Thursday, 10 April 2014

Gove-Wilshaw - latest wire-tap - Gove's new 'Big Idea'.

Wilshaw is on the phone.

Wilshaw: (tough) "No one tells my troops what to do. Just  kick the door in. Get in there and bloody tell them. They're only teachers, for god's sake...."

(puts phone down)

Gove (sashays in, clicking his fingers, whistling and humming)

Wilshaw: Bloody knock will you?  I'm just sending my boys into one of your pissy little free schools.

Gove: Don't care, Big Boy. I have a plannity plan. While you're mired in bumf and detail,
I'm just floating, man.
(still clicking his fingers, though now he's doing it under Wilshaw's nose.)

Wilshaw: I don't suppose I can avoid you telling me, can I?

Gove: Well, you may have missed my superb statement on the new CREATIVE GCSEs. (as he says 'creative' he clicks his fingers and wiggles his ass.) The Miller opportunity got in the way.

Wilshaw: Opportunity?

Gove: Oh 'FFS' (winks in a coy manner), one person's misfortune is another person's opportunity...y'dig?

Wilshaw: I don't 'dig' anything apart from my garden.

Gove: Anyway, did you miss my superb statement?

Wilshaw:  Yep.

Gove: Well what I said,  out trends the trendies, outgrooves the groovers and gets down with the kids.

Wilshaw: (puts his head in his hands and groans)

Gove: They can't go on calling me Gove the Gradgrind. I'm Mr Mega-creativity Man. Oh yes. Now for the follow-up.

Wilshaw: Can you do that somewhere else?

Gove: No, you're going to listen to this, Big Boy. I am going to initiate a great new initiative. (he gropes in his pocket for a piece of paper. He pulls it out. It's a Pizza Express bill. He has written on the back of it. Gove reads from it. Though he struggles with the writing)

It's called - "Sing - Do it!" and every school in the country will-

Wilshaw - England. Not 'the country'.

Gove: Yadda yadda. Every school, every child will sing. They'll - "do it!" What do you think?

Wilshaw: They do already, don't they?

Gove: Says who?

Wilshaw: Says me?

Gove: And what do you know? Nada. This is going to be the Gove Sing - Do it! And they're going to sing British songs. Great British songs. It's going to be the Great British Sing. Every newspaper, every media outlet is going to be on to this. The whole country is going to Sing sing sing!

Wilshaw: Apart from those that don't want to. And apart from those who you piss off.

Gove: That's where you and your police force come into it. This is going to be...inspected!

Wilshaw: My boys have got enough to enforce without having to listen to a bunch of kids caterwauling in the school hall.

Gove: What is it with you? Why do you stamp all over everything I try to do?

Wilshaw: Because it's crap?

Gove: And everything you say and do, is a watered down version of the Gestapo. Or not so watered.

Wilshaw: What would be the matter if it was?

Gove: (shouting) Don't you worry, Big Boy. You're the day before yesterday's man. I'm going to launch this Sing - Do It! project without you ,then.

(stamps his foot, runs out. )

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Open letter to Sajid Javid, the new Culture Minister

Dear Sajid Javid

We've never met, but that's because I work in 'Culture' and you have spent most of your adult life so far in banking.

It's very difficult to see from your Wikipedia entry or from the kind of information put before us by Huffington Post (see my previous blog) how you're qualified to do this new job at the Ministry of Culture.

My experience within the cultural field, whether as a writer, performer and broadcaster, or as a keen consumer, is that this country is very ambivalent about 'culture'. That's to say, it's very convenient for politicians to make loud noises about the importance of this or that big cultural figure - Shakespeare, Beethoven and the like - but very difficult for them to acknowledge or support the thousands of ways all of us create and consume culture in small groups, locally, and - more recently - in digital forms.

This is not just about money - though that is of course important - it's about an attitude to people. Either we think that everyone has the potential to produce art, or we don't. Either we think that everyone is entitled to have access to all kinds of art, no matter how pricey that art was to produce, or not. As yet, we don't know which side of this divide you sit.

But while we're on about money - this is a peculiar time, isn't it? You're an ex-banker who made millions during the fatal bubble of the early 21st century. You were at a bank that has been fined for rate-fixing. You know all about this kind of money.  The fact that people like you got up to all sorts of greedy lending and fiddling is why we're in the crisis.

And yet the party you belong to keeps telling us that the reason why we're in the crisis is because 'we' spent too much money on health, education, social services, benefits and - yes - culture. Anything that was paid for out of taxation seems to have caused the crisis, according to your party. Lies, all lies, but that's the sort of 'culture' we have to put with from your party.

So, I'm very curious about how you're going to explain why 'Culture' will have to take a hit from the Treasury even as you are someone who benefited from the false boom, the very same boom that caused the crash...and to continue the chain...which is what has given your party the excuse to slash public services and cut waged and unwaged people's standard of living....and further enrich the mega-rich.

Perhaps you're mad keen on culture. Perhaps in between making all that money,  you were hanging around galleries, theatres, cinemas, concert halls, comedy clubs, libraries, dance studios, painting classes. Perhaps you've seen how people manage on a shoe string, perhaps you've seen the awful conditions backstage in many theatres, perhaps you know about the crap wages that most people in the arts work with. Perhaps you know about the terrible crisis we have in libraries, depriving people of access to knowledge and culture.

If you do, you'll know it's a very, very different world from the outrageous, lavish, crazy world you lived in while you were at Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Banks.

No matter you are of working class origin and your cultural background is a million miles from the Etonian toffs, you are now part of the class (yes), that runs the ludicrous world of the mega-rich gamblers who have caused millions of people across the world to lose their jobs and welfare.

So I'm not holding out any hopes.

Michael Rosen

Culture Minister Sajid Javid, banking, 2005-2008, rate-fixing probby

Care of Huffington Post re our new Culture Minister:

"Deutsche Bank was recently fined by the European Commission for colluding with four other banks and a brokerage firm to fix Yen Libor and Euribor benchmark rates. Their investigation focused on the period of Septemnber 2005 and May 2008. Questions have been raised, as Sajid Javid held senior positions at Deutsche Bank during this period."

Latest wire-tap: Gove tells Wilshaw how good he was on the Today Programme.

Wilshaw in his office.

Gove bursts in, opens his arms and takes up a heroic stance.

Wilshaw: I didn't hear you knock.

Gove: Da-daaaaa!

Wilshaw: (ignores)

Gove: What do you think? How did I do?

Wilshaw: Mm?

Gove: On the Today prog. How was I?

Wilshaw: I wasn't listening.

Gove: You weren't listening? What are you talking about? Everyone was listening!

Wilshaw: I wasn't.

Gove: Then it was the nation minus one.

Wilshaw: Uh-huh.

Gove: I was sensational.

Wilshaw: Did you get the Culture job? Here's hoping.

Gove: Of course not. Dave has other ideas. I have other ideas.

Wilshaw: Oh sheesh. Ideas and you. That's where the trouble starts.

Gove: I was so blooming statesmanlike. I was in Berlin...Churchill and Dunkirk...Henry V at...

Wilshaw: I got a text, saying you were like yesterday's porridge.

Gove: I did sad. I did responsible. I did regret. I did sympathy. I did concern. I know how to do the bloody lot. Govey 5 Dave nil. I was George bloody Best in the European Cup final.

Wilshaw: Champions League.

Gove: Shut your face, Big Boy. It was the European Cup then. It's the Champions League now. And now is when it And I am Mr Now.

Wilshaw: I need to get on with some work. I've got one of your little messes to mop up at Ecat.

Gove: My best moment was when I said, 'If I were doing Prime Minister's Question Time'....Geddit? Geddit? 'If'. Too bloody right. I just managed to not say, 'when'. Just left it hanging there... 'If' . Bloody magisterial.

Wilshaw: So you weren't able to blow your own trumpet on the new GCSEs thing?

Gove: I'm beyond that. That's already the past. That's merely a lower rung on the ladder.

Wilshaw: And Miller will be back anyway.

Gove: Of course she will. I did the contrition thing. Dave says sorry at PMQ. Sorted. She'll be back.

Wilshaw: Like him next door.

Gove: Laws, you mean.

Wilshaw: Too bloody right I mean Laws.

Gove: It all works, Big Boy. It's about loyalty and goodness. I said that to old man Humphrys. I wiped the floor with him. I showed the whole country minus you, that there is something more noble than hounding a decent Tory to the dogs.

Wilshaw: er...'hounding' means 'dogs'.

Gove: Don't bloody pretend you do metaphors. You're just a geographer.

Wilshaw: Historian.

Gove: Policeman. But I am a prince.

Wilshaw is up from his desk and pushing Gove out of his room.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Today's irony: education hinders 'interpretation' whilst market 'choice' demands it!

This morning's ironic thought

Our leaders have constructed an education system which downgrades the role of students'  'interpretation' and 'reflection' in face of 'content' and 'knowledge'. This is coupled to notions that there is a fixed sequence to the acquisition of the right to be 'creative' or the right to 'interpret'. That is, first you must be told or given 'the facts'/knowledge/'content' and only after that do you have the right or the ability to be 'creative' or to use your powers of 'interpretation'.

In fact, there's a triple squeeze on 'interpretation' : 1) too much content to get through 2) you have to do content first and only 'later' do you earn the right to interpret and 3) some students (or children) aren't capable of it anyway.

For those of us coming from the other side, we think that all human beings are capable of interpreting and creating - given the opportunity. There isn't any conflict between learning 'about', learning 'how' whilst interpreting or creating. So, almost any three year old learning to enjoy or learning the words of eg 'We're going on a bear hunt' is quite capable of interpreting what the bear is thinking or saying on the last page of the book where there are no words. They are quite capable of creating a scenario for that bear. Particularly if they talk to each other in pairs or small groups, rather than being asked direct questions by a teacher.

That scene - of children interpreting and creating - in this case, verbally, is one denied over and over again by people like Gove, Portillo (yes, he's an expert on education, I heard him voice this denial on the Politics Show the other night), and many others.

Now, cut to the recent budget. The Tories have told us that they are going to set people 'free' by enabling people retiring to do what they want with whatever money they have when they retire. So, imagine someone with, let's say, 10 grand. That person will then be confronted with competing sets of data coming from various people offering short and long term solutions of what to do with 10 grand. The difficult job facing anyone in this circumstance is 'interpretation'.

I take this as the latest example of what we call 'everyday life' - the most obvious one being the con of 'choice' between companies offering us gas, electricity, broadband, phones and TV. This 'choice' is 'good' - according to the dogma of the market. We love this kind of choice. (Note it's not 'control' ie we as humanity don't 'control' how we make, get and receive power, we just choose between companies trying to find different ways of conning us.

So, the status quo is 'choice' which the government tell us we know how to make. Meanwhile, they create an education system which hinders our ability to interpret and - needless to say - to 'create' alternative visions of how this stuff  - finance, power, digital services, etc etc - could be given us.

You'd think it was a conspiracy, if you were  a conspiracy theorist.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Uh-huh, trouble - Gove-Wilshaw and the DfE officials' petition to Gove.

Wilshaw is sitting at his desk.

Gove rushes in.

Wilshaw (looks up): Ah - the postman hasn't knocked twice.

Gove:  Are you behind this?

(Gove waves some papers at Wilshaw. It's a petition from DfE officials. The petition calls on Gove to create a level playing-field for all inspections. At present, says the petition, there is one rule for Local Authority schools and another for Free Schools and Academies. This, says the petition, makes the inspection and improvement processes open to political interference, as the final and sole arbiter of how failing academies and free schools are to be dealt with is in the hands of Gove. They say they are particularly concerned about this in the run-up to the General Election as it jeopardises objectivity...)

Wilshaw: (he knows about the petition and Gove thinks Wilshaw is at least partly responsible for it)
Oh you really don't like it up you, do you?

Gove: (shouting) Academies and free schools are mine. They're all mine, Big Boy.  Not yours. And not this pissy little bunch of snipers' and gripers'.

(he waves the petition under Wilshaw's nose)

Wilshaw: (patronisingly in the voice of a parent to a child) Yes, dear, they're all yours. That's the point.

Gove: What point?

Wilshaw: (snappy) You set these schools up on the basis that they wouldn't fail. Now they're failing, none of us knows who picks up the pieces.

Gove: (yelling): And we only know they bloody fail because your bloody clodhopping bloody Ofsted bloody inspectors have tramped into them as if they're like any other school.

Wilshaw: They are.

Gove: They're NOT! They're academies and free schools.

Wilshaw: And it turns out that some of them are failing and no one really knows what do with them. And no one really knows whose job it is to deal with it.

Gove: I'm creating Regional Schools Commissionaires. Keep up.

Wilshaw: Commissioners.

Gove: Whatever. And they'll have bloody great big offices plumb slap bang in the middle of region and if there's a whisper of a problem, they can send in the marines. Just like you do.

Wilshaw: (getting ratty) But why aren't these swat teams part of my swat team?

Gove: Because your swat team is fast outliving its usefulness, Big Boy. I've got 4000 academies, free schools and the rest and I can do what I want with them.

Wilshaw: (wearily) And that's precisely why this place thinks you've lost it, pal.

Gove: (points finger under Wilshaw's nose). You wait till my regional commissionaires come in. Just you wait. They'll be handpicked. By me. They'll be working to my rules. Not yours.

Wilshaw: What happened to the Culture job? I thought 'Shameless' was on her way, and you were going in there with your Shakespeare and your Wordsworth and your Milton and your-.

Gove: Mind your own bloody business.

Wilshaw (laughing): Oh it wasn't your big gob, was it? Not the 'loads of hot sex' thing, was it? Were you pissed again?

Gove walks out, throwing the petition in the bin as he leaves.

Wilshaw: (shouting after him): You know you really ought to run your speeches past Sarah. She'd weed out that sort of thing.
(mutters under his breath) Or weed you out.

Wilshaw flips a page on his retirement count-down calendar.

Gove-Wilshaw: latest recording.

In an alcove in  the corridor at the Department for Education

Gove bumps into Wilshaw.

The whole conversation is in whispers and stops whenever someone comes past.

Gove: (urgently) That call last night didn't happen.

Wilshaw: (snorts contemptuously)

Gove: Maria's going. It's a cavity thing.

Wilshaw: (he is reading a document called: 'The Hammer and the Fist'; he looks up) Mm? Are you still talking?

Gove: (blathering on) Cavity. Dental. Leave it and it rots.

Wilshaw: (uninterested) Uh-huh. Look, I've got to go: you'll like this. I'm giving the OK to send in some of my troops this afternoon. Swat job.

Gove: They had better not be some of mine.

Wilshaw: If they are, they are.

Gove: I told you, no more bloody headlines to do with Frees and Academies. Bloody lay off them, will you?

Wilshaw: You made your bed, sonnyjim. A lousy LA school gets turned into an Academy. A lousy free school or a lousy Academy gets turned into what exactly?

Gove: Whose bloody side are you on, now? And don't say 'the kids'.  That's my line.

Wilshaw: The kids.

Gove: Look, can I have a guarantee from  you that you won't say a word about me going for the job?

Wilshaw: What job?

Gove: Which one are you doing this afternoon?  Stupid or deaf?

Wilshaw: I'm only here for the 'hot sex'.

Gove: That was a joke.

Wilshaw (holds up newspaper with headline: GOVE SAYS THAT YOUNG BUSINESS PEOPLE COME TO LONDON FOR 'HOT SEX'.)

Gove: What is it with these creeps? It was a joke.

Wilshaw: What kind of joke? Irony, is it? Hyperbole?

Gove: I do the clever stuff, big boy. You're the hammer. Or the fist. Or both. Something dull, anyway.

Wilshaw: I am, sonny jim. I am. I close schools. I put the shits up teachers.

Gove: Like bloody hell you do. I'm the one round here who closes schools. All you do, is send in your hirelings.

Wilshaw: That's not what you said, when you told me how many academies you wanted by 2015.

Gove: One step out of line, and I'll have you up on a - never mind that now... I'm just saying that almost certainly I'm going to be out of here by the end of the week. I just wanted to s-

Wilshaw: Hot sex.

Gove: What is it with you?

Wilshaw: You won't get Culture. Not with your big gob.

Gove: I AM Culture. It's what I do. I live it. I never intended to piss about in the world of scummy little teachers and ex-teachers like you. I want to be down with Barenboim, Damien Hurst, Lucian Freud.

Wilshaw: He's dead.

Gove: I know. I know. I just said it to catch you out.

Wilshaw: Hot sex.

(Wilshaw walks off. Gove stands in the corridor, fiddling with his glasses.)