Sunday, 28 April 2013

English, Maths, Science, Porn. Will this be on the testes?


'Will this be on the test?'

There isn’t enough porn in schools. 

This apparently odd conclusion isn’t the title of my career suicide note (at least I hope not), but the view of the Sex Education Forum, a group of sex education advisers. They want pornography taught in terms of "media literacy and representation, gender, sexual behaviour and body image". 

Their intentions are entirely honourable, but misguided. The first, minor complaint I have is that it provides yet another mis-use of the word literacy to include...well, just about any understanding whatsoever. It's this kind of dilution of denotation that dissolves meaning until a word can point to just about anything, and therefore nothing. It's explains why understanding an IKEA manual can now somehow be called literacy when it used to mean spelling, grammar and Shaw. 

It isn’t the content of the SEF's cause that I reject- in fact a lot of what they say is perfectly sensible: porn creates unrealistic expectations of body shape, sexual experience, reinforces the idea of the male gaze, and escalates the arms race of who does what and to whom. They even want the positive side to porn on the curriculum- many people use it as part of a loving relationship etc, although I feel that far more use it as part of a loving relationship with a locked door, drawn curtains and a remote control. 

At University I found myself, as the only man on a Feminism course in politics, writing an essay on porn (‘the depiction of vile whores’ in Greek). Commentators like Andrea Dworkin and Germaine Greer were pretty clear: porn was corrosive, addictive and oppressive. Most women in the industry were victims collaborating in their own oppression; addicts or the products of fractured histories based on abuse and desperation.

Running clubs in Soho, I saw the industry up close: creepy all-night book shops that stocked Taschen and Penguin classics upstairs, while beneath the decks, buggery and bondage  stacked the shelves (a legal loophole allowed them to stock the lucrative bongo as long as 75% of their wares were PG or below). There was even a porn cinema, The Astral, on Brewer Street, the demise of which it is impossible to be sentimental. One of my club promoters had a sideline in making stroke movies for the Fantasy Channel, and he even filmed a few links and promo trailers in the bar when I wasn’t looking. At one point he asked if I wanted to guest star in one, but I demurred. I assure you, you will Google in vain.

I’m often asked at what age I think it appropriate to allow a child to have a smart phone. I answer, ‘That depends- when are you happy with them seeing porn?’ Human nature is curious; anything forbidden immediately becomes precious, and the market price escalates. Few things are as forbidden, or as interesting, as sex, especially for the emergent adult. When I travelled as a 17 year-old through Europe, my eyes were out on stalks as I saw the permissiveness of continental adverts and TV- we even had programs like Eurotrash that offered us Brits a What-the-butler-saw keyhole of their damnable foreign lasciviousness. Now, yesterday’s porn is today’s scenery. 

Children now exist in a society that sexually, permits everything except prohibition. When I’ve taught sex-ed, the breadth of novelty of the pupils’ apprehension exceeded the vocabulary of a 19th century trapeze artist. Yet this surface knowledge of eccentricity (‘Sir, what’s a Plushie?’ Me: ‘You never need to know.’) is accompanied by the same incomprehension that children have always had for events and experiences that are beyond their capacity. This is the danger, particularly of porn for children. Girls have enough problems with unrealistic expectations of their bodies, without porn multiplying them with its pneumatic cartoon characters acting as role models. I’ve heard young boys talking about anal sex as if it were something you brought up on a first date, something that proves she’s into you. 

In the absence of parents talking to their children about such matters, porn fills the vacuum. It’s a tragedy that something so mechanical should be used as the template for the intangible sorcery of human relationships.
And yet I don’t want it in the school curriculum. Because this is another example of schools being expected to fix every problem in society with a badly delivered lesson. For a start, the timetable is already stuffed with English, Science, etc which makes it hard to know when this is going to fit, especially when it competes with a million other, equally worthy causes like lessons on vandalism, social responsibility, healthy eating, voting and on and on and on. It’s as if we were walking down a street full of chuggers and being asked to justify why we weren’t dropping our change into the cans of every one.

Society has many issues. People need to stop looking to schools to fix them, because we can’t. What we can do, if you let us, is teach them about the great legacy of human thought and knowledge. We can try- try- to act as good role models, and to instil them with manners and codes of community conduct. 

We are not the pilots of their lives. We don;t have time to teach them every thing society would like them to know. We can do our best, and their parents can too. Beyond that, they’re on their own.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Fury as Gove admits 'he likes teachers'. The speech to the NCTL

Well, here are some quotes nobody expected from Michael Gove:
'I’m a great fan of Andrew Old, whose brilliant blog Scenes from the Battleground provides one of the most insightful commentaries on the current and future curriculum that I’ve ever read; but I’m also an admirer of John Blake of Labour Teachers, who has transcended party politics to praise all schools which succeed for their pupils, even if they are academies or free schools…'

This is exactly how it must have played in the DfE last week:


 Then this:

'I also hugely enjoy the always provocative work of Tom Bennett, the Behaviour Guru, who champions teachers at every turn while challenging them to up their game.'

By which point this is me:


Next time I get stopped for driving drunk with my knees at the wheel on the M11 I'm pulling a Reese Wetherspoon, throwing a copy of this speech at the Feds and shouting 'Have you read THIS?'

Got home from a busy day releasing butterflies from children's hearts, to find that Michael Gove had mentioned my unworthy self and several others in his address to the National College of Teaching and Leadership. I'm not going to be cool and pretend it's anything other than plusgood because it wasn't so long ago that I was plugging into my first blog and wondering how you got anyone to read the damn things. The temptation to style it out with a casual shrug and play the demagogue is an itch that chafes my contrary nature.

I was asked if I thought it was a good thing, to be thought well by an an SoS, and I realised what a double-edged butter knife of Brutus recognition by the Alpha class can be. Some rakes suggested it was done with political purpose, and my weary inner inquisitor thought, 'What isn't?' Politics is a Hall of Mirrors, of appearance, semblance, and the semblance of semblance, regressing into infinity. And sometimes it's just appearance. Who knows? Speculation about the interior lives of others I'll leave to psychologists and other clairvoyants.

It was reassuring to see DJ Gove dropping shout-outs to voices from the Cursed Earth of education, like Daisy Christodolou, the anonymous Old Andrew (brilliantly referred to as Andrew Old: 'To you, Mr and Mrs Old, a son'), David Weston, Matthew Hunter and others. These people are in it for the love, plugging away, saying what they believe like John the Baptist without the locusts and honey (apart from Andrew). Not me. I get a pound for every word I write. I just gave Paul McCartney money for the meter.

I often hear that teachers are constantly battered as a profession. I think the reality isn't quite the match of the charge sheet; the principal culprits, if any, are a handful of journalists trying to plug into the Zeitgeist and blowing everyone's fuses for shits and giggles, hits and headlines. At the least (and here I lay myself open to accusations of playing the dupe) was a speech aimed at the back of the stalls and the upper circles. It was the equivalent of Justin Bieber lolloping out on to the stage of Wembley and shouting 'I love London' as Twitter creams and palpitates.

Some of the more social-collectively minded of the named elect will probably have some explaining to do at tomorrow's breakfast table ('So, WHAT do you call THIS then? Who have you been talking to on that social platform when we've been out campaigning for oppressed centaurs?'), but I have no figs to give. My house allegiances are long gone, like tears in the rain, Deckard. I've been called a bleeding heart and a bully, and it stopped meaning anything to me years ago. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of the enemy are deadly, goes the proverb. Worst dating advice ever.

The story the papers are running with is, of course, Gove's thoughts on the creation of a Royal College of Teaching- which needs a blog in itself, and not the vanity of a handful of bloggers. Appropriately enough, Gove says:

'The creation of a Royal College is not DfE policy - on the contrary, I’ve had nothing whatever to do with it - which is why it’s such a good idea. Now, I realise that any endorsement from me might blight its chances before it even gets off the ground'

Some of the teachers he names might feel the same. Maybe it is just a ploy to sweeten the profession. If he announces tomorrow that the Tech Bacc has a 'kids up chimneys' component, I could be convinced that we were being softened up for bad news.

I won't let this change me. Kids at school are the most effective humility bomb you'll ever encounter. I've just got over them finding out my book was called Behaviour Guru, which is like painting a target on my ass, and rightly so.

Touch me.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Always someone else's problem? No, it's ours, thanks. And you make it harder.

The Office of the Children's Commissioner, yesterday
Fans of witless bureaucracy and low expectations of children were not disappointed today as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) launched their report ‘Always someone else’s problem’. Here’s the groovy gist of what it says over 56 gripping pages:

1. Many schools exclude children illegally
2. Exclusions are beastly things anyway
3. Schools that do this should be fined and prosecuted.

I’m not kidding about that last bit. The OCC wants to get tough with naughty schools, which is deeply ironic when you think about it, which they haven’t. Now you don’t have to read it. I’ve written about the OCC before, mainly along the lines of how unlikely I would be build a commemorative shrine were it to suddenly sink into the ocean like Atlantis.

Cards on the table: they are absolutely right that this happens. In fact, rather than their cautious estimate of 2 or 3% I would say it is far more widespread than she suggests. It isn’t the data I substantially disagree with, but their conclusions. Let me clear about something else: they absolutely shouldn’t. There is little a school does that shouldn’t be absolutely transparent, and nothing that it does that should be against the law. If a school has a policy, or the governing bodies have statutory guidelines and requirements, they should be followed.

Ghost exclusions

But why do schools act in this manner? Speaking as someone who actually works in a school, rather than reads about them in the papers, I can tell you. They ghost-exclude because they’re terrified of doing it properly. Because the system has been skewed for so long against excluding at all, that they’re scared- correctly- they’ll be clobbered by Ofsted.

Inclusion has become the new orthodoxy. When I entered teaching I was mystified why so many apparently unteachable children were allowed to remain in classrooms where chaos reigned. Answer: inclusion, that contemporary, well meaning but ruinous excuse for adult responsibility. The aim was to make sure no one was marginalised. The reality was classroom after classroom ruined by a tiny minority of extreme spectrum children, whose needs exceeded the capacity of a mainstream teacher to provide. They need special provision; they got sealed in a classroom with everyone else. Everyone lost, everyone.

We have failed generations of children in this way. You want to radically improve every school in the UK? Scorch the moronic practice of inclusion at all costs, and pay for appropriate in-school internal exclusion facilities, with trained teachers, facilities and teaching materials. You’ll see exclusions wither, I promise. And pay for external provision- PRUS, specialist schools- that can cope with small groups of extreme spectrum children. To do otherwise is as sensible as shoehorning a dozen sick and a dozen well people into a lift and hoping they all get better.

The peril of no destination
'Your value-added is f*cking unacceptable, Bennett.'

The fact that there is a section in the report titled ‘Lack of a meaningful sanction’ (against schools) suggest to me that the authors are masters of parody and irony, because no one could write that sentence and fail to apprehend that the lack of a meaningful sanction is exactly what they are advocating in schools, which means that boundaries will be entirely unenforceable. Can you guess what this looks like to a teacher? Let me assist.

It means this: when schools don’t exclude as a matter of procedure, without fear of rebuke, then children quickly realise that if they defy the class and school rules then….nothing at all will happen. Consider the classroom teacher who needs to set a short detention for, say chatting. What happens if the child doesn’t turn up? Well, the sanction tends to escalate, both in severity and up through the hierarchy. But what happens if the child doesn’t attend, or continues to tell the teacher to blow their lesson plans out their ass? It has to go somewhere. Such children (and they aren’t many, but they are a consistent minority in every school) need to be taken out of the classroom.

But what if the child still tells the teachers, and the world, to go f**k themselves? Then the child is beyond the means of the school to manage. We literally cannot control their behaviour- only they can do this. All we can do is offer incentives and deterrents to behaviour, and hope that they amend. Greater society also has this last resort- the gaol; not to be wished for, but necessary, as inevitable and indispensable as a lavatory bowl. There has to be a terminus for repeated bad behaviour, to be used as little as possible but as often as necessary. I work with many, many teachers who are told variations of ‘we don’t take children out of classrooms.’ The people who suggest this invariably don’t have to teach them. Maggie Atkinson certainly doesn’t.

A well run LSU/ PRU is a place where children can access one-to-one support, and trained staff. It should be a positive step to exclude, because it’s what the child and their peers need. Ah yes, the peers- only a teacher can tell you what the damage caused by reports like this looks like- exhausted teachers lashed by rude, often violent children, and classes torn apart by the selfish, desperate actions of a few. From the way the OCC writes, you’d think classes were stocked with nothing but avatars of kindness and altruism. They are not. They’re people, just like us.

The pointless OCC (and why do children need an expensive office to look out for their interests? What the Hell do you think we’re trying to do, turn them into nuggets and drop them in a fry basket?), if it was genuinely interested in the well being of children and not merely concerned with showing how lovely they are, would say something like this:

  • Schools to provide appropriate levels of internal provision for children based on education and socialisation, not just a holding pattern over the school runway.
  • No condemnation to be attached formally to any school that excludes whenever it needs to; not from Ofsted, not from Governors, not from the anodyne OCC
  • Exclusions to be seen as either a way for children to obtain and access appropriate services, or as an admission that the pupil is beyond the capabilities of the school to manage, or the relationship has broken down too severely. Maggie Atkinson, I’ll wager, has never had to teach a child that punched her in the face, or sexually harassed her, as many teachers do.
  • Schools to be funded appropriately for taking an excluded child. Some schools specialise in these kinds of children; if you’re good at it, encourage schools to take them for positive reasons.
  • Ofsted to ask the right questions about behaviour, such as ‘Why is this child still in a mainstream classroom,’ rather than ‘Why have they been excluded?’ Again, my challenge to many inspectors is. ‘Howe would YOU deal with this pupil?’ and I’ll stake my shirt that many of them wouldn’t have a clue.
I asked someone from the DfE what penalties exist for schools that exclude children. The answer is surprising; very little. Of course, schools lose the finance for pupils they permanently exclude. The only other penalty is the possible disapproval of the inspector, who might take a dim view of exclusion as so many of them are suckled on the dogma of yesteryear. In which case, Sir Michael Wilshaw needs to add this thread to any subsequent inspector training: inclusion not always good; exclusion not always bad.

There are a dozen things wrong with this report, and that’s before I get past the title:

  • The authors go to great lengths to include the views of children, but the only time teachers are asked their opinion is as part of a survey where they are merely asked to report quantitatively about ghost exclusions, which is a bit like asking a pineapple what their opinion is of canning factories (Christ, someone will jump on that metaphor, I know). If you’ve ever taught any naughty (sorry, troubled) kids then you might be unsurprised that when you ask them what they did wrong, they often deny it or even- vaudeville gasp- lie about it.
  • Putting targets before real improvement. I’ve heard from teachers who were told that their exclusion rates had to plummet in the next 12 months. There are two ways of achieving this: putting structures in place that mean exclusions are needed less, or just cutting the number of children excluded, with no other effort made. Can you guess which option is easier? I’ll leave that with you.
  • My main problem is that the OCC seems most upset that paperwork hasn’t been done, rather than supporting the right of children to be safe and learn in an environment that promotes their flourishing. It’s anti-education; the administrator’s gag reflex. It ignores what children need, and focuses on what form needs to be stamped.
There are schools doing incredible work in the area of exclusion and inclusion, largely because they have clear and rigorous behaviour policies that serve a greater aim: the well being of the community AND the individual, but not at the expense of the many, as most inclusion policies are; which is odd- isn’t the many composed of the sum of the few?

You’ll already know most of this, if you’ve ever taught difficult classes. Unfortunately for most of us, the panjandrums of the commentariat often haven’t. The OCC wants to paint the whole world with a rainbow, and that’s a lovely ambition. It wants to teach every child to sing their heart song; I just want to teach them, to be safe, given boundaries set with compassion, not unconditional and bottomless altruism.

I want what’s best for them, not just what they want. That’s the difference.





http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/what-is-childrens-commissioner-actually.html?q=atkinson
What is the Children's Commissioner actually FOR?

http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/children-should-run-everything-claims.html?q=atkinson
Little bit of satire.

http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/inclusion-ruining-education-since-1978.html?q=inclusion
Inclusion, the opiate of the chattering classes

http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/when-everyones-special-no-one-is-how.html?q=inclusion
When everyone's special, no one is.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Notes on a scandal: Giving up on students

One of the most rewarding things I do outside of teaching is acting as resident Agony Uncle on the TES website's Behaviour Forum. I, and many other teachers do what teachers do best: offer free advice and perspective to those wading through a river of chains. Occasionally a correspondent raises a problem and I think, 'Christ, have we sunk so low?' Most of the problems to which I respond are fairly straightforward; but a large percentage involve teachers being placed in unnecessarily difficult situations by school management systems that seem designed to encourage poor behaviour, and in this case, give up on the kids. Here's a summary of what someone said recently:

'I feel embarrassed posting this, as I'm an experienced teacher who would normally feel  that my behaviour management was pretty good - but I am at my wits end with a Y11 class (bottom set).

...Only about 5 out of 28 would do anything they were set.  They were just about polite enough that when I insisted they face the front and listen so that I could talk through brief powerpoint, explain the objective and set the work they did so without interruption.  This was hard work. 

One pupil told me 'We are leaving school in 4 weeks - and no one cares if we do this' to which most agreed, despite me telling them strongly, 'Yeah?  Well I care!'
Very few did anything more than a couple of sentences of half assed effort.  2 or 3 did nothing. I have this class 4 times a week.'

So far, so normal. I get this email a dozen times a week. It's awful that this is repeated so often in classes up and down the country, but that's another issue. No, this is the bad bit: he carries on-


'I feel really pathetic writing this - I have spoken to [the] HOD - who tells me, 'Oh no one expects them to do anything'.  SMT have told me I cannot [my emphasis] phone home, that I can issue detentions 'but they won't come' and that 'well...they are leaving soon...it's very difficult to get them to do anything'.

As there does not appear to be any consequences for their behaviour they will quite happily just sit and chat through every lesson, but I am obviously not happy about this....I'm just highly frustrated and pissed off that no one will back me up and that the class won't do as they are told.' 

Once I'd pulled my head out of my keyboard this was my response:

You know, if more parents knew about this kind of attitude then there'd be an earthquake in the scandal rags. Can you believe that a school would just give up on its children like this? Sure, what they're saying makes perfect sense- but we're paid to do more than just baby sit them; we have to have high expectations from them every day up until the minute they leave. That's the job. If the school doesn't give a shizzle about these kids, it doesn't deserve to have any.

Your strategy has to be to insist upon full school support. Follow the behaviour policy to the letter, and expect/ demand the support. Remind line management what the policy is. The surest way to fail is by not trying in the first place. Have kids removed who fail to comply. If you can't motivate them in the short term you can at least present them with an immediate inconvenience (ie hassle from senior staff/ yourself etc) to the point where they consider it easy to work than not. 

We're paid to believe in them even when they've given up. If we give up, God help us.


This is institutionalised thinking at its worst. The minute we cease to believe that we are responsible custodians of children's futures, and that we have the power and duty to do something about it, then we should quit the job on incapacity grounds, and let someone else look after them. Does a doctor give up on a patient because they probably won't make it? Does a fireman ignore an alarm because, well, there'll be more fires tomorrow, and you can't beat fire? This school might as well have said, 'We couldn't give a damn about these kids anymore. Damaged goods.' It's the same diabolic thinking that inspired a thousand 'Reaching for a C' programs, where schools ignored their consciences and treated one group of students (C/D borderline kids) as more important than the others (the safe bets and the no-hopers).

When I ran restaurants I had a door hostess called Suky who wasn't the sharpest blade in the drawer. One Saturday night an angry customer grabbed her and said, 'We've been waiting for an hour for a table!' Suky replied, with perfect sympathy and sincerity, 'I know! It's mobbed isn't it?' Maybe she went into education afterwards.

The next time a line manager tells you that nothing can be done, you might want to think about finding a department with a different line manager, possibly in a different school. We're paid just as much in April as we are in September. Our salary is the same whether we're launching year sevens into secondary or parachuting sixth formers into University. They need us every minute they live under our care. Of course for that to happen, we actually need to care, and vast number of teachers do, of course. Which is why it's so depressing to hear this kind of croaking.




Saturday, 13 April 2013

Use the Force, Harry: beware quotes with no sources

KING LEAR: Dost thou know me, fellow?

KENT: No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.
KING LEAR: What's that?
KENT: Authority.

Who can you trust? I think this every time I come across a quotation on the internet. Education is my thing, so I'm not occupied by the ones that fill cat calenders and planners with rainbows. Today I read about an incredible conversation that took place between Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoevsky, as reported by Claire Tomalin in her biography of Dickens, except that it was entirely untrue. History, that ruined rubble of bone and boulder, is vulnerable to the pen of invention, and the dead cannot plead for themselves any more. Just as monasteries used to manufacture relics to borrow the authority of God (including, I might add, the foreskin of Christ in some cases, not once, but often, and in many places) so too do many people repeat the thoughts of great men and women in an attempt to support their claims. Unfortunately, many of them are as authentic as the Nazarene frenellum.

You'll have seen this one:

'Those who know how to think need no teachers.'

Gandhi


People love quoting this.

You see this one a lot. Like many neat aphorisms, it has the virtue of pith, the whiff of innovation, a pinch of ancient wisdom and of course the USP of originating from Mrs Gandhi's high-achieving son. It's elegant, symmetrical and attractive, so rhetorically it benefits from an aesthetic magnetism as much as any logical appeal to verity. And, of course, it's Bapu, one of the few moral √úbermenschen who successfully escaped the gravity of messy reality to become an international avatar of wisdom and compassion. If he said it, it must be true. That way we can relinquish the necessity to examine the argument.

That's not by itself a complaint. We put our trust in authority figures all the time; we have to. If a fireman tells
me that I should turn back because of a nearby fire, I rarely question it. When a mathematician tells me I've given him the wrong change, I'll auto-defer. It's an efficient way to conduct everyday life.

So back to the artist formerly known as Mohandes Karamchad Gandhi. He seems to be saying that teachers are, at least sometimes, unnecessary. It seems to suggest that thinking skills are more important than merely being taught content. This is a familiar tango in education, and Gandhi seems to be throwing his loin cloth in with the skills corner, and suddenly it isn't looking good for the Facts brigade. Who have they got? David Starkey? BOOM Starkey's on the mat and begging for the bell.

But did he actually say it?

A quick search of Mother Internet will give you a lot of this:



Which is to say lots of quotation websites. Or websites quoting it. I ploughed through about ten pages of this before my brain started to melt. Nobody, nobody gave a source.

So I tried a Google Book search. Maybe it could be found in the dry pulpy scrolls of the ancients:


This, for page after page. No references, no sources, just the quote again and again, and always used by people who unsurprisingly had an axe to grind about thinking skills. Now this doesn't mean that Gandhi didn't say it. Perhaps this says more about my own research capabilities, and if anyone can provide me with a credible reference I am perfectly happy to reverse my suspicion that Gandhi did not in fact say this. But in a way it doesn't matter if he did or didn't.

Why? Because it proves a point: establishing the provenance of this quote isn't easy, and if I couldn't do so in an hour of searching and asking, then I suspect- and this is purely speculation- that most people quoting it couldn't either. What we have is another splendid example of cognitive bias: we perceive and promote that with which we agree or are attracted to with far less scrutiny than that with which we disagree.

Even I'm doing it right now, picking on a crypto-quote that- and I'll be honest- I think supports a weak position. I think that 'knowing how to think' isn't an entity separate from the quality of the content that informs it. I think that thinking can't be taught; I think that thinking is the name we give to a process, rather than a talent. But in my defence I'm making that explicit, and I'm not using Gandhi to back me up.

What this shows is that when it comes to knowledge claims, belief and passion play as much a part in most of our reasoning as any appeal to logic and rationality. When someone throws a quote out in the middle of a discussion in what appears to be an attempt to justify a point or advance an argument, I'm often tempted to say, 'So you like Winston Churchill/ MLK/ Che? Groovy. I like Tom Jones,' for all the use it provides.

There are others you'll probably know, which have already been elegantly punctured by others, so I'll outline them only for the sake of summary:

'Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.'

Yeats

You don't have to move far on the internet before you trip over this one. It's attributed most commonly to Yeats, and sometimes Socrates. It might as well be attributed to Gile Brandreth, because neither of them said it.


People LOVE this quote. It's like catnip, or Umpty Candy. It's manna for anyone who eschews content and believes in child-centred education (itself a weasel term- is education ever not about the child?). It is endlessley requoted and cross-quoted, and carved in marble anywhere anyone believes in the laughter and magic of children.


See? Don't waterboard your students with useless facts. Set light to the bastards. 

It might be true, it might not- I feel not- but one thing's for sure. It didn't come from Yeats. Plutarch said something like it, and that raises another point: mostly people requote it with no understanding of the context, or often, indeed, who Plutarch was. It borrows authority like a crown and sceptre. It becomes dogma, rather than a catalyst for understanding. It fills a pail, instead of lighting a fire, if you'll excuse me.

For a full explanation, I beg you to look at the excellent site The Quote Investigator, where you'll find elegant post mortems of this quote and many more.

One last one, for dessert:

'Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.'

Albert Einstein.

It would appear that the World's Smartest Man  is an enemy of linear assessments, or monocular interpretations of intelligence. In fact, a quick search for 'Multiple Intelligence Theory' and this quote throws up a plethora of sites eager to link both:

 

 And you can buy this quote in a variety of classroom-friendly formats:


There are, it would appear, and enormous number of people dedicated to protecting fish from being made to endure cruel forms of assessment, and I think we can all get behind that. But Einstein wasn't one of them. The Quote Investigator tracks it down here: the closest is from a man called Matthew Kelly (Not the beardy presenter) and decidedly not the Father of Relativity and Athena Prints. Unless of course the Quote Investigator is itself an enormous meta-hoax, and the machines won the great war of the 21st century and this is all a Matrix.

Does it matter who says something? Yes, if you believe in telling the truth. Does a single sentence, vivisected from its context mean anything more than its explicit meaning? No. Nor does it support an argument. Quotes should probably only be used to provide a shorthand way of expressing something already being discussed, or as a signpost to an argument already understood between two debaters. This week, when the 'distinguished' Dr Jean Denis Rouillon announced that women shouldn't wear bras, and he had the science to prove it, a million women went 'That's great. How many breasts do you have again? Oh.'

If you like Fake Quotes, or you just want to get ahead of the curve, check out this page:

 https://www.facebook.com/FamousFakeQuotes

And the next time you see Abraham Lincoln, or Siddartha Gottama, or Jesus, or John Lennon being used to support iPads in a classroom, or chalk-and-talk, or any damn thing, think of this: