Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Layer 329 . . . Schools of the Future, Education, Gove, F1, Spiritual Intelligence, The Spirit of Football, the World Cup, and South Africa.

The government's economic policies are, as expected, so disasterously misguided, ideological and awful it's been necessary for the sake of personal sanity & also stable blood pressure to stay away from all consideration of them for a few weeks, and conveniently take refuge in football, tennis and now the cycling extravaganza - the Tour de France, which this year is particularly intriguing and full of sub-plots and ploys to get the favourites split apart over several difficult stages right at the start of the event. The next two weeks, especially in the Alps and the Pyrenees, should be very watchable.

The politics of education, however, keep sucking me back into the revolting reality of a government determined to pursue its ideological objectives at the expense of real education, the needs of children and of course the teachers and support staff who will now be condemned to work in old, badly designed and under-specified premises - all because The Banana (Gove) wants to build his "free schools".

There's no doubt that the Building Schools of the Future scheme was over-bureaucratic and wasteful, but instead of just instantly scrapping it Gove could have set about modifying and simplifying it, and making it work a lot better.

But no - the man wants his Free Schools. He wants his education "market". He also wants, I presume, new schools to be built as cheaply as possible, using standardised cheapo architecture, and prefabricated structures. If an old building is completely falling apart he'll no doubt reluctantly agree to replace it as long as the replacement is a boring and off-the-shelf design that facilitates maximum speed of construction and minimum standards of space, fixtures and fittings. And he'll argue that this is all the nation can now afford. How convenient.

We have to be thankful that he's at least made a complete prick of himself in the way he's gone about his announcements of the cuts - giving out false and misleading information about which existing projects are for the chop, and which towns and cities will no longer get the excellent schools they've been promised.

He's made it clear the "savings" will be used to fund the Free Schools that will be run by cliques of parents and commercial "providers". Having established a "model" of schools run by pushy parents and their tame business partners, this will no doubt then be imposed on existing schools, along with the abolition of local authorities. Some might see this as not a bad thing, given the cravenness of LAs and their willingness to sacrifice children to the 'Standards Agenda' imposed by central government. Some might say what is their fucking point anyway?

The idea of new smaller "free" schools run by community activists might almost be acceptable if they were to be of real benefit to children by offering a type of education that's not available in the mainstream factory schools (and so-called "Academies") where test and exam results are the be-all and end-all. However, it's all too clear that what's being proposed are merely small "crammers" which will cater for parents who want even more emphasis on academic attainment and "discipline", and more pressure on children to be taught to the tests - sit down, shut the fuck up and memorise even more of this shit if you really want to get to a top university.

Cynical, moi?

If you'd like to read a more balanced and rational appraisal of what Gove's been up to then try this Ed Balls column in the Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/08/school-building-michael-gove-balls
This piece could have been written by any number of Balls' unpaid 'interns' and various arse-lickers, but in essence it's all valid.

Me - I'd just like to see Gove kicked to death as publicly as possible. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

The man has zero understanding of children and their educational needs, and zero understanding of - let alone interest in - what a fair and equitable education system might look like - one in which all children have equal access to good teachers, premises fit for purpose, and aims of education that include the development of the whole child, the creation of a love of learning for its own sake, and the development of children's capacity for creativity and imagination.

Government by bananas like Gove, of schools lashed together for relative peanuts, with attainment aims devised by neanderthals, can only result in further generations of under-educated primates, instead of future generations of thinking beings who embrace life and are capable of transforming our stupid society.


The occasional individual who stands head and shoulders above the sea of mediocrity we see all around us needs to be cherished and applauded.

Ahead of last weekend's British F1 Grand Prix there were several favourable comments about the quality of the two (British) guys who currently lead the drivers' championship.

Oxzen has commented previously on the emotional and spiritual intelligence of Hamilton and Button, and here's Hamilton in a Guardian interview with Donald McRea talking about fame and its consequences,

"It's not the easiest thing in the world to deal with. Over time you learn to accept it and handle it in the best way. You have to be very patient and very polite. And you have to be the least selfish person you possibly can be."


In the same paper Button is described as having enormous talent but also a great deal of maturity and a sense of what's real and what isn't. He's also praised for his attitude to his work and his well-balanced personality.

You don't get those things through academic attainment or through attending high-pressure crammers. You get a nation of ego-driven, non-actualised, boring, materialistic, uptight, unspiritual emotional retards, which pretty much sums up the type of people who rule the roost on this little island.

Take our footballers, for example, and also the people who run football in this country. Please.

Harry Pearson commented last week on the fact that the World Cup Final was to be controlled by British officials, since our small team of referees and linesmen have apparently done so well in this World Cup.

"It is surely plain after 60 years of achievement that places us on a par with Sweden and Belgium, that we can't play football properly . . .

"Instead of trying to paper over the negatives of our game, let's for once build on the positives. Stop all the talk of coaching, tactics and formations and simply abandon playing international football altogether to focus all our considerable resources on training the world's finest match officials.

Webb, Cann and their compadre, the as yet unsung hero Mike Mullarkey (who I believe will also give good flag should the opportunity arise) are indeed England's men of the tournament, exuding a professionalism, self-belief and steely determination our footballers could only mumble on about in the squeaky, resentful voices of teenagers who've been caught on the school playing field with a shoplifted bottle of Cyprus sherry and a packet of Lambert & Butler.

For English watchers, the Brazil versus Chile game last week was a pivotal point. During the course of the first 45 minutes it rapidly became obvious that the emphasis of our national game was shifting before our eyes. "Good decision by Howard Webb," warbled Peter Drury with the sort of throaty majesty he normally reserves for calling out "Ronaldo!" moments before the pouty Portuguese lone parent blasts a volley 30 yards over the bar. "Oh, excellent advantage there by the man from Rotherham."

Jim Beglin was quickly in on the act, effusively praising assistant Darren Cann for "a great flag" that denied Chile a possible goal. Back in the studio Gareth Southgate, blinking crazily like somebody trying to transmit an unabridged Morse code version of Anna Karenina using his eyelids, was in total accord with his Irish colleague: "And that's a great flag from Darren Cann," he said after the incident replayed, as Andy Townsend nodded wisely and murmured something about "putting down a marker" for the final.

I was watching the game with a German friend and the sudden excitement about the match officials didn't escape his notice. "Darren Cann is fantastic!" he exclaimed merrily. "He is England's man of the tournament," he added with what I suspect might have been something approaching a chortle. "In fact, with that absolutely super offside decision I believe he has maybe overtaken Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlán as the most eye-catching individual of the World Cup thus far."

It is one thing for the English to be taught a football lesson by the Germans – some truths we take to be self-evident and all that – but when they start giving us a severe thrashing in the sarcasm department it really is time to consider burning your passport. I suppose I should count my blessings he wasn't in the room when Gary Lineker revealed that Paul the Psychic Octopus was "actually born in Weymouth".


Jim Beglin, by the way, is the world's most boring "expert" commentator bar none, except maybe for Eurosport's very own drone on the Tour de France, Sean Kelly - though in Kelly's case the boredom comes from the awful monotony of his delivery rather than having sweet fuck all of any interest to say for himself. What a blessing when Beglin was ill and unable to co-commentate on the Spain v Germany game.

That game, incidentally, was terrific - played in exactly the right spirit, especially by Germany, who never succumbed to the temptation of trying to win by kicking the Spanish out of it. In fact the Germans have won huge admiration for their efforts to emulate the Spanish in their style of play - open, fluid, expressive, intelligent, and at times exhilarating. Arguably they have been the most entertaining team of the tournament, with their 4-goal demolitions of Australia, Argentina and England. Most neutrals will surely have relished the Argentines and the English being taught a lesson in how to play properly and empathetically as a team, instead of playing like a bunch of Maradona-style prima donnas.


In contrast to this, the Dutch were disgusting in the way they spoiled the Final by setting out to clog the Spanish out of the game - to win by any means necessary. The very opposite to playing with grace and with respect for your opponents. This was a truly stupid strategy. By all means compete strongly - but for fuck's sake without cheating and violence, without tripping and shirt-pulling, and a total lack of spiritual intelligence.

Thank goodness for Johan Cruyff - the keeper of the flame as far as intelligent Dutch football is concerned. Cruyff immediately condemned the way the Dutch had played. "They played very dirty. This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football, style . . . They were playing anti-football."

In the Guardian, Paul Hayward commented,

"Creativity . . . does not mean trickery, though there is some of that. It means orchestral passing. Spain exclude the opposition from the game. They have mastered the art of circulation and space manipulation. At Barcelona's urging the nation's team turned their backs on power and automation in favour of agility and self-expression."


Britain is still a country whose education and training policies are based on the triumph of power over creativity, and turning young people, including young footballers, into automatons who follow orders and who never think for themselves. Obedience to bosses (coaches) and systems is all - as if the best football isn't about the self-expression and the creativity of the 11 individuals out there on the pitch, and their ability to create astonishment and delight in their audience.

Modern English footballers are akin to our world-famous boy bands - creatures of the managers and entrepreneurs who put their teams together for commercial profit above all else. Music and football without spirit - cold, ruthless, cynical, soulless and uncreative.

Meanwhile, let's hope the likes of Spain and Germany continue to rock and roll.

Also South Africa. As Dominic Fifield said in the Guardian, one of the very best and the most heartwarming moments of the entire tournament was watching the South African players joyfully singing and dancing their way into Green Point stadium in Cape Town, "which neatly summed up the colour and exuberance of their approach".

What a pity none of the England team did any of that before they slouched off home. Playing and winning, and even losing, with joy, imagination, grace and dignity. We have so much to learn from South Africa.

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