Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year and I hope 2016 is good for everyone.

Having started this degree in January 2011, 2016 should be my final year with the OU. I would like to do more study, but I have simply been priced out of the education market, and anyway unfortunately the value of many generic degrees has reduced markedly, so when the PPE ends I will pursue other areas of interest -  top of the currently list is learning the electric guitar.

Anyway, have a good 2016 and I wish you every success with your endeavours.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Playing catch up while spinning loads of plates.



Well, Merry Christmas everybody, as you can see from the previous automated posts I have been somewhat distracted over the past month.

Life just gets busier. At least the house extension is nearing completion and from the 21st Dec we have been able to access and use most of the house again, which was important as we have guests over Xmas and it feels great not to be confined just to the kitchen and a bedroom, which made studying almost impossible.
Mid-December I found out that I have been accepted as a speaker at an international conference in America around Easter. This is great news but means that a presentation must be written and papers submitted before the end of January. 

On top of all this, my other pet writing project is also gathering speed and needs a lot of work to be really for first presentation in February.

As to this course, I have competed Week 1, and pretty much understand the arguments around the boundary issues between human and non-human. Now try and crack weeks two and three out in the couple of days I have off work between now and New Year.

Feels like I have a load of plates spinning at once......

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - TMA02 Marked and Returned

That was nice and quick, which means I was probably the first one to submit the TMA, and it is certainly a motivator to get an early submission in this time round as well.

The mark was not quite as good as TMA01, but a middle of Pass2 is fine considering the struggles I was having with study time and a generally busy and disruptive work and home life. The main thing is that I am still solidly on course for the required Pass2 or better, so there is no point, and indeed I don't have the time, to spend endless hours ringing every last possible mark from the TMA - that is what I did last year in order to have a slightly less frantic year this year.

Once again, a really thorough and comprehensive critique of the essay from my tutor. His comments are bang on the money and the advice is spot on. It would seem my main problem was relying too much on external sources which were not developed further, and I should have concentrated more on Machiavelli and Dahl's thoughts and how they are used, interpreted and made to live.

Got things to do tonight - then tomorrow on to Room 2 - Animals and Politics ???

Saturday, 28 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 9

The last week has been extremely relaxed and stress free having submitted my TMA a week early.

This would seem to be an ideal situation in which to make head start on this section of the course, but life just doesn't work like that.

It has however allowed me the time I needed to work on another project - a project that is also taking up a huge amount of my time.

Hopefully, I can delay the start of this Room until Wednesday when I hope that my tutor will return my marked TMA - having had it for a week -  and I can then devote myself more fully to Room 2 and a subject I think I am going to find difficult to connect with.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - TMA02 Finished

Wow, that feels unbelievable. The weekend has been spent pretty much doing this TMA but it is finished and with over a week to go. 

I could keep reading and adjusting, ad reading and editing, but the law of diminishing returns means that I would be wasting my time. I have simply got too much else going on in the next week to spend additional time on this. How good is it, well good enough, and I'll accept the mark and move on.

Firstly, try and get ahead on the next room which is going to be a real challenge. Whereas Representation and Legitimacy was interesting and relevant, I think I will have difficulty engaging fully with the next Room and the political rights of animals.

Secondly, I have anther project on the go which requires a lot of time and rewriting, I will devote tomorrow to that.

Thirdly, family visiting this week, make time for them.

Fourthly, extension progressing, furniture and flooring to be sourced.

I will re-read it tonight for spelling error and then it is gone.......

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Great start to TMA02 - Pt 2

Ah, the dissection of Dahl and Madison did not go well. Couldn't get a thread of legitimacy from Madison, which is a shame as he has a lot to say and was well covered in the on-line texts and exercises, but I just wasn't feeling it from him.

Machiavelli on the other hand practically writes itself. It won't be particularly original as I think it has all been covered before, but Machiavelli makes many points on legitimacy, and makes them well.

So, I am now committed to Machiavelli and Dahl, and currently at 1800 odd words, which is a real surprise as I still have the summary and conclusion to write.

This will be done by end of play Monday and will be my earliest ever TMA submission..... maybe :-)

Saturday, 21 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Great start to TMA02

So, spent most of this afternoon devoted to TMA02.

Introduction and definition of legitimacy covered, and covered very well. Maybe too well.

Anyway, that's 25% of TMA completed, hopefully this will be cracked by end of play on Monday.

So, now to dissect Dahl and Madison.

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 8

TMA week

Week 5: Assessment

OK TMA02, I'm coming to get you, slightly unprepared...........but very determined.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Second Online Tutorial

Another useful online tutorial this week, and it will certainly help me sort the wheat from the chaff for the forthcoming TMA.

Luckily, I have been able to take a days holiday(TOIL) in respect of travelling last week and hope that this will allow me to break the back of the TMA this coming Monday, as the coming week is another nightmare of evenings committed to other interests and then family birthdays at the weekend, so this is looking like another rushed TMA one way or another. But if I can replicate the mark I got on the last one that would be absolutely fine.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 7

Still a bit behind having been away from a week, and the events in Paris on Friday have meant that with one thing an another studying doesn't seem that important at the minute.

Senseless acts of violence

I was just boarding a plane home when the breaking news of attacks in Paris was reported on the BBC News website with initial deaths being less than 20, although the reports stressed that this was an on-going situation.

9 hours later when I arrived in the UK and could get internet on my phone the news that the death toll had risen above 120 was difficult to comprehend. On the taxi ride home we all listened to BBC Radio 5 in complete silence, there was simply nothing to be said and no way of explaining this atrocity away. It just leaves you numb.

How do you rationalise such a senseless and pointless loss of life in attacks against seemingly random targets, what has it achieved? How has it furthered their goal?

When acts like this are religiously motivated, or at least done to further a religious ideology, it is time for the rational governments and institutions of the world to have the moral strength to say that religion has out lived its usefulness.

Technology and society, and indeed science, has relegated religion to a social and cultural position only - religion no longer explains anything and as has been shown this week lacks the universal moral code to allow it to have a seat at the top table.

It is time for rational governments and the UN to say that everyone can follow whatever superstitions they wish, but that there is no basis to believe that any supernatural beings exist, and can everyone please stop killing in the name of non-existent entities.

Until the world becomes rational these sorts of horrendous events are unlikely to stop.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 6

The second tutorial this weekend and again another very interesting and enjoyable couple of hours talking politics.

I am away from home this coming week and with little chance of getting on local internet I looked at OU Anywhere and have downloaded all of the course videos to my iPad which should make keeping up with the course a lot easier.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - TMA01 Marked and Returned

Well I have had my first TMA for DD306 marked and returned, and without a doubt this TMA has received the most thorough tutor scrutiny and advice of any course I have done so far.

It was a high Pass2, which I am very pleased with considering this has been the most disorganised and panicked approach to a TMA I have ever attempted. Most importantly it keeps me on track for an overall Pass2 which is my target for this course.

The assessment summary filled most of the space available and was full of good points, encouragement and advice, I usually just get a couple of lines saying 'good essay, but you could have brought in such and such a theory or  mentioned so and so an author', so this amount of feed back is a real step change.

Also, the actual essay was full of comments and suggestions, every paragraph was commented on and my tutor appears to have gone through the essay with a  fine tooth comb.

It has changed my opinion of the amount of time tutors should take to mark TMAs and I can see how if he has devoted this amount of time to every student that we can not expect to get them back within 48 hours.

So all in all a good first result, happy with the TMA mark and extremely happy with the input from my tutor - motivation has been restored, lets get reading.......

Saturday, 31 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 5

Travel, work and  a de-motivation while waiting on the TMA to be marked has meant nothing has been done this week. So I need to finish week 4, before starting week 5.

I want my TMA - come on tutor sort it out !!!

Monday, 26 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - TMA01 sent

I don't want to do this again - it has all been a bit of a rush.

I had written about 600 words over the weekend, so it was a mammoth writing effort today. In the end it was quite an easy essay to write as we were not short of  information on he subject, but making it flow and getting the referencing correct was a nightmare.

Well that's it gone - not too hopeful of a great mark, just hope its not a bad one - but fir now I need to start on Room 1 asap as otherwise I will be falling behind again.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 4


  • Assignment: TMA 01 (cut-off date 26 Oct)

I keep mis-reading this weeks title as 'resenting the people', I must be looking at things from a politicians point of view.

This will not be happening this weekend, TMA01 to finish plus NFL UK to attend.....

I need to find my study mojo fast........

Friday, 23 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Struggling with TMA01

I don't think I have ever been so far from writing an essay and getting it in on time than I am at the moment.

2,000 words FFS, the word count on the Fukuyama extract that we have to write about isn't even that long.

I am unfortunately not as motivated as I might be at present as there is simply too many other things going on that either simply demand my time or that are far more enticing. Hopefully, I have Saturday and a good bit of Monday to grind this TMA out, but it ain't going to be pretty.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - TMA01

Where has the time gone..... I am now seriously behind and there are still many things competing for my attention.

This is not helped by Sunday being written off in favour of NFL UK, as the Jags host the Bills at Wembley. I am now so desperate that I have had to take a day and a bit off of work at the end of the week in order to give me a chance to hand something in.

And 2,000 words...... I know I have usually been struggling to get essays under word counts in the past but for TMA01 this seems a lots of words, still once I get started it will probably be OK.

Its not that it is not an interesting subject, the more I think about it the more questions there are to use in the TMA, its just that I am too busy.

Well, tonight DD306 I am yours, and yours alone.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 3

TMA week

TMA Week already....... where has the time gone.

I haven't helped myself by spending two Saturdays going to tutorials, when I could have been reading the course work, although hopefully the tutorials have helped - and I am sure that they will. Also an evening lost to a Labour Party meeting, and hopefully kicking off a very exciting, but extremely time consuming, extra curricular project for work. Well to be fair it is in association with work, they will benefit but this my project and to some extent would fulfill a huge personal ambition - so it will really be competing with the OU for the time I have. If all this wasn't enough we have started a ground floor extension which has so far seen the demolition of our garage and tracked vehicles churning up our drive. Where once was tarmac, we now have mud and tarmac, with the promise of much more mud to come. It will be worth it when its finished we tell ourselves.

So..... today's tutorial.

Really interesting discussions led by an engaging tutor. I have to say that although it is very early days I am really happy with the tutor for this course. If he is a quick and leanient marker he will perfect.

So a bit more reading to do and then get stuck intonTMA01.

Friday, 16 October 2015

First Labour Party meeting

Attended my first Labour Party meeting last night.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was in some ways very similar to an Open University tutorial, in that there was a real range of ages and backgrounds present, and some very committed people who are passionate about fighting for the best deal for their communities.

The discussion groups were very lively and hearing the experiences and opinions of people with very different backgrounds certainly helped uncover aspects to government policy that I would otherwise have been completely unaware of.

I will certainly go along to the next meeting, not sure if this is absolutely my scene yet, but I can see that I could be persuaded to get more involved.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 2

Went to a DD306 Day School in London today, it was a bit of a phaff getting into London but in the end probably well worth the effort.

Had some good group discussions throughout the day, and was in a group with folk with good and original ideas which made the experience interesting and fun. It would probably have been a bit more useful had I been up with the course timetable, but I wasn't the only one slightly behind......

So, next week I am at my tutors tutorial, so he has something to live up to, but with only two hours scheduled it will be difficult to get anywhere near the same amount of content in.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Typical timing, pre-ordered book arrives just as course starts

Absolutely typical.
I ordered "Population Wars" by Dr Greg Graffin (of Bad Religion and UCLA/Cornell University) months ago on pre-order and due to various changes in the estimated release dates I have completely lost track of when it was due to arrive, so typically, it arrived on Monday - just as DD306 starts and so after a fairly literature free summer I now have lots of reading to do for the course as well as wanting to get into this book.

Having read, and really enjoyed, his previous book "Anarchy Evolution", which I read the summer before I did A222, Phylosophy, and which actually came in really useful for the section about religion and god and was cited in my TMA, I am looking forward to an equally interesting read.
I just need to organise my time a bit better......... but isn't that always the case :-(

Saturday, 3 October 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Week 1 - Official start to the course.

At last the course starts proper.... DD309 seems a lifetime ago and apart from couple of aborted attempts to read the course text book "On Violence", I haven't done anything remotely related to studying all summer.

Well it is time for a gear change....... Luckily, the course leads us quite gently through the first week - at least the bits I have done - after all it is still only Saturday morning, and the online learning environment seems to work and be a mature concept.

My tutor continues to be active in the forum and I am really looking forward to the first tutorial in about two weeks time to meet him and other students

Monday, 21 September 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Pro-active tutor - a great start

My new tutor has already been in touch and seems very pro-active, posting the tutorial dates (still unavailable on the OU Course website) and making all the right noises about the course and his role in supporting students through the experience.

Now looking forward to the first tutorial - now that I know when it is........

Saturday, 19 September 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Unallocated my first tutor, then re-allocated a different tutor, but still no tutorial dates

I was informed by email that my first tutor had been allocated to me, but less than 4 hours later he was un-allocated and I was allocated a different tutor.

I signed up and paid for this course over 4 months ago, at the earliest opportunity to do so, so it is frankly baffling that the allocation of tutors is so last minute and apparently haphazard.

This current tutor is not quite so 'distinguished', he's not a Doctor, but he is slightly closer to me for tutorials, however still quite a distance if the university he lectures at is anything to go by. I would have preferred the tutor I had for the level 2 Politics, but maybe he doesn't do level 3 or perhaps he gets a say in what students he's prepared to teach :-)

Considering that the Open University claim that their courses teach transferable skills such as forward planning and organisational skills, you'd be forgiven for wondering why the allocation of tutors and tutorial dates appears such a shambles.

As paying customers I think we deserve better..........

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Allocated a tutor, but still no tutorial dates

My tutor seems fairly distinguished, but works at a University miles away which makes me think that the tutorials might be a bit of a trek - although obviously so close to the start of the course I have no idea when or where they are.

Why is it so difficult for the OU to provide advanced details of the tutorial dates and location.

It would be nice to be able to try and plan my social and work life to accommodate the tutorial, but without the dates that is a bit difficult. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest !

Tom Watson, deputy Labour leader, and Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

I watched the BBC coverage of the labour leadership results this morning and was really pleased that not only did Jeremy Corbyn win the leadership contest on the first round of voting, but to take it with 60% of the vote must surely cement his legitimacy as the grass root choice for the Labour leader to an extent that Ed Miliband never achieved.

And with Tom Watson (not the golfer) voted in as deputy leader, I was 2 for 2 in this election and that hasn't happened or quit a while.

So a great start, but the challenge now is for Corbyn to delivery in a way that meets everybody's expectations while taking the Labour MPs with him - and that is going to mean negotiation and compromise, which will be a real tightrope walk.

Hopefully, this could be the start of wrestling political power from the extremely wealthy who send their children to Eton then Oxbridge Universities in order to maintain their seats at the top table and ensure that those that 'have', continue to 'have' and indeed if the inequality can be increased then its all to their good.

So with the start of DD306 imminent, then if nothing else Corbyn's win will certainly give us something to talk about in Room 1.

Room 1: Representing the People
This room looks at politics as the relationship between the elite and the people. It investigates the idea of representation, tracing some of the history and developments of the idea, and considers whether representative politics is in crisis.
The week titles are:
·         Political Leadership and the People
·         The Idea of Representation
·         A Crisis of Representation? 

I can't wait for the course to start, but still no news on my tutor or tutorial dates...... come on OU, get your arse in gear.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Course Website Opens

Yeah....... at long last, lets see what this is all about.

Well it looks pretty similar to other course websites at the moment, TMA01 seems a pretty clear question and there is loads of advice on how to tackle it and what you need to consider and take account of.

However, yet again no information on my tutor or tutorial dates.

Why can the OU not get its act together and publish tutorial dates when the course website opens - they must surely have already booked the venues, they have had all summer to allocate students to tutors, they know this happens every year.........

The OU is not cheap, and I see the tutorials as being a huge part of the learning experience offered on the course, otherwise is it just reading the books and the website on your own which any institution offering distance learning can provide. But yet again we run the risk of missing the first, and arguably most important, tutorial because the date has not been released and yet for the students life goes on and commitments to work and family have to be made.

So for now I am guessing that the first tutorial will be on 10th or 17th, October, given that the first TMA is due in on the 26th Oct, but who knows?

Monday, 7 September 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Course Website Opens on the 10th (Thursday)

I am really looking forward to the course website opening, probably more for this course than for any previous course, as so much of the course structure and learning appear to be based around the online 'rooms'.

I also want to know who my tutor is and when the tutorials will be. October is already looking pretty busy at the weekends - the NFL is coming to Wembley - so that is three Sundays pretty much written off of any other activity.

As far as the tutor goes, I would be really pleased if I had the same tutor as I had for the Level 2 Politics course. Admittedly, the time he took to return marked TMAs was less than stellar, but he ran engaging tutorials and he was quite a hard marker on the TMAs which certainly helped me improve and I think I benefited from this on the two economics courses.

Can't wait to get going on this course, October can't come quick enough.

Friday, 28 August 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - the Readings Book has arrived

It appears at first glance to be quite a thick book, but the printing is large which will help.

It also sets out what the Rooms are about and some of the topics that will be covered. Looking forward to Room 5 if for no other reason than I have been in Sierra Leone, and in Yugoslavia before the break up and Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo since. It will be interesting to get other people's take on those situations.

Room 3, Religion and Politics is going to be a massive struggle try and see both sides of an obviously one sided argument. Superstition and the 2000 year old philosophies of  desert dwelling peoples have no place in modern life, let alone modern politics.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Labour Leadership Contest

I returned from holiday to find I had received my ballot paper.

I have voted online (to save the party money), so it is now a case of waiting until 10th September and hoping that the labour party doesn't self destruct between now and then.

Corbyn may not be everybody's cup of tea as a political leader, but maybe it is time for a less polished, more down-to-earth style of politics.

Regardless of who eventually wins the leadership contest Labour needs to successfully and actively engage all current non-voters - 
  • 14 year olds and above who have not yet voted, 
  • the disillusioned, apathetic or lazy who are registered but didn't vote
  • anybody who may not even be registered to vote. 
If they can mobilise what is a large number of non-voters or never-voted that would be a game changer.

But the biggest challenge is that Labour faces is their need to do a better job of explaining how it is possible to help the working poor without damaging the economy, and this is doubly difficult with a right-wing press that seems happy to report Tory policies as being successful regardless of the facts and without any sort of scrutiny or challenge.

If you believe their should be greater equality, that the state should look after the least advantaged, that people need a helping hand rather than a handout and that those who benefit most from the state, its institutions and infrastructure should  pay more for gaining this benefit then its going to be an interesting few years ahead.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Set Course Reading - "On Violence" by Hannah Arendt

The first thing you can say about the set reading for DD306, "On Violence" by Hannah Arendt is that the front cover is not exactly interesting.

I took the book on holiday and didn't get through the first chapter, it is not exactly gripping reading and is written in quite, for me, an odd and challenging style, and I found I had to keep re-reading passages to try and work out what the author meant as there were too many double negatives and unnecessary commas.

I can't see this book being read any further until absolutely necessary.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

DD306 : Living Political Ideas - Facebook page(s)

It looked as though last years DD306 Facebook page was going to carry on for this year having been renamed to remove any references to Oct14.

However, there is now a new and alternative DD306 Facebook group secifically for Oct 15 starters so it will be interesting to see if they book continue in parallel or combine in some way.

Of course anybody on the PPE Pathway should be in the PPE Facebook Group

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Leader : Q & A in Luton

Well it wasn't easy getting there, 90 mins of heavy traffic, changed road layouts, confused TomTom and road works diversions which took me to parts of Luton I don't expect I'll ever see again, but I eventually got to the Luton venue just in time.

The venue was full and the crowd were a lot younger than I had imagined. Jeremy Corbyn spoke for about 40 mins on various things such as how 0.5% Corporation Tax could make further education free for all, and preferable to the impending possibility of removing fee caps whereby Oxbridge universities can price all but the very rich from their courses, on stopping  multinationals such as Boots from avoiding paying tax on UK based profits, on protecting social and council housing from being sold off, on a sensible minimum wage, on scrapping Trident and various other topics.

It would appear from media reports that there is a real momentum behind #Corbyn4Leader, and I really hope this is maintained all the way through to the ballot. This could be the start of a popular movement for social responsibility, it could be exciting times ahead.