Open Forum notes


Message 15299 · 22 Dec 1998 18:51:13 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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As promised a long time ago and with regrets but no apologies for
the delay caused by the day job, my notes from the 1998 Open
Forum at the AGM in Glasgow
As mentioned before, this is an informal discussion where no
decisions are made (but lots of notes are taken) and points raised
are subsequently reviewed by standing committees.

Jim Healy

Open Forum 1998

Linda Gaul welcomed those attending, particularly those at an Open
Forum for the first time. She then introduced the Convenors of the
standing committees and moved on to the first question. (The
questions had been made available the night before.)

1. That members use access to the Internet in a positive and
constructive manner for the benefit of Scottish Country Dancing
(SCD) and the Society.

* I should like to ask that members of the Society who have access
to the Internet should use that access whenever possible to promote
the Society and SCD in a positive way. Over the next few years use
of the Internet will become commonplace and this provides a
wonderful opportunity to support and encourage SCD and non-dancers
to join us.
* I wonder how the internet is to be used to reach non-dancers.
There seems to be some confusion that the 30 or so million internet
users read every word that is put out by those users. Obviously
they don't and non-dancers will not be attracted because they will
not be there. What we can do, and the Society has made a start, is
with a web site that is available to those looking for information
or just surfing. But, it has to be a web site that grabs the
* I agree that the members of the Society should use the internet to
promote SCD in a positive way. But one related point is that we have
to establish a way that Headquarters can use the internet especially
on the e-mail side as for the cost of a local phone call you can
communicate with HQ and _they_can_talk_to_you_. It is efficient and
inexpensive and its use should be encouraged (Applause)
* (Linda Gaul) We do have an e-mail address but you are correct that
we are not using it yet. I would ask you to be patient but I know
you are not a very patient bunch (laughter). =

2. That Branches/Groups/Clubs are becoming too exclusive by
concentrating on recent, complex dances and thereby discouraging
(The proposer could not be present and the question was thrown open

* The question is not whether clubs etc. are being exclusive but
whether the Society as a whole is elitist which I believe it is.
What is the Executive Council doing about it? Nothing! I think they
should. I believe they should be looking into the practices of
branches, rattling a few cages and threatening the removal of
licences, if necessary. But, what really needs looking at is the
committees, that's where a few cages really do need to be rattled.
I believe that the Society should be all things to all men. What
does the average Glaswegian think of us? Unlikely to be impressed
with our straight lines and ballet shoes. Look at the programme for
this evening. It finishes with 2 Strathspeys in the last four
dances - that's not very welcoming.
* It is true that some of the older dances are _not_ being done
regularly. There are many fine dances in the old books and teachers
and branches should be using them on their programmes.
* I do agree about using the older dances. At our Branch's events
they are put on regularly and at certain times of the year we have
beginners dances with the more straight-forward dances and they are
always very popular with all the dancers.
* It is true that there are many dancers who enjoy complexity of
dance rather than dancing. This worries me as it creates two
problems. 1) We take ourselves too seriously and 2) it does make it
very difficult for people who are new to join us.
* I agree with a previous speaker that it is up to the Society to
encourage their teachers to want to use all their dances and not
just the most recent ones. But it is up to each teacher to assess
the needs of their group and meet them otherwise we will lose them
* (Linda Gaul) It is really up to each and every Branch and all of
us as individuals to influence the dancing in any individual area.
* (The original speaker) This would help but surely the Executive
should set an example. They should also reconsider their obsession
with the subscription book system which perpetuates the
introduction of new dances.

3. That the present teachers' courses are unsuitable for preparing
members to teach children and young people

* As a practising teacher I was concerned in taking my Society
teaching certificate that I was instructed only to teach adults and
nothing on the course was related to the teaching of children. I
would like the Society to consider adding this to the curriculum
* I would like to agree with the speaker. I am a professional
librarian who now teaches a children's dance class. It is very
subtly different. For example, the attention span is even shorter
than for adults. I also think the Society needs to think more
generally about the fact that it is training people who are not
necessarily professional teachers in real life and do more on the
theory of education.
* I am concerned about this differentiation of young people. To me
children are merely young adults and should be approached as such
and this is where I think people go wrong in that they approach
children as some sort of sub-standard adults. Personally, I don't
think you need any special training - you treat them all the same
and the young people don't need just simple dances all the time.
Children like a challenge, so give it to them and I think you'll be
delighted by their response. (applause)
* (Lesley Martin.) A professional teacher spends three or four years
in training. The Society gives a minimum of thirty hours. It is,
therefore, intended to give a good basic training in teaching
methods. The method works and experience allows a good teacher to
adapt these good basic principles and that is the Society's aim.
* The important point in teaching children is demonstration. You
show them what you want and they will do it.

4. That there should be a test period of one week at Summer School
when classes for children would be offered

* The Society must encourage young people and young adults. Many
people have commented to me that Summer School could be excellent
for children. So I am asking that for one week we trial the idea of
classes for young people at Summer School. This does not
necessarily mean that the children and their families are
residential. Only that they can join in the classes.
* (There followed a plug for I Danced Scottish)
* Why would it not be possible for the children to join the adult
classes if they are up to the standard. Many children can dance just
as well as the adults (wry smiles, laughter and applause).
* This subject has been discussed over and over again. One year we
tried but there were difficulties with premises etc. There are,
however, many teachers who are not on the staff who could help.
* (Linda Gaul.) It is a little bit the chicken and the egg. There
has to be the will to do it, the need to do it and then it will be
done. =

This discussion meandered on covering points that have been gone
over for the last few years and not, in my opinion, adding much to
the debate except to continue to stress the view that times have
changed and the RSCDS needs to look anew at catering for families
rather than individual adults. =

However, before closing, I must just return to the discussion on
teaching young people and a quote which, even without the aid of
notes, sticks in my memory and which _I_ think needs singling out
as special in a weekend where the theme was very much about young
<As a teacher, my expectations of young people and adults are
exactly the same: my methods of achieving those expectations are
completely different>

The subjects not discussed were:
5. That the examination process of the Society requires attention
6. That Branches/Groups/Clubs reconsider the appointment of their
teachers, taking into consideration: a retiral age, the development
of new teachers and the opportunity to be given to all teachers to
share the teaching.
7. That the Society requires a new, shorter name

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