This Year… Let’s put the Meaning back into the Midwinter Festival.

Before everyone rushes back into the shopping hell that is ‘THE RUNUP TO CHRISTMAS’ (as the news-folk call it), I suggest you consider sending the following message to anyone you love, like, and actually care about. (And maybe you might also CC it to those relatives, colleagues and faint acquaintances that  you don’t particularly like, but who, you fear, will probably feel obliged to send you a card or buy you a present, and who will expect to get one from you. In short, send this message, or something very similar, to anyone who ought to be warned in plenty of time:
Dear (whoever)

This midwinter, and every midwinter thereafter, my house will be open, on several evenings, for the purpose of gathering together as many as possible of my real, actual friends. The intention will be to spend time together, eating, drinking, entertaining each other, and generally making merry. If you consider yourself my friend, this is your invitation. Also, if I am invited to a similar gathering at your home, I will do my best to attend, probably with a bottle or two in hand.

But please note, well in advance:

I will not be trudging round the shops trying to finds bits of stuff to inflict upon you as a ‘present’.
Nor will I be sending out pieces of gaudily-coloured cardboard, to clog up your letterbox, and the postal system.. If I receive no such piece of cardboard from you, I will be perfectly happy.

 Call it Christmas or Hanukkah, Diwali or Yule. Let’s celebrate it for what it actually is.  It is a time to get together, to take care of each other, to share what we have. Because the darkest days of winter can be grim.

Please don’t feel obliged to shove your way through all those over-stressed unhappy shoppers, putting up with the same set of ghastly Christmas tunes, glumly searching the piles of over-packaged, over-priced commercial crap, under the impression that you have to get a ‘present’ for me.

Really, you don’t.


Towards a Global Learning Net: A proposal

I have recently started following a free online physics course taught by Ramamurthy Shankar at Yale; sometimes I find I don’t understand the maths, so I turn to the Khan Academy to get up to speed. (eg on calculus). The Khan Academy site has a graphic ‘web’ connecting different elements of mathematics, so you can study what you will need to know before you go on to learn the bit you want to know.
This is an excellent learning structure for maths and the hard sciences; but I think it could be used, suitably modified, as a model for all the different subjects for which there are good learning resources online; a kind of Global Learning Net, built as a Wiki.
There are many sources of learning freely available online, and more are being added every day. In addition to the college-based projects like Coursera, there many others, eg Khan Academy, BBC Bytesize, which teach subjects from a much more basic level.
And then there are other, less academically-formal sources of knowledge; free-to-read textbooks in PDF, TV documentaries, well-informed debates and discussions programmes, available for example on Youtube.

What is needed is a kind of directory/guide, enabling anybody with access to the net to study anything they want to study, whether as part of some formal academic course, or for their own personal interest. Such a guide would also be very useful to professional educators.

All of these free sources of knowledge could be linked as elements in a net, with two kinds of arrows attached to each element; one sort of arrow (green?) suggesting more advanced elements on the same subject, and another sort of arrow (red?) pointing to some more basic elements.

Using a Wiki structure, any suitably knowledgeable contributor, happening upon a relevant resource, would be able to attach some (red and green?) arrows to that resource, thus linking it into the net.
I have at present no clue how to establish a Wiki capable of growing into a Global Learning Net, but I would love to hear from anyone who does!