Thursday, 20 April 2017
Saturday, 5 September 2015
Welcome to the Institute of the Crushingly Blatant Truism -
"We help the kids know more stuff."
"We teach them the things."
"In my class they learn difficult things which I help them understand".
Oh good, oh wow, oh you mean absolutely obviously everything one would expect? What a relief. What a blessing. What a bleeding touch. With that sort of clarity your thoughts obviously flow like a crystal river. Verily.
Friendly phrases designed to stupefy and baffle: "you don't object to clever stuff do you?" Oh you mean stuff? Of course not, why didn't you say so? One wouldn't possibly want to disagree with that.
Hovering just in the wings of all discussions lurks the second man of the intellect, the understudy of wisdom, the friendly phrase, the homily, the truism. Well ram 'im. Just because solid, square shouldered statements like "100%, no excuses" look great on a massive banner hung in reception doesn't mean they mean a chocolate drop on a hot pavement.
I ask them to put a little meat on the carcass they waltz around with and they blink.
"We are giving them knowledge for life," they say, and they blink.
Oh you hollow men, oh you less than nothings, prance off a cliff with your corpse bride of ossified horse sense. Asinine, obvious dispensers of comfort to the already crushed: notice is served.
Wednesday, 22 July 2015
We are witnessing a political class in the process of meltdown and it is a sign and a wonder.
Literally all Burnham had to do was break the rules. The public demanded opposition to the welfare bill. The government did not care if it was opposed or not. In fact, they probably quite enjoy the punch up. So the grass roots of socialism in this country were not silenced by a thought police but - mirabile dictu - their own party. And Burnham would not refuse the orders of his high commander.
It was this, open rebellion, that he could not do - and it was this that Corbyn could. Indeed, the new heir apparent has done little else these last three decades. Rousseau wrote that the first rule is always to know when the rules do not apply. The meaning of leadership, in certain circumstances, is to do what nobody else will. Here, however, Burnham's allegiance to his party's systems may have cost him and his (well-funded) campaign final victory.
In this Burnham is very much in a tradition. He is that twenty first century phenomenon, the "Systems Guy". Systems Guy does what he should, not what he wants. Systems Guy knows that if he follows the rules the system will protect him. Systems Guy says procedure. Systems Guy says " there is a time and a place".
The problem is that the public are not buying it. Try telling a generation of young people who were promised that being polite leads to working hard leads to university degree leads to good job leads to home ownership about the System.
"Student Loans" they reply. "House Prices" they reply. "Underemployment" they say.
When you have spent four years doing contract work six months of the year and then other six months chasing those contracts with no rest until you are broken and exhausted and do not know how you are going to eat, all because you believed Systems Guys, watch how your tolerance for his errant nonsense plummets.
The public has learned the hard way to distrust Burnham's narrative, the narrative that says "patience, once you have the job/house/degree we can start to change things". We know what we want and we want it now. Hence we vote for people who speak to us where we stand, not good boys and girls queuing up for their go at the big job.
The truth is that the Labour Party created this situation. They created it mainly with years of disdain for the public. They called the public racist, ignorant plebs who did not know their own interests and as the pendulum swings they still claim we are on the other side of the parabola. Like some cracked Jay Gatsby, Blair shows up in his beautiful shirts trying to turn back the clock but the clock shows midnight. The hell with their poxy machine, I am not greasing it.
All you had to do, Burnham, was show us which side you were on.
Sunday, 24 May 2015
|The Inattentive Reader - Henri Matisse|
|Sorry what was that about attention spans? I wasn't listening.|
Yet if students are interested in anything it is a kind of digital cataclysm, the onrushing clash of colour and sound provided by an IMAX, and XBOX and many other things with an "X" in them. It is this which has perfected "engrossment" and "depth involvement". It is hard work to play these games, and it requires concentration. These provide the impression, according to McLuhan, of emergence from the gaping maw of "superficiality" and "consumerism" in search for authenticity; this occurs even as we plunge deeper into the belly of the whale itself. Simply put, the students feel as if reading is not hard enough to be important, because that is what we have taught them.
Monday, 18 May 2015
My student is writing a sonnet about Thor. Mine was about Batman, but it was only meant as an example. However, he took to the idea. Specifically he took to the idea and defected to the dread banner of Marvel like a LITTLE JUDAS.
But I forgive him that.
There is a bit of an error with the scanning in the second quatrain but it is eminently fixable.
I lost my example sonnet "On Batman" because I was shutting down the computer too quickly. I don't care because it wasn't very good and now scholars can debate over it like Coleridge's never completed first draft of "Kubla Khan". I do not mourn it!
No really, though, the Thor sonnet is pretty great.
It makes me think as well that the idea of "trendy" versus "traditional" teaching is a crock of shit. I mean, here is a kid from inner London who has written a Shakespearian sonnet about a thousands-of-years old Norse God because he watched a film written by the bloke who did "Buffy".
I cannot, as they say, even.
Bleat as some will about cultural capital and heritage, Thor is an authentic honest to pagan-god mega story and Marvel's myth game is tight. And a sonnet is something real. What I like about poetic forms is they have the imperious certainty of Mathematics. You don't get something that's a "bit sonnety", it either is or it isn't. Petrarchan? Naw I did a Spenserian.
But as for the topic? Choose on old chap, plenty more creepily Wagnerian power players to pick from. Do Parsifal next! Or Hawkeye, sure, Hawkeye is good too. It makes no difference to me.
Monday, 16 March 2015
|Status is Butthurt|
"They're hailing us sir."
"Stop. Bombing. Our. Faces."
"They're deploying testimony of their suffering sir."
"Raise privilege shields, all powers to the railroad cannons, change course for a new subject"
"Plotting a course for the Tone sector now"
"The privilege shields are holding, capitain"
"Good, maintain opinions."
Based on an original idea by Zara
Sunday, 15 March 2015
Certain things need to take place before we learn. We need to express our ideas in some form and witness some sort of response to them. As R.S. Peters puts it:
“People learn by committing themselves and finding out where they are mistaken. Much can be done to anticipate criticisms by rehearsals in the imagination. But there is a sense in which no one quite knows what he thinks or feels until he has made a view his own by identifying himself with it and defending it in public. "
Many things: absence, illness, a sprained wrist. However, these are failings of the objective kind, not failings of the subjective kind, such as failings of motivation.
However, I don't think many of us even know well what motivation is, let alone motivation to learn. Imagine you have an essay to write. How long does it take you to settle down to write it? Is the time spent motivating yourself part of the writing or not? At least one writer I know says that the work is all the time when he is not writing. I am not even convinced that "motivation" is the right word. Desire has to come into it somewhere, and desire can be blocked, frustrated, destructive. In other words it is an obscure, slightly terrifying thing.
Then there are the obstacles that makes us want to pull the covers over our heads and stay in bed. Amongst these obstacles, which is to say the objective causes rather than the covers themselves, is abuse and mistreatment.
"If you want to encourage grit in schools get rid of anti-bullying programmes. We are taking the grit out of kids and we could do with backing off."
Looking back as Simmons incredibly performance I was like many people forced to ask, have we as a culture got the ideal of what school can be wrong? After all, if this doesn't make Teller's young drummer formidably gritty, what will?
To this I wish to contrast R.S. Peters' view of the "teaching situation" as initiation, if only to prove that it is possible to believe, as Peters did, in high standards, excellence and tradition without becoming the type of monster (and I believe he is a monster) Simmons portrays:
"Especially in the early stages of initiation, he must not be brutal in applying them to the halting or misdirected ventures of his pupils. For that would be to disregard how such a contribution looks to its author, to trample on another’s inchoate formulation of what he thinks and feels. ...To take a hatchet to a pupil’s contribution before he has much equipment to defend it, is not only likely to arrest or warp his growth in this form of thought; it is also to be insensitive to him as a person.”