Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's the same the whole world over

Where do you live?
Wherever you are, it's not the end of the world

Where does the following report apply?

Is this David Cameron's United Kingdom?

...taxes are high, the budget's a mess, the government is inefficiently organized and the public pension fund is blown to kingdom come... approaching the brink of fiscal calamity, as the crash of 2008 and its persistent aftermath have led to the reckoning of 2010... the third straight year of staggering budget deficits and the necessary cuts will cost jobs, limit services and touch the lives of millions... And massive shortfalls in public pension plans loom as well....

How did so many people forget all at once that the bubble always bursts?

It's tough to cut the benefits of police officers, fire-fighters and schoolteachers. But the long recession has cast a glaring light on the fact that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job turnover, relentless downsizing, stagnent wages and rising health-insurance premiums.... Many public-sector workers, by contrast, enjoy relative job-security, and the number of government jobs rose even as the overall rate of unemployment shot just past 10% …

The great reckoning of 2010 took us years to create and will be years in the fixing. It is not as if the economic crisis isn't plenty painful already. In government, as in life, there are cuts that injure and cuts that heal. As they continue to slog through the wreckage of the Great Recession, state and local leaders have a challenge to be surgeons rather than hacks and make this era of crisis into a season of fresh starts.
No, this is Barack Obama's United States:

Drehle, D. von (2010) Inside the dire financial state of the States. Time Magazine, vol. 175. no 25, p.26-32

'Leaders' (ludicrous term) are currently conferring at the G8/G20 in Toronto. There are divergent views about what to do about the current mess, the Europeans will cut, the US wants them to spend their way out of it. Hey ho, it's economics, as dodgy a 'discipline' as you will meet anywhere; even by the standards of those contiguous to CE:

(personal belief +ideology) x perceived political advantage

On the ground, however, the users and the providers of services who will have to live their way through all this are stuck down very similar holes, even the statistics look hauntingly similar. Germany and France are initiating their own programmes of cuts – and as for the Japanese economy...

This is a sea in which we shall all have to learn to swim, maybe even the Chinese after their own boom plays out.

The carnival is over

Cheer up, let's have some music

The title of this posting comes from the chorus of the song 'She was poor but she was honest', popular among British Army soldiers and Royal Navy sailors during the First World War, originally a song from the working-class British music hall tradition –

It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor wot gets the blame,
It's the rich wot gets the pleasure.
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame?

(There are many other variants and versions, often scurrilous.)

There is nothing new about hard times, in Britain or anywhere else, nor about how its effects are shared out across society. Hard times are not, however, the end of the world and you can still laugh and sing, make and mend, and come through it in time (maybe a long time, more than a single generation).

For those who do not know the tune of this song, here it is in a somewhat Bowdlerised version:

To my untutored ears the tune sounds strikingly evocative of the Russian folk song Из-за острова на стрежень ('The ballad of Stenka Razin') – an obscure memory from nearly fifty years ago when I sang, or rather bellowed, in a russkii khor). If you don't know the story of Stenks Razin – don't ask.
In Britain, and even more so in Australia, this version of the tune is better known, with very different words, as 'The carnival is over'.

Here are two incomparable renditions, by Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov and Australian Judith Durham respectively:

A pity that that these two great voices never got together!

And so, back to Conductive Education

The Russians (and the Soviets in general) – now there's indication that whole peoples, well almost the whole of them – can live through far harder times than we hope for in our own forthcoming 'austerity', and still extract and experience sterling values. And it is a bit of a truism that one possible fruit of such times is  inspiring and innovative pedagogy (fill in your own examples) – rather more so perhaps than may emerge from times of plenty and excess.

The great advances from the Hungarian stage of the history of conductive pedagogy came from social and material circumstances that were austere, to say the very least. What since, and if any – where?

Possibly an invalid line of thought but a crumb of comfort nevertheless, as the carnival is certainly over now.

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