Truancy at OISE Cambridge

truancy-patrolYesterday two of our regular students, Francisco Aparicio and Javier Jiménez Juárez, Spanish lawyers from the world of banking who visit OISE Cambridge for a week every year, spent the afternoon at the Fitzwilliam Museum in the company of their teachers.

It was at their own request of course, although the teachers didn’t take much persuading. It is always pleasant to get out of the classroom (although we usually and perhaps rightly ascribe to paying students more mundane cost-benefit analyses). Everyone benefits from the sense of escape, of truancy; of being at play while others work. Continue reading


Library Cop

Students this week at OISE Cambridge are preparing a dialogue in which someone returning overdue books has to persuade the librarian to drop the library fine. 

Some of my most tedious, hence productive, hours have been spent in libraries.

libaryTime was when libraries were the clearing houses of the world’s knowledge, when they were the places everything happened. Not for many years now, though. Now, if you are looking for the important stuff happening in our culture you won’t sit in a library. Instead you will attend design meetings at advertising agencies in New York or tech companies in Silicon Valley; you will note anything happening  in a laboratory, anything on a trading floor, visit MIT, interrogate think tanks, fly into Mumbai, Shanghai.

I use the word important in an enlarged sense, of course. Continue reading

Cambridge United’s award-winning bacon roll

A few weeks ago some OISE Cambridge students paid a visit to Villa Park to watch the game between Aston Villa and Manchester City (you can read their account, here).

We have no Premier League football to offer in Cambridge (the nearest ground would probably be Arsenal’s, a couple of tube stops north of King’s Cross station). But English football, unlike that of some other countries, has four professional divisions and a number of professional teams in the fifth division (known as the Conference National), of which Cambridge United is one.

Abbey StadiumCambridge United have played in the fifth tier since they were relegated from the Football League in 2005; but this followed 35 consecutive year of league football, their high point coming in the early 1990s when they narrowly missed being founder-members of the Premier League (they finished 5th in the old second division in 1992). Continue reading

AstraZeneca and Ruskin’s twittering robins

AstraZeneca, the fifth largest pharmaceutical company in the world (by prescription sales), has announced that it is to relocate its head office from London to Cambridge by 2016. It also plans to move a substantial portion of its research and development arm to a new purpose-built global R&D centre in Cambridge, as part of a consolidation of its R&D operations worldwide.


AstraZeneca was formed in 1996 from a merger between Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra and the pharmaceutical arm of British chemical giant, ICI, which had been rebranded as Zeneca after ICI’s demerger in 1993. Continue reading

The Omani daggers of OISE

KhanjarStudents and teachers at OISE Cambridge will have noticed statuettes of glass daggers spreading like a virus of dream objects around the school in recent weeks. I am looking at one now, a present (as I believe are all the rest) from Colonel Masoud al Mashani of the Omani army, currently studying at the Cambridge school, who must have arrived with a suitcase full of them.

The dagger – known as the Khanjar – is also on the Omani flag, and is a national symbol of the country. Men wear centre-belt it as a badge of office, or as head of the family.

What is that makes a dagger – instrument of lethal vengeance, among other things – a fitting gift? Continue reading

Winter Gardens in Spring

Winter Gardens, CambridgeYesterday was the first day of spring, but this weekend snow and freezing temperatures are forecast, so perhaps we should forget spring for a while and take a last chance to visit the famous Winter Garden in the Botanic Garden in Cambridge, just over the road from the school.

The Winter Garden made an appearance a couple of weeks ago on the most popular T.V. gardening show in Britain, Gardeners’ World. You can have a look here.

You can also read about the Winter Garden on the Botanic Garden website, here.

The Ideal Classroom

This week students at OISE Cambridge are preparing a presentation on the Ideal School or training centre. 

I mentioned in a post earlier this week [here] the idea of forming a peripatetic academy in the Botanical Gardens just opposite the school, and I have been wondering why that might in fact be a good idea.Botanical Gardens, Cambridge

In a typical language classroom, students sit still, listen, talk, yawn, take notes, fill gaps; occasionally the teacher will invite them to get up and move around for some reason, perhaps as part of a game, perhaps in order to give a presentation. But on the whole, the student sits and the teacher stands, and the knowledge trickles slowly downhill. Continue reading