Notepad on Life

January 23, 2017

Child poverty not just a money thing

Filed under: Education,Family,Kids — - @ 9:26 am
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Cropped from a pic by Steve Rhode

She works with disadvantaged children. The type so damaged by broken homes or dysfunctional parents that conventional education can’t cope with them; they need one-to-one lessons in handling life before they can even think about handling school.

She’s making inroads already with her latest charge. So immersed did he become in one of their recent days out together that he briefly forgot himself, as he pointed to something that had caught his eye.

“Look mummy…” he shouted.

The ultimate professional compliment, wrapped around a cry for help so searing, she said it cut her in two.

You can’t throw money at that kind of deprivation.

December 21, 2016

Cop this plea – there’s no degree in ‘streetwise’

Filed under: crime,Education,Law and order — - @ 5:00 pm
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Pic courtesy of Police-Mad-Liam

It’s hard to pick highlights in Peter Hitchens’ latest excellent Mail on Sunday column, but vested family interest leads me to the last item, on the misguided plan to make university degrees mandatory for would-be police officers.

“Graduates spend the first ten years in any job discovering that they don’t, in fact, know everything, while the non-graduates roll their eyes in despair,” writes Hitchens. 

“What police officers need is not a certificate, but the common sense that comes from years of friendly contact with the people they serve.”

I shudder to think how many potentially excellent policemen and women will now never materialise because of the fashionable yet flawed belief that only higher education can unlock a young person’s potential. What a slap in the face for those myriad ‘failures’  who left school with nothing, only to become rip-roaring successes once they were set free to engage a world beyond Academia.

It’s just not everyone’s bag, the life of dissertations and doctorates. There are people whose talents lie in their hands, in hand-eye co-ordination, or in tackling real problems instead of the more abstract variety. If that means three years in the University of Life then they should be allowed to get on with it, not erroneously pigeon-holed just to keep the quota brigade happy.

We don’t need spectacular double-firsts from our police. We need street-savvy, impeccable people skills and an air of mild intimidation that can, when warranted, be fully backed up by the judicious use of brawn. And you don’t learn those qualities over cappuccino in some junior common room.

As for how the whole thing might yet backfire on those who dreamt it up, meanwhile, just Google ‘university’ and ‘snowflakes’, and brace yourself for the day when our boys in blue ask if they can sit this particular riot out because they’ve been ‘triggered’.

 

May 29, 2016

Life-on-a-plate mindset hard to swallow

Filed under: Education — - @ 11:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

One thought always reins me in whenever I feel a rant at the young coming on.

I was young once.

Just as these supposed ‘end times’ will one day be ‘the good old days’ for our children, so I am now the rantee turned ranter, an ex-young fool now despairing of young fools, who in turn will one day despair of those who follow them.

Humbling as this reflection may be, I suspect it has an equally recurrent flipside. As the wheel turns, each generation it flings into middle age will, I fancy, think its situation to be unique, insisting that “We were never this bad at their age…”

If so, then it’s now my turn, but no matter how timeless a trap I may be falling into, it is impossible to remained silent in the face of goings-on at America’s Oberlin College. (Which I comment upon here because, if it starts in America, chances are it’s headed Britain’s way.)

Hell, we might have grumbled about homework, exams, job interviews and the other steps up life’s ladder 40 years ago, but we could grudgingly see the point to them. Those who actively sought to dismantle the ladder were isolated oddballs. Today, they have become mainstream.

Today, if they have Oberlin College as part of their address, they want it to be social activism first, education second. Abolish all grades below C and replace examinations with chats with a professor, they demand, to take account of how this whole ‘learning’ thing is really beginning to mess with their change-the-world objectives.

“The students say that between their activism work and their heavy course load, finding success within the usual grading parameters is increasingly difficult. ‘A lot of us worked alongside community members in Cleveland who were protesting,’ Megan Bautista, a co-liaison in Oberlin’s student government, said, referring to the protests surrounding the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a police officer in 2014. ‘But we needed to organize on campus as well — it wasn’t sustainable to keep driving 40 minutes away. A lot of us started suffering academically.'”

Certain truisms to which even their radical predecessors would at least nod, now seem to completely pass people by. The idea that you’re at college first and foremost to learn, for example (and see how America holds you to that, kids, should Bernie Sanders’ dream of free education for all ever come to pass). Or that part of that learning process involves focus and prioritising, waking up to the fact that our actions have consequences and that no-one can have or do it all.

If you’re not meeting the demands of your college, it calls for re-appraisal by you, not for some convenient sleight of hand in the college’s grading process. And if you don’t know it well enough to write it down, don’t kid yourself that you’ll express it any better with the eyes of some professor unamused by such indulgence burning holes in your forehead.

The world will still need saving when you graduate. You may be surprised how much more you can achieve in that regard when you’re based in an office or laboratory instead of behind a fast-food counter.

Of course, if that generational cycle continues to do its thing, the snowflakes of Oberlin College will one day seem paragons of diligence and realism compared to those who follow them. But they must excuse me if I’m finding that a little hard to visualise right now.

January 11, 2016

Universities and now sport the symptoms of a society gone soft

There may be something in the theory that the opponent most demonised by his critics is the one they’re most afraid of.

I’d heard a lot about Rush Limbaugh before I started listening to him, all of it from those whose politics are at variance to his, and whose withering dismissal of the American radio talk show host had me braced for some ranting demagogue who would display only the most fleeting relationship with Planet Earth.

And then I listened to the man himself, courtesy of his weekly highlight show broadcast via TuneIn. The reality was one of the more evenly spoken of all the conservative radio voices, which for the great majority of his airtime seemed to articulate little other than eminent common sense. Presumably, we are both insane together.

See what you think, once you read this transcript of a segment in which he considers how the Pollyanna mindset of so many millennials, to whom happiness is an entitlement that must not be tarnished in the slightest degree for even one second, is now seeping into both supposed seats of learning and professional sport.

The opening five paragraphs are largely preamble. It’s when Limbaugh turns his attention to ex-New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin that he really starts warming to his task.

The money quotes…

“I shouldn’t have to be upset, which seems to be the rallying cry of Millennials. Don’t upset me! I don’t have to be upset. I don’t want to be upset. Don’t microaggress me.”

“It’s what all this college campus rot is all about. They don’t want to hear things that upset them, be it anything they disagree with or anything that might slightly offend. They don’t want to hear it. They shut people up…It’s childish, spoiled rotten childish. But it’s not just the kids…we have adults now who have been raised with that culture, who have now assumed positions of responsibility and authority where you would expect some wisdom and the ability to offer guidance to some of these people and push them to man up, advance their maturity or whatever.

But…there are fewer and fewer people capable of this.”

June 26, 2014

Will England and USA even qualify for World Cup 2026?

Filed under: Education,foreign,Kids,Sport — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: ,
School children playing jump-rope in between c...

Jump-rope in between classes at a Cuban elementary school. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Nice though it is to know it’s not just us, Elementary Politics‘ lament for the idea of games without competition in American schools is nevertheless depressing reading:

“But these bans speak to a larger problem with the schools nowadays. People are so terrified of children possibly feeling anything less than successful that they remove all obstacles. Might fail? Let’s get rid of tests. Actually failing? Let’s punish the students who actually did their work. Can’t play a sport? That’s okay, precious snowflake, go jump rope for an hour. It’s insulating an already coddled generation of children in a bubble full of fake success, a bubble that will quickly burst once they get to the real world. Schools do children a disservice when they remove competition and the situations to learn how to cope with failure.”

September 1, 2013

Gove’s their villain but knee-jerk political hacks can’t see it

Filed under: Education,Journalism,politics — - @ 10:52 pm
Tags: ,

Two central players in last week’s Parliamentary debate on Syria.

1) Prime Minister David Cameron wants to take the military option but does what he should and puts the proposal to Parliament, which happens to reject it. A number of his own MPs, who presumably see what Mr Cameron chooses not to when they ponder the fruits of our ‘involvement’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, vote with their conscience.

2) Education Minister Michael Gove, upon learning of their stance, it is claimed, regresses into childhood and would appear to demonstrate that democracy and conscience count as nothing in his eyes against blind loyalty to the Conservative Party. If such claims are true, it is with this glorified lout that we entrust our children’s schooling:

“Michael Gove was so furious with Tory MPs for voting down intervention he had to be restrained by colleagues, it was claimed last night.

The Education Secretary, a staunch backer of military action in Syria, shouted ‘you’re a disgrace’ at those MPs who opposed the Government in the tense vote last night.

Scottish National MP Angus Robertson said Mr Gove carried on yelling ‘disgrace, disgrace, disgrace’ at Tory and Liberal Democrat rebels in stunning scenes in the House of Commons around 11pm last night.” – Daily Mail

Which of the two does the Press focus upon? The Prime Minister. Out are wheeled the tired old clichés about ‘humiliation’, by the same tired old hacks who would have doubtless hammered him for snubbing democratic process, had he decided to avoid debate and simply committed British military support to the USA.

Yet again, I am reminded of the late Robin Cook’s laser accuracy in naming the media as being just as responsible for the lamentable shallowness of modern British politics as the politicians themselves.

Someone was indeed humiliated in the House last week. While I am no fan of our Prime Minister, it most certainly wasn’t him.

………………………………………………………………………….

And a special mention, while on the subject of Politicians Making Fools of Themselves, of the USA’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, whom just a day after Britain refused to do the ‘special relationship’ waltz with its would-be American masters, pointedly described France as the United States’ “oldest ally”.

Many Brits may have wondered if this snub was just childish petulance. Those who have overheard what the average American actually thinks of the French will know it for a fact.

March 27, 2013

“And how far up our own rear ends do you see us being in 10 years’ time…?”

Filed under: business,Education,school — - @ 9:00 am

A friend is ecstatic and rightly so.

Bucking the trend of graduate unemployment with some style, her daughter has secured a position that is hers the moment she graduates this summer.

Amid the congratulations, however, there is one slightly jarring note. She was apparently interviewed by a group of no fewer than five people.

For a teaching job at a primary school.

Interview panel or ego trip?

You decide…

February 27, 2013

‘Bad school’ fears expose some not-so-great parents

Filed under: Education,Family,Kids — - @ 6:41 am

I’m not oblivious to the fact that it tells us something very damning about our education system but I wonder if, amid all the lying and cheating that parents are now doing to get their kids into good schools, the irony of their position ever occurs to them.

“Data obtained using freedom of information requests showed they were being caught using false addresses, pretending to be Roman Catholic, lying about siblings and even impersonating family members in an attempt to secure places.”

So there you are, pulling any stunt going to secure the best possible education for your children and in doing so, you teach them a lesson that is as bad for them as it is for the Society in which they will grow up – that rules are for other people. Or should they ever ask how they ended up at that particular school, do you just lie to them as well?

February 7, 2013

Before you can save religion in our schools, you must first save thought

Filed under: Education,Religion — - @ 11:39 pm
Tags: ,

I never thought I’d see God as a straw man but I can’t help think that’s what is happening as fears grow over the future of religious education in British schools.

Present it as a matter of maintaining Christianity in schools and you’re open to several attacks right away: ‘exclusive’, ‘indoctrinating’, ‘obsolete’.

I wouldn’t even talk about ‘Religious Education’ any more. Call it ‘Philosophy’ and simply make sure that children are taught about life’s moral maze and the ways by which Man negotiates it – all of the main religions and atheist/humanist philosophical alternatives.

Have it taken seriously and taught seriously by teachers who see educating youngsters in the ways of thinking  and self-analysis as a genuine vocation and not merely the shortest straw in the staffroom.

Why so relaxed about my faith? Because one thing Christianity has never needed is protectionism. It has flourished in some of the most hostile environments in history: it can take its chances with the best of them in a modern comprehensive.

But until you teach young people to think reflectively, God, Allah and Shiva combined aren’t  banging away so much at a locked door as an empty room. Sooner rather than later, young people need to know that there is nothing weird about the person who occasionally steps back from consumerism and the rat race to ask what it all means, or what any of us are doing here. On the contrary, they should learn to see that as an essential counterpoint to life’s frenetic tempo. Questioning, wonderment and the pursuit of truth should be instilled in all teenagers as an integral part of any fully functioning human being.

Then they can decide which, if any, god is their cup of tea.

As it is, I suspect there are many, many young people out there who think the social whirl, a live lottery ticket and a successful X Factor audition represent the pinnacle of human existence. A school can hand out its precious A-stars until the night sky glistens but until it shakes that perception to its core, it has failed.

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January 31, 2013

Failed trips: a lesson in ugly…

Filed under: Education,school,sex — - @ 6:24 am
Tags:

My school’s geography field trips used to involve us looking at escarpments or limestone erosion patterns on the Yorkshire moors.

My son’s apparently involve a walk around Peterborough, looking at a total of sixteen roadside condoms and seven abandoned pregnancy test kits, all showing positive.

That idea that you’re supposed to envy youth more the older you get? Not happening so far.

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