Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Opening a conversation with Andy Burnham about immigration.

Andy Burnham says the poorest communities pay the cost of high immigration. Or, the way he put it, the people in these communities think that they shouldn't have to pay the cost of high immigration.

"Ok, Andy, it's their perception and you are entitled to put it that way. You could say that it's people perception that UFOs hover over Birmingham. However, neither the UFO perception or the one about immigration are worth reporting unless you have a reason to be talking about it in the House of Commons.

So, can you please spell out the way in net terms the poorest people are 'paying for high immigration'? To help here are some pointers:
1. Is 'high immigration' a 'cost'? Or is it a net benefit?
2. If poor people have been made poorer, what has made them poorer? a) government policy on freezing their wages? b) govt policy on taking away their benefits d) govt policy which has resulted in increase in housing costs or e) if none of the above, is it really immigration that has made them poorer?
3. If you really believe and can say that it's 2e can you give us figures which disentangle the other reasons why poor people are poorer from the specific claim you are making that it's 'immigration'?
4. Can you direct us to the exact mechanism by which this happens? Do immigrants turn up somewhere and force poor people's expenses up? And/or wages down?
5. Yes, we've heard the 'wages down' argument but this brings in another actor to the business: the employer. You know, Andy, that in actual fact, workers don't raise or lower wages. Ultimately it's the deed of the employer. Why they do it is another matter. So, if wages come down then we need to look at employers, do we not, not immigrants who are after all fellow workers.
6. Is there any mechanism that is always in place which gives employers reason to lower wages? Might that not be the day to day workings of capitalism ie reasonable business practice: keep wage 'costs' low. And employers to that all the time, don't they Andy, whether there are immigrants there or not. That's the job of the employer to do that.
6. To sum up Andy, can you tell us precisely how this thing you say is going on, is actually going on?
7. If it's not going on and you know it's not going on, isn't it your job as an MP to tell your constituents who have this 'perception' that they've got it wrong?
8. Or is it your job to attach yourself to their coat-tails and indeed to the coattails of UKIP and the Tories and repeat 'immigrants make poor people poorer' (or words to that effect)?
9. The work you've done on Hillsborough and Orgreave is fantastic and nothing can take that work away from you."

"All arts for all"

Taking part in any of the arts means 'making and doing'. This involves taking materials, ideas, thoughts and feelings from our experience and changing them. You can do this having apprenticed yourself for many years to the best practitioners of that art, you can do it by studying that art, but there are also ways of taking part in some arts very simply and easily following what is already there, or someone who shows us how. This last way of working means that taking part in the arts is available to all. It mean that anyone in any situation can experience what it means to transform materials, ideas, thoughts and feelings and in so doing transform a part of themselves.

This is one of the ways in which we have discovered how to investigate the world around us and our place in it. A school curriculum always includes subjects which are concerned about the world but it's not often easy for such subjects to include the child and that child's place in it. Whether a child is doing pottery, performing a part in a play, taking photos or any art - these will involve the child finding a place for themselves in relation to that material, that view, those lines from a play or poem. Surrounding this activity there will be thought and conversation. These will nearly always involve this 'positioning' - "where am I in relation to this stuff?'

We make the plea that children should have time and space to do this as part of their emotional, social and intellectual development. Part of education must be about 'where am I in this world?'

Doing such things may lead to professional careers, they may enable children to be more confident and willing learners, they may provide potential activities for people for the rest of their lives. All these are valuable outcomes. However, we would do well to remember that children are human beings and are not half-human beings waiting to be grown-ups. As human beings they are entitled to have time and space to reflect on this matter of who they are in the world.

We see a great danger in thinking of education purely and simply in terms of national or international test scores. Such scores can only tell us what kind of teaching most suits that kind of test. It doesn't tell us about anything that is not tested or cannot be tested. Yet, questions of how can I affect this material (clay, or words, or the body, for example) are crucial to how we proceed in this world. It is not sufficiently useful to simply know the world or to be able to describe it. We have to know why we are changing the world - for the good or the bad? We have to be in a position in which we can come up with ideas for improving people's lives. We have to know what enables us to face danger, cruelty and terror. We have to know what enables us to have good times too! The arts enable us to do these things and much more.

However, it cannot ever be that we think of the arts as being ranked in some kind of league table - that, say, poetry is 'better' than pottery, or some such. Nor can we think of the arts as being best practised by those who are better off, or some such. 

We say, 'all arts for all'.

PISA, BBC Newsnight and what do we want education to be?

BBC Newsnight last night took the PISA tables as the new gospel. The tables show which pupils got a teaching that best taught to the PISA test. That's all. The PISA science test will only say a very limited amount about how 'good' someone is at 'science'. If we think science should include 'the ability to do experiments' say, we would need to know if the PISA science test included that. If it didn't include that, then it wasn't any good for testing that. So one country might be very good at 'experimental science' and may well have spent a lot of time on it but this won't necessarily show in the test.

That principle applies across the board with any testing procedure. The test only tests what it tests. That's all it tells you. One style of teaching usually suits a test better than another. Usually that style of teaching is the teaching that most resembles the test. It's a 'self-serving' system. We have to ask if we want that style of teaching, that kind of education.

As for the 'reading' test, again - we weren't told what was tested: reading out loud? (ie nothing to do with 'reading for meaning'?) 'comprehension'? (that usually only includes 'retrieval' and 'inference' and not 'interpretation') ...and so on.

These issues are fundamental to the question of what kind of education we want and for what purpose. In general terms, if the outcome of the PISA tables is that schools end up spending even more time teaching in a way that suits PISA tests, anything that is not testable gets squeezed out of the curriculum. You know, like stuff to do with ethics, say. Or inventing things. Or coming up with feasible alternatives. Or teamwork. Or compassion. Or planning...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Leaning tower of PISA tables

Thoughts on PISA tables:

Because politicians and media accept the PISA paradigm: subject=test, it's impossible to argue about this methodology.

What counts as 'comprehension' are in fact scores in retrieval and inference and don't include 'feasible interpretation' = PISA thinking.

Example: Key Stage 2 SATs, test 'retrieval' and 'inference'. This does not include 'feasible interpretation' because there is only 1 answer.

We are so locked into the PISA paradigm that we now think a 'test' in a subject is the same as the subject!

All the non-testable aspects of a subject and of education are eliminated from PISA. It is only the testable that is being compared.

PISA says, 'Pupils in x country are better at subject y than pupils in z country.' It's not the 'subject'. It's the test in that subject.

Notice: all people who talk about the 'subjects' on PISA are really talking about 'the result of a test in that subject'. #verydifferent

Dear PISA, What is education for? A.Teacher.
Dear Teacher, 439. PISA

Once you're in the PISA mindset you can't get out of it. PISA is truth: truth is PISA. There is no other way of describing education.

oh no, PISA tables have gone down the table of tables. There are better tables! PISA doing cost benefit analysis of PISA to improve perf.

The Not-Casey Report: "Very alarming"

The Not-Casey Report looking at how people with wealth avoid contact with the lower classes.

Not-Casey Report on upper classes examining ownership of the media; finding disturbing examples of it repeating same ideas over'n'over again

Not-Casey Report on upper classes finding disturbing examples of 'marrying in' and 'marrying of their own kind'. #worrying

Not-Casey Report on upper classes: Not-Casey on @BBCr4today later to talk about widening inequality means segregation. #worrying

Not-Casey Report on upper classes: disturbing examples of tax avoidance/dodging; non-dom expatriation of capital; lobbying of MPs...

The Not-Casey Report on upper classes: entrenched examples of inherited wealth dominating leading positions is business/society.

The Not-Casey Report published later today on segregation of the upper classes: examples of in-breeding/gated living/private ed.and health..

Thursday, 1 December 2016

"Concerns about immigration"? Where does that come from?

The media keep saying:

"People are expressing concerns about immigration
People are expressing concerns about immigration
People are expressing concerns about immigration"

If you are registered as non-dom you can run a business
in the UK but pay no tax. This costs us billions.

"People are expressing concerns about immigration."

If the government cuts public services, they increase
pressure on public services.

"People are expressing concerns about immigration."

Since 1980, wealth has shifted from labour to capital. 
In other words those that 'have', have more; those that 
have the least, have less. Those that have the least
have given wealth to those that have more.

"People are expressing concerns about immigration"

The government regularly announces that it freezes
the wages of public service workers. This means that 
people can afford less. Their living standards decline.

"People are expressing concerns about immigration"

The government has repeatedly brought in policies
which have helped to increase the price of houses. 
The proportion of people's income required to rent or buy
has steadily risen. Flats and houses cost more to live in.
There is less space per pound of people's income.

"People are expressing concerns about immigration"

Some people do not know that the main reasons for their
standard of living to go down are nothing to do with immigration.
Instead, they keep hearing:

"People are expressing concerns about immigration."

You know what happens next?

some people express some concern about immigration.
After all, people can only think what they think 
based on available information.
The media supply the available information.
They keep saying:

'People are expressing concerns about immigration."

The government laughs quietly to itself:
"People do not blame us for their living standards going down,
they blame immigration."

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Song of Trump

My wealth will make you feel better;
the more you hear how rich I am
the more you will love me
the more you will be sure that I am the man
to clean out those who have made you poor.
I will display my gold, come to my tower
see how my suits and shirts conceal the way
my body stores more calories in a day
than you consume in a week;
the bigger I am the better you feel;
you think you are safe in my hands
because I point the finger at wicked people
who steal your wealth
most of whom are poor and foreign;
I identify other rich people who are your enemy,
I say they are an elite
as if I am not and never have been a member of an elite.
I make elite sound dirty even as I flaunt the trappings
of the elite I belong to
because my elite will save you.
Just by walking past my tower
you will feel ten feet tall.
My words about greatness will pump you up
and feel proud to be alive.
At long last you will feel better than someone else.
You will be able to wear me in your heart
like a patriotic pace-maker
and if you're lucky at some not too distant point
I will send you, or one of your children, or any relative
somewhere where they can lock up or deport someone
or go to another country and kill people.
This too will make you feel better
or even great.
Look at my tower.
Feel good.