Where To Next ?

For all the gloom and doom peddled by the “Remainers” prior to the EU Referendum, the sky has not fallen in following Brexit, our women and children have not been sold into slavery, famine, pestilence and war do not stalk the land – Oh Bugger I hear them say. It is only the Guardian and Independent who still seize upon any negative story to do with Brexit, even The Economist has finally stopped banging on endlessly about how wrong the result was.

On top of this, our Olympic athletes have surpassed all expectations in terms of their haul of Olympic Medals, well done to the whole team including all their support personnel, a just stunning effort all round. However, as Summer splutters towards its close, it is time to consider where we of UK plc go next and the steps we need to take.

My Starting Point

At the beginning of August I wrote a personal piece called “New Directions” ( http://baldysblog.co.uk/2016/08/06/new-directions/ ) and from there I have been developing various ideas mainly aimed at producing a series of short films. As expressed in that earlier post, one of those concerns building up a personal ‘travel log’ of places in Somerset and whilst that is a project that I will most certainly want to pursue, apart from planning, it is something that will have to wait until next year for a number of reasons most of which are to do with me getting more practice in so that the end result is more professional. It is a really big transition coming from still photography to film making, they really are chalk and cheese. With still photography you are just focused on single images with film making, moving images, sound, music and lots of post production all of which requires careful scripting and planning before you point a camera at anything ! However, whilst I want my end output to be as polished as possible, more importantly, I want my narrative or message to be strong enough so that whether my ‘colour correction’ is not quite right will only be of interest to the minority interested in such things.

With all this in mind, I decided to focus on something that I could develop more easily in my ‘solo’ mode and get into a workable draft shape beyond just words so that I could get some support with any technical areas I’m not that strong in or frankly, don’t want to get involved in. It therefore led me to think in terms of topics that would fit best in the political areas of my blog. My intention is to split this existing baldysblog by separating the picture/graphics elements into their own sub domain so there is a “creative” section which is different from the main site which will remain focused on the political and cultural things that interest me. I would hope that the films to do with touring places in Somerset would fit in the creative site but I would intend to also do short films for the main ‘political’ site but they would focus on converting some my ideas and themes that currently amount to lots of writing that few read into a graphic format which may be more accessible.

The main theme I decided to explore was the question of “Change” and particularly how technical changes will impact society and in doing so, change it totally so therefore, what should we be doing now to deal with this ? As I was mapping this project out, as if a delivery of manna from heaven inspiration arrived to underline one of my key themes, training and education. We get that day in August of each year when the ‘A level’ results arrive and there is much talk of university places…pictures of girls jumping in the air for some reason and all the rest of it.

Going to ‘Uni’

I am not anti university but I do not believe that the vast expansion of the university sector amounts to anything beneficial to the UK at large simply because there is a limit to just how many ‘graduates’ society needs, do we really need call centres, McDonald’s and estate agents staffed by them when they find out that a degree does not mean that the world is your oyster and they desperately need a job ? Although it may seem snobbish, in my mind if you are not applying for one of the Russell Group ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Group ), what exactly are you expecting from your degree except a big debt on getting it and surely there can be little consolation in knowing that if you don’t earn enough, you won’t have to repay it ?

This is not a new view for me, when the then PM Tony Blair said he wanted 50% of secondary school students to go to university, I thought the man totally bonkers because less than 10% of pupils would be suitable for such an academic education and if it wasn’t an academic course then it wasn’t a university because that level of learning is about acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge, all else is training. Obviously there is training and training, being a structural engineer is a lot more demanding intellectually than bricklaying but both are practical skills that society needs. It is total folly as seems to be the case that some universities are offering degree courses that comply neither with being purely academic nor ‘job ready’ training and it is this I find deplorable. Parents too must shoulder some blame in this as the ‘goal’ for their progeny is to “Go to Uni” with all else failure which rather takes us back to the days of the 11+ where if you didn’t get into grammar school you were considered a ‘failure’ condemned to a Secondary Modern school and a working life in a factory or a shop.

However and to be fair, right now there are no clear alternative courses of action and this is the fault of society at large, we are just not ready for the changed world which the current crop of 18 year olds are going to have to deal with. In fact I suspect that those starting university this October will find that the world has moved on considerably by the time they finish their degrees and for many, what they have studied will be pretty useless to them in practical terms. This is not a bitch about universities but it is a bitch about how inappropriate our education system has become in terms of equipping both our young people and society for the future.

What has happened is that our whole education system is neither one thing nor the other. Whilst generally aimed in traditional academic directions, it fails to be truly “academic” whilst also failing to develop children as people and allow them to self discover their own attributes, abilities and knowledge strengths. Whilst I would not advocate grammar schools as “the solution” it is true to say that at least by streaming at age 11, the minority that would benefit from an academic education were directed towards one. The reason that this post war system never worked properly was that the other two legs of the tripod, Technical Colleges and Secondary Modern schools were never given the status and resources to acknowledge that there was a quite proper alternative path that didn’t mean that children were ‘losers’ or lesser beings if they didn’t get into a grammar school.

Where We Are

Because education was never set properly at the secondary school level back in the 1950/60s, coupled with an “everybody gets prizes” mentality that grew up with this failure, eventually when the university sector expanded, even if the resulting institutions had any more merit than the constituent parts they were cobbled together from, there was not a range of appropriate talent coming forward from the secondary school sector to raise standards right across the board. The result is that the HE sector with some exceptions is not producing high quality output in either academic or training terms. Obviously this is my personal view of the current situation and I am sure that every Don of every university would disagree with me.

I will be as scathing of Employers in equal measure, the majority of companies do not pour enough resources into training at any level. I have heard the “If we train them all they will do is get qualified and leave us taking our investment with them” mantra time and again from UK employers going back to the 1970s. How many times do we have to put up with “employer representatives” just bemoaning that school leavers are ill prepared for the world of work and yet their businesses are also “citizens” of this society and they are not prepared to do anything by getting involved directly in changing the situation. They would rather import labour from elsewhere because either it is cheaper or, already qualified to do the jobs they want done, this is a foolish attitude and economically self defeating for both them and society at large, like it or not, we need to utilise the indigenous population. This latter point is true of all countries not just the UK if we are to have a peaceful evolution in the global economy.

Action Plan

I have written quite a number of blogs on the theme of change and I do believe that an essential part of dealing with change will be getting the population as a whole to understand what is likely to happen and how we collectively are going to manage it both socially and economically. Beyond this we need to look specifically at training, not just for 16/18 year olds but the concept of Training and Retraining as a pattern for life throughout life going forward. So there are lots of ideas to deal with and visually is probably the best way to present them if only because they will initially seem so alien to the majority of people because they contradict the status quo.

The reason I had picked upon ‘Change’ as my theme quite apart from my firm belief that there needs to be a public discussion on the topic and a general raising of awareness about the implications was that it gave me a firm platform to work from. What I wanted to do was to have a subject where I could develop a progressive narrative in a series of short films that collectively told the story I wanted to put across. Consequently the common theme would be ‘Change’ but each short film would look at that concept from a different perspective exploring the various impacts and implications and especially how one thing connects to another.

The consequence of all this is that the subject provides all the framework required for producing a film and also a logical sequence of events in doing so. From outline scripting, detailed research on each aspect of the topic because whilst an ‘opinion piece’ it needs to be factually based. People can argue over your interpretation of the ‘facts’ but they cannot be in a position to be able to question them. As the script firms up specific sequences appear for which shots to support the narrative need to be created so from here the ‘storyboards’ are created.

Having already created my outline script sections, it looks as if there will be 10 episodes and whilst I will set no specific maximum time limit on each one at this moment, no longer than 6 minutes runtime for each would seem appropriate any longer would be self indulgent. I may well shorten this as I develop my script and storyboards however by aiming for a maximum runtime at outset is important in helping to assemble your material, to keep the script tight and highly focused on the subject. Eventually because I will be working on all 10 episodes at the same time to keep them in an overall cohesive narrative, I will then have a list of sequences and locations where I need to film and animations I need to create to tell my story.

This will be both fun and scary because if say I take a trip to London to do some typical background shots of Parliament, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Oxford St, Main Railway Stations etc, I may well be shooting scenes from totally different episodes so continuity issues and stuff like that will raise their ugly heads. Make a note, if I decide to include “talking heads” of myself, wear the same clothes throughout ! Should be fun and I will at least have an awful lot of practical experience by the time I finish, lets hope I create a good series too ! How long will all this take ? No idea to be frank but the New Year is probably the very earliest publication date would be my guess however as I was told many years ago and it is an idea I’ve passed on to others: “Life is a journey not a destination” so this particular journey should be interesting.

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