Archive for Education

Pay Now, Earn Later

David Willets, the newly appointed Universities Minister, has had a remarkably unoriginal idea for a Tory official: raise tuition fees. If their wages depended on the originality of their proposals, they would all be pisspoor. The reason he gave for this move is the old, nasty and very familiar “there is no money”. As if we didn’t know; for the Tories, there is never any money. Despite this, it’s easy to see how Willets will never make a good Tory. When he broke the news to the public, he made the unallowable mistake of telling us exactly what he should be doing instead of what he wants to do. And that is dangerous. His words were,

students should consider university fees “more as an obligation to pay higher income tax” than a debt.

Fortunately for Willets I seem to have been the only one to notice. Also, we live in times of little revolutionary upheaval. You see, a good Tory would have never used the words “pay higher income tax”. And a good Tory would have never, ever, preceded that phrase with the words “an obligation”. Willets is a rubbish Tory.
If Willets’ intention were to make students pay higher income tax, then the surest way to achieve this would be to raise income tax. If he thoroughly believed in making those who earn more pay more, then he would be taxing those who earn more. But that presents a problem, you see, because then the ones being taxed wouldn’t be the fresh, young and hopeful students who may dream of earning enough money to make up for the exorbitant fees, but people like Willets who’s wealth is estimated at two million pounds.

And it’s so easy to tax students, isn’t it? After all, they will go on to earn more money than those who are not students. Or at least, that’s how it’s been up to now. Government officials keep peddling the lie, backed by decades of empirical evidence, and convince everyone and their dog that all is fair in making the would-be-wealthy pay today what they will make tomorrow. But the lie is beginning to wear thin. There are too many graduates in crap jobs and earning a pittance, and every year universities churn out more and more. Good jobs that pay well are dead or dying; there are now less of them than before and more graduates to do them. We can all be fairly certain that people graduating from higher education today are not going to be wealthy any time soon. And with more and more cuts in public sector jobs, that last bastion of employment with almost decent conditions, and little incentive from private companies to pay more for the jobs that a larger group of graduates can do, where exactly is that wealth going to come from? With which money are students going to pay the imaginary “income tax” or, rather, the very real debt?
To settle the matter, there’s going to be a review into fees being led by Browne, the former chief executive of BP. Yes, THAT BP. I’ll wait with baited breath for his startlingly fresh, innovative and original take on the matter.
I predict he’ll provide a similar approach to Willet’s: pay up, there’s no money.

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The Misterious Case Of Apathy Amongst The Young

Here we go again…
To set the mood for the impending election, we are being reminded, once again, that the youth of today is apathetic when it comes to politics. It’s part and parcel of the old tradition of electoral politics. As timely as the cries about the infamous “War On Christmas” come November.
And it’s not the exclusive purview of Britain either. Most countries in the world where there’s even the pretence of democracy and elections seem to suffer from a case of “apathetic youth”. And of course, the best way to fight back this apathy is to blame its victims for it. How dare the young not care about politics! People have (changes to deep voice with echo effects) died (voice changes back) for their right to vote… They have actually (dramatic voice on) died (dramatic voice off)… What everyone seems to forget is that people fought for the right to vote when voting actually made a difference. Now it doesn’t. For reference, see the last two terms of the Labour government.

But let’s focus on this “apathy”. It’s difficult to make the youth apathetic since this is, traditionally, the time in people’s lives when they are most rebellious and hopeful that change is possible. Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and since it has happened we might as well try to figure out how.

Case 1. I’m thirteen and entering high school for the very first time. The teacher for Civic Education asks us for ideas on how we could improve the working of our high school. Goody, you might think. I was already cynical by then and so, unlike everyone else, I suggested what I thought was the simplest and easiest change I could think of: the starting time of PE. Once a week we would finish morning classes at a quarter to one, but had to get to the PE gymnasium by two o’clock. We had to run to the bus stop and catch a bus to the next town (said bus being paid with our own money, of course) and then get a bollocking for being late. You know what my teacher said? That the timetable was already set for the year and there was nothing that could be done about it. Point taken.

Case 2. Second year of University. Shortly after the year starts classes are supposed to assign two delegates who will take complains and suggestions to members of staff in one big meeting. One of the issues raised that year was the blackboard in our maths lecture room, approximately the size of a stamp post, as one lecturer charmingly put it. Can you imagine solving big, bulky, long and tedious equations in a teeny, tiny blackboard? After the meeting I talk to my delegate, who tells me that the issue was discussed at length (though apparently it was more about the merits of the old technique of using a blackboard versus the modern approach of using projectors). In the end, nothing was done. We didn’t get a bigger blackboard, and we weren’t assigned a different lecture room.

Case 3. Last year of University. For some bizarre reason, the location of the lecture rooms seemed to have been assigned totally at random and, at the same time, purposefully designed to cover the whole campus. This time the fricking lecturer complained about it. In came the second term and things only got worse. Not only were our lectures taking place anywhere and everywhere, but the exact location of the coming lecture was a well guarded secret until the very last minute, sometimes guarded even afterwards. I couldn’t believe it. Here I am, I would say to myself, on my last year at university and I’m running around not knowing where my lecture room is like a fresh student on her first week.

What do we learn from this? That change doesn’t happen. Any change, no matter how small, is, by definition, too big to take place. What’s the excuse? Shortage of money? Was my high school short of time? Was my University short of blackboards or lecture rooms? No. But they both were short of power. Power has become so centralized that it’s impossible now, even for large swathes of society, to effect any change. Very few people control almost everything, while the rest of us control practically nothing.

But while power has been gathering into fewer and fewer hands, something very peculiar has been going on. We are being told left, right and centre that “our opinion matters”; “Your call is important to us”; “If you have any suggestions…”. Every self respecting business has a complaint form ready to be filled out or a suggestion box ready to be filled in. There are polls asking every opinion anyone has ever had about almost anything. We are constantly being invited to take part in some survey to improve some service or other. At the end of every University term, students are asked to rate their lecturers. In my own workplace, there’s a flyer with a telephone number and the invitation to call and give our opinions.
But does it work? Do our complaints ever get anywhere? Are our voices being heard? The answers can be found in a single Dilbert comic strip: a paper is introduced in the box labelled “suggestions” which contains a shredding machine.

The drip-drip effect of this constant bombardment with opportunities to voice our discontent coupled with the very real fact that there are less and less aspects of our lives under our control leads, inevitably, to feelings of apathy. If our opinions matter but nothing ever gets changed it must be because either it cannot be changed or nobody really wants it to change. Asking for bigger blackboard is just too much. And besides, I must be the only one who wants it. Well, me and the lecturer.

What’s the solution to all of this? Going back to the right to vote and the people who (dramatic voices on) died (dramatic voices off) for it, I gather we have been looking at it upside down. The right to vote wasn’t so important that people died for it, but rather it was important because people died for it. Nowadays nobody has to die for the privilege of casting their vote; it’s a right that’s granted to us free of charge. Which translates into “it’s practically useless”. If we want to effect real change we would be better off looking at the things people would have to die for.

In the meantime, how about we stop blaming young people for turning out precisely the way the world wants them to?

As for me, what can I say? I can’t vote in this country, I’m not British 😀

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Educating In The Difference

Here we go again.; another outrage denouncing that “boys are doing worse than girls at schoolz”. We already know how this works, don’t we sisters? The feminist reply to this pseudo-problem usually falls on one or more of the following:

* Funny how no one was complaining when girls were doing worse than boys at school on a regular basis for thousands of years (actually, girls have only had the privilige of doing worse than boys at school AFTER they were granted the privilige of going to school at all)
* Interesting how boys do better than girls in college and university.
* Boys will turn on men and they will still get to rule the world just as they do now, so, who cares?
* It’s not true; in posh-priviliged-pricy schools girls and boys do equally well, they both go to Oxbridge and become future world leaders and future world leader’s wives.

Shame that this feminist rethoric hardly ever makes it out of the Feminist Headquarters. And if we consider the truly, concentrated, feminist rethoric, that is, the RADICAL one, well, that hardly makes it out of the Twisty Bungalow. Or the Beyond Feminism Bubble.

What will this Radical Feminist Rethoric say about the boys doing worse than girls at school?
Well, to start, it will try to dig a bit deeper. What could be causing this imbalance and what would the solution look like? Radical Feminists are very smart; this further inquiring has a clear purpose: to uncover the real monster lurking under the guise of “concern for boyz”. They will tell us that the imbalance is caused by the “feminization of school”, and they specifically won’t tell us what they think we should do, that is, to turn schools to the way they were. That’s where the monster is exposed under the light of day for all to see: the solution is to masculinize schools, to turn the clocks back, which would result in boys outperforming girls; the one and only world order and they way things should have stayed. Sexism exposed. The radical feminist can now ravel in glory, beams of smugness streaming from her every pore.

Now that she has your attention, the radical feminist will expand on this idea: we will always, ALWAYS have the problems of one gender being better or worse than the other one as long as we have genders. Because gender is SUBJECTIVE. The only objective part of gender is that of the difference in genital configuration and we know how shaky that one is. But even then, one cannot build up one’s identity from that. The consequences of genders being subjective is that they can only be deined by differentiation from each other. Boys more than girl have to develop in between very clear and contrained limits: “no sissy stuff”. If girls do better than boys, the “doing better” will be associated with “girlyness” and boys will run from it as if from the plague. On the contrary, if the boys are the ones doing better, then either the girls will fall back to show they are not boys or the boys will work harder to show they are not girls.

It’s not that schools are “feminized” (whatever the heck that means). I’m pretty damn sure that whoever plans the overall shape of the education system does so making sure that each and every part is as gender neutral as possible. The differences between genders arise precisely because of the very definition of gender, ie: “different from the other one”.

I am not by far the first or the only one thinking like this. The world doesn’t like our ideas, that’s what happens. And what does this radical feminist say to that? FORK YOU! Oh, wait, no, not that. What I say is this: if you want gender differences you are gonna get gender differences. Accept it or change it, but don’t complain about it when the differences work against you.

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You Are Telling Us!

/></p> <p>You've probably seen this before. Some male talking head comes along and starts making strong points in support of ideas and concepts that women have known for centuries. Raising children is rewarding, emotions and feelings are important, caring for others is essential for the wellbeing of our society, the value of the community, etc, etc.<br /> I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand it is good that these ideas are getting coverage and credibility. On the other, it is, after all, a MAN doing the talking. Further still, it's because of feminism that these ideas have been able to shake off their

Big Note: I don’t want anyone to misunderstand; I am not saying that these things are “female” by nature or anything like that. Rather, they were labeled “female” for some unfathomable reason the minute that patriarchy was created. And because everything “female” has to be, by definition, “second class”, these ideas have suffered the same fate. (I have to write a decent sized post about all this)

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Pesky Emotions!

I don’t know why on Earth I read The F Word. I end up whipping myself up into a fit of rage at their nonsensery. Here’s the latest post that shoot my annoyance-meter well above the “let it be” level.

It starts with the following:

“The NSPCC(…) are saying that schools should teach more about relationships in sex education.”

Except, they aren’t saying that, at least not just that. Here’s what they actually said in the news article:

“Advice on emotions and relationships should be made a compulsory part of sex education in schools, the children’s charity NSPCC says.”

Oh, those pesky emotions! I would have let it be were it not because the news article that this post is concerned about is titled

“‘Emotions’ urged in sex education”

Oh, those pesky emotions again! Again, I am not picking on this for fun, I do have a point, which will be made clear further down.

Now, this suggestion by NSPCC is in turn a response to the recent data, from Childline, that claims 50 children a day ring them up saying they feel pressured to have sex.
Let’s pause for a minute on that. 50 children A DAY ring them up saying they feel pressured to have sex. The experienced feminist will notice 2 things upon being confronted with this news. One, the savvy, “one eyebrow reaised” reaction that can be summarized by “So?” or by “Next they’ll be telling us water is still wet”. The other will be the following educated guess: “I bet which gender most of those children are”. Indeed. This is the natural consecuence of a pornulated sick society. Children are force fed sex at every turn, and since this is a patriarchy that tells us sex is domination used by males over females, the ones doing the pressuring are most likely to be boys. And when we look at the actual news article we find precisely that: 5,985 girls and 503 boys in an 12 month period. This experienced feminist is good!

Kate Smurthwaite isn’t all that happy with this idea of teaching about relationships AND emotions along with sex. Why? Well…

“The first thing that frightens me is that if the syllabus is expanded out to include relationships, what is the risk that the facts of biology will be lost? I think children have a right to understand how their bodies work in factual scientific terms.
(…) It’s also difficult to understand how children will react to hearing the facts of biology lined up next to what can be nothing more than advice about relationships. I think a clear line needs to be drawn between the facts of how the human body works and advice about how to deal with the stresses and strains of relationships.”

Yes, she continues to omit the “emotions” part. Again, it’s difficult to let it pass when Sue Minto, from Childline, said:

“(…) children needed information about peer pressure, relationships and love, as well as help developing skills to make the right decisions about sex.”

Love? Damn it with those pesky emotions!

By now you have probably guessed what my problem with this post is. In fact, Kate hit the spot right there when she said “a clear line needs to be drawn between the facts of how the human body works and advice on…”
Kate seems to have bough in to the patriarchally supported idea that the mind and the body are two separate entities. That emotions are not worth a damn because, well, because the menz have said so. And that individuals can be separated from each other because there’s no such thing as society. Note to Kate: there’s only one entity here, the human being, and I’m not even sure where it begins or ends. There is no “mind” on one side and “body” on the other. There’s a whole made up of everything. Body, soul, mind, heart, and yes, relationships. All relationships, not strictly romantical ones, are not something we can “choose” to have, they are an essencial part of our human nature. So when you refer to “how the human body works” you simply HAVE to include all those parts. They are not orbiting around our bodies; they are the stuff we are made of.

And if I may just pick on Kate’s post once more, because I just cannot ignore this bit:

“I think children should be taught that they have human rights, and that one of those is the right to make their own decisions about sex (or this could be covered under the women’s studies addition to the national curriculum that I’ve been talking about forever).”

Update: sex and relationships are only the interest of women studies. Because, you know, women=sex and relationships are something only women want.

See what I mean? There’s a very thin line between thinking about humans in binary terms, mind-body, sex-love, reason-emotion AND the final association of women with one term and men with another. Needless to say, women are associated with whatever term is regarded as inferior. And Kate has crossed that line.

Once more, people: emotions are not bad or “female”. They are a part of our humanity, no matter how much patriarchy wants to devaule them and dump them on women’s shoulders.

 

Note: I hope I didn’t sound too bitchy. I like Kate and her work and I have nothing against her.

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“It’s Not You, It’s My Snobism”

Everyone in the blogosphere seems to be up and down nodding vigorously at some article in the Sunday Times about literary deal-breakers in relationships. When I say “everyone” I mean Hugo and references therein. And when I say “literary deal-breakers” I mean something along the lines of:

“Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!””

I’ll never understand how can people justify to themselves their snobism without calling upon it. They kinda defend themselves by claiming that judging on the basis of literary taste is no different from judging on the basis of any other hobby or interest. But guess what, it is. When you change “literature” for, let’s say, to keep the comparison valid, any other high school subject, it all breaks down. Can someone in the Biology field get away with saying something like “Can you believe it? He doesn’t know what the pancreas is for!”. Or someone in the Physics department coming up with “How can I have a future with someone who doesn’t know what Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is? *snif*”. No, and no. Funny how it only seems to work with “literature”.

What would happen if we instead change “literature” for another hobby? Hugo has attempted to do it with music. I’ll try to apply it to one of my all time favourite interests: Disney movies. Oh, yes. I can see myself saying with a straight face “I cannot believe he doesn’t know who Mrs Potts and Sebastian are! *sob*”. I am sure that kind of judgement will be deemed very reasonable.

So it doesn’t work with “any” hobby or interest. Only those with a “posh” sounding ring will do.

Let’s be honest here. For a long, long time, the only people who had access to literature were the privileged aristocrats. The elites. The crème de la crème of society. The whole literature = “(high) class” equation got stuck and it haunts us til today.

So remember, folks. Judging people for their tastes on snob pastimes like “literature” is OK. You are not trying to get away with a valid justification for feeling superior to everyone else on this world a.k.a. “the masses”. Nope, not at all.

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Economic Well-Being at School

If amongst your list of “things that need improvement” in this world you had the state of the UK’s School Curriculum, then this will be of interest to you. School Curriculum to be Overhauled, reports MSN. What it means? A quarter of the curriculum is to be freed for schools to teach whatever they feel necessary.  So far, so good. I’m all up for being taught not just what one’s school thinks one needs to learn, but what one actually WANTS to learn. I see no point in keeping students locked in a room for hours, teaching them things they have almost no interest in.

So, what will schools teach with that brand new, spanky, shiny 25% of curriculum?. How to behave in relationships?. How to deal with emotions?. How to feel empathy for the masses of people suffering in this world?. No. “How to manage their money and save for a pension”, apparently under the popmpous name of “economic well-being”. It seems to have escaped them that 80% of our GRAND economy is based precisely on the premise of NOT letting us BE WELL, thereby consuming a zillion of what we actually need and making the economy oh-so-wonderful in the process.  Or maybe what they actually meant was the “well-being of the economy”, in which case all they have to do is to train students to wake up early in the morning, go and sit still on a desk and work for 6-7 solid hours, stopping only to have pseudo-meals for lunch. Oh, wait a minute, they already DO THAT. Then, as far as I can see, there’s no point in having an “economic well-being” subject.

Honestly, don’t they have anything better to teach?.

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