Discover Cornwall and the South West Coast

Cornwall has an array of wonderful sights and hands-on experiences for children attending primary school. Travel to the south coast of England and let your pupils explore one of the world’s largest conservatories and indulge themselves in this diverse Mediterranean landscape. The quaint towns that dot the coastline are typical examples of traditional fishing villages nestled comfortably in the stunning scenery.

A primary school travel group will have endless opportunity to discover the many interesting aspects of this county. The Innovative Eden Project stands out as a major attraction and the Tate Art Gallery in St Ives houses a marvellous display of fine contemporary art. There are also the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Gardens that are well worth a visit and free for students. St Ives is a beautiful town to spend a day exploring the cobbled streets and winding alleys that are typical of the Cornish towns.

The Eden Project

The Eden Project welcomes primary school travel groups and offers some very exciting opportunities for pupils to learn, engage in workshops and experience the innovative ideas that brought this project to life. There are thousands of different plant species grown here and these are intermingled with unusual and modern art and architectural sculptures. The purpose-built education centre stands out as a living classroom and makes The Eden Project an even more attractive destination. A specialised education team on site means you can bring your group to attend organised workshops that are packed full of new learning experiences for pupils of all ages.

Once an old china clay quarry, this site, which is as big as 30 football pitches, has been transformed into tropical, futuristic greenhouses housing a museum of nature that aims to teach visitors about the delicate relationship man has with his natural world.

There is more to Cornwall

Cornwall is not only famous for its flora, but is also home to Newquay Zoo, an award-winning zoo housing over one hundred species of animals. Go wild and visit the big cats at lunchtime, have fun and join an activity trail, or take notes and listen to one of the animated zookeeper talks. From creepy crawlies to penguins, wildebeest to red pandas, the animals here come from all over the world. In the tropical rainforest exhibit, pupils can learn about the world’s largest and most fragile ecosystem and interact with its different environments, and a visit to Toad Hall teaches about the threat to many of the world’s amphibians today.

A different and interesting excursion is to The National Lobster Hatchery, one of the very few research laboratories focusing on marine biology that opens its doors to visitors. Education at every level is catered for and primary school travel groups can gain a wealth of information from the group sessions given here. Pupils can begin to understand the need for conservation and sustainable fishing if the fisheries are going to survive their current situation. Stock enhancement programmes are developed here and sustainability issues are comprehensively researched.

Being a coastal county Cornwall has a rich maritime history. The National Maritime museum dedicated to the celebration of the sea is a fascinating place to spend an afternoon. The museum is now engaging in more research and exploring under the sea too.

A beautiful place to stay with easy access to some educational and enjoyable attractions, Cornwall is a great option for primary school travel.

Twenty20 – Sustainable Cricket?

This week has been a bad one for the newest form of our most dearly beloved game. It seemed that 2008 was the absolute watershed moment for the T20 format. The first season of the IPL, the Stanford Millions competition in the West Indies, and of course the T20 World Cup, won, appropriately, by India. But 2009, and particularly this past week, has proved a real test for the form known as ‘Hollywood Cricket’

The man at the center of all of this is the American businessman Allan Stanford. Back in 2008 Stanford famously rolled into the home of cricket, Lords, with a basket full of money, and won quick friends.

His inaugural tournament, at the ground named in his honor in Antigua, saw a bunch of West Indian teams, play the best County side in England, and the England cricket team itself. From the get-go the competition had the real feeling of a farce. Why were West Indian players playing for a team called Stanford Superstars? Why would a national team involve itself in what was set-up as a franchise competition? The answer was of course the mighty dollar…in fact $20 Million or so.

The first sign of problems should have been that the game of cricket was being sold-out to a man who professed to have no interest in the actual game. But the cash strapped West Indians, and for some reason the Poms, jumped straight into bed with the Texan. Another sign of the problems with Stanford was the extraordinary footage of the billionaire cavorting with the English players wives during a competitive game.

But still, although the players made it clear that the situation was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, the lure of the mighty T20, and the dollars that came with it were too much to refuse.

When word first came out last week that Stanford’s millions were in fact based largely on fraud, it really should have come as no surprise. Suddenly the egg on the face of cricket administrators was so apparent, that even they couldn’t shrug it off. Much has now been written about the incredible lengths that the game will go to, to attract corporate funding. The cash cow of T20 was previously unquestioned. Now, of course, the Stanford Millions will be called off, and reports suggest that many of the West Indian players had been talked into investing their prize money back into Stanford’s fraudulent business practices, thus they now had not even the dollars to show for it.

Another blow to T20 is the increasing range of players who are nominally pulling out of the upcoming IPL tournament. Already Australian stars Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke have reaffirmed their disinterest with the competition, and now Ricky Ponting, who was admittedly quite poor for the Kolkata Knight Riders, has pulled out. With the cricket schedule so packed, it is increasingly going to be a conscience call for players juggling monetary and national interests. In fact, speaking of juggling, what is to be said of the England cricket team, who heard of their upcoming riches after they had been allowed to be involved in the IPL, and then subsequently got skittled for 51 by one of the weakest teams in the world. Surely players are now seeing that perhaps the juggling act is increasingly difficult. What seemed easy money is now certainly something else.

T20 came around incredibly quickly. Sure it has had a life at English county level for quite some time, but the fact we had an international world cup and the inaugural franchise competition so soon after the game’s inception, is extraordinary. I wonder about the true longevity of the shortest game. The games are certainly exiting, but there is little room for subtlety or intrigue, players either smash it and get a boundary, or smash it and get out. If one of the major arguments against ODI’s has been their sameness, surely the same is only multiplied in T20. For every ‘David Warner’ Moment, there is a myriad of relative sameness. Smash…Six…Smash…Out.

As money dries up worldwide the only real incentive to be involved in the game will diminish also. So far there are no real outcomes to one-off International T20’s as we have seen between Australia and South Africa and New Zealand, this summer. These games are almost International Friendlies, as the main attraction for the game has been the IPL and its riches. But, as I stated, if the dollars dry up, or are lost in fraudulent situations such as that of Allan Stanford, then not only will the administrators have to think about the real purpose of the game, but they will also have to question their decision-making before they jump into bed with any gung ho businessman with a buck.

Sustain America’s Greatness – Reject American Exceptionalism

When I was in high school, I confronted my European History teacher with a statement made in a book by former US Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski that at the beginning of 19th century China produced as much steel as did England. My teacher ridiculed the statement, claiming that nobody had anything close to England’s industrial capacity until late 19th century. I later found out through independent research that Brzezinski’s statement was true, and that in early 19th century England and China each produced 30% of the world’s steel. But even to this day many people in the West, including Harvard-educated historians such as my teacher, know nothing of this fact.

There are candidates in politics now who want to turn American educational system to Eurocentrism and American exceptionalism. And the answer to all these people is that in doing what they do they are in weighing against the very things that the Western Civilization, and America in particular, the leader of the world in the first place. The Western Civilization (and United States in particular) achieved its greatness through science; technology; ingenuity; innovation; knowledge; democracy; freedom of information; and fact. And in militating against such things the right-wing candidates are undermining the very things that made their country great in the first place.

In 18th century, a Chinese emperor rejected England’s offer of trade with China, saying that his “celestial empire” already had everything, and that there was nothing that the pathetic island of England could offer it. Pursuant this decision China entered a period of decline and stagnation as the Western civilization blossomed through scientific and technological innovation. This disastrous decision led China to fall steeply behind – a catastrophic decline from which China is only now beginning to recover.

And in choosing to ignore reality and embrace a factually wrong view of history and encourage a crabby, arrogant attitude on the part of American people, the right-wing politicians are at risk of putting America in the same position as the Chinese emperor had placed his “celestial empire.”

It does not help that there are ideologies out there that claim that there is no such thing as real innovation or originality, or that anyone who has any idea other than that of the people around him is a narcissist or a sociopath. It does not help that there are ideologies out there that claim that only good comes from Christ and that everything else is the work of the Devil. The world will not stop practicing intelligence and innovation, even if America does. And that will unquestionably lead America to decline in relation to the rest of the world for as long as its people practice such attitudes.

To actually be an American patriot and benefit the country in a meaningful way one must know what made it great in the first place. Ingenuity, innovation, knowledge, fact, and freedom of information, are at the root of everything, material and political, that America has. Other countries had Jesus; other countries had armies; other countries had capitalism; other countries had people willing to die for them or to work hard or to pledge allegiance to the flag. America is not exceptional in this regard. It is exceptional in its embrace of ingenuity and innovation, and it is to this that are owed America’s greatest accomplishments.

Those who want to embrace a factually wrong view of history, like those who want to misplace credit for America’s greatness, claiming it to be based on “traditional values” that existed in Europe and Middle East and in only a slightly different form in China and India long before they existed in America, are militating against the very things that are responsible for America’s accomplishments. And for America to remain an exceptional country, it must reject the factually wrong Eurocentrism and the equally wrong American exceptionalism, along with the other lies of the American Right that are contributing to this error.

To the people who would from this expect me to be a Marxist, my response is that the Marxist view of history is as wrong as the right-wing view of history. Besides describing China and India as feudalist and Native Americans as stone-age tribes, Marx offered no real informed insight into any of these societies. His linear conception of history is wrong in light of basic human reality as much as it is wrong in light of historical fact. At the time that Europe was in the Dark Ages, China had half the world’s GDP; India and Middle East had great architecture and advanced mathematics; and Africa had a city of a million people. While the Western Civilization progressed as a result of Renaissance and then later as a result of European Enlightenment and American Revolution, all of these civilizations declined and are only now getting back on their feet. There is no such thing as linear history, and there is no such thing as historical inevitability. Human choice makes it possible at any time to change history of any place in any direction. And in all cases, these choices bear logically predictable results.

Rejecting Eurocentrism and American exceptionalism will enhance and sustain America’s greatness. It will take away from people the intellectual crutches that they are using to sustain their pride as citizens of a great country while they are doing nothing great for their country themselves. It will give people incentive to actually add to their country’s greatness, instead of relying on the work of their ancestors to maintain their national pride while themselves doing nothing that merits pride. And that will do much to result in America remaining a great country instead of following 18th century China’s path to failure and decline.