Friday, 8 June 2018

Children`s reading for cultural change

From UK Column News 31st May 2018

"So let`s have a look at what the BBC is up to here. If you go into it, this is highly animated. I find it particularly annoying because the screen scrolls in a particular way as you`re trying to read the text but it`s the story of some boys in the 1800s. They stow away on a vessel. They`re treated very cruelly. Eventually they`re put onto the ice and I think it`s two of them survive and the rest die. It`s quite a harrowing story. You`d say it`s very dark. At the moment it`s of historical interest up in Scotland and they`ve followed through on the story. So it`s got some serious historical basis to it but of course it`s now being presented as a cartoon on the mainstream news."

"Now if you get into this article and start to pay attention you come to the Magic Torch Comics organisation because they are mentioned in the creation of this whole feature of `The Boys on the Ice` and as we normally do we follow the evidence trail through. So here we are having a look at Magic Torch Comics and I`m going to say we`ve got a particularly unpleasant image with the caption: `There`s more to life than books y`know, but not much more...` Magic Torch comics is a social enterprise. By purchasing our publications and merchandise you will help to support our work and projects while demonstrating your general excellence in good taste." 


Mike Robinson: "So is that a rabbit hanging by its neck?"

Brian Gerrish: "Yeah, it is a rabbit hanging by its neck and as we`re going to see, sort of death and matters unpleasant, seem to be of great interest to this Magic Torch Comics."

"But this is the first thing that caught my eye: [It] is that when you try to establish who these people are it`s not possible. So if you`re going to contact them you have to fill in one of the email boxes. You`re not talking to a person; there are no names; it`s just you contact us over the internet and we`ll respond...."

"This is some more of their imagery. And we`re now on the subject of witches. This is the Rowan Tree Legion, Witches at War, October 2016.  And there seems to be a preoccupation with witches because this is them tweeting out Cracking#Paisley witchcraft comics created in our team-up folk comic workshops. So they`re very big on witches; they`re big on hanging rabbits; there`s an under element of nastiness and death."

"BBC thinks a lot of them. So we get to the end of the BBC article. It says: `The Stowaways` graphic novel was originally created by Magic Torch Comics and Ardowan Primary School, Greenock. It was created as part of the Heritage Inverclyde, A Quest for Learning programme - an Inverclyde Council project delivered by Inverclyde Community Development Trust and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland`."

"And then certain people are given acknowledgement, including for some of the images; and because the story goes from Scotland over to Newfoundland you`ve got people there identified as having an input from Newfoundland. But what is this all about?"

"Well it just gets more interesting because if we have a look at two of the individuals mentioned there, we`ve got this gentleman, Stephen Mulvey. He was the editor of the project; and the other gentleman here is Paul Kerley... he was involved in production. So Stephen Mulvey assistant editor of BBC Digital Current Affairs `where I run the writer`s desk. Russian-speaker trying to learn Spanish`, and the other gentleman is BBC journo - `being creative with photos and sound on the BBC News website`."

"My comment on this is: `Is this news Mike or is this the creation of stories?`  I`m not quite sure what`s going on."

"But we followed some of the tweets through. So this is Magic Torch Comics retweeting #trustelder, whoever that is. `A picture`s worth a thousand words. true #dementia care stories come to life through cartoons`. So now we`ve got into a particularly mucky area I think. We`ve got people in serious places in their lives, medical conditions, but we`re now going to support that with cartoons. And we`ll bring in this one as well. They`re retweeting the History Press; and we`ve got another hanging. `Notorious pirate William Kidd was hanged for murder and five counts of piracy`. So we`ve got anonymous comics dealing in dementia and death and mental health buried into the BBC as if it was news."

"Try this one. `Bringing rebellion into the classroom`. So here`s Magic Torch Comics retweeting the Scottish Book Trust. It says: `On the most rebellious day of the year, we`re launching our Rebel writing campaign for schools. Here`s how to inspire your pupils to start sharing their rebellious tales`. Now we could take the light hearted view this is just children playing with rebellious stories, but I think there`s many teachers out there who would say they`ve got big enough problems keeping order in class without encouraging the children to be rebellious. But we`ll leave it to our viewers and listeners to make their mind up on that one. "

"This is a bit more of the detail of that Book Trust because it`s got Mental Health Benefits. `Scotland is facing a mental health and wellbeing crisis. One in three people suffer from mental illness each year and the number of people with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years`. And they say here for example that reading can reduce stress. OK that`s fine. But then we`ve got: `Reading fiction can model ways of coping with alienation or problems at school, work or in relationships`. So now it`s not just reading; this is reading in order to reframe people, Mike.  I`m going to bring that word in. But they`re working for a Scotland where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive, no matter what their background. And then who are they working with? Alzheimer Scotland, Millennium Cohort Study [Joseph Rowntree Foundation], the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Reading for Change. So we`re getting a bit of a clue here as to what`s going on, Save the Children, University of Sussex Mindlab research."

"So this is not just about bringing books to children. This has got a highly political undertone I`m going to say, Mike, where clearly they are looking at bringing change into society via the reading habits of children."

Mike Robinson: "Yeah, but if we`re talking about University of Sussex Mindlab research, we`re also looking at how that change is implemented; what types of books provide the right type of change; what types of books don`t provide the right kind of change. So this is an academic research project as well."

Brian Gerrish: "Indeed. So let`s have a look in a bit more detail here. Here`s the Scottish Book Trust; lots of information; I encourage people to look at it, of course."

"Let`s bring in some of the people. We`ve got here Keir Bloomer, the chair, former Director of Education for Clackmannanshire Council, Chair of the Tapestry Partnership, a leading organisation in the field of teachers` professional development. Convener of the Education Committee of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. [Member of the review group which wrote `A Curriculum for Excellence` (Scotland`s national curriculum)] So OK, this man seems to have an education background.  I`d like to know a little bit more."

"But let`s bring in this one. We`ve got Andy Marchant. He works with financial services companies, management consultants and charities on their business plans; previously Managing Director and Marketing Director, Aegon, Directo Line and Royal Bank of Scotland; experience in innovation and strategy. So how does this link in with children`s books?"

Mike Robinson: "It`s not quite so clear is it?"

"Not quite so clear."

"Well what about this man? We`ve got James Saville, Director of People, Operations and Systems, UK Government Department for International Development. So he`s been DFID for the past five years. His team were the 2015 Scottish HR Network team for their response to the Ebola crisis. So he jumps from that to books. But he`s also worked for HBOS plc, financial services and oil and gas sectors. So this man is a sort of international corporatist, now apparently helping children with their reading."

"Or we`ve got Catherine Smith, former head of marketing at RBS, consultant with KPMG. But she`s a member of the Executive Board, BBC Scotland. So a bit of a coincidence."

"And we`ll bring in the last one here. I think this lady is Norwegian. She`s had a Master`s Degree in Comparative Literature but she started her marketing career in Google EMEA headquaters in Dublin."

"When I look at these people, they`re not just there to help young children with their reading skills. This is bringing in a whole layer of political and cultural change. This is the sort of stuff that George Soros would back...."

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