– working out stuff for yourself

a simpler life el pocito blog 07

Believe nothing of what you read or hear, and only half of what you experience for yourself.  It’s a good maxim.  I’ve followed it ever since I failed my eleven-plus.  And have never doubted the wisdom of that choice.  So what is it that everyone else thinks an education system can do better?  To me it was bad way back then in the 1960s/70s, but now I think it is actually got worse.  Not just in terms of the end result, but because somehow it has also become a commodity too, or even a cult.  Where if you have the money you have to buy into all this pre-school/ private school/ private tutors/ and endless higher education crap.  If not then the precious future of your offspring cannot be guaranteed to be pain-free or successful.  Though where all these successes are, for such claims and private and public investment, is a mystery to me.  All I can see is more unemployment, more social unrest, and a massive dependency culture.  Am I the only one?

What actually is the point of an education?  Surely if children can learn their mother tongue before they enter a “system”, and most jobs can be/ are taught by apprenticeship, why bother?  Why waste all those years exposing them to unnecessary stress and competition, force-feeding information they don’t need or will ever use again, and let them enjoy growing up and therefore go on to become a rounded balanced and useful member of society?

The reality of learning is we are all unique and we all do it in our own way at our own pace.  So to try to create a one-size-fits-all solution is never going to work, or be just.  Grading someone (and therefore affecting their future) solely by their short-term memory isn’t.  Classes are not equal.  Teachers either.  Schools aren’t all the same.  Nor catchment areas.  So how is an examination?  Then of those who do make it through the mill, undamaged, are they then the most intelligent/ possess the greatest potential, for those looking for employees?  Of course not.  How many good dentists/ doctors/ architects/ lawyers/ et al, do you know?  In my experience you only ever encounter the crap ones.  Why?  Because the system doesn’t work.

The only reason (I can think of) why there is state education at all, is because it is the cheapest/ easiest way to baby-sit children so their parents can be forced to work, keeping the idle rich politicians and business happy.  That’s why I didn’t use my teaching qualification in the end.  After already wasting sixteen precious years being held captive, I finally realised by the end of the course I wanted to spend the rest of my days doing something worthwhile, not causing more suffering.

I believe that real learning happens only by osmosis, after being inspired to find out more.  You don’t need classrooms for that.  As Alan Sugar (I am ashamed to say) would say, an education is of no benefit when it comes to getting what you want.  Or maybe Maureen is a better example, who without the benefit of qualifications became the Associate Director of THE WEST YORKSHIRE PLAYHOUSE.

And I’ve gone off on yet another rant.  What I wanted to say was how we can all do what we want, if we have the confidence and will to have a go.  And a good example of this came up last week.  I’ve been working on designing a new house, which my soul-mate (when I find her) and I will build in France.  I’m doing this because there is no alternative.  Despite an exponential rise in eco-experts and environmental products it is still impossible to get anyone (architect or builder) to do it for you, and at the same time create something anywhere near sustainable (as in costing the planet as little to build/ run as possible).  And unlike most people I will not settle for anything less.  So am doing it myself.

This may not be the norm, especially in the UK, but the idea is as old as shelter/ housing itself, we’ve just lost the confidence to demand what we want.  Recently though, thanks to the internet, it has become more popular.  Especially among those (like me) who may not possess any qualifications or experience, or a surplus of cash to throw at it.  By drawing on the wisdom of those who have already gone before, sharing this for free in Facebook groups/ YouTube/ and individual blogs.

Last week two issues in particular were niggling me, those of WATER and HEAT.  The “why pay out a fortune in utilities” bit was solved long ago, but there still remained the small cost in long-term maintenance, also I felt I could do a lot better on performance.  Here are my solutions, thanks to the internet:

WATER.  With a borehole or spring, apart from the replacement/ life-expectancy of the pump, that all comes free.  But when you only drink 10% of it, not a wise use of precious natural resources and equipment.  Answer (and why did it take this long to realise?): rainwater harvesting.  Even here, where It only falls during three periods a year (roughly September/ February/ and May), that would only require 10,000 litres of storage (1000 litres = 1m3) to meet the needs of two people.  And apart from the initial capital investment (not huge), there would be no further running costs.

HEAT.  I’ve used wood-stoves for about 30 years, and over that period they have improved a lot.  Today reaching as much as 85% efficiency (compared to a fireplace which is around 10%).  But as anyone who has cut all their own wood would soon realise, this is only part of the equation.  Conventional heating (excepting storage heaters, keep that in mind) only works as long as you continue to feed the heat source with fuel.  As soon as you stop the temperature in the room begins to fall.  How to improve on this?  The answer is threefold: insulation/ orientation/ and a completely different type of stove.

For insulation: construct thicker walls (60cm is a good minimum)/ thicker thermal floors/ ensure windows are glazed (and installed) to a higher standard than double layer type + thick wooden shutters/ have as much roof insulation as possible (up to one metre even).  All of which are capital costs only.

Orientation: this is critical.  Both for maximum use of sunlight as a passive heat source (in the winter) and creating as much natural light indoors as possible.  The ideal for this is a house with a rectangular footprint that is long and narrow.  One of those long sides being the front, facing south, and entirely enclosed by a three metre deep greenhouse (shaded/ ventilated in summer).  All of which is capital cost only.

Stove: masonry or rocket mass heater.  These use the same amount of fuel as a wood-stove (typically 6kg a day), but due to their efficiency/ size/ and heat-retaining construction (firebrick/ rubble/ adobe) are able to store the available energy (as near as 100% as possible) like a storage heater, allowing it to escape slowly for up to 24 hours.  Thus the indoor temperature could remain at around 20C the whole day/ night on the same amount of fuel.  Capital cost, plus running costs of wood-cutting tools.

Overall savings: not having to waste a precious life working to earn enough to pay two hefty and totally unnecessary utility bills/ plus equipment replacement.

Self-motivation, the inverse natural law to education.

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