Teaching IS doing.

Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach – Man and Superman; GB Shaw.

After completing my teaching qualification I wrote a blog condemning the above quote that suggests people only become teachers if they cannot do anything ‘better’. 

This is a ridiculous notion when there are other more worthy occupations to be rude about such as restaurant critics (wannabe cooks), the mish-mash of malcontents who flail around for a critical voice on Trip Advisor and call centre operatives in cold-call mode. The genuine non-DOERS are those who behave as if they are doing something useful but really aren’t, they are the people who belong on Golgafrincham Ark Fleet Ship B.*

Teachers are absolutely not in this category. Their role is fundamental to human progress; teaching is doing because learning is the first step to everything. Anyhow, pedagogy doesn’t need my advocacy and has offered many adequate replies to the Shavian suggestion.

However, another perspective on Shaw’s words has come to the fore during this, the age of Covid and it is that there are many doers but they are badly undervalued.

Our society has long functioned with a twisted logic. We function in an economic paradigm whereby money, which began after all, as an alternative to exchangeable commodities has become god. It is odd that people who are able to earn money while they sleep are better off than those who get paid by time or output. This is not to say that wealthy people are necessarily bad but, and the people whom the government list as KEY, do not earn as much as those who can get the money system to work for them.

Coronavirus has shone a light on the importance of some of these hitherto hidden people and has challenged the prevailing economic model. Last night I saw a postal worker delivering mail after 7pm. I wished him a good evening and in the ensuing chat he told me he was taking all the overtime ‘he could get’ as it was financially beneficial. Noble as this might seem, is it right that this person was working sixteen hours each day while other non-key people don’t need to?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sleeping-girl.jpg

In the UK Government’s official Key Worker list (reproduced below) it is notable how often the word ‘workers’ comes up e.g. Food production workers…Transport workers …Utilities workers…bank workers. These are people that DO and we really ought to bookmark this for the Post Coronavirus Social Re-balancing plan.

When the ‘Key’ list was released some two months ago I scoffed at the inclusion of journalists. In fact, I would probably have included them in the Trip Advisor reject bracket, yet on reflection, my sneering was wrong. I feel that media often embellishes and whips up public fervour in order to sell their wares and some commercial TV companies unashamedly do this to protect their advertising income. However, having information and news delivered by newspapers and broadcasters that are regulated and scrutinised is better than what remains the wild west of data and (mis)-information; the internet. After all this time, the web is still the favela style corrugated roofed shelter for fake news, stalkers and hackers.

I anticipate a sense of disappointment on behalf of our new, albeit temporary, heroes because I doubt not think their rights and wages will improve. They deserve better but the world is not a generous place and the forecasted economic turmoil will, as usual, further distance the have nots from the haves. Plus ca change…

For an excellent perspective by a real journalist do read Sarah O’Connor. Weirdly, she’s not writing for Marxism Today or even the Guardian, but a literal bastion of capitalism; The Financial Times. 

She writes so well that I wanted to use her words to conclude this piece but the FT’s T&C’s are fearsome and as a lecturer and examiner I really cannot affored to be sued for plagiarism. Equally, how could I ever penalise students for cutting and pasting if I’ve been caught doing it myself?

The UK Government’s list of key workers

British postman in the 1950s. Two post deliveries a day including Saturdays and no van or hand-cart.


Frontline health and social care staff including the distributors of medicines and vital equipment

Teaching staff, nursery staff and social workers

People working in vital public services such as justice system, death registry workers, journalists in public service broadcasting

Government workers in local or national administrations in occupations needed to deliver the Covid-19 response and pay benefits

Food production and processing workers including sales and delivery staff

Transport workers operating services not shut down during the Covid-19 response

Utilities workers including all power, water, sewerage, chemicals

Postal workers, key telecommunications staff, bank workers


 Lichtenstein style picture with Buffet quote https://www.aliexpress.com/i/4000297349719.html

medical workers photo credit:https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/1900220/struggle-fear-and-heartbreak-for-medical-staff-on-virus-frontline

Postman; /bit.ly/1alhmZX

Broad Mind:Narrow Vision

Three end of year thoughts (loosely held together by a tightrope walk)

December is odd. The London world whips itself into a frenetic state during the Christmas build up, falls into a lull on December 26th and then limps and sways before trying to launch​ itself anew in January. Talk is of healthy new beginnings and becoming something you are not. I find the situation illogical. We know instinctively that things works better if they have momentum behind them yet by speeding up then ramming the brakes we lose consistency and January is in fact a creeping, cloying, chewing gum on the sole kind of month.



Equally odd is that this pressure is self or rather socially, induced. There is no need for it.​

​Some years ago, the whole country would close down and people were obliged to spend long periods together. They had journeyed far and were able, if not in continuous harmony, to spend a prolonged time with near and distant family. But now,​there is no longer, especially within our growing city culture, reason to be shacked up and hemmed in by rarely seen and faintly loved non-nuclear relatives.

Shops and entertainments are open all but one day and not even the weather forces us to stay inside (notwithstanding the poor folk who’ve been flooded).

We seem to embrace a stressful break that we don’t really like for traditional rather than practical reasons.


One of my final ​acts of work during 2015 was attending a plan​ners’​meeting for a new educational programme. One of the topics debated was whether students that fail, or get a low grade, should have the opportunity to be re-assessed. ​

The main argument against was that it would be unfair to candidates who did well first time. After all, shouldn’t they be rewarded for hard work and application?

In favour of re-sitting was the point that if a learner can improve over time, they too deserve another ch​a​nce​. Then there were sub-arguments that maybe re-takers could pay, or have their maximum grade restricted (in order, I suppose to stop people from literally buying qualifications).

My jury remains out on this rather complex situation, but I was struck that even after many years and many tried and tested models of education it is still likely that when organising people get together they have a need to rewrite the blueprints. Plus ca change…




Yesterday my family and I ate in Wahaca, a Mexican style eatery on London’s Southbank. It’s a bit like a students’ union both staffed and frequented by the young and sparsely dotted with babies and parents. The food is ok, the service not. When our initial server was replaced by a more competent one, we asked him about his background and what he does when he’s not working.  He explained he was a graduate in English Literature and was working in a restaurant as he couldn’t get other work. He added that if he’d had his time again he’d have choosen a degree with more transferable skills. My heart sank. I always thought that being able to discuss, evaluate criticise and summarize (Literature students’ forte) were among the most valuable skills. It seems that is no longer the case and that employers are not so keen on creative thinking (potentially argumentative and individual?) people and prefer young minds that have been pre-moulded to fit the work ethic before taking them on and breaking them in/down.

This however does not explain why two young scientists I know are leaving their laboratories and switching to careers in law and accountancy. If these changes are for the money, then it’s a real shame that science does not offer them a proper income. It makes me uneasy to think that bright young minds are turning away from making the planet better and unless they’re idealists appear to be just following (albeit sorely needed) cash. It reminds me of the Dire Straits’ song Telegraph Road: ’ Then came the churches then came the schools, then came the lawyers then came the rules’…

Bathtub: http://retrorenovation.com/2010/06/01/choosing-a-bath-tub-big-enough-to-soak-in-i-change-my-kohler-recommendation/