Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I can keep thinking of stuff I'm angry about FOREVER

  • Then I was looking at Guardian Education this morning and they had a piece on these crazy Swedish schools where every pain has been taken to allow children to be educated without emulating the terrible world of work they will shortly find themselves flung into. So the children help plan their own goals, set their own timetables and review their own progress in weekly meetings with teachers and parents. Based more on the university system (if it had decent pedagogical support) than on the 'teacher-led factory method of education'. No bells ringing, no teacher at the front. They wanna bring it in in England- piloting a scheme for a handful of academies. Obviously this is an innovation aimed at the privileged children of a few middle-class families, beneficial chiefly to kids with full academic support outside of the classroom, parents who have the time and inclination to attend weekly meetings and push their fat lazy offspring to develop their own learning goals. If you're poor, or busy, or depressed, or all three, it's probably a help to have your kid sit in front of a stream of petty dictators all day being taught how to function as a near-useless cog in an oppressive society. But this did make pretty angry... as ever. We HAVE the methods. We have the skills. We have a host of teachers across the country who are shocked, demoralised and desperate to get out of education after two or three years, and might jump at the chance to make their and their pupils' learning experience slightly less like forced labour. When I did my CELTA teaching course there were a wide range of teaching aids and techniques to teach young people who were completely unfamiliar with the British education system- in this case Somali teenagers who had mostly never entered any kind of classroom in their lives. It is possible. So why don't we improve our schools completely? Why can a few lucky children learn in a way that's good for them while everyone else must take part in this horrific chaingang/conveyor belt of monotonous routine? Two reasons- 1. The education system cannot support any more intervention in children's lives. Teachers have little or no power to go against the all(?)-encompassing National Curriculum and when they wish to interact with their charges on any other level a host of problems arise. Referrals are the thing- refer the buggers on to the head, to Social services, best of all back to the bloody parents, who will find themselves in court if they mess with the system too much. You guys are there to get them through their SATS. You are a '5 A to Cs' machine- don't get any other ideas. And we'll give you a five grand sweetener if you don't leave to work in sales within the first four years. 2. Why the hell would you want children to think for themselves? What are we preparing them for? Life. In Society. Ring that fucking bell, make them wear a uniform from the age of three, stream them and give them merit points. When you think about it, it's perfect. OK, let a handful go to posh schools where they can make up their own rules- that kind will probably make up their own rules for the rest of their lives anyway. But for everyone else, it will save a lot of effort training them up when they hit the labour market if they have the system bashed into them from the first time they can toddle into an orderly line in the playground. What part of my school education was not restrictive propaganda aimed at making me see the world the way they wanted me to? Possibly the bits I bunked. I guess these Swedish schools are not some kind of fucking Utopia anyway, just the educational equivalent of those trendy offices in PR and shit where everyone wears jeans and there are free bagels in the fridge. You can participate freely in the monthly meetings, but don't kid yourself there isn't a hierarchy, or that you stand anywhere other than the bottom.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Things I am currently angry about [Part 342 of a continuing series]

Happy now, Gloria?

  1. Robin Wales. Answer the email I sent you in December and we'll talk...
  2. Thames Water Advertising Campaign. Based entirely around how much less water they are pissing away than previously. What do you want, a round of applause? And so, you're 'replacing London's Victorian Water Mains'. Three cheers! It's 2008, for God's sake!
  3. Myself, for reading the London Paper's letter's page. In the Metro at least one knows they make them all up. In the London Paper it's not so sure.
  4. BT and TalkTalk. I know it's an old quarrel, but I'm still not over it.
  5. Institutionalised ageism. If you take a lot of the current debate about 'young people' and replace the words with 'black people' or 'gay people' or women... Stop telling them what to do and give them a vote, you bastards.
  6. American foreign policy
  7. Redbridge council
  8. Newham Council
  9. Mental health-care provision
  10. Virginia Woolf. Making a vague and elusive point in a roundabout fashion on behalf of educated middle-class women everywhere.
  11. The Department of Language, Linguistics and Film. That's not what I signed up for.
  12. The failure of pay-to-learn higher education to catch up with the way the rest of the market works. I am the consumer. If I don't like a part of my weekly shop I take it back and get my £1.98 refunded. I would then expect decent customer service from my friendly Tesco's representative. And BOGOF offers. If everything's for sale I would like an educational loyalty card- get the 18th year free, kind of thing. The customer is always right.
  13. The Mayoral elections. Ken's major policy is 'At least I'm not Boris'. Boris' is 'But hey, I'm not Ken'. Everyone else running on 'Well, you don't want to vote for either of those two monkeys'. [Evening Standard headline (I know, another one I should cut out of my life): "Ken steals Boris' plans for London"] I'm voting along the LePen/Chirac campaign lines- 'escroc, pas fasco'. More or less.
  14. The Eclipse Wine Bar, Islington. Ruining my life all the way across East London.
  15. People who contact me to tell me to update my blog but don't just come to my home and spend time with me. (Not you, Gloria)
  16. Supermarket products that are fair-trade but not recyclable. Or recyclable but not organic. Or organic but flown in from Guatemala. I've signed up to pay this premium on my weekly shopping bill as a stamp of my middle-class-guilt, now give me what I want.
  17. Google taking over blogger. And I personally would be the last person to tell another person not to be evil.
  18. Doctors with religious beliefs.
  19. People who know my e-mail address yet still message me on facebook. So I get an email informing me to check facebook. So maybe I'll just go back to writing letters.
  20. Royal Mail. Now making no attempt at all to get your post to you in the morning, in one piece, within one day, within two days, within a month.
There's more but I'm worried about my blood pressure. Next week: things I hate so much I can't breathe.