Dunkirk-The Great Escape 70 years ago

May 29, 2010

The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.               Sir Winston Churchill Hansard, June 10, 1941

World War II veterans have begun a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

It’s just about the last hurrah for the 3% of evacuees still alive. Fifty small vessels have just headed to France to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Dynamo in a poignant pilgrimage, as old soldiers remember the ‘miracle of deliverance’  when 338,000 British and French troops were snatched off the beach at Dunkirk under the noses of the stalled German blitzkrieg by a flotilla of little ships which sailed from Kent to the French coast, often several times, between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

 On the day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, Germany had invaded Holland and Belgium. Churchill was not his keeper’s  brother:  “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” 

The Phoney War had finished abruptly; this was the real thing. Unlike the stationary war a generation earlier, which bogged down in the trenches of France, Hitler’s powerful Panzer divisions had quickly punched their way through to the French coast.  On May 26  the order for total evacuation was given.

 For the retreating British Expeditionary Force and its allies, Dunkirk was the only practical point of departure, but its beach was on a shallow slope. No large boat could get near to the actual beaches  so smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. 800 of these legendary “little ships” crossed the channel, the smallest being the 18 foot open fishing boat Tamzine.

Despite attacks from German fighter and bomber planes the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler but it never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war.

One of the reasons put forward for Hitler not ordering an attack was that he believed the BEF debacle would cause Britain to come to peace terms with Hitler and join in fighting the real foe, Communist Russia.

Dunkirk was certainly a humiliation for British forces but thousands of people cheered the bedraggled returnees and  belated preparations were going on apace for the expected invasion. The Battle of Britain was about to begin.  New Zealander Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park  was to be in tactical command during the most significant air battles in the European theatre in the Second World War.

The “Spirit of Dunkirk” became a powerful  morale booster at a critical historical juncture. The episode, which relied on the “quiet heroism” of many civilian volunteers, was later described by Winston Churchill as “A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity.”

 That famous “Dunkirk spirit” has entered Britain’s national mythology and has often been invoked since.  A current newspaper poll is asking whether Britons, potentially at least, still have the Dunkirk spirit in the different society of 21st-century Britain, though victory in something really important like the Football World Cup is probably more top of  the collective mind.

 At least they have finally sorted a permanent memorial to the long unsung Kiwi hero of the war in the air. Sir Keith Park commanded Number 11 Group of Fighter Command, responsible for the defence of London and the South East of England. These were the squadrons which bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain.

The failure to defeat the RAF in 1940 is seen as Germany’s first major setback in the Second World War, culminating in the abandonment of the planned invasion of Britain, though the missed opportunity of Dunkirk was a huge factor and Hitler’s eyes had already turned eastwards:  to Russia, with hate.

The belated memorial statue of Sir Keith, who the Germans rather than the British called, at the time, “the Defender of London” was removed from Trafalgar Square earlier this month. A permanent bronze statue will be unveiled in Waterloo Place on Battle of Britain Day, 15 September 2010.

 #Lyall Lukey 29 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS   Pr-print    Vid-Video  Mus-Music   Mm-multimedia

 News for Dunkirk 70th anniversary Pr

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/dunkirk.htm Mm

Winston Churchill and the Dunkirk Evacuation  Vid 2.22

Dramatic Dunkirk evacuation anniversary Vid 1.04

The German Blunder At Dunkirk (Part 1/3) Vid 7.03

Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE  Vincent Orange   Pr

Gracie Fields – Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye) Mus 3.01

 

 

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Kiri and Susan–Kirioke v Karaoke

May 23, 2010

 “Let’s get off that subject, move on. I’m doing something classical, not whizz-bang. Whizz-bang disappears. It goes ‘whizz’ and then ‘bang’.” Kiri Te Kanawa

Boyle’s law states that for a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

Both the temperature and the volume started to rise during the recent Radio Times interview with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa*. The Kiwi-born Kiri was quizzed about Scottish-born Susan Boyle’s talent quest version of I Dreamed A Dream* from Les Misérables, which she also sings.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so misérable but it is easy to understand her chagrin as a consummate, trained professional being mentioned in the same breath as a self-taught amateur.

It was as if the Queen-at least HRH played by Helen Mirren-had been asked to comment on the royal qualities of Betty Driver as the nonagenarian barmaid Betty Williams in Coronation Street.

Dame Kiri, who is holding a competition on British station Radio 2 with qualified judges to discover new operatic talent, said that she loathed the frenzy which surrounds popular reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.

The show’s producers are certainly adept at creating a viewing feeding frenzy. The 2009 Susan Boyle item* was carefully stage managed down to the last bucket of mock astonishment from the stage crew and judges and cleverly manipulated and amplified in both the old and new media*. 

Different uploads of the same item have had a total of well over 150,000,000 views on YouTube so far and climbing, compared with 204,104 views for the Te Kanawa rendition*.

 Of course, the two have to be seen through quite different lenses-the professional and the amateur. Kiri developed her remarkable talents with the help of voice training by Sister Mary Leo.  She has built up a wide ranging and multilingual performance repertoire from the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi, George Frideric Handel and Giacomo Puccini.

 Susan’s commendable DIY amateur efforts, with a hair brush standing in for a mike and her raw talent and passion for singing, have been on a different trajectory  outside the discipline of the opera or show stage, but many obviously enjoy the heart-warming  results, albeit in small doses.

 Kiri apparently doesn’t think much of Hayley Westenra either-nor of Andrea Bocelli* At an earlier interview she didn’t quite label the popular blind tenor Bantam of the Opera but she came pretty close.

Before she was well known and not long after she had been an occasional busker at the Arts Centre in Christchurch Hayley sang one of Andrea’s well-known recordings at our SmartNet 2000 event in Christchurch. This was more kiwioke than karoeke, with Hayley singing to a soundtrack, but it was a knock out, especially in the context within which it was sung.

 The theme song of the five annual two-day SmartNet workshops and Working SmartNet expos, held in the Christchurch  Convention Centre between 1997 and 2001, was the theme from “2001 A Space Odyssey” -Thus Spake Zarathustra. It played behind  the opening video sequence and theme for the year. In 2000, as the theme finished and before the official opening began, MC Jim Hopkins jumped off the stage, to be followed by the video cameras in the same kind of premeditated spontaneity as in the Susan Boyle item.

Jim then interviewed some young students who were helping to run SmartNet about their career plans after they finished university.  Virtually all of them talked about heading of overseas. Jim’s premeditated punchline, as Hayley Westenra came out from the wings singing the number made popular by Bocelli, was “if New Zealand companies don’t become more innovative, pick up on the skills of new graduates and use new technology, it will be Time to Say Goodbye to too many of our young people.”

 Since then, the export of young and growing poppies has continued apace with just a small dent in the last two years because of the global recession.

 A decade later Kiri and Susan are level pegging in Stuff’s Who would win in a fight? poll. It is absolutely great for amateurs to suddenly be given a ready made live, television and on-line audience  and maybe to even develop a new career of sorts. Good luck to them, but no one would seriously imagine that a democratic vote is an arbiter of musical standards.

Meanwhile, despite media reports to the contrary, Dame Kiri is not retiring. As the Radio Times interview demonstrated she’s neither the shy nor the retiring type and at age 66 she still has a lot to offer both via her own concert if not opera performances and via her work to nurture genuine new operatic talent.

It’s not time to say goodbye yet.

  #Lyall Lukey 23 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

      *BLINKS

Te Kanawa blasts Susan Boyle | Stuff.co.nz  

Video Clips:

Susan Boyle – Singer – Britains Got Talent 2009  93,102,839 views

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – “I Dreamed a Dream” – “Les Misérable …  204,104 views

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdxRmcgsKDQ&feature=related Hayley Westenra and Andrea Bocelli 7,483,066 views

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ90HZ_TDxI  Time to say goodbye  Hayley Westenra,  SmartNet 2000 

https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/?s=Susan+Boyle  2009 blog post

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngNR6y3URY  Lift off spoke Zarathustra


Teachers Pay-Thinking outside the soapbox

May 16, 2010

“… the committee considers that teaching is a profession and that teachers are, and should be encouraged to regard themselves as, members of a profession.”  1978 Marshall Report 

“We have a mandate from… teachers who have said they want us to look at planning for industrial action if faced with the prospect of nothing but clawbacks from the Government….”    Kate Gainsford, PPTA President   Press 15 May 2010 

“Industrial action”? In the post-industrial 21st Century?

By largely middle-class  tertiary educated people who have climbed their way out of whatever blue collar lifestyles their families may once  have  had?

By an occupational group whose salaries have done quite well  (not before time) in the last decade, thank you, and which hasn’t  suffered a loss of  income over the last three years  through reduced overtime or the casualisation or loss of their jobs, unlike many of the parents of the children they teach?  (Unless, of course,  they also taught one  of the Community Education courses now canned).

According to international studies such as PISA, New Zealand has one of the most effective education systems in the world.  The  albeit graying cohort of professional teachers  has  played a large part in this success.  But one has to ask the question: is this comparative success in spite of,  or because of,  the rhetoric of the self-styled teacher unions?  

Before negotiations begin tomorrow on secondary school salaries the PPTA’s President Kate Gainsford has predictably announced that a strike plan was already being worked on.  While the last time secondary teachers went on strike was in 2001/2 during a 16 month battle with the government, which led to three one day strikes,  there have been several strike threats in the meantime, for example over salaries in 2007  and now once again over remuneration.

The PPTA is employing the same political reflexes and flexing of muscles rather than minds that it used in the almost decade of annual surpluses inherited by the last Labour government. But the economic context has changed dramatically. There may be some silver clouds on the horizon as well as gold in the Coromandel, but neither can be gainsaid. The budget larder is pretty bare, as the patient English has been pointing out for some time,  in a  futile effort to dampen public sector salary expectations.

Collective pay negotiations are the raison d’etre of the PPTA and the reason why the advocates of bulk funding in the nineties were stomped on in the resulting  political ruckus*.  But if all is fair in love, war and negotiations it may also be counterproductive in the long run if it damages professional credibility.

In 1978, the year of the Marshall Report, I left teaching after a 12 year secondary classroom career, interspersed with secondments for teacher recruiting and a teaching fellowship at UC, partly because the PPTA, of which I had been an active member, was about to embark on its first strikes.  

In the eighties the Association soon managed to rival the Cooks and Stewards Union for the predictability and unpopularity of its threatened or actual strikes and stopwork meetings-not that they were ever strikes in the classic long-term absence from the chalkface sense. It was three strikes but they were never really out.

As somebody who, as a student working in the freezing works from 1959 to 1963,  had watched the standover tactics of the freezing workers union (“all those in favour say ‘aye’,  scabs ‘no'”), and who had written a history thesis in 1965 on Industrial Conflict in New Zealand 1951 to 1961, I thought teachers should use more articulate ways of engaging the public and winning the public relations war  than open votes on “industrial action” which were wide open to group think and intimidation. I still do.

Anachronistic language and inappropriate political behaviour devalues the professional standing of teachers and turns off many natural allies, especially if it is irrelevant rhetoric that  the real industrial unions themselves no longer employ. Some of it would have made real industrial battlers like John A. Lee, on a real soap box, turn pink with embarrassment. 

The EMPU, New Zealand’s largest private sector union, understands that its success as a union is inextricably linked to the performance of the enterprise and the whole economy. Its leaders have to take a whole systems view and be aware of the hard realities of a volatile economy, not just look at one side of the equation out of context. To be credible  the EMPU can’t afford to act like an emu- or emulate the ostrich.

By way of contrast, the teachers’ unions are running some  ineffective we’ll-bring-our-own-crowd protests over issues like National Standards which address the converted, rather than the issues, and miss the opportunity for engaging the wider public in an informed debate.  These campaigns miss the bus entirely and alienate popular opinion.

In Finland there has been a revaluation of the public’s estimation of the teaching profession, brought about by tougher entry standards and a cross-the sectors consensus of the role of education and training in a fast evolving society. This forward-looking approach is demonstrated by the way Nokia has shifted its focus from pulp and paper to cellphone communication technology.

The Nokia knock-on effect runs deeply through other parts of the Finnish economy and is well understood by Finland’s education leaders who would be hard pushed to understand the strategy and tactics employed by education union leaders in New Zealand in their approach to the triennial negotiation ritual.

But then, as the negotiating spoof below shows*, subtlety is not a prerequisite to getting into the negotiating team of either side in any negotiation nor a skill necessarily employed in the actual negotiations.

At least this year the teacher pay talks will feature an interesting contest between performance and skills based elements which may introduce a long overdue meritocratic dimension to counter pockets of entrenched mediocrity.

 #Lyall Lukey 16 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 *Blinks

 http://www.teachersmatter.org.nz/ 

 http://youtube.com/watch?v=WMl4kYmkx94   Puppets not Muppets: good faith negotiation?

 http://youtube.com/watch?v=85NF9NnHRBo&feature=related  The Top 10 Moves of Ruckus


TV or not TV: is that the question?

May 9, 2010

 “My daughter likes playing with my iPhone, but this was her very first encounter with an iPad. As you’ll see, she took right to it.”  Todd Lappin  7 April 2010

People concerned with the passive exposure of under two-year olds  to television viewing, like Estelle Irving, keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Council’s conference in Christchurch last week*, may be interested in how not much older children interact with other electronic devices, if given half a chance but no prior instruction.

Below are links to two videos recorded a decade apart, from different countries and socio- economic groups, demonstrating the playful learning virtuosity of young children.

The first features NIIT, an Indian educational-software company, whose headquarters in Delhi borders the Klkaji slum. The two worlds are divided by a simple wall. Ten years ago, Sugata Mitra came up with the idea of putting a computer in a hole in the wall with an Internet connection*. It soon became clear that children, who had never seen, let alone operated, a computer, could work out by themselves how to surf the Net and open up whole new worlds. 

The second shows the first iPad encounter of a 2.5 year old girl* already familiar with the iPhone. Some viewers who posted comments on YouTube were sceptical that it was her very first iPad experience, but she’d learnt the touch-screen tricks on the smaller device.

I’ve had my own experience of how pre-schoolers regard the iPhone as a fascinating plaything to touch, push buttons and get instant feedback. For eighteen months my now 4 year old granddaughter has developed deft tactile skills by handling my  daughter’s -and more recently my- iPhone, taking photos and opening interesting applications with a high visual component.

It’s a sign of the times that the Apple of her eye is somewhat different than the apple of mine. The child’s play game of Touch is a whole new educational  ballgame.

 #Lyall Lukey 9 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz 

*BLINKS

Parents get TV advice – life-style | Stuff.co.nz

http://youtube.com/watch?v=fSoWSLNMX3E   Indian children discover the Internet 2000

A 2.5 Year-Old Has A First Encounter with An iPad  2010


Slumdog Paupers-One child at a time

May 8, 2010

 Such a beautiful, inspiring woman and a great leader. I especially liked what she said…about being the one who is transformed, by the children… I’ve come to believe that we can learn just as much from children, they are our teachers too. And sometimes it’s more so a matter of relearning what is vitally critical to our hearts and happiness, that we’ve lost under the layers we’ve gathered as we’ve grown up.” Sussana-Cole King

It wouldn’t do for the policy analysts closer to home, but educating the poor is more than just a numbers game according to the remarkable Shukla Bose, the founder and head of the Parikrma Humanity Foundation, an Indian not-for-profit organisation which runs four extraordinary schools for poor children.

On TEDTalk* she tells the inspiring story of her groundbreaking Foundation, which brings hope to many families in some of India’s slums by looking beyond the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.

This is quite a different way of ensuring that no child is left behind-by lifting their eyes to the universe of opportunities revealed by learning.

#Lyall Lukey 8 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS

http://www.ted.com/talks/shukla_bose_teaching_one_child_at_a_time.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2010-03-31 

Full bio and more links Shukla Bose

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtZKwp6cjd4  Nat King Cole Stardust