Monthly Archives: May 2014

Are Teachers Stifling World Progress?

ADunce In general teachers, the world over, instruct children in the same way and that is by repetition.  The ability to remember verbatim a string of dates (or data) is rewarded and praised. Those that do not conform to this application of teaching are, however, chastised and marginalised.

The end result is that the conformists get pushed up the system into university and into the plum jobs in society and those that ‘don’t fit’ the system fall by the wayside.  They are left to make they own way in the world through living off their wits and hard endeavour.

Consider this – was it more important to know that the Battle of Hastings was 1066 (would it matter now if had been 64, 65, 67 or 68?) or is it more important to know the socio-political impact of the battle?  The crux of my concern is that those four numbers would be marked as irrevocably wrong in exam answers and could constitute failure.  A grasp of the Norman impact on England does not enter the equation.

Those of us old enough to remember pre-electronic calculator days had to learn the times tables by rote.  No bad thing in reality.  But four times six pops into our head immediately as 24, four times six PLUS five requires a little thought but not if you think laterally as five times six (table pops into the head as 30) minus one equals 29.

It is only by the time young people arrive at university are they encouraged to question everything.  It is sometimes a struggle for students to do this given the conditioning in their early years.

The sad thing is that at that point a lot of the free-thinkers are out of the educational system because they did not conform.  I’m not saying that some of them may not have the ability to progress further.  There are potentially quite a few that could.  Of those the lateral thinkers could benefit from further education and afterwards apply that lateral ability to advancing the world’s future.

The brave and the bold people prepared to take risks and think ‘outside the box’ could achieve something that the mass produced mind may not.

I could list a whole pile of self made men and women who were failed by the education system but went on to become very influential in pushing the boundaries of the world forward but I won’t.  I will leave you with the figure of Sir Richard Branson, who is dyslexic.  This condition was not considered by his schools and his academic ability was considered poor.  The man is now pioneering space tourism amongst numerous other things.

How many other worthy people has the education system cast aside because they did not fit that mould?  And only because they could or would not spend wasted hours drumming facts into their heads and regurgitating them in class the next day.

Our teachers, who in the majority, go to school, go to university and then back to school really need to get some life experience.  It would be better for all concerned if they found out what the world is like, what it really needs and formulated ways to educate for the future before they perpetuate the erroneous cycle of stifling our progress.

Is Flying Still Safe? Update with Germanwings report


The report released today on the Germanwings incident recommends that the confidentiality of doctors reports  on pilots be relaxed and information should be made available to airlines.


Statistically it has been proven many times that you are more likely to come to harm travelling to or from an airport than in the air, but is flying still safe?  Many years ago I flew as a private pilot and in one particular year in the early ‘90s there were 19 fatalities in the UK involving private flights.  To put this into perspective more people died falling out of train doors and almost 6000 died in road accidents.  It is a tribute to the safety efforts in the UK and that of car manufacturers that road deaths has steadily decreased to around 2000 in 2013 despite there being more vehicles on the road than ever before.

Recent events, like the missing Malaysian airliner, MH370, bring the focus of the public’s mind to airline safety.  Now, I’m not going to get embroiled in conspiracy theories here.

Refer to my earlier post on conspiracy (Click here).

No one knows what happened to that plane but I feel sure that the answer will be found and the cause of the loss identified.  As in the case of the Air France flight it took years to find the plane in the depths of the Atlantic but find it they did and the reasons for the crash exposed.

Given the staggering amounts of flights every day flying safety is unquestionably good.  But are we doing all we can to increase that safety?

It is now perfectly possible for an airliner to taxi on to the runway in Heathrow, London and with the electronics engaged it can fly to and land in Sydney, Australia without the pilots ever touching the controls.  In a lot of cases the trouble only starts when a human intervenes and takes over control.

So if a human takes over, what procedures are in place to prove his or hers fitness to fly? A recent enquiry into airlines showed that only some airlines carried out mental stability checks when taking on new pilots. Regular health checks are rigorously carried out on all pilots, private or commercial.  Whether mental health continued during their career, checks were very rarely carried by a few airlines and not ever by the majority of airlines.

Why should we worry about pilot mental health?

There have been cases where pilot suicides have been proved to be the cause of an airliner crash.  Safety methods introduced to protect the cockpit from terrorist invasion means that one pilot can take the opportunity of shutting the other pilot out and plunging the plane to its doom.

The life of an airline pilot cannot be as glamorous as the general populace imagines. There are long haul flights where boredom must be a big factor particularly if the aircraft is flying itself. Add to that all the other stresses that life can throw in, marital problems, depression and death in the family or whatever that we can all be subjected to and the problems can be increased.

Very recently the passengers on a flight over Pakistan were startled by a fist fight, between a pilot and a flight attendant, which started in the cockpit and spilled over into the galley.

Airline safety is taken very seriously with practically all accidents and near misses being thoroughly investigated but corrective measures are slow to be implemented.  The reason for this is that any proposed change must be rigorously tested to ensure that it does not introduce another unforeseen unsafe condition.  Then it has to be transmitted to all the airlines in the world before implementation.

The question of aircrew mental stability, however, can be dealt with fairly easily.  Most modern companies employ psychological profiling during recruitment and there is a wealth of procedures and tests readily available.  These could be introduced into recruitment procedures combined with normal health checks.  The same procedures could be used during regular health checks.

During my career I trained oil and gas installation crews to deal with major emergencies and their ability to cope with stressful situations.  There is no reason why this cannot be carried out in the aviation industry.