Academic Teaching, by Maja Elmgren and Ann-Sofie Henriksson – Book Review

Lincoln Green

Image © Kobebigs

Elmgren and Henriksson’s book, translated from Swedish, provides the reader with an extremely broad overview of key concepts in the theory and practice of education.  Although directed towards teachers in Higher Education it will prove of great relevance to all those involved in post-compulsory education.  The rapid development of HE courses in Further Education colleges through a franchising arrangement or involvement in a Consortium, with new teachers required to develop higher level knowledge, skills and approaches in their students will make this book a particularly relevant vocational tool.

The broad sweep of the book’s content is for the most part rooted in research and the reader is directed towards original source material in texts and journals.  The authors acknowledge however that teachers often ignore evidence based practice, even in an environment where specialist research is a primary function of the organisation.  Those working in the sector would perhaps claim workload as a constraint against wider reading and extended professional development.  This is unfortunate as the book contains much inspirational material which the reader will wish to explore further.  Read more of this post

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Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Slobodan Dimitrov

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope, first published in 1992, was written “in rage and love”, passionate in its denunciation of social wrongs and in its assertion of the power of education to release the truth.  The book works at both inspirational and practical levels, Freire believing that hope must be secured in practice, in action.  In his own life, Freire embodied this integration of love and need for securing social change.  His thinking and commitment to the best in humanity informed his engagement in the world.  Pedagogy of Hope illuminates Freire’s earlier publications including Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) which with sales of over one million copies has had extraordinary impact throughout the world in its analysis of socially and personally transformative education.  Read more of this post

The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro) – a Review

Lincoln Green 23 Jan 2014

Image © Raidarmax

[The review contains plot details]

The film was released in 2011, its title connected more with the hugely popular song of that name first released in the 1960s and sung by Pascal Danel than with the Henry King’s 1952 film based on the Hemingway short story.  Directed and part written by Robert Guédiguian, recently described by the chair of a local Film Club as “a French Ken Loach”, left-wing sympathies are apparent as the film explores the dilemmas of a mature trade union activist when his principles are confronted by his emotional responses to a violent robbery.

The film begins with Michel (played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin) organising a lottery of dock workers in Marseille which determines those who will be made redundant.  He himself is one of the twenty selected and one of the film’s minor themes is an exploration of “an old man coming to terms with his weaknesses” at the end of full-time employment when there is a profound change in the role which has determined his life to date.  In his intimations of mortality he effectively sees the snows within which Gregory Peck’s earlier character reviews his life, and which the song claims “will make you a white coat, where soon you can sleep”.  Read more of this post

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, a Review

Lincoln Green  

Image © Weglinde

Simon Reeve’s series of 4 programmes broadcast on BBC2 attempts to explain why pilgrimages take place, particularly in an age of scientific rationalism and relative medical competence.  The presenter is deeply affected by the physical beauty of the holy sites, the architecture of our great buildings and the hospitality of pilgrims and their supporters.  Nevertheless the programme frequently appears little more than a travelogue broken up with interviews and meetings with kind and courteous eccentrics.  Despite the superficial treatment of its content the programme does however introduce a number of issues and helps the viewer to understand why huge numbers of people of many faiths have felt the need to participate in what could be potentially a very onerous and life-changing journey. Read more of this post

Homer, A Beginner’s Guide by Elton Barker and Joel Christensen – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © User Bibi Saint – Pol

The first page of Barker and Christensen’s book leaves no doubt as to its relevance to readers of Left Central.  They dedicate their work to those “everywhere suffering many pains because of the incompetency and greed of their leaders and the capriciousness of the ‘gods’ who rule our world.”  At another level the book confirms the importance of reading widely, deeply and with attention.

Homer’s stories, “The Iliad” which recounts events in the Trojan War caused by the elopement of Helen with Paris, and “The Odyssey” which describes the return of Odysseus home from that war, are over 29 centuries old and were captured in text shortly after the development of writing at the point when oral story-telling began to decline.  Despite their age the stories are rich in associations and fulfil Italo Calvino’s characteristics of the classic book:  “which comes to us trailing behind the traces it has left in the cultures through which it has passed” and “with each rereading offers as much a sense of discovery as the first reading”.   Barker and Christensen’s guide is singularly well placed to confirm such characteristics. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews 2: Among Believers

Lincoln Green

Image © Michael D Beckwith

Holidaymakers towing caravans towards the Lincolnshire coast via the A46 will notice Lincoln Cathedral at a high point to their right.  The image, in bright sunlight or possibly glowing in the dark, will mean different things to different people.  Simon Schama’s account of the Jews in medieval times under Christian and Islamic rule, first broadcast on BBC Two on 8 Sep 2013, will change perceptions of that building and its art in a manner suggested by Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995).  In this earlier work he discusses the interrelationships between culture and landscape, how the one informs and is a reinterpretation of the other. The TV programme, which is still available on BBC iPlayer, promotes reinterpretation through Schama’s identification of the less emphasised and indeed misrepresented impact of Jews on life in medieval Lincoln. Read more of this post

Planet Earth by John Gribbin, Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © THEBLITZI

An image of earth from space courtesy of NASA illustrates the cover of John Gribbin’s highly readable summary of how our planet originated and has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years.  The image is reminiscent of the iconic 1968 “Earthrise” photograph taken from the Apollo 8 mission, the first view of earth from deep space and a disorienting perspective which reminds us of our place within the universe.  The book is particularly relevant for helping us to live in a manner which consciously apprehends the impact of our activities on our environment and thoughtful reading may help us to dissolve those arbitrary categorisations which separate self from surroundings.  At a time when the British Geological Survey on Shale Gas Fracking, the Bowland Shale Gas Study, has just been released, and when there is considerable discussion regarding the potential exploitation of this resource and its social and environmental impact, the book provides a contextual backdrop which reminds us of the deep intimacy of our integration with our planet.  Its particles and energy comprise our physical being and flow through us.  We are indeed stardust, formed from the ashes of a supernova over distances, volumes and time scales which are barely comprehensible.  The book is of considerable assistance in promoting such comprehension. Read more of this post

Jesus in the Qur’ān by Geoffrey Parrinder, Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Handyhuy

Islam has been described as the religion of the point.  Muslims worship the One God.  The key text of Islam is one book, the Qur’ān.  Prayer is physically directed towards one place, the Kaʽba or Sacred House of the most sacred mosque of Mecca.  Muhammad is the last prophet sent by God.

Despite image making being associated with idolatry and hence proscribed, it is striking that the historian Ahmad al-Azraqi recorded in 858 that when the Prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630 and supervised destruction of its idols, he placed his hands over a painting of Jesus and Mary and said “wash out all except what is below my hands”.  The relationships between Islam and Christianity, between Qur’ānic and Biblical versions of the life of Jesus, are complex.  Parrinder’s short book of 187 pages is rich in content and a highly rewarding analysis of these relationships.  He applies close referencing of both Qur’ānic and Biblical texts to his study, examining subtleties of translation and interpretation by both Islamic and non-Islamic scholars, and underscores his work with perceptive awareness of historical and social influences on how these texts became definitive.  The book is inclusive and highly accessible to the interested reader, whether or not from a religious background. Read more of this post