By coincidence I also took an inventory of some of the things I have done in my life last week mostly to let my grandchildren know what their Grandad did to make a difference in this world. It's long so I won't print it all but the potted version goes like this.
I have lived through wartime, served my country, travelled the world and had at least 5 careers – as schoolteacher, manager in a multi-national company, university professor, small businessman, author and freelance project manager.
In Europe I have managed team projects working together with Finns, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Lithuanians, Poles, Germans, French, Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Greeks, Irishmen, Scots, English, Welsh, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Dutch, Belgians, Luxemburgians, Latvians and visited all those countries in the course of my work.
In the wider world I have worked with Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans, Mexicans, South Africans, Egyptians, Ivorians, Namibians, Botswanans, Indians, Singaporians, Russians and Saudis. Again I have visited all those countries and more during my working life.
From a 2 up 2 down terraced house among the mills of Bolton in Lancashire, I have progressed to a 3 storey maison in Pyrennean France via London, Lymington, Paris, and Brussels. I finally retired from work last year but still contribute to the development of new knowledge where it is requested.
Many years ago in a North of England secondary modern school I taught geography, French and ran the school football team. I like to think that I made a difference to the lives of some of the hundreds of children I taught - not necessarily in the classroom, though many were indeed successful in examinations, but more in the many excursions I made with groups of children to other parts of Europe, to the Lake District and to Skye in Scotland during school holidays. My strong belief was that Geography would be more real for those kids outside of the classroom. And many of them found their maturity in nature and by climbing mountains.
One young boy in particular I remember lost his Dad to Cancer and that sent him off the rails a little. He found solace in our trips to the mountains of the Lake District and indeed eventually became the village copper in Patterdale. Later in IBM I pioneered a close collaboration project between a comprehensive school of 1500 pupils in Hackney, where the coppers patrolled in 3s, and the City branch of IBM. Two more different organisations it would be difficult to find and participation was entirely voluntary.
Of the 700 IBMers working there 70 professed interest, which, in this project, became a new potential resource of 70 highly skilled people for a school in difficulties. More than 30 projects ensued including the mentoring of pupils, workplace visits, work shadowing, help with maths teaching, support for visits abroad, and reciprocal events between teachers and IBM people to break down stereotypes and enhance understanding of the challenges facing state education. My favourite is that of encouraging the Covent Garden Opera, which the company was supporting, to send its opera singers to the school for ‘opera appreciation’ classes. They had the students singing, acting, dressing up, listening, stage-managing. That school in one of the country’s most deprived areas had an operatic society for years afterwards.
At 57 I set out on a new international career as director of development in a new Brussels based organization called the European Lifelong Learning Initiative (ELLI) of which I eventually became President. The concept of Lifelong Learning as the way forward in Education was becoming in vogue offering more European project management opportunities, more international conferences to be organized and more books to be written. I wrote my first book ‘Lifelong Learning’ in 1994 and it was delivered in time for the first global conference on Lifelong Learning in Rome in the same year, which I also organized. In 1996, ‘the European Year of Lifelong Learning,’ I organized the European Commission’s conference in Finland
My speciality in this field was the development of learning cities and regions. For the record I defined this as a city, town or region that recognizes learning throughout life as ‘the fuel that drives personal well-being, sustainability, and economic development, and implements educational policies at all levels to advance these aims’. A little wordy I know but how else does one describe the process of social progress? Think about it. If not by educating its peoples, how else indeed can the world be advanced? I have keynote lectured on this subject many times around the world. I created and disseminated guidelines for cities and regions and wrote the European Commission’s policy document on the subject, which became European policy in 2001. Then and subsequently I held the title of visiting professor of lifelong learning at several European universities.
In the next ten years I managed 8 European Learning City projects on behalf of the universities, and travelled Europe to develop and test learning materials with teams from other European universities, cities and companies for use throughout Europe and the world. In this period I also wrote 3 more books on lifelong learning and learning cities and travelled abroad professionally both in Europe and to Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand lecturing and keynoting at conferences.I was 76 years old, but still not finished since UNESCO was in the process of creating a global network of Learning Cities and asked me to help in the development of indicators, which of course I did, 42 of them. I spoke at the launch of this network in Beijing in 2013 and continued to work with the cities until the second international UNESCO conference in Mexico in 2015 and the third Cork conference of 2017. The goal of this network is for cities and countries to work together internationally as resources for each other. And to meet the challenges of sustainability, poverty, fundamentalism, health, growth etc through a focus on education and learning at all levels, at all ages and for everyone irrespective of gender, colour, culture or orientation. It is developing well and many cities use the materials I developed in the European projects.
I haven't been idle in my life but perhaps it's understandable that Brexit is not my favourite subject. When I look at the chaos and the direction humanity now seems to be moving - ever inward-looking, ever more poverty, ever more selfishness, greed, small-mindedness, hate and ignorance I wonder if it has all been worthwhile. In 1906 HG Wells likened human history to ‘a race between education and catastrophe.’ I hope that today’s new generation can run fast enough and think widely enough to fulfill humankind’s potential. It is a huge challenge, in which failure will be fatal.
Norman, BHOV Member
As we reached 1000 days on from the June 2016 referendum result, we asked our members if they would like to write an open letter to Europe. These letters contain their thoughts and feelings, both on Europe and on living there.
Here are a selection of the letters received: