Showing posts from November, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness: Jeremy Bentham, David Cameron and the Principle of Utility

Spent a fascinating afternoon at the UCL on Friday, taking a Platonically Ideal group of A2 students to take part in theTranscribe Bentham project. Jeremy Bentham was a 19th century utilitarian philosopher and reformer who famously requested in his will that his cadaver be dissected, reassembled, stuffed with straw, and dressed for display. This charming paperweight (called the Auto-Icon) is a handsome addition to the foyer of any metropolitan University, and surely the perfect gift for any lonely academic this Christmas; it was also an ideal focal point for a Philosophy trip, which at the best of times proves problematic. You tell me how I organise a fun day out based on Wittgenstein's Tractatus.

Bentham wrote 60,000 papers, but only 20,000 of them have been transcribed and studied properly, so it's a Wiki-style project to crowd-source labour, an enormous open contribution that will eventually digitise every nuance of thought the old pleasure-seeker scribbled. I can't reco…
Half way through the white paper. Losing the will to live...Especially with this charmer girning down from the inside cover. It's the kind of smile that says, 'I am a warm and approachable person. Didn't your brother go to Fettes?'

Saudi Arabian Government 'very concerned' about British schools

An investigation by the Saudi Arabian Panorama has spotlighted concerns about the levels of fundamentalism and racial intolerance in British schools based in mainly English areas of busy multicultural areas like Riyadh.

'We're worried,' said Faisal, an investigator for the program. 'We have evidence that many of these schools have high levels of unchecked disrespect, swearing, vandalism and general rudeness. In some cases, we are led to believe that these children, rather than being excluded, are kept in the classroom, where they are free to run riot. And teachers are punished for children misbehaving, by a process the Europeans call 'Ahf-sted'. It is a very terrible and medieval torture, with teachers having their pride cut off.'

But it doesn't end with that. 'It gets worse,' continued Faisal, 'These schools are guilty of the ugliest intolerances; they claim to value every child, but the reality is an evil prejudice against well-behaved child…

Exclusions expelled: private school alumnus tells state schools, 'Don't exclude bad children'.

Well, it had to happen. Just as I was beginning to wonder who had stolen Michael Gove and replaced him with a human being, I am simultaneously reassured and appalled to see that business is proceeding as normal. In a story in the Daily Telegraph, it's reported that Gove has decided that, in future any school that excludes a pupil will be forced to pay the costs towards that child's education in the school they move on to after exclusion. AND, the grades that the child obtains in their new school will count for the school which excluded in the last place. Which given the demographic of the excluded, doesn't normally mean A*s.

I am gnashing my teeth and clawing at the sockets of my eyes over this. This is, without a doubt, the single most anti-education policy that I have heard in the last five years. At least until now it has been merely difficult to exclude; schools have been deterred from excluding by the threat of an unfavourable Ofsted inspection, on the already witless …

Student Voice: excuse me- do you mind if I teach you?


Nights in White City: How I learned to love the Beeb

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home. ~David Frost

And today, Matthew, it was my turn. If you snorted Cheerios through your nose, I can only advise you to upgrade to a less lubricious brand of cereal. I spent another three minutes in Tellyland today, as a guest of Auntie Beeb's hospitality, which for me is a novel enough experience to be worth talking about, although to the magic elves behind the curtain, I'm sure it's as commonplace as custard.

They sure move fast in Tellyland: a phone call on Friday for a slot on Monday (somehow I've sneaked onto a last resort Rentagob Rolodex under 'S' for schools, or 'O' for opinionated), and the machine sparked into life. And it's slick, like the Vatican. When they say 'the taxi will be outside the front door at 6:20', then Shazam- there it is at 6.15, accompanied by a text telling you what car and where. The cars…

Sofa-surfing Update

I'll be on at 8:20am tomorrow, not 7:40. Practically a long lie in, then...

Cruel Intentions: How bullying can be stopped in cyber space

It's National Anti-Bullying week, and organisations like Action Work and the Anti-Bullying Alliance are raising the profile of an ancient evil wearing a very new suit: Cyber-Bullying; when people experience harassment and abuse via the internet, or other information/ communication technologies. It's a foul, horrible way for people to interact, and sadly, it's on the rise; hardly surprising given the speed with which instant messaging, mobile phone use and social network participation has blossomed exponentially. Remember Twitter? Started in 2006. Facebook? Launched in 2004. Even mobile phones themselves weren't part of Everyman's daily luggage until roughly the Millennium.

Communication technology has moved so fast, has created and then colonised new markets so quickly, that our culture struggles to catch up with the impact it has on our daily interactions. Which is where, amongst other residents, the cyber-bully steps in. DfE data from 2003 suggested that even then…

Sofa-surfing with Nick and Sian

I'll be on BBC Breakfast with Sian and Nick this Monday at 7:40am or thereabouts, talking about Cyberbullying. The Beeb, I have to say, is eerily empty at that time of day. If you catch me, it'll be spectacularly bad luck on your part, because it's probably about a three minute spot. But tune in if you're a fan of unironed shirts, stubble, and badly matched ties.

How to dismantle the GTC: a head shot, probably.

...although I've seen a few zombie films where a good spading does the trick. And like every good zombie, the GTC has been reanimated for another year as it shuffles along, dragging its leg in a limp like...well, like some of my sixth formers, actually. The difference is that I actually look forward to seeing them.

You could actually feel sorry for the GTC. Nobody likes it. It is the definitive pariah, unlovely, unloved, and unnecessary. It makes OfSTED look like Nelson Mandela. It is the Louis Walsh of the teaching industry. I bet OfSTED love it when they go to parties with the GTC, when they can point at them and call them losers. I'm lying of course. Nobody could feel sorry for the GTC; it is a logical impossibility, known a priori of experience. May I remind everyone why?

1. It appears to exist only to kick teachers in the pipes. How easy is it to feel any love for an institution that has one power, and one only- the punishment and deregistration of teachers who fall foul o…

Welsh School Children 'damned to the Hell of Broken Mirrors' by losing league tables.

A report by the University of Bristol today claims that it has unearthed evidence that the decision in 2001 by the Welsh Assembly to do away with league tables in schools has directly led to thousands of Welsh children being condemned to 999 years in the Purgatory of Ravnak, the Soul-Flayer.

League tables, which still exist in England, were abolished in Wales after claims that it led to schools circumventing real education, and instead focussing on meaningless scams to leapfrog the league rankings; for example by introducing BTECs or other qualifications that were GCSE-equivalent but lacked academic rigour or credibility. It was also claimed at the time that, even if schools were reluctant to engage in these practises- described as 'whorish and anti-education' even by the heartless Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, yesterday- then they were forced to participate in order not to suffer by comparison with other, less scrupulous institutions who had spotted the first, and fallen on i…

Education 'loses an engine midflight'

The Department of Silly Teaching temporarily grounded all of its policies today after it was discovered that Education had 'lost an engine' during a routine flyover.

Education had experienced problems over the last three decades of service, but the DfE insisted that after its last routine overhaul in 1988 inspectors had determined it still had 'many, many years of good service left in it.' Thousands of unimpressed teachers who had tried to warn the DfE that Education was, frankly, looking a bit rusty and tired, and would need more than a BSF repaint and a customer satisfaction questionnaire to return it to functionality, were shaking their heads in a slightly smug manner. 'It was an accident waiting to happen,' said one. 'Is there any tea left in that pot? I'm gasping.' But reaction was mixed. 'The Gods are angry with us,' said one newly qualified teacher. 'The High Priests of Induction warned us this would happen if we failed to follow …