Friday, January 16, 2009

Layer 114 Miliband and the School Bully, the Dracula Tendency, Results Factories, and Evil Spawn.

So our youthful-looking Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has finally had the nerve to say publicly that Bush’s idea of a “War on Ter’r” is a load of nonsense, extremely unhelpful, counterproductive, etc, and he’s pleased that Obama is going to close Guantanamo Bay. It’s a bit like a child who’s heard that the playground bully has been expelled from the school, who then turns round and starts telling everyone he never really liked George and didn’t really want to be his mate and his henchman when he was going round beating everybody up. He knew it was a bad thing to do. In fact he now wants to talk to everybody and be their friend.

Well maybe it’s true that NuLabour hasn’t actually used the phrase “War on Terror” since 2006, as has been reported on TV and in the press, but it’s a bit late in the day to come out and draw attention to the fact that it was an imbecilic concept, and an excuse for bullying on a global scale. And it’s a bit late in the day to start saying we need to have a proper dialogue with those who take issue with the Shock Doctrine, or those who oppose the voodoo economics known as globalisation, those who reject neo-colonialism, etc.

Yes, of course it’s better late than never to make these statements, but Miliband must surely see that he, and NuLabour Mark II, just look stupid and pathetic, like they’re clinging to the coat tails of, and going along with, whoever’s the current big beast in the jungle.

Obama had the courage to say from the very start that the idea of a War on Terror was wrong-headed, and that invading Iraq was just plain wrong, for a variety of reasons. That took real courage and integrity - speaking truth to power, especially when the vast majority of Americans just went along with their government’s propaganda and their thirst for instant revenge for the Twin Towers. Such a pity that the Blair/Brown axis and NuLabour couldn’t manage it.

And neither could Miliband, at the time it was happening. Having been a close aid to Blair in Downing Street for so many years, and obviously politically very ambitious, he calculated that his political career was best served by deferring to his master and keeping schtum. And now he thinks the time is right to admit that it was a stupid concept and a useless policy. After all, George has already come out and said it was a mistake!

He’s been a silly boy, young David.. He was flattered by Blair’s patronage, and the nepotism he enjoyed, as Blair and then Brown gave him one promotion after another and facilitated his meteoric rise within the government. He should have been more patient, had the courage of his convictions, trusted in his innate ability to give him success in his political career in the long run, and he should have shown that he had the integrity and courage to speak truth to power, because now he can never achieve the stature of an Obama. Never, ever.

He ought to have realised that showing your integrity by speaking the truth will always be a requirement for anyone who aspires to be a true statesman, rather than a party apparatchik. He should have understood that in the long run you forfeit the trust and the support of the people if you even once participate as a member of the dominant mob, the gang of the playground bully, and fail to show that your conscience is your sole master.

He was no conscientious objector. He has the blood and the ruined lives of thousands of innocent people on his hands. Probably hundreds of thousands. And there’s no going back from that. He’s probably a very nice man. But he was a political prat.

Only 4 more days to Obama’s inauguration.


The Dracula Tendency

The Guardian’s science correspondent reports that Victorian novels helped us to evolve into nicer people, according to scientists:

“Their research suggests that classic British novels from the 19th century not only reflect the values of Victorian society, they also shaped them. Archetypal novels from the period extolled the virtues of an egalitarian society and pitted cooperation and affability against individuals' hunger for power and dominance. For example in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Dorothea Brooke turns her back on wealth to help the poor, while Bram Stoker's nocturnal menace, Count Dracula, comes to represent the worst excesses of aristocratic dominance.

They found that leading characters fell into groups that mirrored the cooperative nature of a hunter-gatherer society, where individual urges for power and wealth were suppressed for the good of the community.

The effect of such moralistic literature was to uphold and instil a sense of fairness and altruism in society at large, the researchers claim in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. "By enforcing these norms, humans succeed in controlling 'free riders' or 'cheaters' and they thus make it possible for genuinely altruistic genes to survive within a social group," they write.

In this context I suppose David Miliband could be seen as a sort of miniature and somewhat youthful Heathcliffe, or even a non-charismatic Mr Darcy - a conflicted character, admired by some, but struggling to cope with both good and bad traits.


Results Factories

Meanwhile NuLabour’s mismanagement of education grinds remorselessly onward. Polly Curtis, the Guardian’s education editor, reports that schools have been accused of ‘hot housing’ to get results. Tell us something we didn’t already know, dear Polly.

Apparently figures released yesterday reveal a leap in the numbers of pupils who took their exams early in November, thereby allowing a resit for any failures - “a tactic that is being encouraged increasingly across the country by heads desperate to rise in the league tables.”

"Some pupils have taken the same GCSE exam up to three times in the space of a year, the Guardian has learned.

Teachers' leaders have blamed the government's pressure on headteachers to improve results and move up the school league tables for the increased focus on exams that was putting children under stress and detracting from the depth of their learning.

Last year the government announced that any schools where fewer than 30% of pupils achieved at least five good GCSEs - including in English and maths - faced closure unless there were improvements within three years.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: "League tables have got all out of proportion and schools will now do all they can to improve their place. Early entry is one way they are doing it. Other ways include focusing on the pupils on the C-D border. We're in danger of producing a set of statistics that no longer accurately reflect pupils' progression but the work the schools can do to improve their scores."

Perry Beeches school in Birmingham has adopted early entry for its entire GCSE group, with nearly all of its pupils sitting their English exams a year early and maths six months early. The pupils were allowed to retake, or sit a harder paper to improve their result.

Liam Nolan, the school's head, said: "We are an exam factory, I have no issue with that. However, this is about the students. They've got to pass these exams to give themselves every opportunity in life."

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "Retakes are bad for kids. There's a poisonous combination of parental pressure and league-table pressure to get as high a score as possible. There are kids who are ready to take their exams early but it should be on the basis of their readiness rather than part of a process to get the results.

"What it does is focus on the examination results rather than the use of English and maths across the curriculum - it's for the sake of the exam itself ... examination result-driven decisions to hot-house kids into taking an exam early are damaging."

A DCSF spokesperson said, “We are not aware of widespread issues with students being unduly pushed to take GCSEs early”.

Well now that you ARE aware of it - what ARE you going to do about it, you bastards?

We know what they’ll do about it. Nothing. They don’t give a shit about the wellbeing of pupils What they’re continuing to do is bully and threaten schools with closure if they don’t meet their government-set targets. So why shouldn’t the schools feel comfortable with being branded as results factories? That’s all they are. At least that headteacher had the integrity to admit it, even if he is a total tosser for engaging with the very idea.

Yesterday Ed Balls repeated what his illustrious macho predecessor Blunkett said all those years ago - poverty is no excuse for failure, and failure to reach the government’s targets will result in the closure of schools and the sacking of their staff. Fucking Stalinist. His lapdog Jim Knight, our schools’ minister, predictably yapped on about “the excuses culture”.

I can’t wait to see these arseholes disappear into well-deserved obscurity. There can’t be any excuses now for failure to promote the real interests and the wellbeing of pupils. Hot housing and a failure to understand how to run a decent education system cannot be excused. They’ve had 11 years to learn from the likes of Finland and Denmark how to promote real education and the professionalism of teachers. They’ve learned nothing at all, the dullards. All we have is more Blunkettism, and Stalinist demands to meet production targets. These people are evil spawn of the devil, and no mistake.

More Evil Spawn

Talking of which, we learned yesterday that Israel’s armed forces managed to blow up and destroy the one place in Gaza they really didn’t want to hit - a relief warehouse within the United Nations compound in which there was a huge store of humanitarian supplies - mainly food and medicine. There also happened to be 200 refugees within the compound. An Israeli spokesman admitted this was a mistake, but said something along the lines of, “Oh well, these things happen. Our soldiers are under a lot of pressure, you know.”

Actually, they said it was a “grave mistake”. Pity it’s not their own graves they’re talking about. This is actually the only thing the Israeli hard-liners care about - having to dig the graves of their own soldiers. Nothing else impacts on their attitude or their tactics. The recent attack on Lebanon proved this, when heavy casualties caused by well-armed militias forced their withdrawal.

The United Nations are said to be furious about this latest incident. It’s going to be interesting to see what action they take, because some sort of action is surely now inevitable. They’ve already passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, and Israel’s taken no notice of it, as we knew would happen. So what happens next?

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