Imagine my surprise, dear reader, when I clicked on last week's SR and
found that I had contributed an excellent piece on the SNP and globalisation. I had no recollection of writing it or sending it off to Islay, but short-term memory issues are not uncommon in my household. I was delighted that my writing and perceptions were a good deal better than usual, but that delight vanished when I read the byline at the bottom: 'Bill Paterson is a writer based in Caithness'.
Now your current correspondent, Bill Paterson, is an Equity member based
in London. Suddenly, I felt like the legendary guy in the balcony of the Glasgow Empire who, confronted by Mike and Bernie Winters, wailed: 'Oh my God, there's two o' them!'
This set me to consider the dilemma of byline confusion. Thanks to Equity's strict rules, there could thankfully only ever be one 'Mike and Bernie Winters' in the union and every performer knows many colleagues who had to change or adapt their names because their chosen one was already booked.
Back in early 1970s, we helped a gloriously charismatic and witty fellow who
wanted to get into show business. He managed to get a toe hold in Equity but was told that his name, Robbie MacMillan, was too close to that of an already established actor. He would have to change it. You'll know him today as Robbie Coltrane.
My esteemed pal, the actor Brian Cox, is tormented by the winsome
astrophysicist of the same name who decided showbiz was even more
exciting than space, but didn't bother to change his name. Cheques have
been known to go astray in both directions and the distinguished theatre
director Bill Alexander always asks me when he can have his name back.
He was christened Bill Paterson.
I'm sure readers can contribute many examples. On a postcard please.
I don't know the other Mr Paterson in Caithness but it's entirely likely that he has been a writer for much longer than I've pretended to be. So I'm signing this off with my middle name. This is the name I would have chosen if there had been another Bill Paterson in Equity in 1968.
The other Bill Paterson has a piece in this week's SR! – Ed
article in SR last week suggests that 'ACEs is a growing grassroots movement'. My understanding of ACE is far removed from grassrooted-ness: it is rather an IT-based product in the form of a branded questionnaire and it is worth asking whether it really is the best Scotland can do to help the minority of children whose lifelong outcomes are prospectively blighted by trauma. And it seductively diverts the attention of parents, teachers and the public from many of the problems of Scottish education.
ACE is a computer analogue: a programme that uses the continuously growing amount of data gathered to better model the problem being solved. This is the first point to register. At best, the ACE questionnaire may, in the fullness of time, help children. Presently, if researchers had access to anything as commercially valuable as the ACE questionnaire returns made by Scotland's 500,000+ schoolchildren, the data would represent a resource of enormous academic and commercial value. The commercial value would arise from the fact that ethical and human rights considerations pertaining to most advanced Western governments and economies would not allow the gathering of this data.
ACEs represent a scientific approach, over which so many technical and methodological difficulties exist, and the Scottish government should not be early adopters. Work at a number of European universities (Toulouse III and Mainz) suggest the shortcomings. Michelle Kelly-Irving and Cyrille Delpierre at Toulouse conclude: 'From a public health perspective ACEs are useful for describing the policy needed to act upon complex social environments… As a probabilistic and population level tool they are not adapted to diagnose individual level vulnerabilities'.
They go on to suggest that ACEs may, as an unintended consequence, 'exacerbate inequalities'. Jochen Hardt and Michael Rutter at Mainz point out that one person's trauma is another person's event. The subjectivity of language, frustratingly, does not allow scientific validity.
Rolling out ACE as official policy to be implemented by teachers would be as wrongly timed as Curriculum for Excellence. We have to make CfE work in Scotland. Teachers can look at the OECD recommendations and follow them, or they can be led off into shiny new careers as child psychologists cum social workers. I would suggest that if a government were actively seeking a way to sow more discord into an already fractious polity, they would not find anything which will divide the sorority of the nation more decisively than the state mandating 40,000 teachers to 'design interventions' for ACE-defined children rather than teach them.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com