Monday 14th August 2017
I write this a few days before the A-level results in England and Wales come out, and the GCSE results come out a week later. If any of my readers are in Scotland, the Advanced Higher, Higher, and National results have come out. I sincerely hope that your results were what you wanted whichever exam you were doing. I thank you for reading my notes, and I sincerely hope that you found them helpful.
No doubt we will see the TV pictures of photogenic girls in a school in London (of course) leaping and screaming with glee. As for those who don't get the grades and have to go for clearing, no doubt they will be glum looking boys. Isn't it strange that whenever there is a good new story about education, photogenic primary school children are shown. If it's bad news, out-of-focus shots are shown of boys' feet in a secondary school.
Good luck in your university course. I have some notes on my sister website that may help you in your first year Physics course.
It is the first year that I have not crept down to the computer at 6.30 on that August Thursday morning and logged in to the AQA website. My heart would be threatening to part company with my chest. It would have made an awful mess on the carpet as it did. The computer would take for ever and a day to boot up. Then I would look at the results for both AS and A2. Yes there were the successes, but there would be those whose grades were lower than expected, or had a Grade U. How was I going to explain that away? Explanations that he had not done the work, and did not come in for support tutorials seemed to cut no ice with the manager who was insistent that so many things should be done, but never did any of it herself. The focus was never on the success, but on the failures. I wasn't interesting or inspirational enough. That's true. I am rather boring, I know. I had done this wrong or that wrong. The results showed that I was a poor teacher. What about my love for Physics which has never been diminished? I think Physics is a beautiful subject. What about the efforts I go to, to share my love for my subject for all to access freely? It extends to the micromanagement of the teaching profession from the government, who pay lip service to the success, but, pandering to the right-wing gutter press, promise to root out the deadwood.
I have retired, and do not regret doing so. I shall never go into another classroom. If I were a twenty-year-old thinking about careers, I would never go into teaching. Sadly to say, I wish I had never retrained to be a teacher. I think I would still be the air-brained idealist that I was then, rather than the grumpy, jaded, and cynical old curmudgeon that I have become.
A close friend of mine has retired due to ill health in his early fifties. Like me, he was an idealist. He was and is a people person, able to get the very best from his students. However he has been ground down by the endless micromanagement and interference, the lack of trust in his professionalism. It has cost him his health - he was a good cross-country runner. His is a story repeated across the teaching profession.
I have started work to update the site for the new syllabus. It will take some time. I have finished the induction work, and I have moved on to Physics 1. I have kept the structure the same as the old syllabus. This was the way I taught it to my students, for two reasons:
The mechanics comes first in the new syllabus. So students may end up getting a double dose in both Physics and Maths.
I was too lazy to rewrite my scheme of work from scratch.
I will keep the design the same. I still use FrontPage as a web-editor, and that's the way I have learned to use it. The appearance may be rather dated, but I am as well. So there.
A depressing survey has been published recently. Of the voters who voted leave, 75 % of those over 65 think that significant economic (and the impact on society) is a price well worth paying for leaving the EU. 50 % of the same group said that a family member losing his or her job was a price well worth paying. The corresponding figures for 18 - 24 year-olds are 45 % and 25 % respectively. Such figures prompted the Liberal Democrat Leader, Dr Vince Cable, to comment that "the old had shafted the young". The old people are, by and large, the product of the educational apartheid that was the grammar school system, and ended up in the secondary modern schools, in so many of which an education was an optional extra. It's a good reason not to reintroduce grammar schools.
As an unrepentant re-moaner, I would say that not every old person is nostalgic for the good old days. I am over 60 and, as those who read this drivel well know, I bitterly resent Brexit and the act of self destruction that it will bring to these islands. I resent the way that it was sold on a lie. By the way, most of the mendicants who promoted Brexit are well under sixty. If it had been a financial product, it would have been a scam or a Ponzi scheme. The promoters would have been arrested and, if found guilty, been sent to prison. There should be a law that makes it a criminal offence to use untruths to promote an electoral outcome.
In a refreshing piece of honesty, one minister has stated that Brexit is all about the good of the Conservative Party, not for the good of the UK.
In Britain, we do a number of things rather well. We are very good at seabirds, seals, sheep, and bicycles. We are also very good at nostalgia. We have a lot of heritage railways - I like a steam engine. I have worked on steam engines, fired them, and driven one. I also like an electric train. We do these nineteen forties and nineteen fifties weekends rather well. I feel very uncomfortable about these:
They hark back to the days of the Empire, a shameful period of our history. Appalling atrocities were carried out in the name of the British Empire. Other European empires were just as bad. However, where there is trouble in the world, you can be pretty sure that Brits were involved in some way or another. I have often said that Brits need a bit of Weltschmerz.
Our society was awful. We look back at the district nurse cycling past the village church. Everyone went to church. Under this respectable facade, things were pretty dreadful. Homosexuality between men was illegal, and could be punished with long prison sentences. Racism was rife. On Radio 4's Today programme I heard how a woman became pregnant as a teenager. She confided in her art teacher who immediately told the headmistress. The headmistress told the seventeen year old to leave immediately forbidding her even to empty her locker. Wasn't that so Christian? Fortunately the girl had a supportive family. Not every girl did. Babies were removed, or the girls were put into homes run by nuns whose cruelty became legendary. Child abuse was normal, and such children were warned to tell no-one. Our neighbour, a septuagenarian veteran of the Second World War was a sex-pest whose lecherous behaviour towards my sisters turns my stomach as I think about it. My late father's view was that "these things happen".
Schools were awful. Teachers, with some honourable exceptions, were not good. I have heard many a story of the teachers sitting at the front of the class reading the paper while children copied from the book. Then, if a child didn't understand, that child was the subject of a physical and verbal assault. It happened to me. It was about toughening me up for the deprivations of the empire, which, thank God, was on the decline.
The railways were dreadful - slow and dirty. Buses were awful. British cars were desperately badly made, and unreliable.
Media, such as they were, were square, years behind the time. Just now I have seen how in the sixties, Anthony Neil Wedgewood-Benn (2nd Viscount Stansgate) 1925 - 2014 tried hard to outlaw Radio Caroline as the mood among the public was that it was too rebellious.
The Christian Church of many denominations was three hundred years behind the times, speaking a Shakespearean English that was outdated when it was written. The music was dire. Look at the lines of any Victorian hymn, so bad they are almost sexy. Obsessed with sin (i.e. anything that was enjoyable), it quick to chide and slow to bless. There was more inspiration in the graveyard. Girls who fell pregnant were regarded as "fallen and loose women" and were shunned by sanctimonious clergy and self-righteous congregations. (Mary, the mother of Jesus was one such, but that's beside the point.) Where was the Christianity in that?
Bullying was just a part of growing up and being British. It was not just verbal; it could be physical and lead to lasting damage. I know. It happened to me. I do not condone in any way the behaviour of a minority of trolls in social media either.
Domestic violence was an accepted part of life, as was marital rape.
Food was dreadful. The raw ingredients were of poor quality, and were cooked with neither care nor competence. The results were truly vile. I remember that from my school days in the sixties. Bad British cookery was a standing joke across Europe. Fortunately European influences came in to improve a dire picture.
Smoking was the norm. As a life-long non-smoker, I remember trains and buses full of cigarette smoke, as were pubs and other public spaces. I hated it then as much as I do now. People were not so healthy - they died of smoking related illnesses which were not recognised then.
Some nostalgic people want to go back to imperial measurements. No thanks. They have no place in a forward looking technological society.
Some have even gone further - reintroduce Pounds, shillings, and pence.
I do not want to go back to the Nineteen Fifties. Some of the more reactionary elements in the Conservative Party hark back to those days. At least with Corbyn, it's the nineteen seventies.
At least in those days, people had jobs. Houses were not so outrageously expensive as they are now. Ordinary people could aspire to have their own home. The government of the time built houses to meet the demand. Nowadays 9/10 of the most deprived areas in Northern Europe are in these islands (Click HERE). The richest area is in the UK as well. Guess where. Is this as a result of the EU? No, it's the responsibility of the Conservative Party. The North-South divide is due to the policies of the Conservative Party. The rise in poverty is due to the policies of the Conservative Party. Food banks were unknown even when we went through the worst mismanagement of the Labour Party. They are commonplace because of the policies of the Conservative Party. 3 million children are now classed as being in poverty - not because of the EU, but because of the policies of the Conservative Party. The money is there - how come one male footballer can be paid in a year the equivalent of the turnover of a school of 1500 pupils? The un-affordability of housing is due to the policies of the Conservative Party. I am sure that many unscrupulous employers who employed cheap migrant labour and made vast sums of money doing so have given generous donations to the Conservative Party. I was lucky enough to have my university education paid for by the tax-payer. Now graduates are leaving universities with debts equivalent to the mortgage on a house in some parts of these islands, and paying it at building society interest rates - a policy of the Conservative Party.
Despite the pious rhetoric of the current Prime-Minister (soon to become Baroness May of Wheatfields?) the policies of the current Conservative Party are for the old and rich. They always have been and always will be.
Poor train services in most of the country are due to the policies of the Conservative Party. Chris Grayling (an MP in the commuter belt of London) has scrapped major electrification programmes in the Midlands and the North of England, while Crossrail 2 is going ahead for London. Go to Leeds City Station and see (or rather smell) for yourselves the atmosphere from the elderly diesel trains that most Northern commuters have to use, including the much un-loved Pacers.
Another depressing thought: Jacob Rees-Mogg as prime-minister. A man who was a nonagenarian when he was born. A man who thinks it clever to talk in refined tones using long words and Latin phrases to show his intellectual superiority. No, Jacob, it's snobbish and patronising. A man who thinks it clever to call his children weird names like Sixtus. Perhaps, Jacob, you should change a nappy instead of boasting about having a nanny to do it. It's not very nice, I can assure you. But it's part of being a father.
If you are a European user of this site, please could you say to your friends:
On behalf of my country, I apologise to the whole of Europe for Brexit. We are not all bigoted and xenophobic island monkeys*.
(*The Germans refer to Brits as Inselaffen, which translates as island monkeys.)
Men will be proud to say: I am a European. We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being European as belonging to their native land. We hope that wherever they are in the European continent, they will truly feel: I am at home.
This is a quotation from none other than Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's great national hero. The EU is as much his brainchild. Its founder, Jean Monet, was his protégé.
Alongside the depressing nature of Brexit comes Donald John Trump. Until a few years ago, the word "Trump" came in the context of one of my more attention seeking pupils who was bored with my exposition of total internal reflection - "Mr Irvine, he's trumped!"
Now it is all so depressingly familiar with the septuagenarian man-child of that name (originally a German name, Drumpf). Willy-waving with nuclear weapons with an obese Korean man-child in his thirties with an utterly repulsive hair-cut is not compatible with the dignity of the high office of President of the United States of America. I owe George Walker Bush an apology. I said in one of these blogs that he had debased his office to the level of an imbecile. Compared with Trump, I would gladly put it on record that G W Bush was positively statesmanlike.
Both of these man-children have grossly overblown egos. Kim thinks he's a god and will execute those who diss him, for example falling asleep in during one of his rambling speeches. Trump hasn't gone that far, but has threatened Venezuela with military force. True, its leader is not very nice man and some appalling things have happened. For a man who dodged the draft during the Viet Nam War, Trump seems to regard military force with the same trivial view as a small boy with a cap gun. He disparaged an American pilot who was downed in the Viet Nam war and was brutally treated by his captors; “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.” For Senator John McCain revenge is best served cold and, despite the fact that he is terminally ill, made it to the Senate to vote down Trump's health reforms that would have left 22 million of America's poorest with no health cover.
I hope and pray that those around Trump will reign him in and his threats are seen for what they are, puerile playground insults between two bullies. It doesn't take a genius to see that any realisation of such threats will result in casualties that will make the Great War and the Second World War seem like a minor bit of trouble in a park.
Until the next time I saddle up my high horse, enjoy and good luck. I hope you do well.