New Zealand

Intellectual Suicide
I am baptised

United Kingdom


Small Is Beautiful
by Ian

Striking examples of "small is beautiful" include architecture. In times past, the ancients lived in caves which suited only one family, the Romans lived in houses of small size in small towns, and indeed right up to the middle of this century, small houses in small towns were the order of the day. But then quite suddenly, the revolution occurred. Small houses seemed old fashioned, and with land space at a premium, it seemed batter to build upwards: large houses instead of small: and then tower blocks of ten storeys - then twenty - then more. The tower block had ceased to be a place for people to live as its first priority: more, it was something to show to visitors or put photographs of on brochures. The bigger your block - the better your borough, it seemed. After all, who wanted to live in a boring little semi in a street? A great many people, it seemed. In streets, or even low-rise flats of perhaps three storeys, it was possible to get to know your neighbours - make friends, go round there and borrow pounds of sugar or have a cup of tea and a chat. But in the blocks, you are in "splendid isolation" with nobody to talk to or call your friend - and certainly nobody to borrow sugar from! Well, now, the planners have realised that tower blocks are not the answer. People prefer to walk with their feet on the ground...or at least, very near the ground.

In the area of schools, many modern schools are far too large. One school nearby has an intake of twelve forms in each year: 1800 pupils before "O" Level. Being a comprehensive, it contains pupils of many different abilities: but the teachers did not want people to find out which was which. The top form was called "D", the next "O", the next "M", and altogether, in order, the form letters spell out DOMINUS REGAT. It didn't take long for the people to work it all out, and soon after the school was opened, people were disparaging to members of lower forms, who became knows as "GATs". And nobody in the school knew everybody, so that social activities or even school activities were difficult to organise. The friction between the higher and lower forms has become so severe that now, the school has to stagger its working hours. The top forms start and finish about 30 minutes before the lower forms, so that only a minimal number of fights break out between the different streams. Is this really an ideal situation for a school? Surely in school there should be opportunity to live in harmony with the rest. Or maybe this school is teaching people about the real world, which itself has too many people in it. Smaller schools are far better: with an intake of about sixty, everybody in a year can know everybody else in the year they are in reasonably well (if they so choose) but can still lose themselves if they want to. It is then possible to know almost everybody in the school in any year. The staff and head will know everybody: whereas in the very large school, the head does not even know the name of every staff member.

What of shops? Surely here, large shops are preferable. Large stores such as Asda or Woodchurch Co-op Superstore can cater for huge numbers of people, and by buying in bulk they can easily undercut the small corner shop. That means people visit the superstore rather than the corner shop. So the corner shop loses customers, trade and profit. So eventually it has to close down. The "45,000 permanent savings" or the "low price everything every week" signs can be taken down fairly quickly. As soon as the last corner shop has closed, what necessity is there for people to cut prices - if the Asda price isn't right you have to do without the product, and if all the prices are wrong... you still have to pay some of them or you cannot survive. So the small corner shop must remain and should be supported. Maybe it costs a penny more for your loaf of bread there, or your tin of beans, but if they all closed down, what would the price then be at Asda? Or if there was a strike, what could be done? You could not get your food from anywhere else if that was the case. In the corner shop there is almost no queueing to pay but at Asda, with its 28 check-outs, once you have finished shopping, you could still be queueing to pay at the check-out for up to half an hour. Is that really the way to shop? Or build houses and schools? No - small is indeed beautiful!

(21) Excellent - a good variety of examples and most readably expressed. Jan 23 1979. RLJ

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