Keith Rossiter: Three cheers for a city of learning
IT IS not often that you will read about Pakistan on this page, so make the most of it.
This week’s attack by Islamic madmen on a 14-year-old schoolgirl has left me so enraged that I cannot write about anything else.
Malala Yousafzai is recovering after being shot in the lawless Swat Valley near the Afghan border.
She found fame through her determination to continue going to school after the Taleban captured her homeland and closed down many girls’ schools.
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On Tuesday a gunman put a bullet in her head as she walked home from school. She may, or may not, survive. The Taleban say they shot her because she “promoted secularism”, and warned that they would target her again.
Horrific as it is, it’s not only the attack on a child that leaves me gibbering with fury – it’s the attack on education itself.
The Taleban are on the extreme fringe of the anti-education brigade. but they are not alone.
In the Third World, poor people generally know the value of education – and dictators know the value of suppressing it.
One of the proudest times of my life was teaching English to black adults in an illegal night school in South Africa.
Under the Apartheid regime it was illegal to educate black people outside of the State-approved and State-sponsored system.
In Britain there is no need for the Government to suppress education, even if it wanted to: with many children you practically have to hold a gun to their heads to force them into school.
Recently one of Plymouth’s more successful sons told me about his childhood in the city. As the youngest in a large family, he was forced to do his homework in secret – his older brothers beat him up if they caught him studying.
Fortunately for him, he was “discovered” when he took the 11-plus and went on to grammar school where his intelligence flowered.
SO IT was with pleasure that I listened to Professor Andrew Brewerton’s plans for a “free school” linked to Plymouth College of Art.
The college, where Prof Brewerton is principal, intends to start an all-through school, taking children from the age of four right up to masters level (if they wish).
Acorns take a long time to become oaks, and not all of them make it. Only time will tell if Prof Brewerton’s plan lives up to its initial sketches, but I’m putting my money on it. I’d like to think that in a hundred years artistic parents will be competing to send their children to the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.
IT’S fashionable in Plymouth to complain that we’re all doomed. Perhaps in the 1980s, when Devonport Dockyard’s decline was creating a painful vacuum, that might have felt true.
Today Plymouth University and the College of Art have stepped into the breach and they are fast becoming what Plymouth is really about.
If you want a cause to rally behind, make it education.
In the mid-19th century the tiny Welsh town of Aberystwyth (pop now: 15,935) built a university college – by public subscription.
The University College Wales, Aberystwyth, became a founder member of the University of Wales 30 years later.
Plymouth has its university, art college, Marjons, and City College delivering excellent vocational training.
The one thing we’re missing is a dedicated school of performing arts, a centre of excellence for music, drama and dance. That would be a cause to sing about.
As Benjamin Franklin said 300 years ago: An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
POLITICIANS and some journalists need an education in simple maths.
Opponents of the Government routinely attack plans to cut the top rate of tax as “giving millionaires a £40,000 tax rebate”.
You could be a millionaire and not even earn £40,000 a year, so that would be a truly remarkable tax break.
In fact, the change applies to people earning £1million-plus a year, for which you’d need to win a big Euromillions rollover, and not just the Lotto.
The rich should be forced to pull their weight, now more than ever. But the quickest way to undermine your own argument is to get the facts wrong.
COUNCIL leader Tudor Evans takes yet another pop at The Herald on Twitter this week. He tweets:
“Local paper asks me to be postbox for letters for airport campaign, then prints letter slagging me off for doing so! Stay classy, Brest Rd!”
What is he suggesting? That we should censor our readers’ letters? That might be considered “classy” in Basra or Beijing, but it certainly is not in Brest Road.