In 1974, the city of La Rochelle, in France, started its own system of free public bicycles. Their bikes were yellow and the system was successful. Today, there are more than 300 bikes and the city is famous for its yellow bikes. You have to pay to use the bikes now, but they aren’t expensive and they are very popular.
Today, technology has changed public bike sharing systems. There are now special stations for people to put the bikes so they are safe and computer systems that record the location of the bikes at the bike stations. In most bike sharing systems, the riders use a special card to pay for the bike. Public bike sharing systems are popular in Europe, but they are also becoming popular in Asia. In fact, the biggest bike sharing system is in the city of Hangzhou, in China. There are over 60,000 bicycles and over 2,000 stations!
Cities don’t have bike sharing systems to make money, but the city benefits because there are fewer cars on the roads, less noise and less pollution. Public bike sharing systems are also becoming very popular with tourists. Local people are happy because a shared bike is cheaper than using a car, it is good for the environment and it is good exercise. With over 500 bike sharing systems in the world today it looks like they are here to stay.
I’ve just started university and have met lots of new people from all sorts of countries. Despite their different backgrounds, they all went to the same type of school as me. The schools had lots of rules, lots of sitting quietly, hours of listening to lessons and never-ending tests. However, there was one student, Derek, who told me he’d gone to a democratic school. I didn’t know what he meant so I asked him to tell me more.
He explained that democratic schools are very different from typical schools where the teachers decide what the rules are. In democratic schools, things like equality and freedom are more important than getting good grades. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions. He explained that in weekly meetings students and staff members voted on school rules and ways to enforce them. They also decided what to do if someone broke the rules. Each student and staff member had one vote each so, as there were many more students than staff, the students were in control.
As for the lessons themselves, Derek said that students made their own timetables at the beginning of each term. They could choose from a range of traditional subjects like geography, maths and woodwork. He also explained how the students weren’t separated by age and even more surprising that participation in each class was optional. They had to attend the class but if they chose to, the students could do an alternative activity, like reading or drawing. Despite this, the students often chose to prepare for exams in order to go to university.
If I’d gone to a democratic school, I wouldn’t have studied anything and I’d have spent all my time playing games. Even now, I need someone to tell me what to do and organise my life for me. But maybe that’s the point of democratic schools. Perhaps if young people were allowed to make more decisions themselves, they would be better prepared not only for life at university, but also the challenges beyond.
There are many theories as to the importance of music. Some experts suggest that humans used music like birds do, to attract a mate. Other theories suggest that music emerged to accompany story telling. Stories told in groups turned into poetry, which had a rhythm. This rhythm may have been accompanied by clapping, which may have evolved into drums and other instruments. Another function of music was to bond communities, and this can still be evidenced in football stadiums all over the world. Whatever the reason, it is clear that music has never been essential for survival, but is something that has been kept because it serves various functions and is enjoyed by people.
In fact, according to recent studies, nowadays more and more young people are learning to play an instrument; the most popular being the recorder, piano and guitar. In recent years, electric keyboards and electric guitars have increased in popularity, suggesting a shift away from more traditional instruments towards electronic ones. With the arrival of the Internet and mobile technology, it is possible to turn a mobile phone into a keyboard or drum, and beginners can learn guitar and other instruments by watching video tutorials online. Some artists, like Ed Sheeran, have become famous after posting their performances on the Internet.
The Internet has also created the potential for people to collaborate on online musical projects so new sounds and ways of making music can be easily shared. The Virtual Choir is one example of this; more than a thousand voices were brought together by the Internet to create a digital choir. In addition, musicians who use the Internet can form online bands and use internet websites such as YouTube to share their music, without ever meeting in person.
But what about the young people without access to the Internet or expensive instruments like the piano? Well, in the same way as people have been doing for millennia, they make music in any way they can; by whistling, clapping or just hitting a box with their hands. As long as we have creativity and imagination, the future of music is assured, regardless of the instruments that we play.