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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 04/06/2015

Derek Brown is one of the most insightful and thoughtful people I know so when he suggested that he would like to contribute to Postcards from Scotland I was keen to hear more.

At that time Derek was headteacher in a school in Aberdeen and had been generating material on some of the big global issues of our time to use at school assemblies.  There is a lot of information around on global problems such as human rights abuses and world poverty and hunger thanks to the many development organisations and the work of international agencies such as the UN. But the volume of this material can be daunting to a headteacher or classroom teacher who needs something more specific for the classroom or assembly. So Derek’s idea was to write a book on global issues aimed at young people, mainly teenagers.  The book would be written for youngsters to read if they were interested but would also be a resource for teachers or others working with young people.

I am Commissioning Editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. A conventional publisher would have automatically turned down Derek’s suggestion on the basis that it was at odds with the target readership – adults. However, the more I thought about it the more I considered this an untenable response. All our books had been directed at adults so why wouldn’t we want at least one book in the series aimed at young people, particularly when it was completely in tune with our desire to publish ideas for the future?

So my response to Derek was positive. But how best to cover global issues for young folk? Derek was aware that a book exclusively devoted to some of the big global problems such as climate change, lack of resources or human rights issues would be exceedingly negative for adults to handle, let alone young people. So he came up with the idea of structuring the book round seven global ‘challenges’ and seven global ‘wonders’.  For the latter he chose topics such as the Rights of the Child, CERN and the International Space Station – projects which have all involved a huge amount of international cooperation.

By choosing this structure Derek had set himself a daunting task. He had to cover fourteen chunky topics but so concisely that his contribution would still fit in with a book series of slim volumes.

Remarkably Derek has managed to do just that. Ok his book is a bit longer than other books in the series but not much. More importantly he has distilled each topic into essential information and some basic questions particularly round the types of ethical issues that are likely to engage young minds.

Derek also wanted to write the book in such a way that it could be a jumping off point for youngsters to do their own research. This meant using source material that was easily available on-line such as TED talks, newspaper articles and websites.

The Scottish education system is now placing a great emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and this book is a great resources as it weaves together information on such a wide range of topics and curriculum areas – science and technology, politics and current affairs, religious and moral education, geography … .

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending a workshop led by Derek in a school in Kilmarnock for a group of 55 young people aged from 15-18 from six schools in the area. Derek got them thinking about some of the big global issues which in a shrinking world are going to effect their lives as well as their children and grandchildren. They quickly entered into discussion on the various topics and it was encouraging to see so many of them interested, engaged and committed to understanding these big issues on which parents and teachers are often silent.

So this is why I am so glad to see Derek Brown’s Shaping Our Global Future: A guide for young people as number 8 in our Postcards from Scotland book series. Apart from anything else I learned a huge amount from reading it so don’t think it is just for young people.  

You can buy the book directly from the Centre for £7.99 including p&p. Click here

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