The Last Post

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I promised that I would post a final entry on this blog to explain why Gifted Phoenix is returning to the flames. This is published exactly one week prior to regeneration.

trumpeter-569862_640Let me apologise at the outset for the plethora of first-person pronouns in this post.

I tend not to blow my own trumpet because I find such behaviour in others so blatant and cringeworthy.

It’s as if they were carrying a huge banner saying ‘JUST LOOK HOW IMPORTANT I THINK I AM, YET HOW GLARINGLY INSECURE’.

This is not a typical Gifted Phoenix post – less reasoned analysis and more personal rant – but I hope it will help to explain why I feel how I do, and help to provide some sense of closure.

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What I did

Gifted Phoenix is my social media alias. He made his appearance in 2010 at the same time as the real me became an independent education consultant.

He divided his time between:

  • Twitter, where his profile described him as an ‘education policy analyst specialising in global gifted and talented education and a balanced critique of wider education reform here in England’. He has posted over 30,000 tweets and acquired almost 6,700 followers.
  • This eponymous blog, specialising in ‘global gifted education and English education policy analysis’ which contains 217 posts. Many are substantial pieces of work, often of 10,000 words or more.

I intended that Gifted Phoenix would be useful to me as well as to others.

I planned to use Twitter as a virtual filing cabinet, logging all relevant publications and news commentary for my own purposes while simultaneously publishing each record openly.  My feed is a sizeable searchable database, extremely useful for researching blog posts and responding to queries.

I decided to blog differently too. I wanted to develop a research-heavy oeuvre, akin to academic journal papers, but without the tediously formulaic structure and style. I sought to produce detailed posts written in short, pithy journalistic paragraphs. I tried to be authoritative, reliable, balanced and evidence-based.

The early work adopts a determinedly global perspective and focuses on gifted education. The later posts deal almost exclusively with education in England, especially the implications for high attainers.

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Why I’m stopping 

As a gifted person I can confirm that gifted people are often rather stupid.

Rather stupidly I had assumed an unwritten contract with you, Dear Reader.

The deal was this:

I would provide an entirely free service via social media to anyone that chose to access it and, in return, the beneficiaries (that’s you), having assured themselves of my expertise, would reciprocate with a regular supply of well-paid consultancy, conference and written work.

But instead I found my side of the contract becoming steadily more onerous while the supply of paid work – never more than a trickle at the best of times – has dried up almost entirely. Most of my working week has been dedicated to supplying freebies for your delectation.

Perhaps you never appreciated that there was an unwritten contract, or never fully understood it….

Perhaps you did understand, at least implicitly, but played me for a fool by taking the free stuff while mocking my naivete…

Or perhaps I should have sold myself and my wares with rather more chutzpah (though that’s a big ask for a borderline Aspie).

So the bottom line is financial. I’m working too hard for too little gain.

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I have some other frustrations.

There has always been an undercurrent associated with the fact that I am not and have never been a serving teacher. There’s a constituency on Twitter utterly convinced that teachers have the monopoly on educational wisdom.

That’s bollocks.

I rarely touch on pedagogy but in all other respects I’d back myself against most teachers and school leaders in my areas of specialism. I might not have the experience of either, or an academic background, but I am still one of the foremost experts in my field (mind that banner!)

I fear the ‘school-led, self-improving system’ is a beguiling delusion. Presumably it has diverted much of the available consultancy work towards Teaching Schools and their ilk. I’m sure the best of them provide a quality of service I could never aspire to. But the worst are endlessly recycling their own inadequacies. Neither is predisposed to work collaboratively with the likes of me.

Then there are the other educational cliques, perpetually engaged in mutual backslapping. Much more of the available work is distributed by them, between themselves. There is no space for an interloper, especially one who is constitutionally incapable of suffering fools gladly.

In this respect the English education scene is only marginally better than the academic gifted education community. I gave up on them a few years back, entirely disillusioned with the pantheon of minor deities.

They’re incurably Americo-centric. Each of them peddles their own belief system, constantly failing to grasp the bigger picture. They refuse to make common cause with each other, or with anyone else.

They bolster themselves up with vacuous doctorates and chairs and pour scorn on those who recognise their pointlessness. Almost everything they publish festers behind a paywall, but most of it is irrelevant anyway. With a few honourable exceptions they are a complete waste of space.

I’m also fed up with several of the prominent educational organisations here in England. It pays to keep on their right side, better still to butter them up, but I don’t do flattery.

Too many use their privileged positions to advance silly ideas.

Some employ far too many young whippersnappers, still wet behind the ears, yet puffed up by the arrogance of youth.

Several react negatively to intelligent, constructive criticism. Rather than addressing it openly, they default automatically to an Ostrich Position, pretending it doesn’t exist. They exemplify the ‘not invented here’ mindset.

And I mustn’t forget the feckless few who make verbal commitments to commission work, only to renege or turn strangely silent.

I have a blacklist of organisations and individuals that have shafted me in this fashion, or in others, all of them blissfully untroubled by stirrings of guilt. None has the faintest notion that an apology is due.

I was planning to publish that list right here, but I guess discretion is the better part of valour.  A plague on all their houses. I anticipate keenly the biter bit.

On top of all this I am intensely frustrated at my apparent inability to convince others through logic and rational argument that high attaining learners, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have an equal right to educational challenge and support.

The opposite prejudice – which so many of us fought so hard to counter during the Blair years – now seems to be regaining ascendancy.  That is profoundly dispiriting.

Finally there are some personal reasons. I must try to be a better house husband and family man. I have numerous other interests that I’d like to pursue before I’m too doddery. I might even find a way to generate a more reliable income stream.

End of rant.

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Final arrangements

I have been remiss in getting to this point without extending heartfelt thanks and appreciation to many supporters, too numerous to mention. Without you Gifted Phoenix wouldn’t have lasted this long. Both he and I are really most grateful.

Ironically enough, since I made my decision I’ve been offered some consultancy by a Particularly Prestigious Client. I won’t count chickens as there’s no contract yet. Their name would have looked great on my Linked In profile, had I been touting for more business.

This work I will accept, although I have dropped all other commitments.

The Other Half says she’ll never forgive me if I turn down fresh offers that play to my strengths, though I must admit I’m sorely tempted. I don’t want you to think I’m  writing this to shame you into charity.

I’ve decided to protect my Twitter feed, which is supposed to mean you can’t access it any more (though Google might still find a way). I don’t think you’ll miss it after a little while.

As for my blog, you’ll find it here over the summer. Thereafter, I’m not sure. There might be an e-book or two if I can summon the will, but nothing with a hard cover. I might just throw the switch. But, once again, I’m sure Google will come to your aid if you’re desperate. I’ll make sure the key documents go to a good home.

I won’t be responding to comments on this post, here or on Twitter, so you can say goodbye or vituperate with impunity, whatever you will.

For the future all I ask is that, if ever you mention my work in yours, you cite it and me properly.

I live in hope that much of the passive resistance I’ve encountered is down to your problems with the messenger. Someone else whose jib has the right cut will make the identical points and the Powers That Be will be readier to listen.

One last request, if I may…When you see or hear my arguments recycled and are feeling brave enough, be good enough to drop in a casual:

‘I fear you’ve been reading Gifted Phoenix’

Maybe from time to time I’ll search on that phrase and appreciate that he did make some difference after all.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

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GP

July 2015

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6 thoughts on “The Last Post

  1. Tim … I appeciate your honesty. You have been ploughing a lonely furrow.

    I have read almost all of what you have sent me and have occasionally written to comment or thank you. Your material has at times been very useful and it is great to have you as a resource on specific matters.

    But I do not like your disparagement of academics. It is not pleasant to be informed in various ways that what we are slogging our guts out for is not acceptable to you, Tim Dracup.

    I agree about American imperialism and fight it as well as I can.

    Nobody much gets paid for what they do unless they are active in practice. The only contract was in your mind. I earn from working with gifted children and do my research for free (which is heavily ongoing right now). Invitations to meetings are perks.

    I’m sorry you are giving up the blog and hope you find satisfaction with whatever you do next.

    Best wishes,

    Joan

  2. Joan, I’m glad you read Gifted Phoenix’s last post and felt free to express your concerns, but I’m not happy you included another name for Gifted Phoenix in your post.

    I would have preferred that you had been respectful by using only the pseudonym. That would have been nice.

  3. Although I knew this was coming for some time, I am incredibly sad to see you leave the online community. You has been a long time supporter of #gtchat and a good friend. I found your blog posts to be insightful and you never shied away from ‘telling it like it is’. Your passionate concern for those who could not speak for themselves, those highly able children who were born into disadvantaged backgrounds … they have lost an irreplaceable advocate in the U.K. and we have all lost a voice of reason. My hope is that Gifted Phoenix will be remembered as a champion for the rights of gifted children and that you will find your place in a field of your choosing where your talents will be appreciated. I wish you a fond farewell.

  4. When I first started my own personal journey into the world of gifted advocacy two years ago, the one person I looked up to most often was the Gifted Phoenix. I can’t thank you enough for your leadership, inspiration, research- and fact-based postings, and your passionate dedication to a better education for all children.

    I’m a former public school teacher and I feel at times that hinders my advocacy, so I truly believe coming from a non-education background strengthened your message and gave you your objective view of education. I will miss your take on the ills of how we educate, or miseducate, our gifted children because I so often agreed with your views.

    I’m saddened for the entire gifted community to be losing your strong, objective, inspirational and spot-on views. Mostly, I’ll miss your rallying cries for a better education for all children because the voice of the Gifted Phoenix inspired me and many other gifted advocates to keep trudging up that seemingly insurmountable hill to a better education for our children.

    Sincere good wishes for your life sans the Gifted Phoenix, and I guess I should also wish you luck with being a better house husband 😉 I’m am quite certain you will be successful at whatever you do because your passion is obvious.

    Thank you for making a huge impact, a measurable difference in the lives of gifted children!

  5. Very sorry you are stopping. I have valued your tweets which have drawn attention to many publications I might have missed. I am a trustee of RISE (Research and Information on State Education). We hope to develop our information centre and perhaps to do this really valuable updating which you do by Twitter several times a day But I think we will need an army of volunteers!.

  6. Sorry you are leaving. Sorry I did not say thank you enough – at all. Sorry I did not give you some consultancy – didn’t realise that was the deal even in the loose sense you used it. I will miss your intelligence and your energy and your independence. Not sure you can hold the name phoenix, gifted or otherwise, and not return in some form. David Sheppard

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