28 Aug 2009

Results Day - '09

Yesterday was results day for GCSEs. For me personally it was a nerve wrecking experience. In fact, I was more nervous for my pupils than I was when I picked up my results all those years ago.

You see, as a teacher in England you live or die (professionally of course, not literally; the death squads only operate in the NHS) on your results. If your pupils do well it; opens up opportunities for promotion, forces congratulations from management and gives you the warm feeling of having achieved something. If you do poorly - you are noted as a teacher of limited effectiveness.

Bad times.

Bearing in mind that these were my first results, it was a terrifying drive to school.

Luckily for me (and I suppose my pupils) my results were quite good. I got 77% A*-C. That's 11% higher than the national average. With a bottom and middle set. I was very happy.

However, after the results were published we had the yearly berating by the press that the exams are getting easier. They may well be right - I don't know as I haven't been teaching long enough to compare the papers from the past decade. What it does suggest to me is that perhaps the current exam process isn't rigorous or respected enough to truly assess how our young people have progressed from entering school to the minimum leaving age.

Perhaps therefore, it is time for a radical change. As such, I have drawn up a list of possible alternatives to the current system of examinations:

1) Grade or No Grade. 15 unmarked, red boxes are selected at random by a pupil. Each box contains a grade. The aim is to 'hold on' to the highest grade until the end. The pupil will be periodically phoned by the examiner who will offer a grade that can be accepted (thus ending the exam) or refused (forcing the exam to continue).

2) Stealth Examinations. Pupils have no set exam date or time. Instead, examiners dressed as ninjas will 'jump' the pupil at some point in their day to day lives (in Tesco for instance). After being wrestled to the ground the pupil will be asked a series of questions relating to their chosen subjects.

3) Subject 'rap battle'. Pupils are partnered with an examiner where they have to rap for 3 minutes on a particular subject. For instance 'The character of Lennie in 'Of Mice and Men' is considered to be weak by other characters in the novel. Bring it'. The cypher (or as it used to be known 'the exam board') award marks for originality and rhyme. A*s are only given out if the examiner leaves the stage in tears.

4) Practical exams. Pupils are given a 1972 Austin Maxi and a copy of a Heynes Manual for 2001 Renault Clio (mk 2) and have to fudge some repairs. Extra marks awarded for inwardly whistling between the teeth, shaking the head and saying 'it's gonna be a nightmare job my darlin'. You're lookin' at at least three-hundred quid, love'.

5) Drama. Pupils are forced to consume copious amounts of alcohol and then are dropped off at home. Grades are awarded based on the perceived severity of the punishment meted out by parents in a descending scale. To wit, a three week grounding will result in a C. An A* is awarded if the pupil escapes with no punishment - it would be felt that they had acted their way clear of parental retribution.

I believe that the above would actually help our pupils to develop the skills they need to get on in adult life. Namely: blind luck, quick thinking, analytical thought, problem solving and bullshitting your way out of impossible situations.

I will be recommending these changes to the government post-haste.

24 Aug 2009

Not A Wonk...What A Wanker

America. Home of the free and land of the brave (or whichever way round it is). I salute you. Not only do you invent some pretty nifty things but you also produce the top-notch Grade A nutters.

I give you example A: http://www.notawonk.com/

This is a right wing blog written by 'Patti' of Texas. You can tell it's right wing and American because it harps on endlessly about how democrats are socialists, how national healthcare is as bad as the Einsatzgruppen Commando Squads and endless tracts about God. God does she go on about God!

That's right folks, it's open letter time...

Dear Patti,

You don't know me personally (and I'm sure we're both thankful for this) but what I have to say will hopefully make you pause and think before you stab your digits vitriolically onto a keyboard. I promise to try to avoid any personal remarks and focus on your views and opinions. I'm sure at heart you're a really nice person. Slightly naive and a little misguided perhaps, but a nice person. As such, I'll try to maintain the pretense of respectability afforded to us by our respective democracies.

You are quite clearly an absolute fucking moron. Not only do you parrot the non-sensical dribblings of Fox News, you actually believe - deep in your soul - that what you are saying is true. It is a sad thing to see.

Look at your post on the current health care reforms. Utter tosh. The thing that gets my back up the most is:

'Then he berates those who oppose the plan by saying that we are neglecting the weakest among us. This is a little sneakier, because he takes you to task by invoking Jesus, yet doesn't come right out and say it, but it's there so you feel like you have failed and maybe his plan is good. Baloney. I give to many charities and I know you do to. I am taking care of my brothers and sisters. THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT ISSUE.

You give to charities? Well fucking done. What do you want a medal? I mean, surely helping those who don't have the means to help themselves is a core tenant of any government's responsibilities. As such, IT IS A GOVERNMENT ISSUE.

Anyway, I'm a little confused over your apparent devotion to Christianity; a faith, insofar as I can make out, focused on helping your fellow man. What more help could be offered than the possibility of free health care to everyone? I don't want to labour the point (as I've already done that in a previous post) but I'm sure you can see my confusion.

You also discuss how Obama is a liar. I know what it's like to have a government that lies to its people. Our Labour (socialist) government lied to us so that we could support America in the Iraq invasion. They told us that there were weapons of mass destruction that could hit London. Do you remember that Patti? You were told the same. And in we went. The thing is the majority of the lies currently being said in the USA are from right wing commentators. Click on any of the links on the right hand side of your page and you'll see what I mean.

I like the story you post about the man carrying a gun near Obama when the president was in Arizona. I mean, you say he was exercising his rights to bear arms and had an absolute legal right to do so. Ignoring the fact that this is a legal anachronism do you not think it is a little bit silly to be handling a weapon around the most heavily protected man on Earth? Yes it is isn't it. So rather than saying this is good thing perhaps we should move this into the 'what not to when surrounded by secret service agents' pile (other examples include 'lunge wildly at the Pope', 'wear a Sex Pistols t-shirt when receiving an OBE' and my personal favourite 'goose-step across the Polish/German boarder whilst shouting "ve're back again mit zee tanks"').

Now, you may well be saying 'how can someone non-American comment on our politics'. Well for two reasons, you started it when you kept talking about England (it's Britain for fuck's sake, we don't say 'Ohio' to describe the whole of the USA). Also, American politics have huge repercussions for everyone around the world that we are entitled to an opinion. We can't do anything with that opinion other than moan, point the finger and laugh.

I could go on but your blog is for me the equivalent of a sweet shop to a four year old. There is so much on offer that I loose control and can only mumble 'wanna make fun' before my body shuts down with incredulity.



21 Aug 2009

Things I know Now I Didn't Know This Time Last Week...(TIKNIDKTTLW?)

Here is a list of things that I have learnt over the past seven days.

1) Henry Goddard is some kind of veg growing messiah for the Shepton Mallet area - I know not who he is but his leeks were enormous!
2) A show cow is judged on the texture of its udder. Some would describe it as 'lovely'.
3) The cross over section of scissors travel faster than the speed of light.
4) Drinking cider, beer and red wine is a surefire way of acquiring a hangover.
5) Champagne is actually an English invention (take that France!)
6) Tina Turner is much improved by cows (or as I like to call it 'The Mid-Somerset Show Remix' ['cus you're simply the best...moooooooooooooo/better than all the rest.....mooooooo]).
7) That England's bowlers are better than I had previously expected.
8) That wheel weights in cars make a lot of noise if they come loose.
9) My Grandpa once wallpapered my Grandma to the ceiling 'for a laugh'.

It has been an interesting week...

19 Aug 2009

Things in my life that don't work (yet should)

I say damn you advertising. Damn every lie that squirms insect like from your personified mouth. You bastard. You hate filled harridan of modern society. Why do you continue to inflict the mass populous with your money-orientated-grab-fest...what was that?...If I buy one, I get one free?...Sweet!

You see I (like every other shuffling sack of DNA we laughingly call humanity) am sucked in by the promises of those blokes on the telly. The ones who make it all sound like it's going to be ok if we just spend some money. You know, the ones that encouraged everyone to spend money they didn't have then send the bailiffs round when they couldn't afford the repayments.

After many years of going 'yeah, a T.V. the size of a small planet is what I need' I've decided that there is so much stuff in my life that doesn't work that I should stop consuming and start complaining.

Thinks that don't work like they should:

My Car: A French built car. Normally this would be enough to get people shaking their heads in pity however, this time I would like to go into a bit more detail. The French may be able to cook the finest food in the world, write some of the most beautiful prose and produce the most prestigious of wines but can they make a brake disc that lasts more than twenty-five minutes of gentle braking? No, they fucking can't.

Over the past year I have spent over £1000 on my car (that's $1638 US, 1160 Euros or 581,681 Zimbabwe Dollars - that's right I've spent over half a mil on my car in the last 12 months!) I could be lying on a beach in Guam for that money. Hell, I could have bought a T.V. the size of a small planet. That would be awesome. No wait....arrrggghhhh, they've done it again!

My deodorant: It promises me '3D Protection' that 'Fights perspiration, prevents odour' and has 'timed released freshness'. What it gives me is arm pits that smell like a dirty Viking's jock strap after I've completed five minutes of sitting quietly in a cool room. In fact I sweat more when I use this than when I used the old method of strapping two hamsters under my arms. Huh, progress isn't all it's cracked up to be.

My knowledge of HTML: Being part of the hip-computer savvy generation I assumed that HTML editing would be fairly easy to pick up and use. I'm sure in actual fact it is, but I'm lazy and feckless (at least that's what my first reference says). As such after cursory glance at the HTML code for this blogs template I gave up trying to sort out the niggle. Primarily, the buttons above these posts. Three link back to this page making them as useful as a water soluble condom and one takes you the twitter page of the people who made the template. I'm thankful for their hard work in creating this template but I'm not sure I want them at the top of my page.

My rugby team: Gloucester RFC. Always get to the final of nearly every major domestic tournament or league only to have a bout of collective apathy come the final. What causes some of the greatest Rugby players in the land to just give up? It's like they run on the pitch thinking 'have I left the gas on?'

My phone: A lovely looking touchscreen marvel of 'let's-copy-the-iPhone-but-make-it-cheaper'. The main difference I can discern between the iPhone and the LG Renoir is that the iPhone is good and the LG makes me so angry with it's shitness that I randomly lash out at passers by. It's text function is so clumsy that I text my mum 'you can't' and she received 'you cun't'. It called my mum a cunt! It will randomly unlock itself in my pocket and phone/text people in my address book. My boss received three blank texts from me. He thought I'd been injured and only had the ability to repeatedly press 'send' as a call for help (although he did bugger all about it). It takes four and a half years to connect to the internet and then proudly tells me that it can't display the webpage due to incompatibility. I hate it with a passion I usually reserve for the BNP and cats. And due to my contract I'M STUCK WITH IT FOR THE NEXT EIGHTEEN MONTHS. FUCK!

The Summer: We were promised a 'BBQ Summer' we got rain. I don't mind the weather per se, it's more the way that everyone (including me) went 'Yes! A hot summer at last' after the Met Office told everyone that it was going to be really hot and sunny. If the Met Office had said - 'it looks like a 65% chance of a really nice summer but we can't be sure because even with all this modern technology we're basically looking out the window and making it up as we go along' - then I'd be happy. But they didn't...grrrr.

Blur had it about right. Modern life is rubbish.

P.S. I'm sure people have others - let me know what doesn't work in your life so we can laugh at your misfortune.

New layout

Everyone seems to have been changing their layouts recently and being a sheep I did the same.

Hope you like the new look - if not then tough. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions or the like.


14 Aug 2009

The NHS...Back the Fuck Off

Right. There has been a lot of words banded around by those who are against Obama's new health care proposals.

Fine. If you want to ignore the fact that 45 million people would benefit from the proposed health care reforms then that's your look out. If you think that those who can't afford health insurance should be left to get sick and then worry about money then go for it. It's your country and your politics. I'm in no position to comment.

What I will say is that the NHS isn't perfect. No, really it's not. It's hugely bureaucratic. It spends enormous amounts of money. It occasionally fails. And sometimes people die.

But it helps so many more than it hurts. It is free at the point of delivery. That means that any registered British citizen or those with an adequate visa have access to free health care. From the highest of lords to the lowest of beggars anyone can be helped. Those who cannot look after themselves, who cannot afford to look after themselves, will have some of the best health care in the world. FOR FREE.

Anyway the point is that we're sat over here with a feeling of bemused anger. On the one hand it's very annoying that our health system is coming under sustained attack (it is one of the very few things we can be truly proud of). On the other, the arguments put forward are so utterly nonsensical that we're pissing ourselves laughing:

Death Panels: Hahahaha. You actually think there is a group of people that decide on somebody's ability to contribute to society and if they don't we let them die? What sort of sci-fi-fascist nation do you think we are? Switzerland?

Someone who is 59 or over will not be given heart treatment: So you're suggesting the highly irrational elderly men who are of retirement age and therefore have loads of time on their hands are just meekly accepting this? Have you stood behind and old person at the Post Office when they're complaining? It's over something really trivial (like the stamp has gone up by a penny) but they will not stop shouting. Now imagine trying to take away their medicine. We'd be knee deep in silver haired rioters.

Evil and Orwellian: Er...how? No, really - how? How does a system intended to help millions qualify as evil? And as for Orwellian? Ah, you must be referring to the original opening of 1984 "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith had just been to the doctors because he was feeling a bit peaky...". Just realised, you can't be thinking of that as I made it up. Sorry but you're clearly an idiot.

Next one is a quote: "...I've heard several senators say that Ted Kennedy with a brain tumour, being 77 years old as opposed to being 37 years old, if he were in England, would not be treated for his disease, because end of life – when you get to be 77, your life is considered less valuable under those systems." - Ignoring the fact that this sounds like was said by someone with only a passing acquaintance with the English language, what this suggests is pretty damning. Shame then that it is without doubt one of the nastiest pieces of underhand right-wing propaganda that turns the suffering of a brain tumour patient into a horrific lie just to score political points.

To conclude, feel free to disagree on grounds of political opposition or even on the grounds of being a money-grubbing bastard. But don't make shit up about the NHS or we'll force feed you the food they serve. Then you'll wish for a death panel.

Political Profile No. 1

Hello all,

In these uncertain times I feel it my duty, as a loyal subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to make it clear who the people running this nation actually are. This is so that when the election is called you fine people of internetland (well, those of you who are British citizens) can make informed choices about who to vote for.

Political Profile No. 1 - Lord Peter Mandelson.

There has been much said in recent weeks about Peter Mandelson. Some say he is the scariest man in British politics. I'd like to give some choice biographical information which will, hopefully, help people to put aside these ridiculous notions.

Lord Peter 'Sauron Jr.' Mandelson was forged in the fires of Mount Doom in 1962. He spent most of his childhood living as any proto-dark lord would. Playing in the fields, watching television and consuming the souls of virgins. It was for the most part a happy upbringing. Unfortunately this was all to change when two Young Tories crept into Mordor and burnt his ring.

Forced from his home at an early age he moved in with some distant relatives, Mr and Mrs Holmes of Walthamstow. He found the change difficult as his new guardians were very strict - insisting, for instance, that the young Peter should desist from bringing in dead birds as gifts. School was also a troubling time for him, he was outcast by his peers and routinely bullied by those around him. Interestingly enough his boyhood tormentors all passed away with puncture marks on the neck being the only visible injury.

After school Mandelson went to university where he finally 'found himself'. He made many friends and even played in a black metal band called 'The Deatheaters'. It was whilst at university that he took an interest in politics. He supported many issues from equal rights for the living-undead to the now famous 'Am I Not a Cannibal and a Brother' campaign.

It was a short leap from student to mainstream politics.

For many years Mandelson worked on the fringes of party politics, rarely making public (or daylight) appearances. This changed when The Party (or INGSOC) was catapulted to power. Mandelson was found to be a key player in the new government and set about establishing a firm power base.

Controversy struck only a few years later when Mandelson was embroiled in the Death Star incident. He immediately resigned, retiring to his holiday home on Jupiter to regenerate.

However, as the old saying goes 'you can't keep a good lord of the underworld down' and in a mere 18 months later Mandelson was back on his tentacles and back in the government. He worked diligently during this time, reforming policies on environmental issues and figuring out the crossing points of leylines.

It seemed that his position was now unshakable. Some even tipped him to be the next leader when Herr UberGruppenFurer Blair stood down. Alas, Mandelson was never far from controversy and his ill considered decision to burn Winchester Cathedral to the ground whilst sacrificing a goat led to his lampooning by the tabloid press. He once again resigned, taking full responsibility for the incident.

Whilst he was away from cabinet he worked tirelessly for his constituency relocating the abattoir to the school playing fields for 'convenience', turning the local church (St. Luke's) into a 'gay friendly' BDSM club and having five new stone circles built.

It was for these efforts that he was awarded a Peerage and became Lord Mandelson of Hades.

Soon after his elevation to the aristocracy, he was asked by LeaderBot bR01_1_1N to rejoin the front bench because, lets be honest, he couldn't do anything worse than what the others had already achieved.

There are now rumours that Mandelson will challenge LeaderBot bR01_1_1N after the next general election for control of INGSOC.

Facts in brief:

  • Mandelson is currently watching his figure and is only allowing himself to eat one baby a day.
  • He recently attacked a Vicar with an iron bar.
  • Mandelson has an abiding hatred for Hobbits.
  • Mandleson holidays in Norwich as it's 'as close to hell as you can get without death'.
  • Mandelson's favorite books are 'The Prince' by Machiavelli, 'The Necronomicon' and 'Polo' by Jilly Cooper.
  • He is keen participant in the sport of dwarf tossing and represented his house (Slytherin) whilst at school.

13 Aug 2009

Why I became a Teacher...

People often ask me what made me become a teacher and more specifically, an English teacher.

Well it's really very simple. I am rubbish at English. Kind of. Let me explain:

*Flashback music and wobbly screen effect*

When I was very young I went to a private school. I know you're thinking 'ooh, get you with the fancy education' but it was a crap private school. I hated it. They still employed corporal punishment as a discipline method when I was there. The memory of being struck by a teacher when I'd crossed a road after being told to cross the road by another teacher lingers with me still.

After being made thoroughly miserable for around two years and expressing my loathing for school in a way only a five year old can (hiding, pretending to be asleep, feigning illness, crying etc. etc.) my parents decided that perhaps I would be better off in state education.

So I moved schools - and that's where it all went a bit weird.

My private school taught me how to read whole words. The state school taught the kids to break words down into phonetic chunks. The private school hadn't started teaching us to spell. The state school had already done it.

Put simply, I was never taught how to spell words.

I was literally lost down the crack between the two sectors and it wasn't for a long time that I was picked up again.

You see, my teachers at school couldn't understand why someone who could read whole words, had a large vocabulary for his age and was clearly quite bright found spelling difficult. So they ignored it. For years. And it got worse.

In which time I was called a variety of names by teachers and fellow pupils alike. I felt like a reject. I was put into the bottom sets for most subjects because I couldn't get my ideas across on paper. I was clearly bored by the work being set and started to get into trouble.

One teacher saw what was happening and started to help me. She identified the problem and slowly I started to improve. I was placed in Special Educational Needs classes to give me the support I needed.

I then moved to upper school.

I went from a school of around 600 pupils to a school with approaching 2000. I was once again lost in the mire. I began to lose interest in school. But this time I was older and my naughty behaviour became slightly more extreme. I bullied teachers (I was a reason cited for two maths teachers leaving). I would leave lessons and go and smoke in the toilets. I'd set fire to stuff in science. Like people. I made another pupil go to hospital after forcing him to ingest a number of sheets of A4 paper. I killed the fish in my biology teacher's room. I encouraged a friend to snort copper sulfate powder not realising the exothermic properties of such a product. I started to steal from shops (something I am now deeply ashamed of).

In short, I was a cock.

Then a giant of an English teacher scared me into behaving and actually doing work. He encouraged me when I did well and bollocked me when I was lazy. I realised that I could do it if I actually pulled my finger out and did the work. In fact he did more than that. He allowed me to see the beauty of words. How they can be used to make people laugh or cry. That in the darkest of times words can be a comforting light. That nations have risen and fallen on the power of words. That Shakespeare was writing about things I could relate to and that poetry wasn't, as I'd previously insinuated, 'gay'.

I was predicted a 'D' for my GCSE English. I got a 'B'.

So I went on and took an A Level in English. I did ok. Better than I had thought I would. So I went on and took a degree in it. I did really well.

Looking back after my degree, I realised that if it wasn't for those two teachers I would have ended up doing something really stupid and getting into lots of trouble or joining the military like my friends (one of whom was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last year). So I thought I'd pay it back and become a teacher.

In 12 years I have gone from the bottom group to standing in front of the class. In my last lesson observation my Headteacher graded me as 'outstanding'; the highest grade.

I am a little bit proud of how far I have come. I am more thankful to those who inspired and helped me. I make a special point of never giving up on a child and always giving any time I can to help them. Not because I'm God's gift to teaching, nor because I'm in anyway the best at what I do (there are many, many teachers better than I) but because that's what two people did for me.

And it stopped me falling through anymore cracks.

Next time, less sentimental mewlings, more angry ranting.

12 Aug 2009

The True Meaning of Cretin

Hello all,

Before you read this post I'd like you to have a quick skim read of this:


Now prior to the following series of words, sentences and paragraphs that make up this post I would like to make it very clear that people can believe what they like. I'll react and I'll think that you're wrong. I may discuss with you the clear illogicality of your belief but that doesn't mean I'll think less of you as a person, just as I hope you won't think less of me for disagreeing with you.

If however, you string together a barely plausible series of random thoughts to put forward your crypto-fascist-religious nonsense then you have CROSSED THE FUCKING LINE...

If you follow the link and read the article you'll see what I mean. I would like to oppose some of the ideas put forward in the article. This will be the last open letter for a while, I promise.

Dear Mr David J Stewart,

I recently read your article entitled 'Goth Music will Destroy Your Child!' and I was instantly concerned. So concerned in fact, I haven't stopped laughing.

I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of the points you made and how I think you may have been in error.

Firstly, using a dictionary definition as a way of attacking a group of people is a little dangerous when you are a Christian. For example:

cre·tin (krēt'n)

1. A person afflicted with cretinism.

2. Slang An idiot.

crétin, from French dialectal, deformed and mentally retarded person found in certain Alpine valleys, from Vulgar Latin*christiānus, Christian, human being, poor fellow, from LatinChrīstiānus, Christian; see Christian.]
cre'tin·oid' (-oid') adj., cre'tin·ous (-
əs) adj.

The word cretin comes from the root of Christian. You'll no doubt say 'well that was years ago' or perhaps even 'can you base the comparison on its vulgar Latin origins when historically Christians were persecuted in Rome?' Both valid points, although those who weren't Roman were considered barbarians. Hence our word 'vandals' connoting someone who is uncouth. I'm not sure that the word 'goth' is used in this sense anymore as its meaning has been subsumed by the reference to popular culture.

Sorry David but it gets worse.

'"Goth" is just a word the media uses to group a certain type of people together. The Goth culture includes Emos/ punks/ Wiccan witches/ self-abusers/ thrashers/ grungers/ heavy metallers, et cetera.'

Now wait a minute. You started your argument by telling me the significance of the dictionary definition. Now you're saying it's 'just a word the media uses'. Which is it David, my poor secular brain can't cope. Also, emos and thrashers? Really? Have you been to rock gig? Clearly not because then the scary 'Satan music' would crawl into your head and kick your illogic-campus to death, making you see fucking sense.

Now on to the assertion that 'Goth causes teenage girls to become whores'. Wow! Really? You must have some pretty compelling evidence to back up this statement...oh, your evidence is 'Goth is of the devil'. Well, I'm not saying that I'm an academic but I'm fairly sure that wouldn't hold up in, say, a thesis. Or an essay. Written by four a year old. Sheep.

'Goth is a mental illness (Er...no it isn't. Bipolar disorder. That's a mental illness) mainly affecting teenagers in the same way as schizophrenia would, although to a greater extent. Its symptoms range from isolation and negativity to aggression and hate for humanity...' Parenthesis and emphasis mine.

So, you're saying teenagers feel isolated and negative? Some groundbreaking insight here. I suppose you'll be saying that they suffer from depression, violent outbursts, have low self-esteem and/or self-loathing.

'... depression, violent outbursts, low self esteem, self-loathing...'

Right. Have you ever spoken to a teenager David? No? Didn't think so.

You then go on to list a number of times when a Goth has been connected to some kind of horrific crime. I'd like to do the same but invert the focus:

1) 1098, Fall of Antioch: 100,000 Muslims massacred by Christian crusaders.

2) 1099, Fall of Jerusalem: 70,000 Muslims massacred by Christian crusaders.

3) Richard the Lionhearted executes 3,000 Muslim POWs

4) October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death at his home in Amherst, New York by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Dr. Slepian's murder after finally being apprehended in France in 2001. Kopp was a Catholic anti-abortion activist.

5) An estimated 40,000 to 100,000 people are executed on the pretence of being witches. By goths. Oh no, sorry...according to list Wiccan Witches are goths. Must have been by christians.

I could go on but I don't feel I need to.

The next argument you put forward is pseudo-scientific. You suggest that Retallack's research showed that plants exposed to rock music died. That's a lie. A barefaced and unsupported lie. Retallack played an F note continiously to one set of plants and intermittently to another. There was a control group that was in silence. No rock music. No 'religious' music. Just an F note. Anyway, your quote 'If rock music attacks and kills plants, what does it do to people?' makes little sense. If you force feed someone fertalizer they don't grow big and strong do they David? No David, they die don't they David.

You are correct in suggesting that gothic music is focused around negativity and the darker side of life. Although that is a little rich coming from a group of people who worship the death of someone who then rose again. There's a word for that David. They're called zombies.

You also lament the way in which television (or as you amusingly call it Devilvision...hahaha) is degrading people's moral compass. I'd like to agree with you as I hate television but you make it difficult when you suggest that Opera is 'demonic New Age (sic) indoctrination'. Unlike, The Bible which is strictly old skool. I mean like her or not she isn't demonic. Simon Cowell, now he's demonic.

I could go on but I grow weary David. You know how it is - so many sins, not enough time. I do have one, final request. Please don't write anymore of these articles. They make you look like a tit. And I think worse. They make all Christians seem like gibbering arseholes which, as we both know, is clearly not the case. In fact these actively prevent you from recruting people to the church. They'll be too busy running in the other direction screaming 'I ain't joining those nutters'.

Love to all,

Duke Fandango

11 Aug 2009

Education - The Forecast is Bleak

I'd like to talk about the Conservative Shadow Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb.

By all accounts this man is an unambiguous, thundering arse.

His idea for education is that pupils should sit in rows and learn facts. I'm assuming that these facts won't cover the £296 spent on hedge trimming in one month by Mr Gibb. I mean, almost three hundred pounds on trimming a hedge! What is he growing? Triffids?

The problem is that Gibbo here thinks that the past ten years in British education have been wasted. That the teaching of skills is a nonsense. That the only way to improve our chances as a nation is to regress by 50 years and teach like they did 'in my day'.

As such, here is an open letter to him. Seeing as he is likely to become the part of the new government I feel it is fair that we try to make him see the error of his ways:

Dear Mr Gibb,

I'm not sure if you've noticed Nicky (I can call you Nicky, right?) but the world has moved on somewhat in the past 50 years. Look at all the differences. The Internet, population, movement away from traditional industries in Western Europe, globalisation, multiculturalism, increasing freedoms for minorities, equality for all, class system all but broken down, sexual liberation, more secularism. I could go on but you know all of this. You're an intelligent man. You have a law degree and everything.

What I'm finding difficult to understand is how you think an education system, based on what is essentially a Victorian model fits into this new society? No seriously, that's what you are proposing. A process of education children that was formalised when Britain was the most powerful nation on Earth both economically and militarily. When bright people were educated in grammar schools and everyone else was left to the secondary system.

Indeed, the point of grammar schools was to train people for the clerical roles in the heavy industries, creaming off the most able with the 11+. The bog-standard secondary schools were to educate the masses that would work in the factories. Why then, in a time when Britain has almost no heavy industry, do you feel this is an efficient way of preparing teenagers for life after school?

I'm also confused as to why you haven't listened to employers who are sick of school leavers coming through the system with a fantastic knowledge of the Periodic Table and Rastafarian Religious Holidays but can't spell, present their ideas or work as part of a team?

Those are skills Mr Gibb. Real, we-need-them-to-get-on-in-life skills.

I also question your qualification to be making these kind of decisions. As they will have monumental repercussions for years to come I feel people who perhaps have been, you know, teachers, might be better informed to make these kind of statements. I'm sure the aforementioned law degree and years of working in accountancy have given you many experiences (I'm assuming most of which involved adding up numbers and...er...adding up some more numbers) but knowing how teenagers learn isn't one of them.

I know it would be politically difficult for you to make the u-turn but, hell, what your proposing will actively prevent our young people from being competitive with other nations.

And then Nicko, we'll be well and truly fucked.

Hope this finds you in good health.

Yours Sincerely,

Duke Fandango

10 Aug 2009

The Life of a Teacher

I wake up at 6 (ish) in the morning. I get washed and drink coffee in a bid to wake myself up enough to be able to drive. I count on a 50/50 success rate.

I get to school for between 7.15 and 7.30. I work until 8.30 when I have a meeting. After that I will teach for up to five hours solid. My lunch and break times are often taken up with dealing with pupils.

During that time I may have to break up fights, deal with late work, deal with parental issues, liaise with other members of staff, fill out paper work, mark work, plan, resource, coordinate my area of responsibility and take care of any pastoral issues that have arisen. Oh, and teach. The actual teaching bit is exhausting. You can't expect 30 kids to engage with Shakespeare if you sit at your desk and read it to them. So it's all about jumping around, doing voices, acting out scenes, being enthusiastic (because enthusiasm is infectious). Sounds like a laugh. And it is. One great exhausting laugh.

I then 'finish' with the pupils at 3.15. At this point I will sit at my desk and work until 6 pm. I then drive home and will work until 8 or 9 pm.

I do this Monday - Friday.

At the weekend I will generally do 3 or 4 hours work.

So the next person that says that teaching is a doss is likely to get fucked up.

Actually, I have a better idea.

Any half-witted cretin that decides that all teachers are somehow having an easy ride should be plucked from whatever job they currently do, given a fifteen minute 'orientation' talk and put in the classroom with a full teaching timetable.

Imagine the scenario as Dave Watkins, a corpulent and hirsute middle-manager from a consultancy firm is dropped in front of bottom set Year 10. See the terror sweep across his face as thirty pairs of teenage eyes glare hungrily at the fresh meat placed in their view. There will be that moment of silence where they gauge this 'new teacher'.

'OK guys' Dave says with the wobble of fear straining his now squeaky - almost pig like - voice. The pupils smile to each other as they note the scent of abject horror flowing unhindered from Dave's rotund body.

55 minutes later...

Dave crawls from the classroom in tears. He's covered in post-it notes all with profanities written on them. His shoelaces have been tied together. His tie has been covered in Lynx and set alight. He has a Pritt Stick inserted into his rectum. Someone has scrawled 'twat' into his forehead with a compass. Bizarrely, he is now wearing mascara and lipstick. An interactive board pen and sellotape have been used to make a rudimentary ball gag. There is a collection of Polaroid photos pinned to the lapel of his blazer showing him being spanked by a metre rule. It looks like the kids have been charging each other to 'Pwn the Prof'. The jokers.

Now imagine that Dave has been asked to do this four more times today and then work late into the night to get ready for the same again tomorrow.

Not such a doss now is it Davey my lad?

You see, I love my job (not too many can say that) but it is hard, hard work. The sooner people realise that teachers do an incredible job for essentially bugger all pay the sooner society will show them the respect they deserve.

Until that happy day teaching will be looked down on as a profession. Shame really because I really rather like it.

7 Aug 2009

The English Perspective

"I'm English and, as such, I crave disappointment" once said the mighty Bill Bailey. He may well be right.

Everything about being English is, well, a bit rubbish. We moan about everything. We're decidedly mediocre at the sports we invented. We have no real national identity. We are apathetic towards politics. Our weather is crap. We are the second most loathed country in the world (we used to be first - nice one America). Our national dance is Morris Dancing. Our food (traditionally) is used as biological weapons in other countries. We are xenophobic of people we don't personally know.

If there was a country that deserved the most abject and pitying glances from the global community then it would be us.

And we bloody love it.

We love the fact that we're lower-middle of the table on everything. We revel in the fact that we're awful at most, if not all things; that we are a country made up of odds and sods. That we get laughed at behind our backs by France and Germany. That we are ruled by Scots. That when Europe asks us to do something really useful, something that will aid millions of people around the globe we jam our metaphorical fingers into our ears and go 'ner ner ner - can't hear you - ner ner ner'.

The reason is that deep within our cores, smothered under decades of imperialistic guilt, lies an untainted and irresistible belief that we are a little bit better than other people.

Take Australians. Yes they're better at sport, outgoing, better looking, laid back, more fun and less repressed. But whenever we meet them we subconsciously think 'criminal colonist'.

I'd like to call this 'The English Perspective'. The mad thing is that 'The English Perspective' isn't genetic; it's viral.

Any immigrant (family or individual) will eventually develop this way of looking at the world. Will start to moan. Will become bloody minded. Will act superior when dealing with others. My Grandma is Portuguese and has lived here for over 50 years. She is all of those things. The other day she was muttering to herself about those 'blooming immigrants' whilst completely forgetting that she is an immigrant.

Which leads to our greatest redeeming feature. We take in everything (food, language, people, music, literature, etc.) from everywhere (Asia to America and everywhere in between) and we make them our own. We break down the original in the process and some would say that by doing this we destroy it a little bit. But we've been doing this for centuries and it doesn't look like we're stopping anytime soon.

Anyway, we can't help it; we're English.