Saturday, June 27, 2009

Layer 172 Young & McGuinn, Working for the Teachers, Working for the Government.

Neil Young is a monster. A great, lurching, raucous bear of a man. Headlining at Glastonbury this evening he ended his set with an amazing version of 'A Day In The Life'. Where the hell did that come from? He made this Beatles classic - this Sergeant Pepper climax - rock and roll in a way the four moptops would never have dreamed of. He blasted and crashed his way through it, ending in a cacophony of noise, with the strings of his black Gibson totally busted and broken. That's something I've never seen. I've seen guitars that were beaten up, smashed and dead, but this was something quite different. A guitar that was still intact, only with all its strings snapped and zapped.

Having watched Neil's power and emotion and originality it was almost impossible to deal with the rest of the TV coverage of today's acts at Glastonbury – a horrible bunch of derivative prats wailing and whining their way through their 'original' compositions – every single tune instantly forgettable, as were the performances.

Bruce Springsteen is the headline act tomorrow, and the press seems full of condescending articles proclaiming that Bruce is suddenly, somehow, COOL! In his 60th year the tossers who inhabit Planet Rock these days have seemingly latched on to the fact that The Boss really is the boss. How has that happened? Where was the crack that allowed reality to creep into the consciousness of these lickspittles, these cringe-making creeps? As if Bruce gives a toss what they think anyway.

Oh dear. Oh dear. A bunch of schoolkids called The White Lies just tried to perform 'Dancing In The Dark'. Not cool at all. Fine maybe for their local youth club, but surely not the nation's premier music festival, on national TV. Oh dearie me. They just did a song called Death.


Interestingly, Roger McGuinn had name-checked the Beatles several times during his set at the Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Square, earlier in the evening. He did a retrospective of his musical life and times, playing and singing solo, using an acoustic 7-string Martin and a beautiful electric 12-string Rickenbacker. He acknowledged the influence of the Beatles in his arrangement of Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man for The Byrds – their first monster hit. He kept referring to the 'Beatles Beat' in all his early songs and arrangements of folk tunes. Dylan gave him the lyrics for 'Ballad of Easy Rider', knowing McGuinn would Beatle them for the film. He ended his set with a magnificent version of Eight Miles High. Excellent.


Prior to the concert I'd had to drag my old friend J out of the panini bar where he'd taken refuge from the Sloanes. Initially he refused to budge, claiming he was too tired to go back out into the heat of the evening and the weirdness of the streets. However, after I'd made it clear there was no way I was staying in a soulless bloody sandwich bar when I was desperate for a pint of decent ale he decided to tag along to the pub we managed to stumbled upon a few streets away where we had portions of chicken cassoulet - a two for a tenner deal. The beer was excellent.

Chelsea is bonkers. Straight out of the tube, which had transported me from the real world to the Emerald City via the circle line/whirlwind, I came across a huge black Jag limo driven by a gorgeous chauffeuse wearing black gloves and a miniskirt. Not too many of those in the East End . . .

J, meanwhile, on the other side of the square, outside the Peter Jones department store, had been practically knocked off the pavement by several flunkeys carrying rolls of fabric from the store out to parked limos in which rich old biddies were sitting, waiting to examine the wares.

By the way, according to J, who's of the faith, it's impossible for Jewish people to catch swine flu, since it's not Kosher. On the other hand, gefilte fish flu is apparently causing havoc, and as for the chicken noodle flu epidemic . . .


Martin Shaw was on Desert Island Discs this morning. His choice of music was complete pants, but this is what he said about his education:

“I loathed school. I had the impression I was working for the teachers – not for myself. There were only two enlightened teachers. The rest were idiots, and why would I work for them?”

As I said in Layer 171, we need to “agree on how children should get access to the best and most relevant curriculum, and how they should learn.”

  • Why are so many teachers 'idiots' – whatever that might mean?
  • Is it right that children should feel they're not doing things for their own benefit, only for the teacher, the school, the LA, the government, etc?
  • Why do so many children loathe school?
  • How much ability and talent is under-developed and wasted because children aren't allowed to travel their own pathways, on their own learning journeys?

It's a complete outrage that children have been badgered and bored by teachers in the name of 'driving up standards', and certainly have not been working and learning for themselves. In a word, they've been USED. And abused.


Martin Shaw also spoke about “Yearning for something outside the physical”.

It's also a matter of needing, not just yearning. Does anyone seriously doubt that humans need to connect with the metaphysical and the spiritual?

If we agree on this need to connect,

  • How can we go about it?
  • Does it need to involve “God”?
  • How do we equip people, through education to begin their quest for the metaphysical, and become better able to engage with it?
  • Do schools even attempt to do so, beyond tokenistic RE lessons and ritualistic assemblies?
  • How many children leave school without even knowing the terms 'metaphysical' and 'spiritual', let alone understand what they might mean?


Martin Shaw again -

“The great philosophers and teachers have said, Know Thyself.”

Our schools don't, by and large, give a damn about enabling children to know themselves. Where does it say in the national curriculum that children should know themselves? And so they don't get any opportunity or encouragement to look within, to meditate, to reflect, to perceive themselves through their own eyes, as well as the eyes of others. How can they be expected to understand themselves without time, opportunity or encouragement?


From today's Guardian:

Labour to junk Tony Blair's flagship school reform

Headteachers to get more powers as era of centralised control ends.

The government is to abandon the most significant education reform of the New Labour era in order to end the centralised control of schools and grant headteachers more powers, the Guardian has learned.

In a totemic break from the Blair years, next week's education white paper will signal the end of Labour's national strategies for schools, which includes oversight of the literacy and numeracy hours in primaries. The changes will strip away centralised prescription of teaching methods and dramatically cut the use of private consultants currently employed to improve schools.

They will give schools more freedom and establish new networks of school-to-school support to help drive up standards in what will be described as a "new era of localism".

Ed Balls, the schools secretary, has masterminded the plan, which could save the government up to £100m a year on its contract with the private company Capita, which delivers the national strategies. It forms part of an efficiency drive to slim down government bureaucracy.

So there we have it. This isn't for the benefit of the children. This is to save money. What a bunch of shits. They will never, ever, admit that the national literacy strategy has been a total waste of money, time and effort. Worse than that, it's fucked up decades of hard work trying to help teachers appreciate what subtle and sensitive practices are required in order to help all children become fully literate and absolutely passionate about reading and writing.

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