Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Yes! Everyday, they sort mail, deliver bills, brochures, and the odd postcard (becoming rarer) pretty reliably to the right door.
To reduce postmen to such a role however is to do them a disservice. Postmen have also often played an important but unheralded part in bringing human presence to the needy and lonely in our communities. Pat your postman on the back; his days as an unpaid social worker are sorely counted.
In this age of climactic economic crisis, politicians have grand plans for our faithful posties. . .They are now also to become...ECO-WARRIORS! They are on the front-line fighting for our planet's survival. Thanks to the latest techological advances their rounds are now becoming electric.
Out the noisy, smelly, polluting combusion engine, in the shiny yellow rechargeable minivans!
This is what first struck me when I came across the shiny yellow rechargeable minivan parked on my way to attending the conference Cyberlangues at the cinema in Marly le Roi last week. So impressed was I, I forgot my haste and I took three photographs of the thing. This aroused the curiosity of the proud postman pilot of the aforesaid vehicule.
"Zero C02 emmissions! La Poste engages itself to provide a responsible mail service!" The slogan on the side of the van boomed out, accompanied by the World Wild Life Fund panda, in logo.
We started talking, Marcel and I, (we shall call him Marcel) about his new van.
"It's great fun to drive", he said, "Would be ideal for an older postman, or on certain rounds. But for me," he added, "I prefer a bicycle."
I looked perplexed, wasn't this yellow dream progress?
"You see with a bicycle, I can go right up to the house, put the letters in the box and have time to chat with the people. Oh yes, and it used to keep me fit! With the minivan, I have to get out of the van, open the back, get a basket, walk to the house, post the letter, go back to the van, put the basket in the box, close the back, get into the driver's seat put my foot down on the accelerator and rush to the next stop. It's slower than it used to be on a bike. I don't have time for people any more..."
"The managment only measure the number of letters I post and how fast I do my round...."
Do teachers deliver?
Well, children are sorted into categories, their letters are checked and they are pretty reliably sent to the appropriate destination. Children who are difficult to put into boxes get left in sorting offices or are sometimes lost in transit.
To reduce teachers to this role, is maybe alienating but it makes economic sense. After all the public expects a reliable education service which will take their children to the right employer's door. Global competition, means that we are obliged to make sure that our rounds are up to standard.
Shanghai standards are the criteria by which our universities, for example, are to be assessed. Proud is the university president who can claim his entrance into this universally accepted top-performing league! Such educational institutions win a glowing stamp of approval.
It has come to our notice that French education is lagging behind the UK in the integration of shiny modern technology into the classroom. The measure of this lag? The number of Interactive White Boards in classrooms. These are shiny, impressive, expensive (now out of date) replacements for the outdated chalk and blackboard . Catching up with the AngloSaxons is surely a must.
Progress indeed for some!
Certain universities currently pride themselves on their "personalised learning" allowed by sophisticated "Virtual Learning Environments". Students follow cleverly defined, scientifically evaluated routes towards their final stamp of approval. I myself was able to share in the communicative satisfaction of a colleague at Cyberlangues who described this modern process. She glowed with her university's recognition at Shanghai.
Didn't we feel impressed!
Elsewhere, thanks to political demand, iPads are flooding into the Corrèze, these new saviours of National Education, are to be touchy/feely digital satchels for new flashy digital textbooks. Brilliant, innovative, brave measures...
Do politicians deliver?
By which criteria should we evaluate their progress? Are we only interested in speed, economic efficiency, competitive performance? Wouldn't individual postmen on their rounds, or particular teachers in their specific classrooms not be better judges of the tools necessary to better perform their difficult tasks? Shouldn't we be taking the time to stop, to look, to listen, and to talk, together?
How should we evaluate technological progress?
Do politicians deliver (what we want)?
Are we going to continue to allow politicians and people to stamp on the lonely, the needy, on the misdirected on their way to career success?
Shouldn't we be educating our children, to analyse 'progress' more critically? (I am just asking questions. I am just a teacher.)
This post arrived to your screen only thanks to Marcel, the critical postman.