Banning Father’s Day

I was just going to write about how thousands of primary school children in Scotland were banned from making Father’s Day cards this year. Then I found out that the same thing happened at the school of an Unnamed Child in the heart of England. It’s probably even more widespread.

This has been done, as they said in Scotland, “in the interests of sensitivity” because of the growing number of single-parent households and children living with a mother and her lesbian partner. I’m hoping there’s none of the latter at the Unnamed Child’s school, as it is in direct violation of the dogma of the Church that runs the school.

Let’s set aside for a moment the children living in Gomorrah situations, as these are thankfully still less than normative. The sensitivity is really over the fact that 25% of children live with a single parent. They don’t want to make the children uncomfortable if they don’t have a father. And herein lies the specious reasoning.

Everyone has a father. I know that science and the Labour government are working to change that, but for now – and certainly for any child of school age – it took a sperm and an egg. Some children may have lost their father through death. This is a terrible thing, but this has always been the case and Father’s Day has never been cancelled because of it.

It is true that there are in increasing number of children who don’t know their father. This may be because their mother doesn’t know who the father is. Or it may be because the father has been marginalised. I know of more than a few cases whether the mother has simply cut the father out of the child’s life.

In most cases, however, the child knows who the father is and even has some sort of relationship with the father, even if his is not resident in the same home. It’s these father’s who get cut out of Father’s Day. As Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice, said: “I’m astonished at this. It totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not. It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE), said: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

An Unnamed Woman often suggests that rant too often about the “ought” instead accepting the “is”. (That is my terminology, not hers.) I was once told that I will never be successful unless I give up my pre-modern principles and accept the the ways of the modern world.  Perhaps this is true. But despite the 25% of families with a single resident parent, there are still 75% who have both parents resident. There are still most of the 25% who have a dad somewhere.

Most of all, there is still a need to remember that fathers are just as important as mothers.

Year End

Reports are finally in. There will no doubt be a load of correction that will eventually appear in my tray, due to a combination of typographical errors and disagreements over grammar.

Reports always present that dilemma between being postive and telling the truth. I tend to err in favour of the latter.

There are still a lot of admin things to do before the end of the year. There are Departmenal Development Plans, documents to justify capitation, and the list goes on.

Overall, the year is winding down. Folks just want to finish out the year with as little trouble as possible.

Not Happy

I’m just taking a break from report writing and marking long enough to say I hate today.

Saturdays in June are some of my favourite days of the year. They are the longest days of the year outside of the weekdays when most people are occupied with their employment. June is also the best weather month in Britain. My family is out enjoying the day. I can’t even sit out in the garden. I’m writing reports.

This sucks.

Now back to reports. . .

The Spectre of Radical Christian Fundamentalists In Britain

When it comes to the mainstream media in the UK, The Daily Telegraph is about as conservative as it gets. So when it comes to running an article on conservative evangelical Christians, what sort of thing can we expect from the Telegraph? I dare say it would shock American readers.

To help promote long-time Telegraph photojournalist David Modell’s contribution to the Channel 4 TV programme Dispatches, they’ve run a story about his discovery of Christian fundamentalists. You want to scare Brits? Start an article with something like:

“They think society should be built on their beliefs. They claim non-believers are damned.”

Oooooh…. It’s like something out of horror film. Christians who believe they should have an active faith-based input into politics and they think you have to be a Christian to go to heaven. But it’s worse:

“But these radical Christian groups are not in America – they are here and are aiming to change the laws of our land. . .”

So not only are they politically active “born-again types” – they’re in Britain! And I’ve reduced the font size of these quotes from the original, just so you don’t get too frightened. But it gets worse. They even have Christian schools based on this sort of curriculum. What sort of horrible indoctrination is taking place? Well, here’s what David Modell found when he visited one such school:

One little girl has to do a science test. A classroom assistant kneels next to her, takes her hand and says: “We pray, Father, that you’ll help her check all her spellings. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

The test is multiple choice. Question five is: “God made the world in [BLANK] days.” The options are “five, six or seven”. The six-year-old carefully writes “six”. The right answer.

This scene would be surprising enough if the school were in America’s Bible Belt, but the voices around me are English, and we’re in Bristol.

Can you believe it? Prayer for help with spelling? What is the difference between this and children being trained as suicide bombers by Islamists? David Modell doesn’t think there is any. Besides, you start praying about spelling tests and who knows what you’ll be praying for next? For everyone to play safely and not get hurt during recess? For God to heal people and makes them better? They’ll start believing that God actually answers prayers, and then where will they be? And remember, the worst thing of all is that they are English.

American readers – at least my regular American readers and most non-liberal Christians in the US – will probably still wonder if I am making this up. I wish I was. The school in Bristol using Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum is a frightful thing to secularist, modernist Britain. After all, they, and schools using similar curriculum like the Alpha Omega based school from which I graduated those many years ago, are very mainstream in America. But then again, in America, the idea that Jesus saves is not radical, revolutionary, or dangerous.

David Modell is most worried because these people (remember, not stupid Americans, but actual British people) think the Bible is (shhh….) true. You know, literally true. “Not all evangelical worshippers hold such hard-line beliefs, but the fundamentalists will almost certainly describe themselves as evangelical.”

What’s worse (as if it could get any worse) not only are they teaching their children this stuff, they are getting involved in politics. Modell looks at Christian Action Research and Education (Care) – an organisation featured in the Independent, about which I commented at the end of March. What’s so scary about them?

The organisation’s published doctrinal basis is distinctly fundamentalist and among other things talks of “the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct”. In other words, the Bible is the literal truth.

The Bible is trustworthy? Could British people actually believe such a thing? And these people are lobbying Parliament?

Where does David Modell think this is leading? He attends a seminar in Islamic fundamentalism. “But another thing strikes me while listening to [the] depiction of Islam as a dangerous fundamentalist belief: he could be describing the beliefs of the Christian fundamentalists I’ve met.” Yes, Britain will soon be a Taliban-style repressive theocracy. Like America, apparently.

Done

As they left the exam, most of the Year 11s seemed fairly positive. Looking at the exam, I really can’t complain about the questions. Sometimes you look at a GCSE exam and try to figure out which is the planetary residence of the chief examiner.

Since they had no solid preparation for the exam before this year, and many of them didn’t take lessons particularly seriously this year, I am still concerned about the quality of the results in August. Most of them said my revision pack made a big difference in their preparation, so that is a positive.

So the exam is in the bag and now it is just a matter of waiting.

Leaving Day

Well, the Year 11s are officially gone. Only officially, because their first exam is tomorrow and it is mine. If my timetable will permit it, I hope to be outside the exam room as they leave to get exit poll reaction before I collect up the question papers for my future use.

At the request of some of them, I brought my guitar into school and played a 30-minute set for a modest crowd of them at lunch outside on the playing fields in the marvellous sunshine.

May Days

These are the waning hours of the long weekend. Most of the Year 9 reports due this week will have been written by the end of the evening. It’s now just 14 teaching days until half-term.

The Year 11s leave in six teaching days. I’ve offered them as much revision time as I could. Most of them didn’t take it up. The exam is the day after leaving day and it’s all up to them now.

The non-resident grandparents will be here for most of the half-term week. Because they will have been away from home since today, involved in various ministry projects, they will only have five days with us. We want to go away on holiday, but holiday lets are invariably Saturday to Saturday. I have a few days to try to work out what we are going to do.

Crime and Crime Prevention

Today’s pustules on the butt of society are Adrian Hutchinson and Keith Buckley.

They got 26- and 28-year tariffs with their life sentences for the murder of a 62-year-old man who refused to hand over his mobile phone during their fifth robbery of the evening in Oldham town centre. As reported in the Daily Mail,

After Mr Smith refused their request for a cigarette, Buckley punched him in the face before the pair dragged him to a darkened yard, threatened him with a knife and demanded his property.

The 62-year-old had only bought the phone a week earlier and refused to give it up, but was put in a headlock and hit and kicked repeatedly, causing fractures of the skull, cheek, jaw and larynx.

Taking his phone – which was later sold for just £20 – the pair left Mr Smith dying where he lay, and his body was not found until 17 days later.

Hutchinson and Buckley aren’t teenagers – they are 25 and 22 – but their prior convictions go back before that. Hutchinson was first convicted at 11and before he was 16 he had nine convictions for arson, assault, and burglary, but never received any time behind bars. It was 29 further convictions later that he was finally jailed in 2004. He got four years for burglary, robbery and assault.

But never fear, the Government is here with a new solution for the growing crime problem. It now wants to hold schools responsible for curbing crime, as well as teen pregnancy and all other lifestyle issues. How well they meet 18 new targets for improving and policing pupils’ lifestyles and well-being will be included in their Ofstead (school inspection) reports.

Surely once schools are encumbered with even more non-teaching responsibility, the next generation of Hutchinsons and Buckleys will be redeemed. Our hope is the the expansion of bureaucracy and the micro-management of everyone’s lives.

Crunch Time

I haven’t been blogging much in the last few days.

It’s getting down to crunch time with the Year 11s. They will be leaving in less than a month and their exam in my subject is the first day of their study leave.

I’m still trying to put finishing touches to the revision pack. I looked at the commercially available resources for my syllabus and they are useless. The official publisher has an A5-size book for £5.95 out of which they could have possibly used about 10 pages. I’m giving them about 40 pages of A4 for £1. I’m much better value for money. (Don’t worry – I’m not pocketing the cash. It’s going back into my budget to offset the photocopying costs.)

The pack is by no means entirely my work – in fact, it’s not even mostly my work. I have a very generous former head of department. I have adapted the pack I used in my last post with a different syllabus. I have changed the emphasis and imformation on a few sheets. I have added sheets for topics that weren’t covered in the other syllabus.

I have one more to finish tonight before getting the whole pack copied in the morning.

Discoveries

I’ve written a few bad songs I’d like to forget. Yesterday I discovered that I had written some bad songs that I had forgotten.

The last time I was at my parents’ house I was rummaging through some boxes of my old cassettes. I found some of my old music and brought it back to the UK. Even though it has been over a year, I hadn’t listened to some of it.

I pulled out what sounds like a tape for recording snippets of ideas and new songs. There was some real crap on it. Then at the end there is a zippy little worship chorus that I had forgotten.

Oh Lord you are my God
I wil exalt and praise Your name
(x2)

For in perfect faithfulness He has done great things
We waited on the Lord, and He saved
Let us rejoice and be glad, and be glad.

It’s taken from Isaiah 25:1,9. I’m pretty sure I wrote it – the music, I mean. I can’t think of any other reason it would be on the tape. I remember playing it frequently for a time in church.

Last night I was looking for the Texas tapes and found another on the CD rack. Many boyfriends used to make compliation tapes of various artists for their girlfriend. Instead, many years ago I sent the Unnamed Woman a compilation of my music. I don’t know whether she ever really listened to it. Fortunately, she didn’t record over it.

The little felt pad under the middle of the cassette track where the head reads the tape is broken. The tape player kept wanting to shut it off, but I held down the play button until it stayed down. I discovered the best archive of my acoustic music in existence. I also discovered that I had completely forgotten a really good song. In fact, I was surprised how good it is.

Because the tape is so fragile, I’m not listening to it again until I transfer it to CD on Wednesday or Thursday.

Labour Attacks Jews

When Ed Balls isn’t having a punch up with Jack Straw in Cabinet meetings, he’s attacking Jewish schools.

He was admittedly on a witch hunt against all faith schools. He accused them of being covertly selective by charging admission fees. As it turns out the only schools he could find were five Jewish schools. They have a voluntary fee to cover religious education and security costs. Apparently in Londonstan it helps to have extra security if you are Jewish. More than half of the parents do not pay the fee.

Faith school are not in favour with Labour. LIke it or not, faith schools produce better results over all than their more secular counterparts. For a party that represents the increasing anti-religious bent of this island, this is not good news. They tend to have a more middle class demographic, perhaps because religion is a predominantly middle class phenomenon in this country. Chavs who don’t care about their children’s education don’t tend to care about God either, but they tend to vote Labour.

Of course the Labour elite who hate faith schools aren’t chavs. They come from the other end of things. They are too smart to believe in God.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews was demanding an apology from Ed Balls. I’m not saying he didn’t have the balls to show up, but he did send his deputy, schools minister Jim Knight to face the backlash, while he was away on holiday.

Press reports say Balls accepts Jewish schools have the right to charge voluntary contributions. He also admits that publishing details of spot checks by his department had been stressful for the schools involved. He claims it was in the public interest, but hasn’t explained how this could be the case.

The Qualifications Racket

One of the first vocabulary words I had to learn when I moved to this county was “qualifications”. They are a British obsession. If you were going for a job in the States and someone asked you about your qualifications, you would describe your work history

This is a country obsessed with qualifications. They are little pieces of paper that say you have completed some sort of course. Some of the most important qualifications are General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs).

In the UK there is no such thing as a high school diploma. Instead, you receive a certificate for each subject you take. You don’t have a Grade Point Average. You get a string of grades, e.g., 5 A*’s (called “A stars”), 2 A’s, a B and a C, (if you are brainy), or a D, three E’s, two F’s, and a G (if you’re not or can’t be bothered). A*-C grades are considered good GCSEs. D-G grade aren’t. To actually fail, you have to get a “U”. In my subject, that would mean getting below 14%. In some subjects 16% will get you a C.

All of the exams are administered by national exam boards that have contracts with the Government. After all, schools can’t be trusted with so great a responsibility as examining their own students. Government always knows best.

Each department in each school chooses which exam board it will use and which syllabus within the options offered by the board. The thing about externally administered and marked exams is that they cost money. They cost so much money that more is being spent on exam fees than on textbooks and resources.

Let me put this in real terms. I misquoted a syllabus code to the exams officers at my school and she sent in the wrong number. Until she convinced them that it was because neither I or the school had ever done that exam before, so therefore they should waive the fee for the wrong entries, it was going to cost the equivalent of two years of my entire departmental budget.

No money had been spent by the exam board – no extra exam papers printed or anything. That was just the cost to go into the computer and change a 9 to a 0 in a course number for less than 100 exams.  Not that each entry would have to be changed manually – that could have taken as long as three minutes of a data processor’s time. It could have been done with a couple of key strokes.

This is because cost of the 100 exams is already the equivalent of two years of my departmental budget. In other words, we would have had to have paid double. No doubt some schools had to do just that. There’s no point in the exam board having the policy if they don’t plan on making some money from it.

As reported today in the Daily Telegraph, “One head teacher said that his exam costs had risen from £30,000 to £100,000 over five years for the same number of pupils.” So how much are these exam boards making each year? About £700 million in tax money. It’s a nice racket.

Notes from Hell

My most read post of the last month (and the third most read this year) was about Susan Pope, the school nurse at Malvern St James who was sacked for smacking her son once on the bottom for repeatedly swearing at her.

Today Mrs Pope has her own say, in a article she wrote for the Mail on Sunday. If you want an inside story on dealing with bureaucrats and police in the face of often bizarre accusations, you must read this. It has been nearly a year since her ordeal began and it is not over yet. Social Services are still infesting the lives of Mrs Pope and her husband, because the Popes won’t back down. Social Services have acted illegally repeatedly and gotten away with it. It is a story of abuse: a harrowing tale of governmental abuse of innocent people.

Social Services are helping to spread the cancer of family breakdown identified by Sir Paul Coleridge, the senior family court judge, as I mentioned yesterday. Sir Paul was not just concerned about marriages falling apart, but about the meltdown of parent-child relationships. Sir Paul’s views made not just the front page headline of the Daily Mail, but also the Daily Telegraph and the The Times. The case of the Popes just hightlights how Social Services can apply the blowtorch of aggressive incompetence to these relationships. Not all families are made of the same mettle. (As a side note, Al Gore will not be happy to know that Sir Paul thinks the breakdown of the family is worse than global warming.)

Mrs Pope mentions the subject of another popular post, former school bursar Denis Smith. It appears he was more involved in Mrs Smith’s sacking than previously suggested, whilst at the same time his own departure from the school was less honourable than reported.

Family Matters

The most senior family court judge in southwest England has diagnosed the cause of the almost every evil in society today. Sir Paul Coleridge blames pretty much everything on the breakdown of the family, which he labels a cancer.

Though he is certainly an expert on these matters, this is not something that requires such a specialist to diagnose. But even though he is stating the obvious, it is something that the Government, with it’s family unfriendly policies, is ignoring. It is not just no-fault divorce. Mr Justice Coleridge includes the “meltdown” of the parent/child relations as well.

So you combine no-fault divorce with all-fault discipline (given the restrictions imposed by the law, compounded with the tendency to assume any discipline exceeds those restrictions) and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster is certainly what we have in this country. Disaster is what we see every day in schools – with a combination of kids who can’t draw their family tree and as they are shifted throughout the week from one parent to another, or sometimes a relative, or a former partner of a parent, with no consistent structure in their life.

If that’s what it’s like in relatively sedate rural areas, think about what other educators face each day in the more urban environments. Several years ago I taught in a city of about 70,000. I was talking to a head of year who was sending out congratulatory letters to parents of children who were performing above expectations in at least five subjects and also letters to parents of children for whom significant concerns had been raised in at least five subjects. As he was looking through the envelopes, he noticed that all of the former were sent to “Mr and Mrs” and all of the latter were sent to single parents or adults of two difference surnames.

This echoes Sir Paul’s statement, “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

Why Five-Year-Olds Need Section 28

Some Muslim parents have complained about a couple of story books used at two Bristol primary schools. As a result the books have been pulled. So is this some sort of anti-Muslim rant? Far from it.

The books are characterised by the school as part of their “anti-homophobia” curriculum for five-year-olds.  One is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses. He marries the brother of one of them. The other is set in a New York zoo, where two male penguins who fall in love.  Bristol City Council says they were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying.

What five-year-olds are engaged in homophobic bullying? What five-year-olds are holding themselves out as homosexual?

This is exactly the reason it was wrong to repeal Section 28. The use of these books is clearly about promoting not only homosexuality, but homosexual marriage equivalents.  Parents complained that children were coming home asking questions about same-sex relationships when there had never even been discussion about heterosexual relationships.

The schools in question are 60%-70% Muslim. Perhaps because Muslims are unacceptably unaccepting of homosexual behaviour, the school and the local council have felt the needed to force the issue on the children at such a young age. Parents complained so much the council has temporarily removed the books from the curriculum, which just goes to prove the council’s point.

The sad thing is that it is only Muslim parents that can get this done. If it were Christian parents, the council would have simply ignored them.

Hoisted

Thanks to Mr Malvern for his comments on my posting about Susan Pope, the nurse at Malvern St James school who was sacked for smacking her foul-mouthed son on the bum. He noted that the school bursar who sent the letter sacking Mrs Pope has himself been sacked.

Mr Malvern was quite generous in his description of the Denis Smith’s offences. He didn’t mention that Mr Smith rammed a police car in his drunken attempt to evade police driving through Malvern streets at 80 mph. Having worked in Malvern, I have to commend Mr Smith on his driving skills. I would not be able to drive anywhere near that fast if I wanted to, even fully sober.

Being a keen letter-writer, Mr Smith did not wait to receive his P45. He resigned. I’m guessing he figured that if the school was willing to sack someone even though they did not commit an offence, he probably didn’t stand much of a chance.

Anyhow a couple links for those interested: Malvern Gazette and Worcester News.

To modify something I heard during the Eliot Spitzer fiasco, let me make the introductions: Denis, petard. Petard, Denis.

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.

It Could Be Much Worse

I may complain about the general unruliness with which I deal on a day-to-day basis. In my subject, even dealing with pint-sized atheists hour after hour and their same little arguments (though honestly, most of the time that is a very generous term) can be wearying.

A survey by one of the teaching unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, as reported in The Times, notes:

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms.

I would say that this is true even where I am. However, there is much to said for teaching in the hinterlands.  Not only have we not had a teacher assault this year, I don’t think there is any pupil in the school who would dare such a thing.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Torquay today, Ms Bousted [ATL general secretary] said that one in ten teachers had received physical injuries in the classroom.

Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression.

Three per cent of teachers said that they had been involved in incidents involving knives, two thirds had been punched, nearly a half kicked and a third had been threatened.

The Government has a unique approach to dealing with a norm of classes full of unruly children. Schools minister Jim Knight said that classes of up to 70 pupils are perfectly acceptable. All you need are a couple of teaching assistants.

No First or Second Amendment at UVa-Wise, or Writers Who Own Guns Must Be Crazy

Steve Barber was a student at the University of Virginia – Wise. I say “was” because he has been expelled for a paper he wrote for a creative writing class. In his paper, the protagonist thinks about violence against his professor. Apparently there are certain things you just can’t write about.

However, if you are also a licensed gun owner with a carry-and-conceal permit, and you have guns in your car – then you are mentally ill and can be involunarily committed for evaluation. Only crazy people own guns and enroll in creative writing – at least in Virginia.

There is no doubt that officials at UVa-Wise acted in an unjust manner, way outside their authority. They even have a rule that says no guns can be in cars on campus. Unfortunately for them, that’s an attempt to supercede a state law that says the opposite. Based on the involuntary committment, they then got the Commonwealth Attorney to convince a judge to revoke Barber’s gun permit. That’s right. His gun permit was revoked for possessing a gun – not even on his person, which he was entitle to do – but in his car. It doesn’t matter that the evaluation showed that he wasn’t crazy or a threat.

And it doesn’t matter that the actions of the university have a dramatic negative impact on Barber. He will now have to immediately begin to repay his student loans. If he can’t pay them, then they go after him with their Mafia-style tactics. So he has to abandon his plans for a college degree and the only thing he can do is immediately re-join the military. So auch for his plans of going back into the service of his country as a officer.

Don’t expect that he will get any support from the press. No, they have found a great opportunity to trash him – all in the name of “better safe than sorry”. Can’t have another Virginia Tech. But as law professor Eugene Volokh notes, “expulsion would still strike me an excessive remedy; nor would protecting the university from the possibility that he would turn into a Virginia-Tech-style mass killer justify this: If he really does plan to commit mass murder, he could do that as an expelled student pretty much as easily as an enrolled student (since the school doubtless doesn’t have guards at each possible entrance to keep him off campus).”

Yes, a little paranoia goes a long way.

Steve Barber has his own blog now. H/T to Abhishek Saha at Muse Free where I first saw this story.

No Teachers’ Day in the UK

I found out from Wikipedia that today is Teachers’ Day in Albania. In fact, many countries have a special day for recognising teachers.

The UK does not have such a day. We are not particularly set aside for respect. Rather, this country see teachers has needing lots of regulation and quality control. Most of use are told what to teach by the government, because we can’t possibly be competent professionals.

We have little power left to maintain discipline. The government has determined that many of the methods that formed useful citizens, including most members of the government, are cruel. In a classroom environment, the thing I am most aware of is avoiding proximity to any pupils. This avoids jail or lawsuits. Not that there is a recourse if they get in our face.

We are suspect, so we need hightened background checks which not only include criminal records but any allegations, hearsay or rumour that a police officer wants to put in it. We will be among the first to be biometrically tagged to the national database.

We also provide a dumping ground for people who want someone else to raise their children. Sadly, despite our best efforts, the acorn usually does not fall far from the tree. At a recent parents night, the parents of a disrepectful Year 8 pupil were instructed to use the appropriate entrance to the school. I watched as the dad (all six feet and more than 250 pounds of him) just bullied his way past a female member of staff and ignored her insistence to use the other entrance. Is it really a surprise that his son tries to treat staff the same way and sneers at them with disrepect or laughs in their face when given instructions in school?

At least those parents came to parents night. The ones who don’t are mostly the ones who need to be there. They can’t even be bothered to find out about their child’s progress or lack thereof – and they especially don’t care about how their child is negatively affecting other children’s progress. I don’t think they would particularly care to observe a Teachers’ Day.

Learning History and Citizenship

I’ve previously discussed the bias in history textbooks in the UK. In his most recent blog entry, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens looks at how the approach to British history seeks to undermine everything that is British.

At the same time that Britishness is being de-emphasised to the British, it is being heavily enforced with those who want to move here, or those, like me, who have been a long time but want to become citizens. New immigrants or those who want to upgrade their status have to take the Life in the UK test. It’s mostly aimed at limiting the number of dark-skinned people, but since the law has to be seen to be impartial, it takes in palefaces like me who are not from EU member states.

Since they keep increasing the fee, I can’t afford to apply for citizenship. Thus I haven’t bought the book I need for studying to take the test. The test costs £34 for each sitting. I have had a look at the website linked above, to see what sort of things I need to know.

You would think that someone who speaks English as a first language and is certified to teach Citizenship to GCSE level wouldn’t have any trouble with the test. Surely they wouldn’t expect new immigrants to know more than someone with a good GCSE grade. Oh yes, they do.

I was just looking at the most recent available past paper for the OCR’s Citizenship Short Course GCSE. The bits that aren’t multiple choice or short answer are based on provided sources. The examinee doesn’t have to know any citizenship – they just have to be able to read for comprehension.

Typical GCSE questions:

State one example of a global evironmental problem
Citizens of the UK have rights and responsibilities. State one employment right that citizens have.
State one legal responsibility parents in the United Kingdom have to their children aged under 16.
State one employment right that citizens have.

Included topics in Life in the UK test:

How is the process of buying a house different in Scotland?
What are the powers of the devolved administrations?
How is European law organised?
What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?
How can people find a dentist? (Clearly a trick question)
Which groups of people receive free dental treatment? (See the previous question)
How is education different in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
Who can offer information on occupational or personal pensions?

Textbook Agenda

I’m not suggesting that textbooks in this country are biased and driven by a political agenda, but I’m looking for another satisfactory explanation for the following definitions in a textbook I’ve been given to teach history.

Socialism: movement to make the country fully democratic, with equal rights for everyone

Left-wing: believing that society should be made more equal

Right-wing: believing that the country should be strong and that ordinary people should have little or no power

Why, how could I think that somebody (like author Andrew Boxer) has a “Left-wing good/Right-wing bad” or “Socialism good/Capitalism bad” message they are trying to get across to 14- to 16-year-olds? Of course he never comes out directly and says it. He doesn’t need to, really.

Hitler’s Educational Legacy

In 1938, Adolph Hitler made it a crime in Germany to educate children at home.

Not only has the law never been taken off the books, it is vigorously enforced. The Germans may be all apologetic about many things that happened under the Third Reich, but as the family of Melissa Busekros know, they are still happy to use stormtrooper tactics when it comes to this. The minds of young Germans belong to the State.

Today’s Observer is reporting that homeschooling families in Germany are fleeing to the UK. And if you read the article, there will be no question in your mind why. One family who fled to Britain had already had their bank account frozen and emptied and their car confiscated. It’s good to know that even though Britian is moving toward totalitarianism, it is still a place of more freedom than Germany.

Big Brother is Tracking

Big Brother is at it again. The Government has announced that every 14-year-old will be issued a number for life. This is not like a National Insurance or Social Security number. It will be called a Unique Learner Number (ULN) . It will be used to access the new Managing Information Across Partners (MIAP) database. It will have all their personal details, exam results, and school disciplinary record to be accessed by employers, colleges, and anyone else in any Government department or 40 “stakeholder organisations” across the education sector. It will be used by Government agencies to track an individual until they die.

All the information will be on the internet. Each person will get two passwords – one for themselves and one to give an employer. How long will it be before the whole system is hacked and all the details available on the black market to anyone will to pay for it? How quick will it lead to wholesale identity fraud? If the Government’s recent track record for losing massive amounts of critical personal details (like the bank details of nearly half the population last year by putting them into the post) is any indication, it won’t take long.

Nonetheless, the Information Commissioner is said to now be happy with the security arrangements, so it will now go online next September.

This MIAP is separate from the ContactPoint database, which will contain details of all of the children in Britain, including names, addresses, schools, GPs and, where applicable, social workers. I don’t know if social worker details will include the health visitor, which is the nurse/social worker assigned to every child from birth until they start school. They were ready to start putting ContactPoint in operation when the Child Benefit details went missing and a security review was ordered.

A Good Name

I don’t do a lot of meta-blogging, but I was impressed with an article about the recently retired Bobby Knight by Dan Wetzel.

Wetzel focuses on one of the aspects of Knight’s career that often gets overlooked. Knight never cheated, even though cheating as become the industry standard in college basketball. In fact, he held himself and his programs to higher standards than the NCAA.

Go read the article.