Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Exams again.

I have just completed my last A level exam, and coming so close on the assessment for disabled students allowance I had yesterday it has set me to the customary musing on exams, concessions and alternatives.

Now to begin with my concession for exam is being allowed to complete them on a computer in a separate room, with 25% extra time but spell checking disabled.

It also occurred during my assessment yesterday that to be granted money to by a laptop may not be an option in the future as lap tops become more an more a mainstream necessity for today’s students, it will become something one is expected to provide oneself with anyway and only exceptional software may come as a concession. That would put one at an economic disadvantage rather than a disabled one, as one would be in the same position as any student from a less affluent background.

However I thought too of what the exam was trying to prove. In essence the 25% extra is partly to compensate for not having a spell checker allowed, they give with one hand and take away with the other.

The emphasis on spelling and grammar is there in exams as much as in papers and dissertations, essentially what one is having to prove in an exam is ones ability to recall enough of what one has learnt and to communicate that to a third party under pressure in answer to a specific enquiry. A very narrow scope of knowledge.

For sure the ability to communicate what one has learnt is as important as merely knowing it if one is to go on to any kind of higher education of employment which actually requires one to share knowledge so that I will accept.

What I don't accept is the need to know everything without reference to dictionaries or standard reference materials or notes. Many public speakers will use notes to prompt them, and of course anyone publishing will make use of proof readers if there grammar, phraseology and spelling is in anyway in doubt. Indeed one of the things that the DSA will be to pay for is for me to access that kind of support for my written work.

So a real world test of knowledge would be somewhat more general than a few selected and often badly phrased random exam questions.

I see no reason why someone completely untutored writing an academic paper, using references and a secretary should not gain an equivalent to an exam grade for the final product if that final product better communicates the knowledge one has acquired in the process.

The arguments then come about pressure, it being realistic in a work situation to assume one has to work under pressure and exams are a preparation for that. Not so I say, there are pressures enough having to produce a paper for a deadline, particularly if one is doing ones own research rather than learning in a classroom environment.

Then the pro examination brigade cite the growing amount of plagiarism in favour of exams against course work. To that I say that plagiarism is a problem which needs to be tackled, however, parroting what one has rote learnt cramming for an exam is not exactly being original either.

Well whatever I hope to do well overall in my exams, even though my showing last year was not too good. It is irrelevant to some extent how I do, except to me, because I already have my University place for this Autumn.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

That far country (from whose bourne no traveller returns)

I guess this is another gloomy post, another gloomy post on such a sunny day, but the longest day has past already and the days will shorten towards winter.

I guess I have been getting obsessed with my great unfinished video project again, which I started back in 2002 on the second year of my media studies course.

Just under a year ago, I started a rather different project "Whichever way you look at it, it's still autism" Which after some problems along the way, finally saw production as a DVD.

Mind you I have no evidence of any significant sales yet. I guess it may be too radical for the autism market, stuck as it is with medical models. Certainly the major autism publishing houses turned it down because autism or not it was not in the conventional genre.

"Oustside In" of which only some of the credit is due me, continues to shift though, but I have moved on a long way since then, it was made way back in 2002 as well in the days before I got my current favourite hat.

I don't suppose I will ever get any credit for "Terra Incognita" it is going to be a difficult one to get any interest in, being as it is so eclectic and introspective. Now if I were a ruthless publicist like Andy Warhol, who made rather bad movies on his reputation alone, it might be a different matter.

You see in this world it is not what you are, or what you can do, but who you are and how you are placed.

The world laps up videos by Tony Atwood, and all manner of rubbish turned out by curebies and medical model fetishists, who employ professionals to make second rate videos because the professionals know how to reach the market.

I doubt if I will even get any showings on the independent film making circuit. Again that requires positioning, reputation but above all social nous, to "brown nose" ones way in.

And so I am doomed, to my introspection, to doing things the way I want to, but never earning anything from it, until finally I cross the borders into Terra Incognita, that far country from whose bourne no traveller returns.

Heck everybody and his dog will be making home movies in HDTV before I ever complete this in plain old PAL.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The sociology of Autism

Today's blog is inspired by the fact that I am facing two Sociology exams on Friday Afternoon.

Now I took up Sociology because I wanted to widen my perspective on this phenomenon called Autism, as much as for any other reason to add another "ology" to my qualifications.

I think most of those blogging on the Autism Hub are sociologists of one kind or another whether they acknowledge it or not, for what I see is an acceptance of autism that goes beyond medical labels and descriptions of traits, to an understanding of how we deal with autism either as individuals or as parents, is sociological. How autists are educated, diagnosed, discriminated against, stereotyped; that is all sociological, and those who look merely on the "disaster" of autism, and accept every fly by night explanation or offer of a cure are missing the context of their own being as a participant in a wider society that has structured their beliefs, their faith (or not) in medicine and science and their belief that something must be done to relieve them of the guilty burden they feel (whoops straying into another "ology" here)

As a youth, I looked down on Sociology as a "wooly" discipline, studied by those who couldn't think of anything better to do, but "wooly" though it is, it certainly has helped me to realise that Autism is whatever people think it is. The very traits of Autism and its diagnosis by behavioural observation with its corrollory, the frantic search for biological and neurological indicators, shows that we do not have any definitive answer to the question.

How autism is diagnosed, how it is treated(clinically and educationally) and how we are treated (by our peers and administrators) is governed not so much by the autism, its severity or its cryptic qualities, but who we are in society, and what society we are in.

Both socialised medicine and insurance based medicine favour those who have the education and the social status to challenge peremptory decisions. That goes not just for Autism but for any medically diagnosable condition.

Those who don't have the status or the income find themselves accepting whatever is available, and often there is very little growing lesser the further into the third world you go (which is as much present in North American and European cities amongst the disenfranchised poor as it is in Calcutta or Rio.)

I am writing to you, because I am educated, I have welfare, and I have an attitude too. Otherwise I would just be another lost soul on this sink of an ex Council Estate, living in a condemned flat.

Who is the voice for all those disenfranchised autistic people I wonder? Certainly not the curebies with their "me me me" culture.

If you are a parent on such a nightmare estate, or maybe even a lately diagnosed "aspie" or whatever, you are the victim of just about every piece of misinformation out there, particularly on the web (assuming you have any access to it at all)

Too many spokespeople on both sides of the Autism divide come from comfortable middle class backgrounds, the well heeled and the well educated, whilst the basic struggle for survival leaves you with little surplus energy or cash for such things.

I spend an inordinate amount of my money on my internet access because it allows me to escape the confines of this existence and to "punch beyond my weight"

You don't expect many fellows of the Royal Society of Arts to be living in my circumstances, it is not the kind of organisation that most working class people join.

Well there is a sociological thesis about participation in such organisations waiting to be written, if it has not been already, for the critics of pluralism, would allege that even the interest groups are run by self selecting elites.

Sadly in my adventures into such territory I often find that to be the case.

Makes me wonder how we can ever set up an authentic and credible grass roots group for autistic advocacy that does not rely on the relatively advantaged to give it credibility and therein instant lie the dilemma, which is the curse of being able to remedy it. You need leisure and income to devote to such causes, and the leisured and wealthy often do not understand what it is not be of their company.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Interpersonal Skills, job finding, and volunteering

Old lags here might know I am a photographer and currently out of work.

With advertisments like this one "JUNIOR STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHER required for a contempory modern Hertfordshire based studio. Must have excellent interpersonal skills" Is it any wonder, that my business failed.

Self promotion is the worst nightmare for any budding aspie businessman (or woman)

Talent is never enough it seems whilst the majority of advertisments call for "team players" and "excellent communication skills"

Yes I can be a team member, if my role is well defined and the other team players, play their proper parts in support, but usually that is not what the phrase means, it means that one needs to be a joiner, a voluable personable socialite.

Communication skills I must have, to have survived on the board of the NAS, to have built a web domain as large as mine, but again what counts is first impressions at an interview, or on the phone.

I have offered my services as a volunteer to a local organisation (not the NAS) as I think the work experience might be useful to me with regard to my studies next year, but the organisation turned round and said that they do not take volunteers, I believe that to be an outright lie, they meant that they did not take awkward autistic volunteers (and they an autism charity too)

I have been let down and lied to so many times by those who are supposed to be looking after or promoting my interests. My art is not promoted, my DVD's are not promoted, I am a side line.

Well I will promote myself here, you can buy my DVD direct from me and I will be the one who benefits for once

If you buy from the NAS I am not allowed to profit from any of the sales via that route, though the NAS profits enough by my being on their board I might add, but Charity rules are one way and out of date, made for the leisured middle classed who can afford to give their time for nothing, not the forcably leisured hoi polloi who can't.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Whatever Happened to Real Ale?

Back in the seventies I remember when the Campaign for real Ale started. Nowadays it seems in fashion again, but how real is it? We need real pubs to go with it and however many pubs sell "old todger's" or whatever retro confection the advertisers have come up with served from olde worlde beer pumps the real industry has been decimated.

I was travelling back on the train from that disaster of a supposed aspies consultation Aspect (which I do not even deign to link to), which I considered to be thoroughly stage managed, and I saw the old Springfield Brewery in Wolverhampton devastated by a recent fire.

I resolved to go and photograph what remained before it was lost, in the company of a couple of neurodiverse friends who were with me on my media course

Here is the result

One of those friends if you want to look him up, maintains the wikipedia pages for Rugby and Coventry