Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
In the last few months we have had:
- the toys thrown out of the pram when phonics (that's "actually-teaching-children-to-read-rather-than-just-look-at-pictures" to you and me) was suggested as, errr..., a method for actually-teaching-children-to-read-rather-than-just-look-at-pictures;
- some light shed on the absurd process whereby the appointment of a teacher has to go up to the Minister to be approved;
- a generous ladling of old-style class war breaking out on the topic of selection. (A little quiz for you: if, as is very widely accepted - not to mention entirely self-evident to all but the meanest of intellect, honesty or adherent of marxist dogma, pupils respond better when streamed into classes of similar ability within one school, why would this not be doubly so between schools? If a school has a more narrowly focussed range of abilities, why will its streaming not be even more closely tailored?);
- and the confirmation that
the state could pay for a private education for every child in Scotland for no more than it spends on its own Stalinist system.(via Freedom and Whisky)
Let's review what is being suggested here:
Pupils have been stopped from putting their hands up to answer questions because their school believes it leads to feelings of victimisation. The head, Andrew Buck, says it is always the same children who wave their arms in the air, while the rest of the class sits back.And? This isn't staringly obvious? This hasn't been spotted before? And isn't seen, generally, as a pretty huge issue?
I have, in front of me, a dog-eared copy of the "Students Administration Precis" from RMAS. Annex B to Precis TRG1 (Methods of Instruction - General) deals with this very topic. It is titled "Question Technique". Para 4 merits a full quotation:
4. Direct questions to the class as a whole, give time for the whole class to think out the answer and then nominate the student who is to give the answer.When I was in the habit of giving instruction on "methods of instruction", I rendered this asPOSE THE QUESTION - PAUSE - NOMINATE THE STUDENT
Pose... Pause... Pounce
There is, of course, more:
When teachers try to involve less adventurous pupils by choosing them instead, that leads to feelings of victimisation.Victimisation? Asking a pupil a question to check if he or she has understood the lesson correctly is victimisation? Get a grip man.
Perhaps our Training Precis has something to say:
Questions Technique: When used well, questions generate interest, thought and learning. If used badly, they can embarrass and isolate one or two individuals while the remainder quietly relax and think of other things.Ah, maybe someone has spotted this before. If you pick on one or two individuals, they are going to feel, err..., picked on. Trying to involve "less adventurous pupils" is not victimisation: it is called "Doing your job". Smells to me as though our illustrious Headmaster is pussyfooting around the problem.
Mr Buck believes that it can also cause panic in children who are picked but do not know the answer while others around them are straining to give it.And? Is this preferable to have them sit monging at the back and leave the teacher quietly ignoring the fact that half the class has not actually absorbed any of the carefully-produced, culturally-sensitive, government-approved material?
Moreover, like all really obvious and sensible ideas, one can rely on the Public Sector to screw it up completely when trying to adopt it.
To spare the embarrassment of those who do not know the answer, the school uses a "phone a friend" system, allowing one child to nominate another to take the question instead.Spare me. Please. The teacher and the child needs to know whether or not the child knows the answer. The child might have been right, but just too molly-coddled to have the confidence to try. Do you even know what questions are for? Perhaps our Sandhurst Precis can instruct us:
PURPOSE OF QUESTIONS IN INSTRUCTIONGiving the class a "phone-a-friend" option means that each pupil has a get out clause and destroys purpose 1. Further, the teacher cannot be certain that the pupil does NOT know the answer - the pupil may be passing the buck. There goes purpose 2. Get out clause allows a pupil to switch off: nothing for purpose 3 then.
There are three purposes in asking questions:
- To TEACH by making the class reason out answers for themselves.
- To TEST by checking the knowledge of the class.
- To create ACTIVITY by keeping the students mentally alert.
Gaahh! A perfectly sound and well articulated idea is trashed by a vain attempt to avoid hurting people's feelings. When will these morons learn that allowing children to pass through our education system (such as it is) without touching the sides is infinitely more damaging to their usefulness or sense of pride or self-esteem.
Mr Buck says the ban on putting hands up has improved attention levels because pupils never know when they will be called on.Oh for Heaven's sake. What did he think would happen?
But of all the changes to teaching methods decided when the school opened four years ago, that policy had proved the most difficult to implement. "It is every child's instinct and every teacher's instinct as well because it is ingrained in us," Mr Buck said.There are a lot of things that are "ingrained in us". If one is a pupil, ingrained behaviours such as "doing anything to avoid work", "not eating our vegetables", "preferring to gossip at the back about Eastenders rather than pay attention to a lesson on the solutions to quadratic equations" spring to mind. From my hideously white, middle-class perspective, I fondly imagined that it was part of the role of teachers to confront and change these "ingrained behaviours", rather than meekly to accept or encourage them.
I suppose, to be fair, teachers - like all adults - have some ingrained behaviours of their own. "Taking the Easy Option" and "Not Confronting the Uncomfortable Truth that you are Failing to Control your Class" might be illustrative examples of this.
You are supposed to deal with this stuff you monstrous waste of taxpayers' money.
There are others who never put up their hands because they have decided that they do not do that bit of the lesson, so they stop listening. If you don't use hands up, the pupils don't know who you are going to choose and they all have to think about the question.Sorry, but do you expect any of us to think that this is radical new thinking? Someone does:
Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it was the first time he had heard of such a policy.Just hold that thought for a moment. This is 2006.
Those of you who are more astute (keep up at the back there: I shall be asking questions later.) will notice the use of a monospaced, or fixed width, font for all of the references to the Sandhurst Training Precis. I have used this because it is an accurate reflection of the font used in the document itself. Because the document itself was typed on an old fashioned typewriter. Which means that it is a damn sight older than the revision date of
May 1988given at the bottom of the page. So the technique of a teacher controlling a class and ignoring hands raised has been standard practice in the Army for at least the last 18 years. I would venture to suggest that this method is used by all three services - and possibly the Police, Fire Service, Coastguard and probably in fact any organisation that actually needs to have students learn a specific skill or technique, as opposed to ignoring the problem and wasting everyone's time - and has probably been in force for a very great length of time. The "Pose, Pause, Pounce" method is drummed into the lowliest form of life ever to be tasked with instructing private soldiers. This is basic stuff. Really, really, really simple.
Yet Mr Brookes has NEVER HEARD OF IT. One wonders what on earth they teach in Teacher Training Colleges.
The habit will be hard to breakNo it won't. It just takes a teacher with a grip of his subject and his pupils.
but when you listen to what the head says there may be method in what at first appears to be madness.There may be method in what first appears to be madness. Give me strength.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
In other news, DK is also wrong (as I demonstrate below). No change there either.
Further, and since we all like threesomes, I shall not deviate from my chosen calling and offer some pedantry.
- DK claims that
The Royal Bank are shitWithout prejudice to the other lot, "The Royal Bank" is, ahem, a "singular institution". Repeat after me, DK:
The Royal Bank IS shit.
- As is often the case (rats - that's a FOURTH "no change there then"), DK's intemperance causes his prose to lack the biting wit, the fatal stab of precision, that others demonstrate so beautifully:
After being charged £20 for a £10 overdraft, 30 year old Michael Howard [No relation presumably] of Leeds changed his name by deed poll to Yorkshire Bank PLC Are Fascist Bastards. The bank has now asked him to close his account, and Mr. Bastards has asked them to repay the 69p balance, by cheque, made out in his new name. (The Guardian)
That, DK, is how to be rude to your bank.
UPDATE: Link fixed. (this was only a problem due to DK's poor spelling in the first place. [/Grumble])
It is also just possible that DK is, cleverly, aping President Bush. But I doubt it.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
He is also chuffed to bits to have pipped that great lover-of-all-things-Canadian, Mr Seat, to the post to bring you the excellent news of the General Election over there.
It would appear that the demise of the Liberal Party on that side of the pond (not to be confused with the demise of the Liberal Party here - snigger) also prompts some childish horseplay. (via ninme)
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Not any more it isn't:
There have been so many times when I have been talking to foreigners - especially our cousins across the pond - when I have needed this diagram. Ah well. At least we do now.
Marching Bands dispatched in the direction of Things of Interest.
Prizes will be awarded for an adaptation of this that successfully includes Gibraltar, Monserrat, the EU, EFTA and NATO.
UPDATE: A very warm welcome to visitors from Harry's Place. I was wondering where all the extra traffic was coming from. (And you may safely ignore my categorisation of HP under the heading "Other Riff Raff and Trouble Makers". At least you are in good company there...)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Rock heavy4,000 ton lorries? I rather doubt that.
Sir, Are the Rolling Stones the greatest heavy rock stars in the world? The sight of a convoy of 70 lorries, each carrying 4,000 tons of stage equipment from one of their gigs to the next (report, Jan 18), must certainly put them in that category, regardless of their undoubted and ageless talent.
Tingley, W Yorks
Following this little ennui, which neatly combines the two, I am stirred into action.
Firstly Pollard. He has taken the Political Compass test and published his results. Very surprised to find myself rather to the "left" of an old labour party stalwart. Indeed, given his Fabian background this is clearly a man following Churchill's view of life:
If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain.Over 35? Not a conservative? No brain? A fairly accurate description of The Honourable Member for Bethnal Green and Bow. Mr Kamm sums it up nicely:
The description doesn't prepare you for the sight of a bald middle-aged man nuzzling the cupped hands of an aging actress. It is physically repellent. I went on Sky News this evening to debate Galloway's antics with John Rees, national secretary of the Respect 'Coalition' and a leading member of the Socialist Workers' Party which controls it. For some reason Galloway himself was unavailable. I confess I didn't listen to a word Rees said, I was so engrossed by the body language: shiftiness scarcely covers it.Snigger.
I expressed sympathy for Rees for coming on the programme when his party had previously condemned Big Brother as 'sewer-dredgingly awful', and I said that Galloway's appearance had the merit of not being the least creditable thing or most egregious debasement of public office he had done. After George travelled to Damascus last July to tell the Syrian people, who had had no say in the matter, how fortunate they were to have Bashar al-Assad as their leader, there were few ways open to him to lose his dignity further, and he at least showed imagination in finding one of them.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Three leader columns today and none of them exactly favourable.
First up, economic competence:
In the 1980s the belief that Britain was doomed to decline lingered for some time after the Thatcher reforms had paved the road to economic recovery. Labour, by contrast, has benefited from revived national confidence that Britain had rediscovered the secrets of market-led success. That confidence appears increasingly misplaced.Not very encouraging reading for the Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper.
How about education, education, education then?
In fact, the figures for the bulk of the nation’s pupils are even worse. If the exam results from independent schools, which focus relentlessly on core subjects, are excluded, the percentage falls further, to 42 per cent [of pupils achieving C grade or better at GCSE in Maths and English]. For boys the picture is even more dismal: only 37.8 per cent of those sitting English and maths last summer achieved a C grade or better.
UPDATE: Bartholomew has more. For the "most improved" school,
Its 75 per cent of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs drops to 22 per cent when maths and English are included. The survey also shows that no pupil gained a double science GCSE, only three per cent gained at least a C grade in a modern foreign language or history and eight per cent in geography.
By contrast, 85 per cent passed the vocational GNVQ in ICT and 48 per cent the GNVQ in science, both of which count for four high grade GCSEs.
Finally, a little bit on the tax take:
After paying their own tax, the nanny’s tax, the nanny’s national insurance contributions and another £3,000 in employer’s national insurance contributions, parents in Central London are spending, on average, £43,850 a year on nannies.Ouch.
Of this, barely £20,000 is the nanny’s to spend. The rest goes to the Exchequer, where the Chancellor is the only happy party to the transaction.
To paraphrase, this feels to me more like the beginning of the end...
Boys are best and girls are rubbish.Specifically, girls are rubbish at science. Even those terrifically nice girls at InkyCircus. Some of you, stuck in your lefty-liberal dogma, may think this a little harsh.
On the contrary, it is entirely fair. Proof? Try this:
The US Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating it's 35th birthday today. This means that the EPA is a Capricorn.Indeed, it would appear that girls struggle with any logical/rational rules-based system: There is a misplaced possessive apostrophe in that quote as well....
P-G Prescription: This sort of transgression usually merits a sound thrashing to be delivered on the steps of the perpetrator's club. Unfortunately, this won't work as no decent club - it has be a decent club upon whose steps the thrashing is to be administered in order to have the correct deterrent effect on the populace at large - will admit girls as members. In any case, it would be frightfully ungentlemanly to strike a lady.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I fear the collapse of Western Civilisation.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
There remains no Political Correctness at large in the UK. There is nothing to see. Nothing whatsoever. Move along now.
Mick Taylor, chairman of the Nottinghamshire branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “There has been an accusation that some words have been said that may have caused offence to a career criminal if he had been present, even though he wasn’t.This is possibly not strictly true: if an officer has done something badly wrong, there should be no need for a complaint to trigger disciplinary action. The question here is more pertinent: Did any officer actually do anything wrong?
“This is a man of the criminal fraternity who has a number of convictions. So it does seem ludicrous that we have to go to these levels, but that is the way life is now.
“This was a private conversation between colleagues and surely people have got a right to that? A personal view is that if no members of the public or work colleagues have made complaints, then I question the need for disciplinary action.”
To put it another way, in order to be offended, the
man of the criminal fraternity who has a number of convictionswould need to show that the moniker "pondlife" is unreasonable or somehow not fair. I would also suggest that he would need to show that he has suffered a real loss as a result. I suggest that that is going to be rather tricky, given that this
man of the criminal fraternity who has a number of convictionshas, err....,
a number of convictions.Indeed, an application of common sense would suggest that this whole disciplinary process is ludicrous. I should have thought that the factually indisputable description - "a man with a string of convictions, a career criminal" - is about as damning as you can get. This is not denigration of a group. It is not bigotry, because it is not an unreasonable assessment applied unfairly on the basis of a warped view of group characteristics. It is an objective assessment of one individual and does not apply to anyone else.
Thus, the only possible way that a disciplinary process could be worth the effort is if we ignore completely the objective fact that our "victim" is a career criminal, and as our favourite baby-eating fascist bastard says:
To the politically correct, truth is no defence; to the politically incorrect, truth is the ultimate defence.that would require the rules of politically correct truth to be in force.
But that can't be the case because there is no Political Correctness in the UK at all. Anywhere. Just a figment of our fevered neo-con warmongering racist imagination.
How galling that it should be AN AMERICAN to tell us all that this is a load of tosh.
Step forward the inimitable ninme in the comments below:
I can't get over how hilarious it is that everyone's so wound up over the word "pondlife". I kept thinking "pondlife" was a euphemism used to hint at what he really said, then when it started to dawn on me that that really is what he said... Well. Raise your hand if you've seen the Simpsons where they go to London. Way to play to your stereotypes.I couldn't agree more. Except that I don't because PC doesn't exist.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Today, however, I must come clean. (you might want to rephrase that, ed)
Today, we have a threesome of satires. How can I resist (lacking as we all are, any meaningful moral agency or free will)? That they all have a bearing on the libertarian viewpoint is an added fillip.
First up: A Modest Proposal from Samizdata. This had many readers fooled. Even your sharp-witted Pedant-General remained only suspicious until the last line.
The second requires a suitably humble doffing of cap in the direction of the big (though expat) daddy of the UK blogosphere and his 48th weekly roundup. I have commented on unsupportable contradictions, but not nearly as savagely skeweringly as this:
'living her entire life within the confines of a cardboard box frees the Uttabollux women from the tyrannies of the male-dominated hegemony. Unlike in the West where a woman is paralysed by having to live up to the so-called freedoms of choosing motherhood, career, independence, her own life, husband and so on, the Uttabollux woman is free within the confines of her cardboard box to be a total absolute woman, free from interference.True, her husband is free to beat, kill, rape, sell or mutilate her anyway he sees fit as long as he can claim that the Skhighhibhoss says its fine by him, but that is far better than the so-called 'freedoms' of the so-called 'liberated' West.'Sublime. Just sublime.
And for the third, Neil Harding - whom I have, in the past, accused of being a moron - produces an exquisitely crafted satire, in which he appears content flippantly to discard nearly a thousand years of legal precedent.
We can tell it is satire, because it is - hilariously- titled
Why Tony is rightHe then leads us gently up the garden path with
A man found with 10,000 in cash late at night with no reasonable explanation DESERVES prosecution regardless of whether the police can actually PROVE it is the result of wrongdoing.and then, just to show he has been pulling our leg all along, delivers the punchline:
In terms of low level punishment [he is talking about £100 on the spot fines] for low level crimes, it is BETTER to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free.The way he leads us to this conclusion is evidence of a truly brillant comic mind. It is a consummate spoof. Really, really excellent.
Oh, Ok. I'm sorry, I'm pulling your leg. This was just an excuse to broadcast one of the best put-downs I have heard in a long time. This, in the comments to a rebuttal of the moron by MatGB, has that mathematical precision of language which is so dear to my heart:
"On religion and philosophy, he comes across as fractally ignorant - no matter what distance scale you're using, the image of complete absence of knowledge is identical."Ouch...
So, although delighted to be in receipt, this morning, of a missive from that nice Mr Eugenides, I am thus mortified to discover that I am several days behind the curve:
As you may or may not be aware, Boris Johnson MP has put his name forward for election as Rector of Edinburgh University. He will be opposed by such as John Pilger and Mark Ballard (a Green MSP, apparently).All most welcome and a very great improvement on the Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper.
I am not a graduate of that establishment, and not involved in Boris' campaign, but a friend of mine, who is, has asked me to "put the word out" about the candidature, and as my own poor blog is clearly inadequate for such a task, I have taken the liberty of a group email (albeit with a somewhat random address field).
I shall get my politico-lobbyist-rottweiler on the case. He should be able to sort this out.
Isn't there just a teeny weeny hint of a conflict of interest?
Friday, January 13, 2006
The rich and powerful are still rich and powerful and there is no detectable change in the way that our institutions serve us at all.
Dr Crippen thinks otherwise.
Those sinister chaps at Samizdata provide a spectacular commentary on one typically bizarre outcome of such a system:
For decades, every school and university in the West has been teaching that the feelings of the protected classes trump rights of free expression.
The media are ruled by it, politics is in thrall to it, and each and every citizen of all these great, free, democratic societies knows in the back of his or her mind that if you dare say the wrong thing, you will be keel-hauled.
We've all watched it happen. We've complained and objected and had various hissy fits. The PC crowd just shrugged and found some more terms that were offensive, some more victims that needed to be protected, some more ideas that demonstrated a depraved, sexist, racist, whatever-ist mind and needed to be cast out.
I don't care who this guy is, or how ironic it all is. What difference does it make. The suppression many predicted, and so many others played down, is here.
Did you think they were kidding?
There is much in this topic that is of supreme importance to us all. To take a few quotes from their original analysis:
You can always find someone who will be offended by anything.
Quite. The correct response is to ignore them and they will go away.
But more disturbing than the law - the existing law, before Tony Blair gets to work on arbitrary extension of summary powers - being used to interdict opinion, is the certainty that it will not be open to anyone to have those expressing opinions that offend them investigated.Someone else made a similar point along these lines, but his thoughts weren't very well received.
This adumbrates a world in which officially approved opinions may be expressed freely, but those that are not officially approved will be deemed offensive, and suppressed therefore. Whatever it is, it is not freedom of expression.
Which sort of proves his point really.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
I promised to give you a little insight into the goings-on at the Grace and Favour Apartment over Hogmanay.
Part the First:
What do you get when you cross:
- Adolf Hitler;
- Maria Callas;
- Popeye and;
- Nigella Lawson ?
Very scary indeed.
That would appear to be the command issuing from the lips of the maximum Tone.
Your pre-Enlightenment, nay antediluvian, Pedant-General has other views. Only a Philosopher King can save us from the Hobbesian jungle into which large chunks of the population have descended.
Thankfully, there is one on order. Your dastardly and scheming Pedant-General has been secretly training up the youngest master P-G. He is coming along nicely and should be ready to take control in a decade or so.
And my goodness he is a Leviathan....
Friday, January 06, 2006
This time, it is about weirdness, which is, naturally, something your upright and sober Pedant-General does not do.
The blimmin' Devil, whose fault all this is, moans:
"... although I'm sure that others would have a much easier time listing five weird things about me than I will."Speak for yourself sunshine.
UPDATE: I have misinterpretted this. I hadn't spotted the "about me" qualifier. Alright I admit it - I was sloppy and didn't read it carefully enough. He is correct. He definitely needs a haircut.
To business then:
- Neither of my little toes touches the ground. At all. They poke upwards at such a strange angle that I am constantly going through shoes because they crease unnaturally at that point.
- Lady P-G isn't a Lady (but purely in the aristocratic sense, in much the same way that Mr Seat isn't a Mr) and she doesn't know about this blog. Perhaps I ought to tell this lot.
- Having interviewed a chap who was exceptionally well qualified for the job but who appeared, even to me, to be just a teeny-weeny bit almost entirely hatstand, I sent the Chief Exec in to have a chat with him. He (the Chief Exec that is) came out 15 minutes later and wandered over to my desk. He leaned on it for support and said:
"When Greg and I started this company, we made a very clear decision that we would only ever hire ONE lunatic"and then he wandered off. I have no idea what all that was about.
- I sneeze with sufficient force to make my feet leave the ground (including the two little toes that weren't touching it anyway). When Lady P-G saw me sneeze for the first time (I suffer from hayfever), she thought I was joking. She continued to think I was joking - and was beginning to think that the wind up was wearing a little thin - until she saw my father sneeze. Indeed, when the young masters Pedant-General see me warming up for a blast of the foghorn, they put their hands over their ears and run from the room.
- I can sit on the floor with my legs over my shoulders. I challenge Mr Free Market to do that, even when drunk....
- Mr Seat. Need to get him back anyway and I bet he has skeletons in the cupboard by the bucket load.
- Thersites. Doctors aren't exactly normal either.
- Deogolwulf. This thing isn't really his style, but maybe he needs to relax a little.
- ninme. It is always important to get these things across the pond. ninme, FYI the weirdness is by UK standards not US. We still can't get enough of the stuff you consider to be normal over there....
- The Moai. I have owed him a link for such a long time. Not sure if this counts, but it's a start.
We know this because ninme tells us and she is never wrong either.
However, some of you may have noticed that there was a very slight hiatus over the festive period on this blog and for that I must apologise. Indeed, I am kicking myself, largely because this swum into view (marching bands duly instructed to report to the surgery of fellow doc-blogger Thersites) and, whilst I meant to do a little broadcast and failed spectacularly, practically everyone else jumped on the bandwagon .
No matter. The Pedant-General in Ordinary has sufficient humility not to let these things get him down.
P-G Prescription: Seems a bit churlish to be issuing "prescriptions" really. After all, that is what Dr Crippen does. He is indeed a very, very good read.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I think this is about right.
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test
I am less concerned with the differences between Conservative ("traditional", chalk and flying blackboard dusters) and ZaNu-Labour ("discovery", "all shall have prizes", reading should be a joy") education policy and more with what is right and what works.
If Conservatives are pursuing synthetic phonics because it is "traditional", there is a danger thatn they are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and they will fail. If the policy is not supported by principle, the morons at the DfES will not have to suffer the ignominy of seeing their cherished dogma challenged by irrefutable evidence.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
I have been hoping to produce some follow up to my little rant at the Sharpener last month and to try to flesh out some of the weighty issues raised there.
I mused in particular that relentless political correctness....
"– which undermines the enlightenment values of reason as the arbiter of men and sees criminal and unpleasant behaviour as the unavoidable result of self-inflicted social deprivation".... had a great deal to answer for. It would appear that Anthony Browne has something substantial to say on the matter. 108 pages in fact. Read Pollard, or j0nz as a taster then download the whole 375k pdf here.
Report of Hogmanay at the Grace and Favour Apartment follows when the Gentleman Usher of the Cat-o-nine-tails has unravelled the instructions for the CCTV system he secretly installed.