Category Archives: edukashun

06 Feb

Suffer the little children

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says that many youngsters aged 12 to 15 are suffering severe mental illness, with girls almost seven times more likely to seek help than boys.

There has been a 36% increase over four years in young people seeking help for depression and other disorders, while there was also a rise in the number of children and young people feeling suicidal.

One young person who called Childline said: “I’m struggling to cope with bipolar. One minute, I feel so low, like I’m trapped, and all I want to do is disappear. Then suddenly, I feel the complete opposite, and I’m really happy and I start thinking about everything in a really positive light. I feel like I push away everyone that tries to help, I tell them I hate them and blame them for everything. I just feel like I’ve turned into a monster.”

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said he was “deeply concerned” by the figures. As well he might be. As well we all should be.

The only surprising thing about these shocking revelations is that anyone should be surprised, for the causes are all around us.

We give our children no moral guidance, no etiquette and no notion of how to conduct their daily lives. Then we let them loose in a crazy electronic world of whirling images, wilder than the wild west. We curse them with the absolute freedom to decide matters that are really beyond them. This “freedom” amounts to enslavement.

Let me start with an example of this living hell taken from the NSPCC report itself. The “young person” quoted is actually a girl. But we’re not allowed to call her a girl. Neither is this undoubted girl referred to as “she.” She, a singular individual, is referred to as “they.”

This is insane and wicked. For a girl and an individual is what she is.

Identities are not, in the first place, chosen: they have to be assigned. Or donated or bestowed, if you like. That’s what the Christening and Confirmation Services used to do.

We tell them from primary school upwards that they should choose not only their sexuality – whether to be hetero or homo or any combination of this, that and the other – but even their sex, which we describe by the misnomer gender.

We instruct them from their earliest years in the physical mechanics of sex, while giving them no teaching about sexual ethics. This is tantamount to putting someone who has had no driving lessons at all behind the wheel of a high-powered sports car and ordering her to drive off at full speed in heavy traffic.

We used to provide the children with religious education and this meant basic Christianity: the parables of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection and our duty towards God and our neighbour. Now the children get none of this, because we have elected to contrive for ourselves a multicultural babel in which all religions are said to be equal. But there is only one perspective from which such a syllabus can be taught and that is the secular perspective. The unwritten subtext is not only that all religions are equal, but that all religions are equally false. The secular educationists claim they must at all costs avoid “indoctrination.” Then they indoctrinate the children with secular dogmas.

Children, say the educationists, must be free to make up their own minds. Yes, but they don’t have minds until their heads actually contain something. Something has to be basic. For hundreds of years this was a simple outline of the Christian faith and elementary ethics. Give children this start, provide them with a few fixed points of reference in an ever-giddier world and then, when they come to the age of discretion, they can give it all up and become atheists or satanists if that’s what they fancy.

Not to do these things – out of whatever perverted notions of “equality” and “diversity” we nowadays profess – amounts to our dereliction of responsibility.

For which we should repent and return to common sense, to our right minds.

It’s not the kids who are mentally ill: it’s the adults

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08 Jan

The uncritical critics at SAOS

I don’t usually find myself in agreement with fascists and book-burners, but I do agree with the students of the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SAOS) – who are fascists and would-be book burners – when they say, “White philosophers should only be studied from a critical perspective.”

I would go further and say that all  philosophers should only be studied from a critical perspective.

The SAOS students’ statement only goes to show that they have no understanding of what philosophy is. Criticism and argument are the very substance of philosophy. In fact they are the requirements for the pursuit of the knowledge of every subject.

Of course there is a subtext here: the demand that white philosophers should be singled out for critical study implies that black and Asian ones should be studied uncritically.

Actually, it is not possible to study anything uncritically. When we begin to study a topic, the first question – I mean first in the sense of logically prior to – must be, “What is this subject about?” This opens up the critical process as one participant replies, “It is about X” and another one chips in, “No, it is about Y”

The SAOS students do not study black and Asian philosophers critically simply because they are not capable of doing so. They have proved their incapacity by their failure to understand the meaning of criticism.

Give these SAOS ideologues, bigots and thickos the credit for practising what they preach. For indeed they do not study black and Asian philosophers critically: instead they sit at their feet and swallow whole every half-baked morsel which emerges from the mouths of their heroes.

In fact their heroes are not philosophers at all, but ideologues and political propagandists and sloganisers just like the students themselves.

I began by expressing my agreement with the students of SAOS. Let me end by doing the same.

Yes, they should study more black and Asian philosophers. Let them start then with St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)

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15 Dec

A degree in social engineering?

The BBC newsroom today describes Bristol as a “leading” university. I should like to know within what field is Bristol a leader or, to put it another way, where is it leading us?

Bristol is to increase its intake of disadvantaged students by offering places with reduced grades. These pupils are also described as being “from  schools with poor A-level results.”

Vice-chancellor Hugh Brady said this would be a “step change” in admissions. I don’t know what the vice-chancellor’s phrase “step change” indicates – except that he is rather adept in the use of jargon.

The Bristol project, to be launched by Education Secretary Justine Greening, is described as “an attempt by the university to drive social mobility and attract a wider range of students.”

More jargon. Being translated, it means that Bristol’s wheeze has nothing to do with education but is rather a political project in the dubious area of social engineering. Again I must ask for some clarity: just what is meant by “a wider range” of students? Lower exam grades show that some students are not as academically competent as those scoring more highly. If they don’t show that, then we might as well abolish all exams for then the whole business of grading would be meaningless.

Let me use a dirty word: exam results provide the authorities with criteria which allow them to discriminate between those for whom a university education would be suitable and those for whom it would not.

In fact this “leading” vice-chancellor’s levelling down project is a betrayal of the character and purpose of the university itself which is meant to provide intellectual excellence for an elite. If universities no longer exist for that purpose, then they, along with the exams, should be abolished.

Fastidious social engineers scream when you say these things, though I can’t see that they have any cause to scream. Those who oppose the policy of dumbing down and levelling are not claiming that intellectual excellence is the only sort of excellence: merely that it is the sort of excellence for which the idea of a university was formed in the first place.

Many who take readily to reading literature, history, philosophy or physics admit to being utterly useless when it comes to the exercise of practical and mechanical operations. To learn to become master of a trade is also something worthwhile – that’s why we used to provide five years’ apprentices so that, when they arrive at maturity, young people might be equipped with high skills as plumbers, electricians, carpenters or dressmakers.

We should ditch these social engineering projects and embrace the existence of different aptitudes. University standards will be damaged and ultimately destroyed by such politicking. And students who acquire their university places by this means will not be happy there.

And now for something similar… The BBC also reports that from 2017 all recruits into the police force will be required to hold a university degree. Why?

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07 Dec

Edukashon Edukashon EduKashon

When it comes to edukashon, the UK is still lagging behind many countries and has made little progress in international rankings since the results of three years ago.

The widely respected Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in over seventy countries.

The UK is behind outstanding performers such as Singapore and Finland, but also trails Vietnam, Poland and Estonia.

The OECD’s edukashon director, Andreas Schleicher, describes the UK’s results as, “Flat in a changing world”.

In maths, the UK is ranked 27th, having slipped down a place from three years ago – the lowest since it began participating in the Pisa tests in 2000

In reading, the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd, having fallen out of the top 20 in 2006.

We can augment this information by consulting our government’s own shameful statistics. The Department of Education reports that, after eleven years of full-time, compulsory state education, 43% of pupils leave school unable to read, write and count with even moderate efficiency.

And this given an annual edukashon budget of £85million. Neither Estonia nor Vietnam nor most of the featured countries can boast edukashon spending at even a fraction of that sum. And the UK has been in the game for a long time. Free state edukashon was made compulsory in 1880. Since that time, “systems” – actually fashions and fads – have come and gone, yet the performance is always depressingly the same – or worse.

Literacy and numeracy were actually better in Victorian times when the “system” was talk and chalk. Even in the late 1940s, I did most of my work with chalk and slate. My grandmother left school in 1894 aged twelve, able to read the Bible and Dickens’ novels. She also knew by heart all the Collects from The Book of Common Prayer. The lumpen intelligentsia, the highly unionised teaching force, would regard a knowledge of the Bible and the Prayer Book as child-abuse, and the novels of Dickens as disgraceful elitism.

Those who can, do; and those who can’t teach. And those who can’t teach are promoted to become edukashonal advisers. One of these – there are thousands of them reinforced by tedious bureaucracies such as OFSTED – was being interviewed on television yesterday and he said, “We shouldn’t emphasise rote learning. Children must be encouraged to be creative.”

Look, mister bureaucrat, if you try to be creative before you have a smattering of the basics, you’ll end up in danger of winning the Turner Prize.

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07 Jun

O brave new world that hath such people in it

There is nothing more heavenly than a summer day spent at a county cricket match. The only problem is that you may have to go through purgatory and halfway through hell to get there.

Yesterday I took the train from Eastbourne to Hove to watch the Sussex-Essex game. Opposite me sat three obese, shouty, fully tattooed and trashily bejewelled representatives of the underclass. I should say they sat only intermittently, for they kept getting out of their seats and running about in pursuit of their offspring, a lad aged six or seven.

To say that the boy was unruly would, I suppose, be an insult to what his minders would describe as his right do just as he bloody well liked. Or rather they would surely have said, what he f****** well liked, for the F-word was the predominant feature of their social intercourse: the carriage was, for instance, “…too f****** hot and too f****** crowded.”

The boy expressed his freewill and exercised his right to do as he f****** well pleased by running up and down and kicking passengers randomly. He had clearly been taught the merits of inclusivity and non-discrimination, for he was perfectly non-selective in those he chose to kick: old ladies, that posh-looking young woman trying to read The Guardian, other of his contemporary oiks – and me.

He even poked a nearby baby in the eye.

His minders were hugely entertained by his antics and cheered him on vigorously. The three of them and their kick-boxer offspring ate noisily, endlessly, crisps, chocolate bars other slimy, runny sweet stuff and some provender which I couldn’t identify but which smelled of sick.

Only their latitude concerning the boy’s foul conduct was not consistent. From time to time their approval would be withdrawn and, in their robust and stentorian vernacular, they would rise up – or rather waddle up sweatily – and assume the proper dignity of responsible parenthood, as in, “Cum ’ere you little f*****! Why woz you kicking that Mrs?”

Then one of the minders would smack him. The next minute another of them would say, “You’re your mam’s little prince, int yer!”

It was the boy himself I felt most sorry for. Alternately doted on and reprimanded, caught between cloying sentiment and sheer brutality, there was no possibility of his learning how to interpret human responses to his behaviour.

A little boy already facing a life totally demoralised.

Lurching from indulgence to terror and back again inside two minutes. And this pattern repeated, world without end.

What would he be like in fifteen years’ time? Like his parents, of course: his fat-legged dad, his savage, loud-mouthed mam and her chav of a sister – if it was her sister.

The whole carriage knew they weren’t underprivileged or socially-excluded or deprived – or, as we used to say, poor – for they announced several times to the whole carriage that they were going on a fortnight’s seaside holiday.

No, they weren’t poor. They were the products of our secularised educashun and welfare system.

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19 Aug

Is the social engineer here?

When you notice two items side by side, do you get the urge to join them together?

A report on the BBC’s Today Programme this morning told us that Tony Blair’s 1999 ambition – “Educashun, Educashun, Educashun,” remember – to have 50% of all youngsters attend university has been achieved. But the reporter confessed that this is not quite the roaring success it appears to be. For many graduates are going into jobs which don’t require a university degree.

This item was followed immediately by the announcement that the number of houses being built in Britain is a lot lower than the country’s needs. The main reason given for this was that building companies can’t find the carpenters, electricians and other skilled tradesmen they require.

I’m not normally fond of Americanisms, but their pithy phrase, “Go figure” seems apt here.

For when we’ve gone and figured, we understand that youngsters who might, better advised, have been inclined to learn a trade, instead found themselves saddled with a government loan in order to waste three years “reading” Golf Studies with Tourism or, as it might be Applied Social Policy and Hairdressing.

Quite apart from the important point that our higher education system is not producing the numbers of people to do the work that the country requires, Blair’s impudent piece of social engineering guarantees that many young people are not fulfilling their vocations, exercising their aptitudes and settling into suitable and rewarding work.

Square pegs and round holes. Lives are being spoilt – and all for Blair’s arrogant obsession.

We are now told, of course, that universities shouldn’t be elitist. What should they be, then mediocritist?

For centuries the university was a place where that minority of people interested in such things – and who perhaps experienced a calling to study them – devoted themselves to philosophy, theology, literature and the theoretical sciences. Most people were neither interested in these subjects nor called to study them. Fine – there are many other noble and respectable ways of spending one’s life. You could be an electrical engineer, a plumber, a joiner or any one of a hundred different trades.

Proficiency in a trade such as engineering or carpentry is not inferior to theoretical activity; only it is different. Wittgenstein was an engineer. Jesus was a carpenter.

Now we are living in the mess caused by Blair’s perverse desire to send half our youngsters to waste their time in universities

And what, pray, is Tony Blair? Is he an intellectual? Is he a practical man? No, he is that most arrogant and destructive of creatures: a social engineer.  

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31 Jul

Rite me a poim, Megan

“Now then Megan, I want you to write a poem. And when you’ve finished, please compose a forty-part motet, cook me a cordon bleu supper and show me your designs for a new cathedral.”

If it weren’t so depressing, it would be risible to note that anyone – borderline illiterates included – are expected to be able to write poetry. What is a poem? I recall C.H. Sisson’s definition of its meaning today in the schools: “A composition in which the words do not quite extend to the margins.”

But never mind the dumb schools, this is what The Spectator offers us as an example of a poem:

“None of the teachers who taught us

Were around that final afternoon at

Grammar school – probably frightened

Of being assaulted after giving us so

Much grief for five years, no more of

That though. We sat around unsupervised

Playing cards and smoking a bit and then

It seemed so simple, so absurdly easy to

Just walk down the drive and out of the front

Gate for the last time.”

I thought it must be by poor Megan who is troubled by learning difficulties and dyslexia issues, but it turns out to be by Paul Birtill, a contributor to The Morning Star. Before we get started on thinking about your “poem”, Paul, do you mind if we just deal with something pretty basic? I mean it’s not frightened of but frightened by. It’s afraid of, as any poet no. They don’t teach you that at grammar school – ‘cos it’s grammar, innit? And, while I’m at it, none takes was not were. 

There’s no call for dogmatism when it comes to saying what counts as poetry. There is room for all sorts: for Homer, for Alexandrian metre, Augustan austerity, lyrical ballads and Uncle Tom Eliot’s inability to make connections on Margate Sands. And the sentiment doesn’t have to be hifalutin or sham antique, as in gay Hesperion’s golden whatsit. It can be slight, light-hearted, whimsical. Let me cast the net as as widely as possible and say that a poem is just a few words in a particular rhythm.

Birtill’s poem has no discernible rhythm. Dare I suggest that a poem should also be about something? It doesn’t have to be the Trojan wars or the salon of Madame Sosostris but, for crying out loud, it shouldn’t be utterly banal. Birtill’s poem doesn’t say anything except the blindingly obvious. It’s a ten-lines cliche.You go to school for a few years and then you leave.. There is no insight, nothing produced by an actual imagination, no verbal facility. In fact, it isn’t a poem. It’s prose pretending to be verse – and lousy prose at that.

Poetry is not, as the modern educashernists vainly believe, about expressing yourself. You have no self to express until you have ingested something, until you have been taught something. The true poet is usually to be noticed with the works of the great  poets of the past in his hands, not filling notebooks with verbal trash. The composition of poetry requires also concentration and, above all, practice.

You can no more write a poem without at least some understanding of what will go into ordinary English than go out and score a century against the Aussie pace bowlers when you’ve never wielded a cricket bat in your life before.

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19 Jun

Educashun

In a speech at the annual Festival of Education, Mr John Cridland, head of the Confederation of British Industries – “the bosses’ union” – said that for too long “We’ve just pretended to have an exam system that values vocational education, when in practice, exams have operated as stepping stones towards a university degree.”

Well said, Sir. But the matter is much larger than that. I should like to know why, after eleven years of full time, free, compulsory and hugely expensive schooling, supposedly at the hands of “professionally trained” teachers monitored, spied-upon and graded by  an even more expensive, self-promoting bureaucracy, 43% of pupils still leave school unable to read, write and count efficiently? (By the way, that figure of 43% is not one plucked out of the ether by me, but the Department of Education’s own statistic).

Even to ask this straightforward question is to be denounced as an elitist and an educational snob. I know, for those words have been applied to me time and again – as if I’d been born with the silver spoon in my mouth and attended some posh, fee-paying private school. Actually, I went to Castleton County Primary in a Leeds industrial slum. There were never fewer than forty in our classes and we were very poorly equipped. And never mind elitism. I’m not talking about the binomial theorem or noun clauses but about being able to reckon up money in your head, do simple calculations using the tables up to twelve times and to be able to read a newspaper and a novel such as David Copperfield.

There is nothing abstract or theoretical about the examples I have chosen. All of us at Castleton school could do those things – not just before we left secondary school at sixteen, but before we left primary school aged eleven.

Why, half a century later and the country so much richer, the teaching profession never so well-paid and the educational budget astronomical – and rising – do nearly half our children leave school ill-equipped for daily life?

Standards of basic literacy and numeracy were higher in the late-Victorian age than they are today.

Not least of the reasons for the shambles of our schools is that they are the playthings of a privileged and paranoid state bureaucracy – a nomenclatura – which has come to exist not for those it was designed to serve – the children – but for the benefit of the highly-unionised professionals who operate it.

As Ronald Reagan said, “The most chilling words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you’.”

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25 Nov

Bad karma

We can always rely on the Labour party to come up with plenty of creative thinking. Here’s today’s dollop…

Britain’s private schools will lose £700m in tax breaks unless they agree to break down the “corrosive divide of privilege” and do more to help children from state schools, according to Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary.

His logic is impeccable. It is as if I should argue that the local first class butcher should be fined unless he agrees to assist the filthy tripe shop on the next street.

On the department of education’s own admission, 43% of children leave state education, after eleven years of compulsory and expensive schooling, unable to read, write and count efficiently.

I taught for years in a bog standard comprehensive as a head of department and I know that state schooling resembles that filthy tripe shop. Half the teachers were themselves in need of remedial education. One maths master required every Monday morning the assistance of the PE man to add up his pupils’ dinner money. An RE teacher in my department thought that one of the gospels was written in the Middle Ages – by St Paul. An English teacher spoke of something as “mitigating against.”

Parents send their children to fee paying schools in order to escape a state system, so awful it amounts to child abuse. Moreover, most of these parents are not Russian oligarchs or wealthy coves such as Dave Cameron, and they scrimp and save, denying themselves and their families many of the good things in life, so desperate are they to avoid having to send their children to the state school dumps. And this payment off fees is over and above the extortionate amount they have already paid in taxes to support the useless comprehensives.

There be two sacred cows: the NHS and state education. Both receive more and more of taxpayers’ money as the years go by. And the result is that they relentlessly get worse. This is because state education and socialised medicine have grown so monstrously large and so overwhelming bureaucratised that they no longer exists for those they were set up to serve but for the hordes of highly unionised and politicised “professionals” who manage them.

I mentioned sacred cows and the phrase makes me think of bad karma. And that’s what state education is: “on a board untrue with a twisted cue and elliptical billiard balls.” 

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17 Nov

Making it worse

Appalling car crash in Yorkshire. Five killed, including four sixth formers from the same school.

Then the head teacher comes on The Today Programme to be interviews by John Humphrys and all the now obligatory rigmarole starts: “Counselling…support…flowers…candles lit…books of condolence…no words to express our feelings etc”

Yes, there are words and I’ll come to what they are in a minute.

Post-Christian society cannot cope with the fact of death and so its only recourse is to sentimentalise it. And that does no one any good, because it is really an avoiding of the issue.

I have some experience in the deaths of schoolchildren. When I was eight, I walked into the school yard one morning and there was the dead body of one of my mates who had been climbing on the back of the milk lorry for the fun of the ride. He’d fallen under the wheels and was crushed. A teacher stood by the body over which he had thrown a blanket. He ushered us all through briskly. We were all disturbed and scared. In a very silent assembly the headmaster told us what had happened, said some prayers and cautioned us all not to climb on to the back of the milk lorry in future. The death of our friend had been a shocking lesson and none of us went near the milk lorry again.

Thirty years on from that event, I was myself a teacher, head of RE and chaplain in a downtown state secondary school in Bolton, Lancashire. There were two incidents of untimely deaths in the four years I was there. A brother and sister killed crossing the road on their way home from school. Then two boys drowned in a mill pond.

Naturally, on both occasions the whole school was upset. But no words? Yes there are:

“There has been a terrible accident. Two pupils have been killed. They were our friends and we shall miss them. We send our sympathy to their parents and brothers and sisters. And we pray for the repose of their souls, these our friends who are now in the nearer presence of God. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.”

The headmaster followed me on to the rostrum and repeated his warning about the dangers of running into the road without looking and of playing in the mill ponds.

The whole school walked out in silence and we got on with our lessons.

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