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Monday, June 28, 2010

"Learnings" from football

First up, I think that those who talk about "key learnings" should be given multiple paper cuts and rolled in salt. It is a an awful neologism that seems to be gaining ground despite there being a perfectly good noun in existence (Lessons) . I only added it to the title so I could vent about it.

More importantly, yesterday's England performance...?! Wow, that was abject. I've lived through some dreadful England performances but that was properly excruciating.

The xenophobic hacks in the tabloids will, no doubt, try to hang this one round the Italian coach's neck and it is true that as leader he must shoulder his fair share of the blame. Others will trot out the, "paid too much to care" argument which is equally fatuous. We are all complicit in their salaries by watching the game and paying our Sky Sports subscriptions; in the same way that by buying Heat or other seminal weekly publications, we have made millionaires out of Peter Andre and his ilk.

Talking to my FD (a former semi-professional footballer) the other week about football in general, I learned that in Germany you are not allowed to sign a professional contract until you are 18 and there is strong encouragement to complete your education, which is largely absent in the UK. I wondered if there is a learning element to our recent failure.

I have nothing to substantiate the following assertion but from the level of punditry from former German and French international players I get the impression that the average level of education is significantly higher in continental European players. Jurgen Klinsmann, Marcel Desailly appear to have a more profound understanding of the tactics, systems and psychology of the game than their English counterparts. This is quite probable given the comparative levels of general education revealed by the latest OECD figures

I wondered if you make it manditory for every premier league team (and possibly championship depending on the finance) to get all of its players to a level three qualification at a minimum before they can sign a contract, would it make an impact over the long term?

You can't blame the footballers choosing sport over school. Football is a route out of poverty and many of them will have had awful experiences of formal schooling and can't wait to get out. But there is more than enough money at the top of the sport to pay for specialist tutors and more than enough subject areas to interest even the most jaded learning palate.

Getting more of these people to a level three qualification might engender more former footballers able to pass the FA coaching certificates and perhaps more home grown managers. But it might also develop a team of England players whose conceptual understanding of the game is a little more developed than, blood and thunder, thud and blunder.

Or maybe I should just take to following England at darts...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spare the rod, spoil the child?

Indirectly, I stumbled across a piece in my RSS feeds this morning by David D. Friedman (son of Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman) on children and make believe. In it, Friedman one of the leading figures of anarcho-capitalism (no, I'd never heard of it before either) makes the case for bursting the bubbles of four year old children.

To paraphrase, he believes that you should play to win with you children otherwise they will never learn to deal with life, which to be fair is a view that dates back to the ancient Spartans at least.

But I think it misses the point on one of the most important lessons of life. It is not the competition which is important. Any idiot can learn to be competitive. The thing that we need to help our children learn is how to deal with defeat.

Too many people have unpleasant learning experiences early in life which put them off learning for good.

Whilst I entirely concur that it is pointless to wrap children in cotton wool, if you set out to scarify them, all you will create is insensitive scar tissue.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New learning, old learning

Reading Charles Jennings's excellent post (which of course links in with the LCB Big question of the month) about which skills we should be teaching the workforce of tomorrow, made me think about an ongoing conversation I have been having with a number of people.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to follow this blog since it's inception will know that I am a huge fan of Randy Pausch (the link goes to a video that lasts an hour but it is an hour well spent). The last lecture is a conceit, we should apply to the question at hand.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow what skills, knowledge would you pass on today?

It rather sharpens the mind doesn't it? But it helps significantly with filtering out all the extraneous noise and superfluous rubbish with which we clutter our lives and our workplaces.

Charles's taxonomy is very good (and I reproduce it in full below)

Search and 'find' skillsTo find the right information when it's needed
Critical thinking skillsTo extract meaning and significance
Creative thinking skillsTo generate new ideas about, and ways of, using the information
Analytical skillsTo visualise, articulate and solve complex problems and concepts, and make decisions that make sense based on the available information
Networking skills

To identify and build relationships with others who are potential sources of knowledge and expertise, within and outside the organisation

People skills

To build trust and productive relationships that are mutually beneficial for information sharing

LogicTo apply reason and argument to extract meaning and significance
A solid understanding of research methodologyTo validate data and the underlying assumptions on which information and knowledge is based

But I wonder if it can be refined even further?

One of the oldest university curricula in the world, which could be argued to predate Christianity but has definitely been around for over a millennium is the Trivium (logic, rhetoric and grammar). It was followed by the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy). These two programmes were the core of an early mediaeval liberal arts education which was preparation for life and seem to overlap significantly with Charles's suggestions above.

Now, I haven't got time to teach my daughter or my staff all of the above in my self imposed final day... So what would I settle for?

Probably to encourage confidence and curiosity, tempered with reason. If you have these then you can pick everything else up.