Tag Archives: Truman Show

Hunter turns hunted: inspector turns inspectee?

In the Greek myth, the renowned hunter, Actaeon comes across, allegedly by mistake, Artemis bathing in a pool, naked – or, if you work in a school, without her hunting tunic on. In a moment of fury, she curses him, leaving him without the power of speech and more unluckily for him, turning him into a stag. His own hounds set upon him and tear him apart until there is nothing left of him, apart from his own hunting tunic, laying mournfully on the ground, dripping in blood, wondering where its once proud wearer had got to.

Actaeon is the mythic story of hunter turned hunted, of poacher turned gamekeeper, of your metamorphosis into something you once sought to control and even destroy. In schools these days, it is the story of dread of every inspector – turning into an inspectee, or even worse, a teacher.

The school inspector will be pleased that they are unlikely to find themselves in similar circumstances. In just doing their job, and by just dropping into a schools for a friendly bit of school improvement, they will be relieved that one day they will not find themselves at the end of a vicious cursing onslaught from a head teacher, not turned into a teacher and not  then face the demanding ears eyes and mouths of the children who will torment them to an early ignominious messy ending.

The school inspector will be relieved that in the absence of any Greek mythic influences in schools – or Ted Hughes at the very least – they are unlikely to be turned from inspector to inspectee next to the school’s water cooler.

That will be good news for school inspectors, but perhaps disappointing news for those schools who will be facing their next inspection in the coming weeks. They would do well to swot up on their Ted Hughes as well as their School Improvement Plan.

Failing that, they could always take a leaf out of the Jim Carrey film, The Truman Show, which would help them immensely to make the inspector feel at home:

The potential of potential

Creativity is often referred to as means of ‘unlocking potential’. There’s a sense that it’s something of the future, a store of source of energy in reserve. It’s a always a lot – we don’t refer to unlocking someone’s low level of potential – but we think too that once unlocked, it will have significant, positive consequences for the individual and wider society. It is by definition, unexpressed, a ‘good thing’ and unlockable.

Frustration with children may come from adults who sense a child has ‘potential’ which is not being made visible, or expressed despite their best efforts to release it. Teachers, parents and the wider family all stare at the unfortunate kid, frustrated in their attempts to ‘unlock her potential’.. If we only could unlock it, she would perform better and we’d all be happy.

On a larger scale, we’re faced with hoards of young people across the country whose potential is locked up – and so the argument goes, if we develop their creativity and enhance their cultural education then their potential will be unlocked released and possibly fulfilled. So, just what is this magical elixir, ‘potential?’

An acorn might have the potential to become an oak tree with the right conditions: but do we have our morphology lying in wait for us, planned out from the blueprint of the embryo? If so, this ‘potential’ is of quite a limited kind – the acorn has no potential for becoming an elm tree. So is potential a kind of destiny / fate – and if so, is the educators job to help us accept our fate? By providing the conditions for us to develop along a genetically preordained route? Or is there role for educators to identify and provide other routes for development? Despite providing the right conditions, the acorn may not grow – or it may start and stop at 60’ or 160’ – it’s still an oak tree – and where its stopped, has it reached its potential? And is that the time for us to walk away and leave it alone?

Is there something about the self here and how we use and view our bodies and minds? On the one hand our bodies and minds are being encouraged, our potentials exhorted and our feeble bodies being pushed to excel. Once we’re able to merge our flesh and bone with the silicon and software of computers we’ll really be able to live our potentials out and exert all our powers – and become like supermen to deal with the voracious capitalist economic appetite (Oh come on, Jones, do keep up can’t you!). In one sense the 100 Languages of Creativity are the means to becoming supermen and superwomen – enhanced versions of our feeble bodies and feeble minds (which are facets of a culture of feebleness).

Potential is also synonymous with ‘unique capacities ‘ and is also used to suggest internal reserves which are untapped / neglected – much like oil wells or gold mines. So tapping potential, in this sense, means exploiting the resources of human – cf exploiting the resources of the planet- and so here, the self has become the site for capitalist economic endeavour. Given that the education of the 19th century was useful for the industries of that time – now, in a new economic context, new skills and approaches are needed for the new industries – so instead of exploiting the planet since the onset of the industrial revolution, we’re now being urged to exploit the self for the purposes of economic deliverance of the 21st Century’s economic revolution.

So, in exhorting us to stop being feeble, and unleash our capacity to become superhuman, the calls for creativity aim to exploit the feeble self for its untapped power, energy and resources. Simultaneously despising the self, we secretly covet what it could yield up to us. We become both Jim Carrey and his observers in our very own Truman Show.

The OfSTED inspection: how to be in your very own Truman Show

The Truman Show is a film is set in a hypothetical town called Seahaven built in an enormous dome, and is dedicated to a continually running television show, The Truman Show. Only the central character, Truman Burbank, is unaware that he lives in an almost solipsistic constructed reality for the entertainment of those outside. The film follows his discovery of his situation and his attempts to escape. Central characters fake friendship to Truman, and in the case of his “wife”, bury their real feelings of disgust.

The OfSTED inspection is an example of a solipsistic epistemological position in that one’s own perceptions are the only things that can be known with certainty. The nature of the external world – schools — , the source of one’s perceptions — can not be conclusively known; they may not even exist at all. Truman himself can be viewed as an equivalent fictional school ofsted inspector who when visiting schools, tends to witness flowers decorating school corridors and toilet paper in the school toilets.

Inspection day can be presented as a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies; there’s not a care in the world, the children are well behaved and courteous, teachers well dressed and courteous, and its like this every day with pupils dutifully drinking water to enhance their learning and no-one objects to the Jamie Oliver inspired New School Dinner which has caused much wringing of hands and emptying of budgets.

But as in the Truman Show, the inspector is surrounded by central characters in the school who have to fake friendship and find methods to bury their real feelings of disgust in order to maintain the solipsistic constructed reality of the Government Inspector.