed by library staff here at the UCL Institute of Education.

Untitled

With a rapidly increasing number of government reports and guidance only published in digital format and the added challenge of capturing different versions of documents made available in HTML format before they are updated and no longer retrievable, DERA provides effective access to resources in the field of education, which are saved in pdf format and stored in the repository. All the links are therefore stable and the publications available in perpetuity.

Our repository is completely open access, allowing anyone to perform a search and download documents, thus embodying UCL’s commitment to open scholarship. Our staff and students often reach DERA via Explore, but for external users the way in is mostly via a search engine. For example, we’ve noticed an increased number of DERA links in Google Scholar, a sign that this resource is cited more and more in academic publications.

A quick look at the list of over one hundred organisations included in the repository reveals that these, far from being only government departments, are in fact a mix of official bodies, think tanks and quangos. And the list is bound to grow, as we’re regularly in touch with potential new organisations. For example, we have recently added The Sutton Trust and the Office for Students.

From a chronological point of view, DERA resources span from the mid-1990s, when the first signs of a shift from print to electronic publishing began to appear, to today, with a steady increase in the number of documents added each year. At the moment, the repository includes almost 31,300 resources, of which about 300 published since the start of this year.

Ensuring that DERA remains current and relevant to users is obviously a priority, that’s why new items are added on a daily basis, often on the same day they are published, and always in respect of existing copyright restrictions.

DERA is a fantastic resource, heavily used by UCL students and staff, as well as teachers, policy makers and many others who work in education. We are grateful for all the interest and determined to offer a great experience to all our users, by ensuring DERA continues to be a reliable and authoritative source of information.

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Teaching resources about refugees – I

Page from graphic novel, showing drowning boy and baby rescued by helicopter.Refugees have at last arrived in our library… at least on paper. On this blog, we have already described a collection of books without words originally created for refugees, and we shall tell you more about resources for and about refugee children and other migrants. Here just a brief note on some marvellous Curriculum Resources which have recently reached the shelves of the Newsam Library at the UCL Institute of Education.

On the side of fiction, we have some accounts of long, arduous, painful journeys – literal journeys of children across land and sea. The novel Looking at the stars by Jo Cotterill is set in an unnamed war zone in a fictitious country, but it is based on research which is summarised in an afterword. Two sisters survive hardship and bereavement through their mutual support and through storytelling – a nice touch in a story.

Books with blue covers: 'Far from home', 'Looking at the stars', 'Illegal'.

A different kind of storytelling is presented in the graphic novel Illegal. Giovanni Rigano’s beautiful illustrations of the story by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin give you the viewpoint of the refugees quite literally: from the helicopter, you watch people as tiny dots floating in the heaving sea; then you are battered by the waves; you look up to the life-jackets thrown down to you; then you are up in the air, only to witness others go under… The title of the book is inspired by Elie Wiesel’s maxim that no human being is ever ‘illegal’.

Page from graphic novel, showing drowning refugees rescued by helicopter.

To match the fiction (novels, graphic novels, and picture books), the IOE library also provides you with non-fiction and textbooks. The dedicated resource Far from home gives you plenty of facts about refugees and a number of brief ‘case studies’ which often run against prevailing narratives.

On the one hand, the book states that the vast majority of refugees want to return to their home country when circumstances allow it; on the other hand, it shows people who have settled down ‘far from home’ and are contributing to society. I like the photo of the Syrian pianist who enjoys fame in Germany and of the two women doctors in headscarves!

A current citizenship textbook for the new GCSE (9-1) by Steve Johnson and Graeme Roffe contains long sections about human rights, migration and asylum, and international relations.

You can find more teaching resources for citizenship at 323.6. Material about human rights is shelved at 323; migrants are filed at 304.8 and refugees at 362.87.

Academic book with colourful cover taken from picture book next to it.To get children or adults with limited language skills to read or to talk, or perhaps to act or to draw, a graphic novel or a story without words might just be the right start. Look for ‘Stories without words’ and ‘comic books’ on the UCL catalogue. Ask a librarian, and they will advise you on materials for English as a foreign language, including some that you can photocopy or download. And do enjoy our books yourself, those without any words, those of only words, and those with text and pictures.

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Spotlight on the NUT donation: ‘Metrication: No Turning Back. An NUT Policy Statement ‘ and ‘Going Metric. A Guide for Schools’

 

Last winter we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which included 380 pamphlet boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

Over the last year, we have checked and sorted these resources, discovering many interesting publications during the process. Among these, we have picked a few ‘gems’ and decided to share what we have learnt about each one. Today is the turn of ‘Metrication: No Turning Back. An NUT Policy Statement ‘ and ‘Going Metric. A Guide for Schools’ both from 1971.

In the late 1960s the N.U.T. set up a special committee to study the replacement of imperial units with metric units and examine the way in which the proposed changes would affect the work of schools. It was keen to ensure that those working in the education sector would be given adequate resources to carry out its work speedily and efficiently. At the time it seemed that both Parliament and the nation shared its belief that the reforms would be beneficial. “The N.U.T. did not therefore think it necessary to make any formal statement of principle.”

But subsequent debates in Parliament indicated that opposition to the changes did exist and even a desire to reverse decisions made about going metric.

“The Executive of the National Union of Teachers, on the recommendation of the Committee on Metrication, therefore issued, on 23rd February 1971, the following statement:

The National Union of Teachers has noted that suggestions have been made in Parliament and elsewhere that the present proposals to introduce metrication by 1975 should be abandoned. It therefore wishes to make clear:

  • Its general support for the proposals which it believes will ultimately produce important educational benefits in our schools and
  • That it strongly opposes the abandonment at this stage of existing plans. Very important steps have already been taken in the preparation of both teachers and materials for the change, and to abandon all this would not only result in an indefensible waste of valuable time and resources but would create chaos in future educational planning.

 

The Union repeats its regret that the previous Government, followed by the present Government, has not been willing to make special financial provision to enable local education authorities to provide the necessary resources for the educational preparation, both for the decimalisation of money and the future change to the metric system generally.”

The document puts forward the case for metrication and considers the potential impact cofupon schools, including the work that needed to be done by Examination Boards in the preparation for Metrication. At the time there were 14 C.S.E. Examination Boards and 8 G.C.E. Examination Boards. There was a discrepancy among the Boards as to when the changeover metric to S.I. units should take place. But there was a general consensus that all papers should be set in S.I. units from 1974 or 1975.

The provisions of one C.S. E. Board illustrate the range of subjects affected:

“West Yorkshire and Lindsey Regional Examining Board. Chemistry, general science, geography, geometrical and technical drawing, housecraft and woodwork units in papers will include either/both S.I. units and imperial measurements until 1975. Thereafter only S.I. units will be used. Maths and physics: imperial units will be replaced by metric measurements in 1972 and 1971 respectively.”

The document includes a “Selected Reading List on Decimalisation and Metrication” and this may be useful for researchers looking for additional sources in this area.

The background to the issues raised in this NUT Policy Statement contains no small amount of surprises. The idea of the UK adopting the metric system as the primary system of weights and measures was not new in the 20th century. Indeed in 1668 Bishop John Wilkins published a proposal for a universal decimal system of measurement. James Watt complained in 1783 that he could not communicate with German inventors and called for a global decimal measurement system. In the 1790s the French National Assembly created the foundations of what is now called the Système International d’Unites (SI) which is the measurement system used by most of the world. The British Parliament had been invited to participate in this pioneering work but withdrew their initial support after the French overthrew their monarchy.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 highlighted the advantages of a common international system of measurement. In 1854 The Decimal Association was set up to lobby for the decimalisation of both measurement and currency. Another pressure group was established with the formation in 1857 of a British Branch of the International Association for Obtaining a Uniform Decimal System of Measures, Weights and Coins.

Progress seemed to be made when the 1864 Weights and Measures (Metric System) Act permitted the use of metric measures for “contacts and dealings”. It had little practical effect, but in 1884 the UK becomes a signatory of The Metre Convention and joined the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM). Then, in 1895 a Select Committee of the House of Commons recommended that the metric system should be authorised for all purposes, taught in elementary schools and become compulsory within two years. In 1897 a Second Weights and Measures (Metric System) Act permits the use of the metric system for all purposes in the UK but again it had little practical effect.

Once again in 1951 The Committee on Weights and Measures Legislation (the Hodgson Committee) concluded that metric conversion was inevitable and that the long-term advantages of the change would outweigh the inconveniences of the change itself. It adds that, prior to the metric change, the currency should be decimalised and in 1966 the government announced it would be introduced in 1971. The Decimal Currency Act of 1965 allowed the Decimal Currency Board to plan and manage the change. Money was spent on preparation and publicity and Decimalisation Day (nicknamed D-day) was Monday 15th February 1971. IMG_20171122_092219_resized_20171204_022104421

The difference in the government’s attitude towards metrication can be seen in the N.U.T. leaflet entitled ‘Going Metric. A Guide for Schools’ in which. The N.U.T. talking about changes in industry comments that “THERE WILL BE NO M DAY. Each firm decides its own changeover dates.”

Perhaps that is why in 2014 the U K Metric association published a report entitled ‘Still A Mess. The continuing failure of UK measurement policy.’

This item, like all the others included in this donation, is currently uncatalogued, although this will be the next step in our project. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about the contents of the donation, please check our LibGuide.

 

 

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Spotlight on the NUT donation: “The teaching of dietetics” by V. H. Mottram and “Education in nutrition” by H. E. Magee

Last winter we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which included 380 archive boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

Over the last year, we have checked and sorted these resources, discovering many interesting publications during the process. Among these, we have picked a few ‘gems’ and decided to share what we have learnt about each one.

Today is the turn of Education in nutrition by H. E. Magee and The teaching of dietetics by V. H. Mottram. Strictly speaking, these are not NUT outputs, but rather addresses delivered during the Union’s conferences of 1935 and 1936 and they don’t necessarily represent the views of the organisation. However the particular gatherings during which they were presented and the fact that there is only one year between the two indicate the Union’s level of interest around the issue of child nutrition in the years just before the Second World War. As acknowledged by Magee, this was also a consequence of the many discoveries made in this field starting from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Teaching of dietetics

Reading through the speeches, it’s clear for both authors that what children eat depends mainly on parents’ choices and that schools’ interventions are limited in this respect. However, they believe that educating pupils on the value of food is key to ensure that these will apply the good principles learnt in school when they become adults. In this sense, as explained by Magee, food education has both an intellectual and utilitarian objective, contributing “to the general happiness and well-being of the community” (p. 7).

This focus on the long-lasting benefits of good nutrition is in itself very modern and has remained a key area of discussion for policy makers throughout the years, with the discussion being extended to areas such as school meals and child obesity. Not surprisingly, our Official Publications collection includes a host of resources on all these subjects and many are also available online on our DERA repository.

An interesting aspect in the two papers being considered relates to the choice of recommended vocabulary when teaching nutrition in the classroom. For Mottram, for example, technical terms should be avoided and foods should rather be presented in terms of how they affect us: some have “warming” properties, others help “build” the body, while some “protect” it, although the distinction between these three categories is less evident than one may think and some of the things we eat serve multiple purposes at once.

Education in nutrition

Magee seems less concerned about choice of terms when explaining things to pupils, but in the address foods are divided into “constructive”, “protective” and “energy-giving”. However, the author also provides a loosely scientific introduction to food properties, using words such as “carbo-hydrates”, “vitamins” and “proteins”.

A few other interesting things come to mind when reading the two papers: in the 1930s nutrition education was part of Domestic Science, a wide-ranging subject that has since been renamed Home Economics and is sometimes taught as several separate disciplines, such as Food Technology, Design and Textiles and Woodwork; for a scholar keen to explore the evolution of the subject, all the various terms would likely be relevant when performing a catalogue search. It may also be fascinating to research how much time was dedicated to understanding food properties as opposed to cooking during lessons, with Mottram suggesting that pupils spend far too long in front of the stove, when in fact they should learn “the right principles of feeding” as well.

Still related to choice of vocabulary, it’s also interesting to see that “elementary school”, an expression we generally associate with United States, was in fact common in the United Kingdom at the time the two addresses were delivered. It was only replaced by “primary school” in the years following the 1944 Education Act, when the school system was organised around three main stages: primary, secondary and further education. Once again, the different terminology would need to be kept in mind by anyone with an interest in historical research.

These two items, like all the others included in this donation, are currently uncatalogued, although this will be the next step in our project. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about the contents of the donation, please check our LibGuide.

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Spotlight on the NUT donation: “The education of the adolescent” by Ernest Salter Davies

Last winter we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which included 380 archive boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

Over the last year, we have checked and sorted these resources, discovering many interesting publications during the process. Among these, we have picked a few ‘gems’ and decided to share what we have learnt about each one.

Today is the turn of a paper titled The education of the adolescent, which was presented at a Joint meeting of continuative, adult and rural school teachers by Ernest Salter Davies in 1927.

Education of the adolescent

This address, whose author worked as Director of education for Kent during the 1920s and most of the 1930s, focuses on the education of pupils aged 11 and older, while also discussing some of the challenges facing policy makers and offering ideas for possible solutions.

The starting point is a report published by the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education not long before this address was given, which talked about the complexity of post-11 education and stressed that this phase of instruction should be such to encourage the children to continue to be in school up to the age of 15 (at the time, this was only compulsory until the pupil was 14 years old).

While broadly agreeing with the conclusions reached by the report, Davies feels that a suitable curriculum must be developed before the school age can be raised. Also, instead of obliging children to wait until they are 16 to start working (what some of his contemporaries advocated), he is keener on the idea of full-time education lasting until the age of 14, followed by four years of part-time education.

The author also realises that any re-organisation of the system to better cater for adolescent pupils presents some challenges and he highlights two obstacles in particular: an arbitrary division between the various phases of education (primary, secondary and technical) and a system of dual control.

In regards to the first, Davies acknowledges that such division has existed for some time (from before the Education Act of 1902) and artificial barriers that are hard to remove are now in place. In terms of administration, for example, he finds it absurd that two different Local Authorities should be responsible for primary and for post-primary education and instead he proposes a system like the Scottish one, where County Education Committees are in charge of all schools within their area of responsibility, thus striking a balance between over-centralisation and excessive decentralisation.

The second obstacle refers to the fact that voluntary schools (which can be influenced by a trust or foundation when it comes to how they are run) are sometimes unwilling to cooperate with Local Authorities on a variety of matters, therefore changes can be hard to introduce.

The second part of this paper looks at what should be taught in an ideal post-primary school, starting from the premise that education is “a spiritual growth which is never completed, a condition of the spirit developing as the individual develops” and that the curriculum should be a “means of helping pupils, according to their capabilities, to realise themselves”(p. 8).

Davies believes that positive changes are only possible with the support of both parents and employers and once again, he feels that a compromise must be reached, in the sense that education should prepare both for life and for livelihood. Practically, this means developing pupils’ capabilities as much as possible (as stressed by educationalists) but also equipping them for employment by including practical activities. This approach can have two positive consequences: making part-time education past the age of 14 more appealing to pupils, as the gap between Day School and Further Education becomes narrower, and developing ambition and imagination, two qualities that are highly valued by employers.

If you’re interested in finding out more on post-primary education around the time when this address was given, both in the UK and in other countries, the IOE Library collection includes many relevant resources, which are either on the open shelves or can be fetched for you upon request.

The education of the adolescent, like all other items included in this donation, is currently uncatalogued, although this will be the next step in our project. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about the contents of the donation, please check our LibGuide.

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