Came to Coventry
A SCAN conference of 6th formers entitled 'Sustainable-6th' was held in the National Museum at Cardiff in June 1999 to discuss ways in which school to school networking could help with practical work in geography. One of the practical objectives of this meeting was to find themes linking communities from which joint projects could develop which highlighted similarities and differences in the process of urban regeneration.
Two of the our groups came up with the themes of 'Came to Coventry' and 'We Picked Pottery' which emerged from a tour of the museum's art collections.
'Came to Coventry' emerged from a study of the museum's examples of the work of Graham Sutherland where the images were those destruction of the urban environment by bombing.
Questions were asked about the extent to which the loss of historical references to Coventry's built environment had affected the 'sense of place' of its young people.
'We Picked Pottery' was our response to the museums large collection of ceramic tableware and the lack of any reference to the socio-economic system which had created the 'socially-sterile' cased objects. This led us quickly to the communities of 'The Potteries'. It was felt that it would be illuminating to compare and contrast the communities of Stoke on Trent and Cardiff Bay, both of which both sprang up as a response to the exploitation of coal energy on green fields. Coal is no longer a reason for the Bay community to exist, but people are still buying North Staffordshire tableware.
We produced the following outline to stimulate networking between students in Cardiff and Coventry. It is particularly relevant in that Coventry has adopted, and developed the SCAN appraisal system as an integral part of its 'Spirit of Coventry' project; a celebration of the millennium. Our compare and contrast themes are:- 'cycles of consumerism', and 'spiritual notions of place'. The file is a development of ideas generated at the first Cardiff Sustainable 6th conference held at the Bishop of Llandaff High School in 1997.
John Case & Sarah Johns: Cardiff Sustainable 6th 1999
1 'Came to Coventry': A Role for Historical Appraisal
2 A Time Line Based on the Development of Trade
3 Civics and Sustainability
4 The Curriculum Context
5 The 'Children's Agenda 21
1 'Came to Coventry'
A Cultural/Economic Time Line
Stage 1 CLOSED VILLAGE ECONOMIES
Natural resources and settlement
Coventry developed from a community of Saxon first-settlers, who made a forest clearing on the banks of the river Sherbourne and the Radford Brook.
Stage 2 CLOSED REGIONAL ECONOMIES
A Benedictine priory of St Mary's was founded in 1043 by Leofric, earl of Mercia, and his wife Godiva, supported with the resources of surrounding villages. Lady Godiva's legendary ride through the town while naked on a white horse is commemorated in occasional processions and in a statue by Reid Dick, unveiled 1949.
Stage 3 OPEN REGIONAL ECONOMIES
From trading in raw wool, Coventry merchants turned to clothmaking at the end of the 13th century.
Cradles of consumerism
In the 14th century Coventry ranked fourth in commercial importance amongst the cities of England. In recognition of the city's financial support of the monarchy, here was held Henry IV's Laymen's parliament in 1404, and the Diabolicum parliament of Henry VI in 1459. Sending a person to Coventry" is said to derive from the citizens' ancient dislike of external interference; fraternising with Londoners led to the citizen being socially ostracised.
Cultures of manufacturing
The " City of Three Spires" -so named from its prominent churches-was the centre of the cloth industry down to the close of the 17th century. The craft guilds associated with weaving played a major role in the life of the town, including the famous medieval miracle plays.
Stage 4 OPEN NATIONAL ECONOMIES
Passing of the bow
Originally Coventry was walled against the warfare conducted with hand to hand weapons and bow-fired projectiles. The walls, which were pierced by 12 gates, were levelled, using explosives, by Charles II in 1662. Only two of the gates remain.
Machines for saving time
Ribbon weaving began to replace cloth and thread making at the end of the 17th century, and the manufacture of watches, clocks, and sewing machines also developed.
Systems of mass-production
By the 19th century Coventry was most active in making cycles (in 1868), motorcycles (in 1896), motor vehicles (Hillman 1907-78), aeroplanes, and artificial silk.
Machines for war
During the First and Second Great Wars Coventry was a busy munitions centre; in the Second, some 50,000 men and women were drafted there for such manufactures.
Systems of mass destruction
German aircraft made attacks between Nov., 1940 and: April, 1941, but the worst raid was on Nov 14, 1941 when relays of aircraft bombed the city from dusk to dawn, dropping 500 tons of H.E. bombs and 30,000 incendiaries. More than 170 civilians were killed and 1,000 injured; every railway line was cut, and the transport services rendered useless. More than 50,000 houses were damaged by the air raids of 1940 and 1941. The Germans coined the word 'coventrieren' (to 'coventrate') from this exploit; and Bomber Command subsequently used the damage at Coventry, carefully measured on the ground and compared with air photographs, as a unit of devastation in assessing the effect of R.A.F. attacks on German cities.
Stage 5 GLOBAL ECONOMIES
Promoting cross-cultural unification
The physical symbols of Coventry's past cultures were almost completely destroyed by bombs and fire. A notable survivor is St. Mary's Hall, founded in 1342 for the Merchant Guild. The Guildhall is a 15th century building famous for its beautiful roof of carved oak, fine stained glass, and a celebrated 16th-century Coventry tapestry. The bombs also damaged such landmarks as St. Michael's Cathedral and Christ Church, whose towers survived. A third "tall spire" belongs to Holy Trinity Church, which, exceptionally, was not damaged in the war.
The spire and tower of St Michael's remain as symbols of cultural revival. Coventry was a bishop's see during 1102-85, but the present bishopric dates from 1918. The Church of England and the free church authorities in Coventry decided on 8th January 1947 to set up in conjunction with the new cathedral a united Christian service centre and a chapel of unity where Christians of all denominations could meet for worship. The first plans (begun in 1942) for the new building proved unsatisfactory to the Royal Fine Art Commission. A new cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence, was built at right angles to the ruins of the old, which were left standing. It was consecrated in 1962. It symbolises the need to work to a future with new social messages and missions for reconciliation and consensus across social divisions.
Planning for sustainable development
Coventry is now a centre of automotive, engineering, and machine tool industries as well as telecommunications and modern textiles, the last a remnant of its role as England's leading producer of woollen cloth. Lanchester Polytechnic, founded in 1970, is now the city's university. These post-war developments, which entailed the complete replanning of the city centre. were set against the growth of a multi-ethnic culture, and issues of economic sustainability of a large urban population. Two other 'Coventrys' with a culture of manufacturing were founded by emigrants to North America, in the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The economic development of these Coventry's from forest clearings all exemplify the problems of devising economic systems that operate in a global context, and that foster sustainability through strong growth of consumerism to create a wealth base from which other ideals may be pursued.
McLoughlin, Andrew (1993) 'Regarding Nature' State University Press New York
Thomas, John (1987) 'Coventry Cathedral' Unwin Hyman London
2 A General Time Line Based on the Development of Trade
Stage 1 Ethnoecology
Systems for the procurement of food, water and raw materials are a priority for establishing an economic system by first settlers.
Stage 2 Regional sustainability
Forests were felled, villages founded, mills erected, taxes ordained and land cultivated as part of the self-sufficient economics of feudalism.
Stage 3 Commercial ecomenes
Sheep were an important source of raw materials; providing tallow, hides, manure, for home consumption, and wool for export. In coastal communities, sea fisheries developed with the technology of salting, smoking and drying to supply inland communities.
Stage 4 Cradles of consumerism
Wool and cloth quickly became the earliest regional source of the chief source of urban wealth and promoted an urban culture of producers to satisfy a wide range of domestic wants of consumers
Stage 5 Cultures of manufacturing
City centred economies were great consumers of labour to satisfy the demand for craftsmen for all types of manufacturing from wool, silk, metal, leather, and various chemical processes such as dyeing and sugar refining.
Stage 6 Fire and metals
Technological developments in iron-making and the chemistry of gunpowder during the 16th century made the British long-bow, and other bow-energised weapons obsolete; the 17th century saw the dawn of the military era of cannon and flintlock muskets.
Stage 7 Machines for saving time
The construction of clocks for the accurate measurement of time, and geared machines for speeding up simple tasks, were part of the inventive and curious age century, which opened up the world to maritime trade.
Stage 8 Systems of mass production
The breaking up of production into a series of individual mechanised operations brought about mass-production of machines to make machines.
Stage 9 Machines for war
Applied technology was boosted by the need to increase the competitive efficiency of weaponry, a process which was accelerated through numerous 18th century European wars, the American Civil War, and the 1st World War.
Stage 10 Systems of mass destruction
The economic systems of belligerent nations were directed more and more towards waging war at a distance, a process that brought civilians to the front-line in the bombing campaigns of the 2nd World War.
Stage 11 Cross-cultural economies
The technological developments of two world wars promoted the development of global markets for goods and raw materials in all directions. The lessons of history were applied to create social structures and processes essential to forge cross-cultural understanding and consensus in a global arena, where increased mobility of people, and the growth of international banking produce economic tensions and issues of equality
Stage 12 Planning for sustainability
Human population growth, its consequences for long-term availability of limited natural resources, and the disruptive global impact of industrial production on the biosphere, led to the Environmental Summit of 1992, which set an agenda for moving all nations towards systems of production and consumption which are sustainable.
3 Civics and Sustainability
3.1 Places as 'monuments' and 'magnets'
All human groups consciously change their environments. Environment may initially shape the range of choices available to a people at a given moment, but then culture reshapes environment in responding to those choices. The reshaped environment presents a new set of possibilities for cultural reproduction. Inevitably this will involve the selection of successful cultural variations. A new cycle of changes begins in this way. The historical flow of cultures may be analysed in terms of changes not only in their social relations, but in their environmental ones as well. The latter are expressed in the structural alterations they make in their social space.
The study of the structural relations of cultures is usually best done at the local level, where they become most visible. The choice of a small region has one crucial problem: how do we locate its boundaries? Our world capitalist system has brought virtually all cultures into trade and market relations which lie well beyond the boundaries of their local ecosystems. In this important sense, distant places and their inhabitants gradually become part of another people's environment. Faced with these nebulous environmental boundaries two kinds of educational metaphors are used to teach ideas about place:-
- 'place as a monument' to a past culture, where there is structural evidence to focus its values and lifeways;
'place as a magnet', where generation after generation is drawn to a piece of land., where they create and re-create a livelihood around a spot which has a notional significance beyond their particular ways of life.
3.2 'Came to Coventry'
For more than a thousand years, cultures have succeeded one another in a space of about 100 ha in the centre of modern Coventry. This particular phenomenon was expressed by John Thomas in his guide to Coventry Cathedral as follows:-
"In the Cathedral precincts of Coventry, time seems strangely conflated. Many modern industrial cities have ancient remains to view-especially on the Continent-but here there is a particularly curious mixture of time past contained in time present. We have the legendary past of St Osburg, the remote past of Godiva and the first bishops of Coventry and Lichfield, the 'early modern' period of the 'heyday' of St Michael's, the late-Victorian world that brought St Michael's restoration, and then elevation; and finally we have the post-war years. These last are surely the hardest of all to understand. They are recent, yet in reality as firmly in the past as, say, the twelfth-century Bishop de Lymesey. They still exist in many people's memories, yet time can cheat memory just as surely as documents, relics and chance survival, can cheat time; and time marches onwards like some ruthless despoiler".
The compression and blending of past times that has occurred at Coventry is the process by which people attach property in land to a marketplace, and then accumulate its value in a society which recognises abstract wealth. It was this basic economic process that committed the citizens of Coventry to an expanding economy that transformed this small patch of land. This process began with the destruction of a few hectares of oak forests to form the Saxon settlement of 'Cova's Tree'. Since then, it has witnessed the endless accumulation of capital in secular and religious buildings (Fig 1). Paradoxically, some of this wealth has kept alive the notion that there are in fact two ways to be rich, because our wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much or desiring little. Our government in its plans for sustainable development and biodiversity has said the time is rapidly approaching when the world will have to chose the second quality of life for survival.
Fig 1 The 'Coventry spiritual locus'
The promotion of education for sustainability may be traced back to the Rio environment summit in 1992. 'Came to Coventry' is an educational project to draw out the notions about nature and consumerism which this small piece of land exemplifies. The aim is to rethink the assumptions behind humankind's fateful dilemma with which we enter a new millennium; either we pursue economic growth and ecological collapse, or we seek ecological sustainability and economic stability. Children have chosen six issues relevant to this problem and presented them in a 'children's agenda 21'. The aim of 'Came to Coventry' is for local children to gather information from the lives of people who have become connected with the area defined in Fig 1 and who have expressed their feelings in its structures, or who may have some deep thoughts just by passing through as visitors. These are the simple questions to be put to people and their structures: where did they come from?; why?; and what is their message for the future? The objective is to present cultural systems for the next millennium which apply the children's Agenda 21 for assessing the goodness of any future economic development, anywhere on our planet.
3.3 A Focus for Values Education
Local authorities are now tasked by central government with consulting children and families about their ideas for a sustainable neighbourhood. This is the context of SCAN, the schools in communities Agenda 21 network. SCAN helps teachers communicate good practice in the national curriculum, whereby the community served by their school is able to participate in the Local Agenda 21. SCAN's surveys fall within the subjects of geography and science, and deal with factual neighbourhood appraisals of quality of life and biodiversity. Implementing plans to improve things usually requires pupils entering the more difficult cross-curricular area of 'values education'. Education for sustainability requires a platform to debate the notional values which are needed to set objectives and promote missions for making choices between alternative lifestyles.
Regarding new objectives and missions for Coventry, John Thomas regarded the cathedral as a starting point for establishing new notional frameworks for future cultures.
"The old objectives and missions-purposes inherent in the 1962 foundation-have gone (reconciliation with Second World War enemies is accomplished), but now there are new needs and new purposes. Division and strife is different, but no less intense, in the world of Coventry Cathedral's maturing, and needs are not only in foreign places, but on the doorstep. The chasm between rich and poor, the gap between races and cultures, and all the problems of modern society, as we slide down the plummeting incline of the graph from that 60s high, these are the matters to which the cathedral would address itself. Perhaps the building can help with these new missions, perhaps it can inspire and serve in ways unintended and inconceivable to its creators. It is, after all, a platform, a stage, a forum (its architecture has made it so, so open is it), a place of meeting it is, and the bustle of activity, and of constant visitors, to whom there might be Christian communication.
And how will it be when its age has advanced much more? Will time's ever-rolling stream wash away the building's less beautiful contents-or will some future generation cherish them, as we do the work of earlier times? Will its physical reality provide an intelligible whole, when its original cultural context has all vanished? And will some new framework of Christian ideas and faith, our own gone, re-cast its images for its message?"
As far as the new relationships themselves are concerned, the following statement by Andrew McLoughlin urges an agenda for discussion.
"What is now most urgently needed from ethical reflection is the dethroning of anthropocentrism. It is the anthropocentric assumption, in conjunction with instrumental science, that legitimates industrialism. Once industrialism is viewed from a nonanthropocentric perspective, then it is obviously a horrendous crime against the rest of nature. If we shed our anthropocentric bias, then the expanding human population, especially when coupled with environmentally destructive forms of production, appears as a vast aggression against the rest of nature. The possible loss of the majority of species in the next century constitutes a biocide of so great a magnitude as to morally require urgent radical social change toward harmony with nonhuman nature."
3.4 The 'economies and cultures' time-line
As we look towards the 21st century, time past is inevitably compressed into a scale that emphasises the material and financial systems of history and their underlying processes of economics, politics, culture and social hierarchy. Population growth is the other clock, which may have determined everything else. These scales are more useful as routes to the future than the annual blow by blow accounts of temporal and spiritual strife. They chart the economic steps by which production has steadily increased, and whereby we have reached the environmental problems, issues and challenges that now have to be resolved as a matter of human survival.
The vital factor which initiated a move from the closed regional economies of survival settlements was agricultural surplus at the village level, which involved towns in the large-scale redistribution of surpluses. The European population clock started to tick noticeably through the wave of progress in agricultural techniques which began in the 11th century with the improved design of the plough, triennial crop rotation, and the open field system for stock farming. Towns spelled money, the essential ingredient of the commercial revolution. The crucial move to open national economies involved a shift from a domestic to a market economy when townspeople began to look to wealth beyond their immediate horizons.
The steady rise in production has taken our generation into a global economy where people, money, goods, and services are circulating in a world market with its all-invading, mingling together of cultures, currencies and commodities. This economic system is set against governments intent on maintaining, or creating, clearly distinguished national blocs. Above all there is the imperative of sustainable development, which requires new attitudes towards 'consumption' and 'waste'.
Division and strife are still with us, different, but no less intense. The chasm between rich and poor, the gap between races, and all the problems of an increasingly rootless society, these now have a place in history. The socio-economic issues they raise are signposts of needs to reinforce old value systems of religion and home, or to replace them with notions to curb our extravagant use of nature, and strengthen social relationships in family and community. It is in this spirit that the following 12 topics have been assembled to provide a material and economic time-scale to chart the progress of individual cultures from closed regional economies, through open national economies, to the present global economy. They are being applied to the history of Coventry as a 'scaffold' for schools to add their contributions to make a computer Help File, and stimulate involvement of young people in the city's future plans for sustainable development and biodiversity. The file would be available to all SCAN schools as an exemplar for education for sustainability.
4 The Curriculum Context
For students who would like to develop the 'Children's Agenda 21' as a cross-curricular resource for studying sustainable development, both locally and globally, yet operate within the main-stream subjects to give the in-depth context, their main points of contact with programmes of study, attainment targets and level descriptions, are as follows.
History Key Stage 2
Opportunities to study the theme of historical 'changes in houses and households' from a variety of perspectives, political, economic, social and cultural (this may be used to develop a time-line approach to 'civics and sustainability', through topics such as public health reform, the shift from closed, self-suficient sustainable comunities to global consumerism, and changes in attitudes towards sectarianism and racism )
Geography Key Stage 1
Quality of environment:- express views on attractive and unattractive features of environment and investigate activities which have changed the environment, and consider ways in which pupils can improve their own environment ( this is a starting point to introduce SCAN as a practical conduit for school/community involvement in the Local Agenda 21 )
Geography Key Stage 2
A comparison has to be made of the place where the school is situated with two contrasting localities, one in the UK, and another in an economically developing country, with particular reference to regional and global differences in quality of life, satisfaction of personal needs and wants, and fair distribution of resources (stimulated by two-way communication of results of neighbourhood surveys to gather first hand evidence for the view that extreem poverty is the main impediment to global sustainability ).
The theme of 'economic activity', which involves identifying how a community's needs for goods and services are met; how land is used in different ways; and investigating a particular issue which demonstrates how conflicts can arise over the use of land, recognising that people have different views (case-studies of local planning issues )
Environmental management as central to the theme of 'Environmental Change' (this clear statement may be taken to base practical work on the making and managing of action plans, based on environmental surveys, for improvements to school and neighbourhood ; these may involve checks on public services and 'household sustainability ')
Science Key Stages 1 and 2
'Life Processes and Living Things'- needs to care for the environment, and differences in the variety of living things within and between environments (practical work on factors which change biodiversity of communities of common plants , and animals )
Relate knowledge and understanding of science to the personal health of pupils, and recognise that drugs have harmful effects (home surveys of diseases of childhood, such as asthma ).
Information technology Key Stages 1 and 2
Most aspects of the programmes of study involving datahandling, presentation of results and communication (SCAN On-line is a vital development for all work ).
5 The 'Children's Agenda 21': A Practical Focus for Education in Civics and Sustainability
In 1994 a children's edition of Agenda 21 was published from the input of children from over 100 countries. SCAN was a response of Welsh teachers and students. Basically it says everyone has the power to make, and keep, personal pledges to manage their behaviour in relation to the following 6 issues which the young people felt they could become involved with. This list has been used by several SCAN teachers to focus the national curriculum on the Local Agenda 21, at Key Stages 1 and 2, across the subjects of history, science, geography and IT. ('Rescue Mission Planet Earth' Kingfisher Books 1994)
Shift balance of personal spending from 'wants' to 'needs'
Lower individual economic horizons
Travel at the lowest cost to the environment
Think about how much your leisure costs planet Earth
Resist pressures to consume more
Reduce your contribution to waste
Help manage clean-up
Use renewable/recyclable resources
Make more efficient use of your energy and materials
Become knowledgeable about the root causes of poverty
Support fair trade and lobby for fair debt
Investigate 'homelessness' and 'housing' in your neighbourhood
Be aware of the sources of environmental diseases
Crusade against addictive drugs
Be sceptical about cost-benefits of mass-produced food
Campaign against human conflict
Help create and conserve wildlife habitats
Take a soft approach to 'weeds' and 'pests'
Support land-use schemes that prevent soil degradation
Work to reclaim derelict land for community use
Campaign against vandalism of public amenities
Communication for action
Use your right to be heard
Keep up to date with your Local Agenda 21
Get connected with children of other communities
Do something to improve your neighbourhood and tell others about it
Coventry pre-War city centre
Coventry post-War re-development
For a spiritual appraisal of place centred on the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral view the Corixus Project