Archive for the ‘education’ Category

On The Acquisition of Knowledge (And, If You’re Lucky, a Smidgeon of Wisdom)

January 31, 2013


In response to this:

A poster called Joe Young asks: ‘Can you really take every class at MIT and Yale online? How much does that cost?’

He gets a rather good response:’It’s free. Check out MIT’s OpenCourseWare, and Open Yale Courses’

An anonymous poster whines:’Nobody knows who that is.’
At this point I raise my eyes heavenward and type the following: ‘Try looking at your iTunes.  (Winston Churchill’s speeches are on there too).’

When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979 a journalist asked a rather obvious question: ‘How does it feel to be the first female prime minister in Downing Street?’

After pointing out that she had no other basis for comparison, Margaret Thatcher alerted the journalist to the fact that she was also the first science graduate in Downing Street. Her predecessors had mostly been humanities graduates.

The only cure for ignorance is knowledge and generally it doesn’t come to find you. You have to seek it out.

Is it worth commenting on the fact that there are many great historical figures who never graduated from university? Orwell was one of them. They didn’t think he was bright enough to attend. Imagine that? Methinks that maybe they weren’t bright enough for him.

No Faeces, Shirlock

October 23, 2010

I have been reading a good deal recently about Katherine Birbalsingh, the teacher who gave a speech at the Tory Party Conference, blaming the left for the declining standard of our public education system and claiming it was this that made her vote Tory for the first time in her life in the last general election.  She is a deputy head at the age of thirty seven. Would it be terribly mean spirited of me to point out that she must have done an awful lot of toadying to the liberal elite that run our schools to achieve such an exalted position at such a young age?  Has she only just noticed that our state education system sucks?  Was she walking around in a semi-comatose state?  Was she willfully myopic?

It seems to me that Ms Birbalsingh has overlooked a few inconvenient truths (hat tip to Al Gore).  She bemoans the absence of selection in state schools.  And her solution?  Vote Tory, forgetting, of course, that more grammar schools were abolished when Margaret Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education and the Tories did nothing in seventeen years to halt their decline.

Ms Birbalsingh also bemoans the poor standard of the GCSE and its preference for coursework over final exams.  And her solution?  Vote Tory, forgetting, of course that the O’level/CSE was abolished in the late 1980s under a Tory administration.  She apparently bemoans the existence of the BTEC, complaining that pupils and their parents are being misled into believing that they are the equivalent of four GCSEs.  Yet again she appears to have forgotten that the BTEC was introduced into secondary schools in the late ‘80s along with the much maligned GCSE.  I sat ten GCSEs whereas one of my closest school friends was shunted into the bottom stream and permitted to take only three GCSEs and two BTECS.  This happened in the early ’90s under the Major administration. When my friend’s parents queried this, they were told that each BTEC was worth several GCSEs.

Ms. Birbalsingh isn’t saying anything particularly original.  Melanie Phillips (before she descended into the depths of the Daily Mail) wrote a book entitled All Must Have Prizes, a devastating exposē of the paucity of the British Education system in 1994.  I went to school at around the same time at Ms. Birbalsingh and I noticed that the public education system sucked even then and I went to a relatively good faith school.  (Please take note of the word ‘relatively’.) I relied, rather too much, on auto-didacticism.  If the education system has deteriorated even further then we really are doomed.

Ms. Birbalsingh, by all accounts, gave quite a rousing speech at the Tory Party Conference.  Is this in absolute or relative terms because, if it is the latter then she is truly damned by faint praise.  She is also, according to Melanie Phillips in her Daily Mail column, ‘an exceptional and inspirational teacher, although how she came to know this remains a mystery.  Has she actually seen her teach?  Again, is this in absolute or relative terms?  If it is the latter then that’s twice she’s been damned by faint praise.

Oh, and if you really want to know how long our eduction system has been woefully inadequate, then try teaching remedial English to people in their thirties and forties.  They turn up in those classes because the education system under both Tory and Labour administrations cast them aside.


October 15, 2007

When will my body will stop rejecting food.? A perfectly healthy meal wasted because my body thought it was that little possessed girl out of the Exorcist – in that Projectile vomiting scene. And no, I didn’t get to do the coolest bit: my head didn’t spin round.

Grammar Schools: the Sequel

May 30, 2007

Y’know, I’m no great Daily Mail enthusiast but I think this columnist is right on the money. That’s an old, old policy to which he is referring. The Tories were in power for eighteen years and, while they made all the right noises, they did very little at parliamentary level to actively support Grammar (note the spelling) schools. And before other forumites protest that they were stymied at every turn by Labour-controlled local authorities, you may care to remember that this was also the case with the Right to Buy policy (council housing) and the reforms of the NHS. Labour local authorities opposed them on ideological grounds at every turn yet the Tories managed to steamroller their policies through. One might ask why they failed to do this with Grammar schools.

Maybe it’s because Grammar schools weren’t so high on their list of priorities, after all.

In Response to the Tories’ U-turn on Grammar Schools

May 24, 2007

This seems to have caused something of a furore.

I’ll wager that the average grammar school was more intellectually and socially diverse than my Catholic school which had an unfortunate habit of selection via the backdoor. (With lots of emotional consequences for the pupils of that school even if they did go on to excel in higher education. Catholic Guilt, anyone?)

BTW: Many left-leaning middle class parents of school aged children wriggle out of the dilemma they have created for themselves by reverting to their childhood religion, feigning commitment and sending their children to some Catholic school miles away from their homes which just happens to be highly-placed in the league tables. But they’ll stop at nothing a get their children a ‘decent’ education, whatever the cost, in the long term, to that child’s emotional well-being, while preserving (ostensibly, at least) their political integrity.

They have their cake and devour it with relish.

Will Somebody Please Get Me Out of This Rabbit Hole?

February 6, 2007

And this one, I think, will run and run. The Jade Goody/Big Brother story is still occupying column inches, still causing mass hysteria. Ms. Shetty is being interviewed around the clock and people are still comparing her favourably to Ms. Goody. Much has been made of Jade Goody’s lack of intellectual prowess in comparison with that of the ‘college educated’ Ms. Shetty. Apparently she has appeared in fifty Bollywood films and speaks ten languages. Which begs the question: why on earth was she appearing on Big Brother at all. The programme is named after the manipulative, omnipotent dictator of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I’m surprised Ms. Shetty was unaware of this. Big Brother is also renowned for the bullying and vulgarity of many of its housemates. Surely Ms. Shetty viewed footage of past shows before she agreed to compete.

Media luminaries are lining up to inform Ms. Goody that she is not exactly the brightest star in the sky. Well, guess what, people, Ms. Shetty sounds as though she has had a better education than Ms. Goody because she has. There is a deeper issue here, one that the media is steadfastly refusing to confront. Is is right to gloat over the fact that a damaged young woman has been so poorly served by our education system?

I don’t adhere to the concept of collective guilt so I don’t believe Ms. Goody’s conduct represents me. It has been suggested that we, as a nation, should be ashamed and embarrassed by Ms. Goody’s behaviour. I disagree. Any embarrassment we feel should not be a result of what happened in the Big Brother House but by the way in which a minority of the population reacted: screaming for lynch mob ‘justice’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) whilst being cheered on from the sidelines by our so-called intelligentsia. I’m surprised I didn’t hear calls of ‘Burn the witches.’ Now, where is Matthew Hopkins when you need him?


June 22, 2006

Entropy- everything disintegrating around me. Notable events of the last week – bought myself a PSP – a sleek, black PSP (I can’t work out why anyone would want a white one). Currently playing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Mother visited over the weekend – she bought me a new double bed as an early birthday present. And the debts keep accumulating. I am very behind on my IT course – I am stuck. I don’t feel as though I can (or even want to) carry on.

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