February

Even if you aren’t into spirits and myths this months advice will strike a truth and maybe inspire you to actually meet those New Years resolutions you’ve already considered abandoning. ūüėÄ

February

For most of us, February means shorter days, longer nights, and colder temperatures. Our ancestors coped with the dead of winter by hunkering down by the fire and conserving energy. They got up later, went to bed earlier, stayed home with the clan or family, and generally did less. Unfortunately, our modern society doesn’t lend itself to this approach, and we often end up pushing ourselves too hard during a season when energy is hard to come by.February

February is a good time to turn inward. Hibernation isn’t just for bears. People can benefit from slowing down and following the natural inclination of the season toward quiet and introspection. You can start to plan the year ahead, even though it is to early to actively do much with your plans (that can wait for spring). If you write – whether it is journaling, poetry, short stories, or books – now is the prim time to reconnect with your muse. Pain, play music, or have small intimate gatherings instead of big parties. Or just spend time by yourself, rediscovering your inner witch.

And don’t forget to use this quiet time to get in touch with your spiritual side. In the silence, you may be able to make a deeper connection with deity that you can during the hustle and bustle of the warmer months. Sit by your altar and speak from the heart and listen for the answer that comes out of the dark. Slow down and sit tight – spring will come soon enough.

Hibernation Spell

Darkness falls and nights grow cold

And like the Witches of old

I turn my speed from fast to slow

And bank the fires down to low

Looking inward in the night

I seek that sacred shining light

Ancient God and Goddess wise

Watching down from moonlit skies

Quiet home and quiet heart

I’ll hibernate ’till springs new start

Content to be at peace and warm

Entranced by winter’s slower charm

Stone: Amethyst

Flowers: violet, primrose

Animal: Otter

Ruling planet: Uranus

Deborah Blake, Llewellyn’s Witches Callender 2013

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The Title: ‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’

‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’i (Sister to the Independent)

At first I thought this was one of those wacky surveys that strenuously connects those learning how to drive with those quitting A levels. But no, pupils across the country are leaving their A level courses (up to 31% students in some areas). The reason? Too much heavy focus on academia.

I can see their point, the few practical A level options available are looked down upon. BTECs which the Government claims are equal to A levels are considered the easy option by the general public.

quitting a levels

from Google images

However, is the issue attitudes towards practical subjects or is it more of a problem of unnecessary pressurization? Each Government wants to drive more and more students into further and then higher education. A levels and university ¬†doesn’t suit everyone. Sure, encourage people and fund equal opportunities but if some pupils enter A levels only to realise it’s not for them then perhaps alternative paths such as apprenticeships should be endorsed.

 

If A level and uni applications decrease then so what? As long as students are doing what they enjoy and not what parents or the Government think they should enjoy then don’t fuss. Currently, university applications are decreasing. As I’ve just mentioned this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, I believe at the moment the¬†chief¬†reason is more to do with the rise in tuition fees and the increased costs of living in a difficult economic time rather than self-realisation and back bone from students.

Gun Madness

I know I’ve posted something similar about gun crime/control before but this appeared on facebook the other day and I thought I’d share it.

USA madness

I really think that says it all.

Why do Americans protect their right to own guns so¬†forcibly? I mean keeping an old pistol or rifle for sentimental reasons or perhaps historical is fine. Just like farmers might want to own some sort of fire arm for practical reasons. But why would anyone want a machine gun? They’re weapons of war, not simple keepsakes or even useful in the life of ¬†an ordinary person.

What surprised me was Wayne LaPierre’s (vice president of the NRA) response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.

‚ÄúThe only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”

Armed guards outside schools is NOT the answer. If kids see people with guns on a regular basis they will start to consider it normal and a world with such a casual attitude to killing machines is not one I want to experience. Even ignoring the obsession with guns you  have to ask, who is going to pay for it? In a recession with police budgets being cut (no idea if this is happening America as well as the UK) where is the extra cash going to come from.

Wayne LaPierre lives in a war-torn fantasy land. Where innocent kids fear going to school and money grows on trees.

On Gay Marriage

Currently in the UK the big debate is over gay couples getting married in religious institutions. Earlier this winter the proposal for women bishops was defeated by a measly six votes so it would be nice for the church and other religions to catch up with the modern world and support equality and tolerance.

One argument against gay marriage is that historically marriage was between heterosexual couples. This argument is invalid.

  • Historically women couldn’t vote
  • Historically men under 30 couldn’t vote
  • Historically British people had to pay for healthcare
  • Historically you had to come from a wealthy, respectable, well-bred family to get anywhere in life (although it could be said this still holds true)

It doesn’t mean it’s right or should remain the same.

Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional institution, in fact it might strengthen it. The divorce rate is steadily increasing, single parent families are becoming more common so why shouldn’t two men or two women marry and raise a family? Surely that is both more stable and beneficial for the children than a heterosexual married couple who argue all the time.

Why can’t someone choose to be both gay and Christian? Or lesbian and Hindi? and be faithful to their religion by marrying in the eyes of the church/temple etc? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible but surely they advocate tolerance and equality? That seems to be the moral thing to do. It’s time to enter the modern world and start creating ¬† harmony instead¬†rifts.

De-opinionated Education

It’s often commented that sometimes my articles lack personal input, they are perhaps a distant, out-of-body experience. It can be quite an effort to inject opinion into writing which tackles issues or history, whether this shows or not, I don’t know.

Some people will be thinking how could you not have your own thoughts on the matter? They silently wonder does the writer feel or indeed think for themselves at all?

I do feel; and I do think.

Writing however, has become¬†separated¬†from opinion. It is second nature to think one thing while writing the opposite or to purposefully hold back. Education asks you to devoid yourself of emotion; you write the facts,¬†memorise¬†the dates and quote the sources. No personal thought allowed. If it doesn’t come from a scholarly source, it’s not important.

Examiners force students to abandon thinking in favour of memorisation. It may not be rote learning but the effect is the same.

Surely this stunts development? Its no wonder young people enter the workplace with little or no initiative. Its been taught that if it wasn’t written down and published it’s not right. Thinking for yourself is a talent schools¬†suppress¬†by repeatedly dictating that what the individual student considers important is irrelevant.

Opinion and creativity are vital, discussions and debates allow information and understanding to be carried beyond exams. Memorisation is not help in the real world if it is cast aside once pens are set aside and the holidays begin. Like anything children’s thoughts, understanding and opinions need to mature if they are to flourish as individuals, this is only achieved through encouragement, intelligent conversation and recognition.

The Body

Sorry I’ve not been around a lot in the past few days, apart from the internet connection troubles I am settling in at University again and have been spending more time watching rubbish TV with my housemates (being a proper student ūüėÄ ). Anyway, I did find the time to write a little something.

Nowadays the body is viewed quite differently due to increased mobilisation with the mass use of cars and a change in the job market from labour intensive to office work/computerised systems.

Berber Women

Mostly we experience and theorise about our bodies in medical terms. Critical thinkers have rejected this biological reductionism and state we need to see the body in cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Feminists agree that the body should be recongnised as a part of the surrounding environment. For instance, male bodies are stronger because they are encouraged to take part in sports which develop muscles. However, Berber women are the ones who carry heavy loads over long distances and thus are viewed as stronger than men.

Phenomenology, briefly, is the idea that the ‘self’ (mind) and body are inextricably linked. When normal body functions become impaired or restricted it’s almost impossible to not reflect on the ‘self’. Medical illnesses can not only disrupt how the biological body works but can cause psychological issues resulting in a loss of self-confidence, hence, affecting social life, economic participation etc. Something I’m intimately aware of.

Phenomenology provides a bridge between the naturalist perspective which advocates the body as a biological entity and social constructionism which focuses on the body in a cultural context, being influenced by the society within which it resides.

To me, the body cannot be¬†separated¬†from the ‘self’ as¬†Cartesian¬†dualists claim, as the intentions of the ‘self’ have a direct effect on the body. If you decide to climb a vertical cliff your body takes the strain, similarly if you prefer to restrict exercise to the more conventional morning jog/walk it’s the body which ultimately becomes stronger and consequently causes your self-esteem to build.

In the modern age where beauty is defined in comparison with air-brushed magazine photos and tall, slim models inevitably generations of insecure people have learnt to assess and criticise their bodies in¬†conjunction¬†with their self-worth. This attitude has created the ‘beauty myth’ of socially constructed, unattainable beauty.

In desperation many turn towards the medical profession and cosmetic surgery. This technology could be utilised to create uniqueness but instead it’s exploited to form ‘normality’. The freckles which brought individual character to your face are deemed unsightly and the laughter lines by your eyes which show a life of experience and¬†fulfillment also have to be cast away. It’s as though society wishes to stifle personality by subtly encouraging us that our appearance is somehow ‘wrong’ because we don’t confirm to the ‘norm’. The consumer culture is not only exploiting our pockets, influencing our opinions¬†and lifestyles but causing the body to be objectified in a manner which disregards personality or talent. Just look at celebrities, what does Katie Price actually do? Who cares, with knockers like that she can force herself into the media all she likes. Who cares if the latest singer mimes during live concerts because they can’t really sing, as long as they look the part they’re allowed to strut about on stages across the globe.

Cosmetic surgery primarily targets women, some feminists see this as an extension of patriarchy as men seek to control and objectify women through the ‘beauty myth’. Other feminists argue medical professionals don’t advocate patriarchy but seek to increase their own influence and acquire power.

Whatever your view on the ‘beauty myth’ and cosmetic surgery it’s evident society is being oppressed and educated into a docile, false consciousness which is responsible for the lack of confidence and inferiority experienced by those who attempt to resist the ‘norm’.

(Obviously I’m talking about cosmetic surgery for beauty, not for reconstruction after burning, skin cancer or other accidents/illnesses).

Main References:

Katie Davis Reshaping the Female Body: the dilemma of cosmetic surgery

Susan Bordo Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body

B.S.Turner Medical power and Social Knowledge  and The Body and Society: explorations in social theory

N.Wolf The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women

Images from google