The Webmag has been going for seven and a half years now, and we must have published well over a thousand articles. Who refers to the musty piles of back numbers of hard copy magazines?
The Webmag articles are all there at the touch of the Back Issues button. Modern technology makes them available. But unless you are using a search engine, you might not think of rooting through our past issues, and if you are a new reader, you certainly won’t remember the pieces when they came out.
There are some really good articles published years ago but still worth looking at, and this column pinpoints a few of them.
We were ahead of everyone with this issue.
In the In Residence column Keith White was writing about the excessive interventions of inspectors in trying to reduce risk by banning rope ladders and swings. As a child he had climbed a tree right to the top, and we hope that he did not point this out to the inspectors, or they might have required Keith to have all these dangerous objects chopped down.
Honor Trey had a parallel piece called Angles on Risk, arguing that children needed to learn about coping with risk, and that there were real dangers in failing to expose them to a degree of risk.
As we write, this problem is at last being acknowledged by politicians and it is becoming a theme in the media. Now that we have brought up a generation of children who have been escorted or driven to school throughout their childhoods, the need for children to do dangerous and exciting things is being recognised. The long-term effect of this cocooning remains to be seen.
Hard to pick a single item to recommend. Keith White was commending a philosophical criticism of the west’s approach to education – Endangered, by Johann Christian Arnold. Beverley Smith was encouraging good practice in nurseries in getting little children interested in reading. Gus Greene was saying what he thought about teachers. There was a book review of Dame Gillian Wagner’s biography of Thomas Coram, Gent.
Our longest piece, called The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, was about the campaign to stop smacking, considering why professionals’ views were ignored by politicians and why it was taking so long to change policy. Policies have changed since then, but the question of the low status of the child care profession remains, despite Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green’s impact.
The outstanding piece in this issue was Keith White’s account of the intertwining of his family life and that of the Mill Grove community, recording the views of some of the people affected by the impending death of his mother (As she lay dying). It is moving and sensitive writing, indicating the complexities of human experiences and offers a sharp contrast with the dismissive shallowness of much teaching and thinking about the nature of residential communities.