The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

It Shouldn’t Have Happened To A Teacher – But It Did…The Bench

There was a bus stop near our school that had a long wooden seat nearby set into a strip of grass and a small, engraved plaque on the back rest which said it had been provided by a couple in memory of their daughter. But the seat itself was quite a few years old and was in a state of considerable disrepair.

Our then headteacher, Mr B, was an old school community chap, a former scout leader and active Rotarian. We were a tad undersubscribed and our exam results were the lowest in the borough. He therefore felt a bit of positive PR would not go amiss so during a senior management meeting he suggested that our woodwork department could gain some kudos for the school by bringing the seat in, repairing the several broken slats and give it a bit of an overall facelift. We might even invite a photographer from the local paper.

My colleague deputy head did not appear over enthused, muttering something about it was up to the council. Mr B replied that he had made enquiries, and nobody knew much about the seat’s history or the whereabouts of the couple who had provided it.

An awkward silence ensued so I said I would broach the matter with the head of our craft department if someone else would deal with the media. Mr B had local media contacts via Rotary and said he would handle that.

The next day I went along to the craft workshops and put the head of department in the picture. I stoically endured the predictable ten-minute barrage about time and material and the demands of the syllabus and then he passed me on to Mr W, a younger member of his staff which was good news because this guy was much more imaginative and got better work from the kids.

We decided that a couple of Year 11 lads, Jock and Billy, would be the ideal “volunteers” for the task. They were both good with wood and metal though in several other subjects they could be “challenging”. Their absence for a while from one or two subject area while they worked on the seat would not be particularly unwelcomed. Our head saw it as a win win – good PR for our school and a chance for a pair of our more awkward students to have the opportunity to bathe in the glow of a more positive light.

So, the appointed day came. The plan was for Mr W to take Jock and Billy to the seat with some tools, supervise them detaching the seat from the base while the press photographer did a bit of papping then walk back to school with the tools while Jock and Billy carried the seat.

In actual fact the seat was more awkward to carry than anticipated so Mr W found himself well ahead of the lads when he heard a lot of shouting. He turned around to see a little old lady had turned up out of the blue and was waving her stick at Jock and Billy and shouting “vandals” thieves” “scum” while the photographer was standing open mouthed and cars were stopping on the road.

Jock and Billy had dropped the seat and were covering their heads, frightened that she was going to hit them with her stick.

Fortunately, I was already standing at the school gate waiting for the seat to be brought on so I rushed towards the fray – much to the relief of Mr W who simply was not used to this sort of public fracas.

I stood between her and the lads in a defensive posture still anticipating a blow from her stick but the sight of a suit and tie must have not quite fitted into her perception of a couple of louts stealing a seat in order to smash it up in an orgy of vandalism.

Fortunately she paused to take a breath and I was able to explain that far from smashing it up we were taking it into the school to repair it and make it presentable again. She looked shamefaced and started to cry and Jock, the hard knuckled toughie from Glasgow took her in his arms and gave her a cuddle while Billy dragged out a grubby handkerchief to wipe her tears and I whispered to the camera guy “Take a f******* pic now” but it didn’t register so he never got the pic that could have gone viral.

I suggested to the lady that she walked with us to the woodwork centre so she could watch the lads start on the seat. But instead, when they reached the workshop, they dropped the seat and sat her down and made her a brew and we all listened as she told us how she’d seen local youths vandalising the bus stop and the seat in the past and decided she wasn’t going to take it anymore.

After she went I told the lads how proud I’d been of their unusually restrained reaction the her tirade. “That’s nothing, Mr R. You should see my nan last term when you rang her and said I was excluded for a week for swearing at Mr Y – I had to keep out of her way for three days until she calmed down……nothing worse than when you let down your nan”

I remembered then that like a few other “challenging” youngsters in our school Jock had been sent down from Scotland to live with his seventy five year old grandmother. I could just imagine the strain and stress of having to cope with an awkward teenager when your contemporaries were relaxing with a cup of tea and a bingo card. But I also knew that Jock thought the world of his grandmother.

A few days later Jock and Billy had repaired and refurbished the seat, it was returned to site and the local paps were there while the head made a little speech congratulating the two lads. We had hoped to invite the little old lady to take part in the ceremony but in all the upheavals none of us had remembered to take her name and address, the pap had failed to snap her and none of us had recognised her. As Billy said she just looked like someone’s nan.

Some weeks later, after I spotted Jock by the bike sheds when he should have been waxing lyrical about Jane Austen and he was able to dog his fag before I could actually catch him in the act and was walking him back to his English lesson, he suddenly brought up the mystery of the old lady.

“Funny how nobody knew her, sir. I reckon she could have been the ghost of the mum who put up the seat in the first place”.

“Could be, could be, Jock” I said “Almost as much of a ghost as that cigarette you were smoking by the bike shed…”

He just grinned and walked towards another exciting date with Jane Austen….


posted by david in Education,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on It Shouldn’t Have Happened To A Teacher – But It Did…The Bench

Those White Middle Class Women Teachers Are So Racist……

Well, folks, so now you know. It’s all down to the white middle class again, the cause of almost all the world’s problems.
In fact this time we can narrow it down to a subset – those white middle class women teachers..

It found the majority of those training to enter the classroom were white, monolingual, middle-class women who were taught by people similar to them.
This, it is claimed, had led to “race equality issues to become hidden”, with often little discussion of issues surrounding ethnicity.

Who says so? Why it’s those academic highflyers at Manchester Metropolitan University (recently ranked 104th out of 118 of all UK universities) so it must be true.

Hidden race equality issues…..all those modern buzzwords….race…equality….ISSUES…and they’ve been swept under the carpet, hidden away….oh dear, what are we going to do?

No need to panic, folks because Dr Peter Hick is on the case. He’s not scared of those white middle classes and has given them a very stern warning…

We cannot rest on our laurels as racial equality remains under threat.

…and to make certain we don’t rest on our laurels he has come up with a twofold solution

Employ more teachers from ethnic minorities

Give the remaining white middle class teachers a very large dose of equality training and make it regular and continuous in case they lapse into their old blinkered ways.

Job done.

Let’s get rid of the quaint, old fashioned idea that we need to have teachers who can give children a basic grounding in how to treat other people as well as an understanding of those areas of knowledge that keep our society going. We don’t want teachers who can teach science and maths and history and literature. We want teachers who are racially and ethnically aware. There needs to be TRAINING… we’ll need TRAINERS. Moreover those trainers will need to be paid (by the taxpayer, of course) and someone will have to provide them.

Who on earth can step into the breach?

No need to worry – step forward once more Dr Peter Hick…equality expert extraordinaire and his team. No doubt as a result of this “survey” he already has a well thought out bid for the juicy tranche of government cash that will be diverted into equality training after the great and the good get chivvied into a moral racism panic by the BBC and a prial of bishops. More money for his department at Manchester Met and more feathers in his academic hat.

White middle class female teachers of England – Peter Hick is going to sort you out.

What was that? Maybe some of the students in our schools need to be given a bit of training in respecting their teachers, especially their female teachers?

What are you, some sort of neanderthal? The reason you’re being sworn at, punched, kicked or pushed up against a wall is because, as a white middle class woman teacher you are simply not “culturally competent in teaching an increasingly diverse pupil population.”

But slip Dr Hick at Manchester Met a million quid and he’ll show you the error of your ways, no problem….

posted by david in Education and have Comments Off on Those White Middle Class Women Teachers Are So Racist……

Enoch Powell – The Greatest Prime Minister The UK Never Had…

The sad news about the death of Ray Honeyford, a brilliant head teacher whose career was broken in 1985 by the zealots of multiculturalism is made more poignant by the fact that subsequent events have proved him right. As head of a school with a largely Asian intake he warned against the dangers of multiculturalism which, during the 70s and 80s was the official policy of the educational establishment, aided and abetted by the great and the good of the media, the political elite and the lords of academe.

According to this policy, ethnic minority children were encouraged to cling on to their cultures, customs, even languages, while the concept of a shared British identity was treated with contempt. Honeyford thought this approach was deeply damaging.
He feared that it promoted division, hindered integration and undermined pupils’ opportunities to succeed in wider British society.

He was subjected to a campaign of unrelenting vilification from the liberal left and the race relations industry and was given up as a sacrificial lamb by his terrified employers with little, if any, support from the Thatcher government.

….and it made me think of Enoch Powell….

Enoch Powell was a brilliant academic (Professor of Ancient Greek at age 25) and also a combative conservative politician who possessed the remarkable gift (extremely rare amonst UK conservatives) of being able to connect with the man or woman in the street.

His views on immigration and the EU struck a chord that resonated with the majority of British people at a time when those same opinions were deemed unacceptable by the cultural elite that dominated – and continues to dominate – politics, the media and academe. As a result he was ostracised and ignored by the establishment and remained a political outsider from the late 60s onward.

Though popular with everyday folk he never deliberately courted popularity. Indeed some of his views (he was opposed to capital punishment) went against the grain of public opinion. But this independence of mind merely served to endear him even further with the public. There was always the feeling that with Powell you had a politician who was totally honest, never self serving and always ready to tell you the truth however unwilling were your ears to receive it.

Naturally he was given the cold shoulder, not just by the left but also by many of his Conservative Party colleagues who wanted a quiet life free from the strictures of the BBC and the UK Guardian.

Naturally all his warnings about the impact of uncontrolled immigration, European integration and lax fiscal policy have come to pass….

For a taster one clip and two quotes

Powell on the race card

Powell on “Western guilt”

We are told that the economic achievement of the Western countries has been at the expense of the rest of the world and has impoverished them, so that what are called the ‘developed’ countries owe a duty to hand over tax-produced ‘aid’ to the governments of the undeveloped countries. It is nonsense—manifest, arrant nonsense; but it is nonsense with which the people of the Western countries, clergy and laity, but clergy especially—have been so deluged and saturated that in the end they feel ashamed of what the brains and energy of Western mankind have done, and sink on their knees to apologise for being civilised and ask to be insulted and humiliated.

Powell on “Europe”

We are taunted—by the French, by the Italians, by the Spaniards—for refusing to worship at the shrine of a common government superimposed upon them all… where were the European unity merchants in 1940? I will tell you. They were either writhing under a hideous oppression or they were aiding and abetting that oppression. Lucky for Europe that Britain was alone in 1940.

Finally a must-read….Simon Heffer’s magisterial biography of Powell….

posted by david in Education,UK Politics and have Comments Off on Enoch Powell – The Greatest Prime Minister The UK Never Had…

Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

As a former schoolboy (a long time ago) and a teacher (now retired) and an amateur actor (still mumbling) I must confess enjoying a moment of guilty pleasure when I watch that Blackadder clip…

It came to mind when I learned a day or so back that I had just landed myself a part in our amateur theatre group’s Shakespeare spring production of “The Winter’s Tale”….not a particularly big role but, as Private Eye might say, it’s small but perfectly formed…..

I love being involved with a play, be it on or back stage. For a few weeks you are part of a joint endeavour with a group of people for one common purpose. You share all the ups and the downs, the crises and the celebrations, the laughter and the tears. Forget those familiar dividing lines of social intercourse age, sex or experience. You are pitched together like a close family battling the world. Then the set is struck and you go your separate ways. Once or twice the bonds made during a run might hold long after the scripts are filed. But more usually, once the play is done, the connections dissolve and disappear down memory lane.

The Bard, however, raises different issues for he is the broccoli of drama. We are told how good he is for us yet so many leave him on the side of the plate. Amateur groups feel he has to be performed even though quite a few tickets will be left unsold.
Shakespeare is often the amdram equivalent of a loss leader.

But he shouldn’t be. The characters are fascinating. The language is powerful and vivid. The themes are universal. He is part of every school’s curriculum.

We all have studied Shakespeare – and there’s the rub.

He is studied because he is a Good Thing. In school we have all analysed and dissected Billy S like a specimen on a laboratory bench. We have discussed characters, motives, meanings and symbolism, turned over metaphors and deconstructed references and laid bare every bone, muscle and sinew. His words are revered like a biblical text, a scientific hypothesis or a philosophical treatise. There is a vast Shakespeare industry employing thousands of actors, academics and gushing media scribblers and talking heads.

The guy’s works are being adulated to death – so here’s a thought.

Let’s turn off the tap for five years. Embargo the puff pieces. Deep freeze the academics in a cryogenics unit. Remove Stratford’s name from all road signs and sat navs. Ban Billy S from being mentioned in the school classroom. Perform the plays with zero hype. Hang anyone who dares to say “the bard”

Shift his library classification from the doom laden “Literature” to cheap and cheerful “Entertainment” – because that was how he was regarded by the noisy, bawdy riotous townsfolk who watched his plays in Elizabethan and Jacobean London.

As a schoolboy in 1950s England any chance of appreciating Shakespeare was ground out of my consciousness by hour after hour of mind numbing analysis until the very mention of the name would cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to slip into neutral.

Then one evening in 1955 I went with my bus driver dad for our weekly cinema visit. He had misread the bill and was expecting to see a gangster movie. By the time we realised it was Laurence Olivier’s film of Richard III our tickets had already been purchased so we went in, expecting to be bored to tears.

How wrong we were. It was magical.

At the end, as the final credits rolled the audience in that packed cinema in a working class suburb of South London sat motionless and silent for a few brief moments. Then as we walked out into the night there was a massive buzz as we all began to talk of what we had seen and my dad looked at me and said “That wasn’t the Shakespeare that was hammered into me at school. That film must be the real Shakespeare….what have I been missing all these years?”

So, unlike Blackadder, it’s not the real Will Shakespeare I want to punch on the nose – it’s the polystyrene cultural idol created by the termites of the Shakespeare industry that I would like to target with my custard pie.

Mind you sometimes I do find Colin Firth a tad irritating……

posted by david in Art,Education,Film,History,media,Personal,Theatre and have Comments Off on Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

Well I Never! Govt Report on UK Riots Says Rioters Were…

Same report, different reactions….

Overheard at a Guardianista North London dinner party

England rioters ‘poorer, younger, less educated’

Overheard in a pub in South London

40% were on benefits of some kind

Overheard in a golf club in Dorking, Surrey

Third of young looters had been expelled from school, police say

posted by david in Criminals,Education,Law,media,Morality,UK and have Comments Off on Well I Never! Govt Report on UK Riots Says Rioters Were…

The Girl Who Said No To Ignorance And Submission

In the summer of 2003 Aarti Naik, who lives in a slum district of Mulund, a suburb of the Indian city of Mumbai, failed a key school test. Her father, with very traditional views of girlhood decided enough was enough. She needed to leave school and start earning money until the time, hopefully, some nondescript drifter would marry the girl without a dowry and take her off his hands.

So for three years she worked, night and day, making ribbon flowers for sale, earning 9 rupees per days. She rarely left the family home, a 15x15ft single room divided into a living area and a tiny space for cooking and washing – her father disapproved of an unmarried young woman crossing over the threshold into the street.

A life of grinding, soul destroying poverty beckoned. She would grow up, like her mother and neighbours, in meek acceptance of her lot, ignorant and illiterate, her spirit crushed out of her by the prejudices of her father and her culture.

Howeve, in 2006, after three long years with the ribbon flowers, she decided to defy her father and retake her school tests – and passed. In another act of defiance she undertook a two year course to complete her higher certificate, graduating in 2008.

But those final years of study were hard because the girls were only taught to learn things by heart

“All through school, I was taught to rote learn. I’d rarely understand and assimilate. Reproducing what I read in my words was unheard of till then,”

She realised that many of her friends fell by the wayside because they didn’t know how to learn. So she set up her own tiny school and offered to teach the daughters of her neighbours – for nothing. She applied to a local NGO for some funds – and set up Sakhi (“female friend”)

At Sakhi, Aarti teaches them basic English and focuses on reading and writing. She encourages them to understand what they read and asks them to narrate or write down what they understood.
The kids are engaged in simple letter games like one involving a set of homemade cards — each carrying a letter of the English alphabet, which they must arrange in the proper order.
Aarti also ensures that they interact with each other in English, a language that is rarely spoken in the neighbourhood

What she soon discovered was that the girls’ mothers, who initially saw Sakhi as a means of getting their daughters off their hands for a few hours each day, suddenly realised that they had gained in self esteem as well as in terms of academic learning – which is why she saw the involvement of the mothers as the key to the success of her model.

At the end of the first year she organised an event to which the parents were invited. Each girl gave a little speech.

Parents who thought their girls were demure and didn’t talk much were surprised to see how confident they were outside of their homes.

Imagine the tears of pride at those moments of revelation.

Provided with seed money by local charities Aarti has a vision. She hopes to develop Sakhi as a model to get girls in slum communities across India to develop enough self confidence to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty.

I think Robert Stacy McCain would agree that this is real women’s liberation. This is one tiny act of defiance against the bonds of ignorance and submission that hold so many women in thrall in societies across the globe. And it is from millions of such individual actions that true social progress can be made.

Read more about Aarti here – then visit her facebook page and ask to be her friend with a message of pride and respect.

She deserves no less.

posted by david in Education,India and have Comments Off on The Girl Who Said No To Ignorance And Submission

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