Wednesday, 9 February 2011

FMC visit the near future

"Nice uniform," I said to the freelance police officer guarding the former library, "Did you design it yourself?" "No need to get sarky ... sir," he growled, blushing all the same, "Got a permit, have you?" "Yes Deputy Sergeant Major, here it is, privately made by me this morning: a Fruitcake Miniature College authorisation to lead an educational visit to a site of historic interest."Mmm, doesn't seem to have anything to do with a local authority. This lot foreigners then?" "Yes, but from settled communities and they pay cash." "Middle class, are you sir?" "No no, self-employed!" "Oh alright then. You can go in. Mind your language in future though." Little did he know how profoundly paradoxical his warning was.

"If I need it I will learn it". This axiom was often used in connection with 'experiential approaches' to language learning, and the idea has popped it's head up many times over the years, sometimes labelled 'learning by doing.' Obviously it can only work if what you need is available, that is, if it's possible to go and do it. This can take some engineering. So, you could be a child recently arrived in the UK, for instance, and your parents could engineer it that you get no dinner unless you ask for it in English. This doesn't quite work of course if it's your parents who need the English more than you do, but you see what I mean. Another way of doing things would be to have what we might call 'departments' in what I will term 'colleges' where trained 'professionals' set things up so that you experience English in meaningful and engaging ways and thus learn it. You will have spotted the problem there, though, straight away: no mention of 'volunteers' or 'Big Society'. We may have to update 'learn by doing' to 'sink or swim' (but no translation as this only encourages them).

Bearing all this in mind, and because of the regrettable necessity of axing my students' classes and making me redundant, I founded Fruitcake Miniature College. Since September, under the leadership of our principal, whose picture is at the top of the page, we have opened the floodgates to almost literally five people. And following the 85% success rate of the trip last term to the more distant future, this term's project is to experience the future from nearer at hand. We made it to 2014 and back with relatively little damage to the paintwork of the coach and may be able to use that company again. (Stans Van's - your hen night at the speed of light).

The trip to the library in the opening paragraph was predictably disappointing. It was very echoey and there was a big sign on one wall just saying "Google it." On the opposite wall was one saying "Go on Amazon". Naturally no-one's finished an actual report yet either, but we're very pleased with the work so far, and here is a small selection of observations.

  • Rio Tinto Zinc are getting iron and coal from the Forest of Dean much faster now the trees don't get in the way
  • The medals handed out at the Olympics were chocolate
  • The CEO of the National Health Service received a whopping bonus this year, but that's actually OK in the US
  • snowdrops are down 50p against the euro
  • Traffic wardens can now impose on-the-spot fines for farting.
  • 'Middle class' now means anyone who can articulate or co-ordinate opposition to Government policy - also, confusingly, anyone neither very poor nor very rich.
  • Society is as big as ever it was but the Government has become almost undetectable with the naked eye
  • Michael Gove's successor as Education Secretary has conceded that lack of ESOL provision has had consequences for integration and for the economy and has come up with a novel proposal for providing it in special 'colleges'
  • There will soon be a General Election
  • The future you go to depends on the bus you catch there.
On reflection we may try another company for our next trip. And do try and finish your assignments soon.

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