Saturday, 31 December 2016


When the government made people have self-employed contracts (thereby taking them off benefits but they were still on low income), immigrants issued that government command.

When New Labour and the Tories let zero hour working expand, that was because a flood of immigrants created zero hour contracts.

When Alan Johnson said containerisation in the docks made thousands unemployed, he meant to say that thousands of immigrants closed the docks.

When Nick Clegg said in 2015 that the Coalition had frozen public sector wages, he meant to say floods of migrants froze them.

The reason why unemployment shot up in Dagenham a few years ago was because thousands of immigrants surrounded Fords and closed it.

And it was immigrants who crashed the banks in 2008 and forced the government to bail them out...and then made us pay for the bail out 

That's immigrants for you. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Reviewing 'Passengers': how reviewers get lost in 'genre-crap'

This is a lesson in how to be over-educated! 

We went to see 'Passengers'. I quite liked it. Some parts I liked a lot. I like the idea that today's movies can appear to be 'real' and modern whilst doing stuff that the oldest of stories have done, which is raise in your mind ideas to do with life and purpose of life an' all that stuff.

Anyway, I came home and read some reviews. I couldn't believe it: the two I read were jammed pack full of what I would call 'genre-crap'. This is where you, the reviewer, decide (or you've been told) what 'genre' the movie is supposed to be. Then, on that basis you tell your readers whether it succeeds or fails. So, 'Passengers' was apparently a 'rom-com' and, according to these reviewers, it was a bad rom-com or an unconvincing rom-com.

O please! 

It didn't occur to me for one moment whether it was a rom-com or not. And if it had, why would I or should I use this critic-made criterion a stick to beat the film with?! The film is a fantasy set in the future. Yes, there is a man and a woman involved. To my mind, this raised questions much more to do with survival in the life-cycle sense of the word (theirs) and also the survival of their relationship (and any of ours) in the face of a kind of hidden secret ('original sin'?) that dates from before the relationship, and again in the face of an external threat...will that bring them closer together or push them further apart? Not your classic rom-com questions at all!
So, this is neither a recommendation to rush off and see it, nor a recommendation to avoid it. I enjoyed it very much and it set me thinking about all sorts of things. Reading the reviews made me sad to think that people who write film criticisms have a very similar educational background to mine, but if all that does is dump you into a morass of genre-crap, then I fear it's wasted effort. 

Never mind the genre, feel the film!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

How 'comprehension' excludes good interpretations

Why 'retrieval' and 'inference' are unsatisfactory means of determining how children interpret texts:

"Billy has a blue hat - what colour was his hat?"
"Correct. One mark."

"It was raining - why was he wearing a hat? "
"'Cos he supports Chelsea."
"Wrong - no mark."

Michael's Marxist Horoscope Christmas Card

I know at this time of year people sometimes succumb to the superstition of looking at horoscopes so I thought I'd offer you some alternative ones.

Or, think of it as a Marxist Christmas Card.

Marxist Horoscope 1: Today you realise you are born into a world not of your own choosing

Marxist Horoscope 2: Later you observe that social being determines consciousness and not the other way round

Marxist Horoscope 3: At work you discover that the sum total of what people are paid is less than the value of what's produced

Marxist Horoscope 4: Glancing at your bills you realise a large proportion of your income is spent on paying interest on what you have borrowed

Marxist Horoscope 5: Watching TV it occurs to you that a tiny minority own and control most of the worlds resources, and means of producing.

Marxist Horoscope 6: As you think about the world you see that most people can only earn a living by selling their ability to work

Marxist Horoscope 7: In a bus passing a bank you see that a tiny minority make money through rent, profit and interest

Marxist Horoscope 8: A newspaper reminds you that the dominant ideas are ideas that suit those who own and control nearly everything

Marxist Horoscope 9: Everyone tells you you are alone but in order for things to be made and sold, you are brought together with others

Marxist Horoscope 10: Thinking of your school days you remember that your teachers were once themselves taught.

The Civilian is Sacred

The civilian is sacred
not because they are right
not because they are good.
They may be neither.
The civilian is sacred
because they are alive.

In every war
leaders will explain
why the civilian must die.
They will explain why they are sorry.
They will explain
why the civilian must die.
The civilian must die,
they say,
because there must be a war.
There must be a war, they say,
so that the civilian can be saved
The civilian must die
so that they can be saved.

if the civilian is sacred
there can be no war.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Floods of women coming in and taking men's jobs

I have an online friend called Rajan Naidu who wrote this:

"The government has not done a single thing to stem the flood of girls who are being born in this country who will almost certainly all become women. Women, with all due respect, are notoriously happy and willing to work long hours for very low wages, ruthlessly take men's jobs, men's homes and men's right to be misogynistic, sexist or to express various forms of xenophobia in whatever form, violent or otherwise, they might wish.
Most women, and you have only to read the papers, watch tv or listen to the radio to see proof of this, do not even take the trouble to learn men's ways and integrate themselves into a society with a centuries old, proud tradition of male supremacy, yet are among the very first to complain when they experience any violent backlash from confused, piqued and discomfited men. If women don't like the way things are in this country, no one's stopping them from leaving.

Women already outnumber men in the population and, if nothing is done about it, in a few generations time there will be no men left in the country. Do the math(s)! Time for the government to act and give men their country back.

I am not saying all women are a part of this assault on all our values as a nation. I personally know quite a few women who are actually quite decent and I am sure they totally agree with me that it is the shrill fanaticism of female extremists who selfishly rock the boat and demand equal rights for themselves that is the problem here, as they attack and undermine our ancient and hallowed traditions and way life.

It may be controversial to suggest it but it is a simple fact of life that women are the weakest and least productive of all the genders!. Consider all the time and energy many of them squander on being pregnant, giving birth to the next generation, though to be fair many of those will be future men, protecting, educating and nurturing millions of unproductive babies, children, young people and occasionally adults, rather than doing proper jobs that are well paid, productive and contribute something to the national and global economy. Women in paid employment generally have lower incomes than men and consequently pay lower taxes than men. So it would make sense, in the interests of democracy, to allot each woman two thirds, say, of a man's vote. In that way women's political participation will be bear some relation to their economic value. The idea could be extended to make voting power proportional to buying power. I am not sure but I believe they already have an electoral system of this nature up and running in the US."

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.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Thoughts on 'liberal elites'

1. There are elites in society.

2. Very few of them are liberal.

3. Non-liberal elites tend to run the show. 

4.. When people say that they are against the 'liberal elite' we might hope that the media will ask them 
a) if they are against elites in general or just liberal ones 
b) is the person complaining a member of an elite, if so, what kind?

Sunday, 27 November 2016

How to Trump democracy

Marxists have this cynical idea that democracy and capitalism work in such a way that those people in power in democratic countries spend most of their time enacting what the biggest owners of capital want and need. However, part of the illusion of democracy is to make it seem as if people like Osborne (or Blair) are acting out of considered principle for what is best for all of us. This means that what are called politicians' 'business interests' should be kept out of sight, and if and when they appear, they should seem like a bit of a coincidence and nothing whatsoever to do with that politician's decision making.

Then along comes Trump who is a fine representative of one aspect of big business: real estate. He's got a lot of it and he rents it out and/or buys and sells it. However, he is also going to be the president. This is a bit close for how the West is supposed to do things. He should look more selfless than that.

It seems that already even quite right wing people are getting nervous about this. It kind of makes the system look a bit naked. Power + property = capitalism. It's not supposed to look that obvious.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Castro bad, uprisings bad, revolts bad, revolutions bad. Gottit?

The main purpose of British newspapers telling us how terrible uprisings, rebellions, revolts and revolutions have been in the 'Third World' over the last 250 years has been to reassure us that we're right to rule over the natives, we're right to send gunboats in and kill people and right to get raw materials out of those countries at the lowest possible cost - usually through enslaving the people there and/or employing them on the lowest possible rates, and/or getting in 'advisers' who tell the people in those countries that they can't afford to have schools and hospitals.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tweets on the economy

"We've been cutting wages and the public sector because we made up a heap of crap about the deficit and the media believed us."
'Factories close cos of Jonny foreigner." (What?! If output up, layoffs caused by automation. If output down, caused by underinvestment)

Racist explanations/descriptions no.256: 'Factories closed. White working class suffer.' (What?!Like other colour workers not affected?!)

Reason for crash and austerity was big business can't make super profits from manufacture so 1)they play casino 2) cut wages/services

So media asking what was austerity for really? Wage cuts, public service cuts, benefit cuts, privatisation.

Paul Krugman explained 1)leap in deficit cos of bank loans 2)deficit in the currency-producing UK wasn't a prob 3) austerity wouldn't work

How the media loved it: "Austerity will bring the deficit down!" The deficit was fine and austerity didn't work!

All this sympathy for the 'left behind' and 'just managing' stuff! They were created by govt 'austerity'. Media roasting them for that?Nope.

So,media you must be getting ready to roast Tories for 'austerity' cos it didn't work - apart from making poor people poorer and rich richer

Media got deficit hysteria and spent last 7 years pinning leftish ministers to the wall over it. Now Tories give signal it doesn't matter!

Last nights News explained how 'Labour's' leap in the deficit (2009) was a direct result of loans to banks after the crash.

You know how we had to cut wages and services cos of the deficit? Well, deficit doesn't matter now. (It was a hoax. Had yer!)

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Trump, Farage, Le Pen - what it means

6 mins ·

1. There was a world banking crisis.

2. In the UK, the electorate appeared in part to 'blame Labour' for this. Alternatively, you could say that the Tories, LibDems and the press successfully made it look as if Labour had been incompetent and had thrown 'our' money around.

3. The Tories (and LibDems) decided to 'solve' the problems caused by the banking crisis by cutting working people's and (people on benefits) living standards and cutting back on all forms of public spending.

4.The problems - as measured narrowly by the public deficit - have not been 'solved'. And the unemployment figures have been massaged so that tens of thousands of people have been taken off the unemployment register and listed as 'self-employed' or 'zero contracts'. In fact, many of these people are seriously 'under-employed' but that mass of 'under-employment' is not listed as 'unemployment'. It just disappears.

5. The Tories and the press seem to have in part succeeded in 'blaming' people's low standards of living on migrants, the 'chaos' of the previous Labour government and 'the EU'. This represents three lies. Migrants have not lowered people's living standards, whatever one thinks of the last Labour government it wasn't actually responsible for the banking crisis. and 'the EU' didn't cause that crisis either. The one key act responsible for people's lowered living standards is the government policy of 'austerity'. Just that. 

6. A new scenario has appeared with Brexit, Trump and Le Pen: their line is that it's free trade that is the problem. They have a seemingly radical plan (it talks of 'elites' being got rid of) to throw away free trade agreements between nations within 'blocs' and 'protect' national businesses which they can dress up for the electorate as protecting their jobs. They can ally this with 'keeping out immigrants' as part of that protection. It's all a lie because a) there are some free trade blocs that they will favour; b) protectionism leads to trade wars which result in businesses going to the wall, c) unemployment and serious wage-cutting and public services cutting d) many kinds of racist forms of discrimination in work and civil society are introduced which in the end impact on everyone because working people's rights get eroded and police state methods are introduced.

7. In the present situation, the Tories and LibDems and the press claim - by association - that somehow Labour and/or Corbyn are 'to blame' for the banking crisis, immigration and any old rag-bag of accusations even though some of the time, this radical right approach steals the clothes of left Labour politics talking of the 'people left behind' by the 'elites' and people 'struggling' to get by. 

8. Ultimately, the row between the two wings of right wing politics - protectionism versus free trade is a row between two ideologies neither of which knows how to solve the 'crisis' that world capitalism has got itself into - as expressed at the moment by impossible levels of debt. What they offer are competing ways to deprive the lowest paid and the unpaid of standards of living and public services. 
9. We need Corbyn and McDonnell to carry on making the case for minimum standards of living, defending public services, international agreements between workers on workers' rights, absolute refusal to play the 'national' card (lightly disguised 'race' card in actual fact). What is dangerous about the present situation is that the nationalist and protectionist policies will inevitably lead to serious sabre-rattling between nations and/or 'blocs' which our leaders will call on us to support, claiming that this or that nation is 'bringing us to our knees' or some such. We will have to be alert to the way in which all the personality stuff about people like Trump, Farage and Le Pen obscures what they are doing economically and why whole large chunks of big business is backing them. As ever, it will be about 'solutions' - that is, how can such big business profit in a time of unprecedented world competition, greater demands on raw materials, higher demands than ever world wide for a decent standard of living for workers, (pump-primed by consumerism of course which demands that workers buy goods which don't last long), greater and greater investment needed in 'automation' to make industry less reliant on labour and to keep up with modernisation - and of course with the huge weight of debt affecting regions such that one region tries to sting another as part of doing better in the fight between chunks of big business.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

US election numbers

231,556,622 eligible voters 

25.6% voted Clinton 
25.5% voted Trump 
46.9% didn't vote
Clinton 59,186,057
Trump 59,046,660 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Trump (and other capitalists) only 'give' jobs, they never take them away. (Amazing!)

In the tiny clips of Trump that I hear on radio and TV, one kind interests me a lot: it's the one where he says that he's going to be bringing jobs and prosperity to workers. This goes right to the core of capitalism as an idea, as opposed to how it actually works as an economic system. The idea is that capitalists like Trump give people jobs. Going with this is the idea that if you don't have a job, it's NOT because a capitalist failed to give you one, it's your fault. It's your fault because 1) you didn't do the right things and/or you're not the right kind of person to be ready for the capitalist to give you a job or 2) socialist liberal sleaze balls (like Hilary Clinton) have created a welfare system that prevents capitalists from giving you a job.

In order to sell these ideas, it's crucial that one part of the process of capitalism is hidden or obscured from the people: capitalists are simply people who will do anything and everything necessary to make money for capitalists. It's not a secret. It's what the system is for. It's not a charity. It's not philanthropy. So, totally openly and legally capitalists go about opening businesses where they can get workers on the lowest possible wages, they can get their materials at the lowest possible price, they can hire buildings and plant at the lowest possible price and they can distribute what they sell at the lowest possible rate.

The result of these imperatives is that they not only open businesses, they also move them and close them.

That's people like Trump. In other words, even if we say they 'provide jobs', then by the very same token, and as part of the very same process, they take them away, they lose them, they vanish them. They go. And yet, mysteriously this part of the process - as an act or deed or decision taken by capitalists - is rarely included in the image of the capitalist as the job-giver, even if the media do tell stories of factory closures.

In order to get away with this 'vanishing', it's vital to keep up the myth of the undeserving, feckless, unqualified work-shy poor, side by side with the image of the bloated welfare system sponging off the poor capitalists who would, if only their hands weren't tied, be rushing to the other side of the tracks, opening factories, running industries.

So it is that someone like Trump, or indeed any spokesperson for the system, keeps up the picture that if you trust him (or them) you will get a job.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Some questions about the 'knowledge-based curriculum'.

I was educated in a system that was ‘knowledge-based’ (I began informal schooling in 1949 (nurseries) formal schooling in 1951 and finished secondary school in 1964.) It was also a system that streamed us in 1956-1957, selected 25% of us to go to a ‘knowledge-based’ school, where we were setted from the age of 13 for Maths and French, and at 14/15, about a third of us left. At 16 over half our year left school. In fact, the knowledge-based curriculum was a means by which a lot of this selection was enabled. The tests and exams tested the knowledge.

People who were not included in the selection, starting with the streaming in year 6 (‘4th year juniors’) the setting, the early school leaving, the non-progression to the sixth form – all got much less or hardly any knowledge-based learning. That was the point. They had showed themselves, it was said, at each of these stages to be less able to cope with it.

This was a long time ago.

Can you say why and how the system is different? There are – and by all accounts there will be more – forms of selection, grading and failing, starting from an early age. Since 2000, my children have been setted in their primary schools from the age of 5. SATs at 7 and 11 – and predictions on how well they will or won’t do, have also been means by which the children are given different curricula. This has followed on into their secondary schools. They’ve all been (and are still) at comprehensives. As we know, many kinds of overt and covert selection is going on. The recent report on headteacher-types that came out of Harvard suggested that the ‘surgeon-type’ heads were able to dump (ie drop from the roll) as much as 25% of their cohort before they took their GCSEs. No one has denied this.

So, how does the knowledge-based curriculum fit on to this ‘substrate’ ie into this system? Where is the empowerment to the disadvantaged? Is the knowledge-based curriculum being used in order to engineer the selection? What happens to those not selected as they progress through the system?

Friday, 4 November 2016

Brexit Day

A hopeful Brexiteer speaks:

"On the day we leave the EU

all the foreigners are going to have to leave
and no foreigners are going to come in
and this will mean
we're all going to earn more
and we're going to have more schools
more hospitals,
and more food
we're all going to live in big houses
because all the rich people are
going to give their money away.
They'll say, 'We've got too much money,
you have it.'

on the day we leave the EU.

There's going to be no more crime
and no more hooligans
and when it comes to deciding on things like
whether criminals can vote
it's going to be us that decides
because we've got this really good system
where your vote doesn't count if
the person you vote for doesn't get in.
That's what it's going to be like

on the day we leave the EU."

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Some Tories' mindset following the vote for Brexit...

Have seen a snippet on twitter of a Tory MP's diary or comment saying that the calculation from some of them was that the Leave vote was intended to be 'close' so that Cameron would have a stronger negotiating hand with the EU. It was never 'intended' that Brexit would win.

If this is true, then there are some quite crazy things going on here in some Tories' mindset:

1. Oh look how clever we are, we can game a referendum.
2. We think we know how people will vote.
3. We think that some of us can swap sides, say things we don't believe in, and it won't matter because we are politicians and no one thinks we're cynical, lying bastards.
4. Because we were so certain of what was going to happen, we have no plans and no ideas about what to do, now it's turned out to be Brexit.
5. We've put three incompetents and chancers in charge of this thing and if it goes wrong we can blame them, and come out shining because shit never sticks to us.
6. We don't know what we're doing but it doesn't matter anyway, because capitalism always wins and it's our job to make sure it does.
7. Vote Tory.
8. Blame Corbyn.
9. Bring back grammar schools.
10. The NHS is safe with us. (snigger).

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The new world order rewrites a famous poem

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door." ????

Never! Not now! and not any more!

The Politician Wakes Up

Today I will tell the people
how people are bad for people.
I will them that when they see people
on the move
they should be afraid.
I will tell them to trust me.
I will tell them to trust me
with money.
I know how good it is.
I will tell the people that money
is good.
I will tell them that I know
how to handle people and money.
I will tell them that
people will be stopped at the border.
Money can move how it wants.
I like it to be known that
people with money are good.
I will not talk about money
moving out.
I know that money moving out
is not good.
I know that money moving out
is bad for people.
But I won’t say that.
I will only talk about people moving
and how bad that is.
People will listen to me
and will like me.
I will become powerful.
And people with money
will say I am good.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Polltergeist - the imaginary being that tells pollsters what to say

Polltergeist - the imaginary being that appears in pollsters' minds about one week before an election who 'tells' the pollsters how the outcome of the election is changing every five seconds due to sudden last minute events like how the leader says 'Alright', or eats a bacon sandwich, or what is in some emails, or what the last poll said. 

The Polltergeist appears to the pollsters at night so that early in the morning the pollsters can appear on major news outlets with something they call 'News'. After the real election, the Polltergeist returns to its home in Bullshittia where it dies of laughing until it is resurrected by the news outlets in time for the next election.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Tory Fudge on Grammar Schools

Tory Fudge: sweet, sticky, rots the body politic.
Grammar Schools
1. Tories say that at present there is selection by post code with schools today. Perhaps there is. Why do they never tell us how much? Just how significant is it? Why do they never share with us the ways in which local authorities have tried to mitigate that?
2. Tories do not tell us that many schools are operating covert selection by exclusion. This was revealed from the research about headteachers who get success (Newsnight 'exclusive). If there is abuse of all-ability comprehensive education, and holding people back, that would be a good place to start.
3.. Tories say that grammar schools are great and every area should have them. Why do they not tell us about the other schools in areas where there are grammars? Are they good for those pupils? Do the pupils in those schools do better than pupils in comprehensives? No.
4. The Tories say that Grammar Schools are popular. Are the non-grammar schools in areas (where there are grammars), popular? Do people in those areas say, that they want those schools rather than schools for all? Do they say, "We love the idea that some kids went off to the grammars but ours didn't"?
5. The Tories say that these new Grammars won't be like the old ones because they will have to show that they are educating poor kids. If these new Grammars have to admit poor kids on other grounds other than the entrance exam, they won't be Grammar Schools. The whole point of Grammar Schools was that they had an entrance exam which decided if you could get in or not. Yes, there were some kids who got in on 'headteacher's recommendation' but that was for kids who the headteacher claimed had scored high on tests throughout the year the children were 10/11 years old, (the old fourth year juniors), and were therefore the Grammar School type. It was nothing to do with poverty. So, if these schools are forced to admit poor kids (in some kind of phoney show of 'fairness', they won't be Grammar Schools!

Money has no passports

Money has no passports.
It whizzes across borders
untroubled by journalists or politicians
not noticing it
closing industries,
ending jobs.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Blame the 'other' to control all.

Pause a moment
politician, journalist.
Think of the times you have
hinted or suggested or stated
that the problem yes the problem
is foreigners, migrants, immigrants,
Think of the times you have hinted
or suggested or stated
that hard times were caused by the people you call foreigners, migrants, immigrants, refugees,
as if hard times were not caused by
bankers gambling with trillions,
not caused by governments
deliberately holding down pay
and sacking people or cutting
social services public services
and the health service.
Think of those times that you thought you could shore up your position, garner more support,
get more power by saying these things,
using the excuse you are 'listening to
peoples concerns'
the very concerns you stirred with your headlines and speeches which blamed foreigners for people's hard times, rather than your own part in the shenanigans that let the bankers run off with billions, or the government say that the people had to pay for that with their wages, and how chasing tax avoiders is too, too difficult.
And just watch what you unleash.
See what voices rise to the surface after your hints and suggestions:
people emboldened by what you said,
People emboldened to put forward plans to dismiss, fire, exile, intern, detain, deport .
And in so doing win and use powers to control, contain, restrict, deprive, intern, detain everyone.
That's how it works: blame 'the other' to control all.
Blame the other to control all.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Listen up, students, only study what you know will get you a job.

Listen up students:
only study what you know will get you a job.
we don't know what will get you a job
but only study what you know will get you a job.
We don't know what will get you a job
for two reasons:
1. We can't read the future.
2. We've got rid of many jobs because we don't
think we should make things in this country.

This leaves accountancy, banking, insurance
and people who make it all possible:
company lawyers.

Those are jobs.

Listen up students:
only study what you know will get you a job.
We don't know what will get you a job.
What's more
we don't even know if those jobs I mentioned
just now will be jobs
because maybe the firms that have those jobs
will disappear off this island too.

Listen up students
only study what you know will get you a job.

Pity of War - Poems on the Underground, Nov 2.London Transport Museum

Poems on the Underground and Apollo Chamber Players, conductor David Chernaik, with guest poet Michael Rosen present THE PITY OF WAR at London Transport Museum, Wednesday November 2, 6.30 for 7pm.

Tickets: £15/12 concessions (include wine) from LTM Box Office 020 7565 7298 or email:

We hope you can join us for the premier of WAR POEMS by the composer Evelyn Ficarra, for chamber ensemble and recorded sound, including poetry by Wilfred Owen, Sassoon, Apollinaire and other war poets. Our guest poet is the well-known children’s poet and novelist Michael Rosen. The programme opens with Bach and ends with Strauss’s searing lament for the destruction of war, Metamorphosen, arranged for chamber ensemble.

Financial services: 'Having gambled and lost..."

Having gambled and lost,
our financial services waited to see
which way the vote would go
and, then, as a next step
thought it wise to pack their bags
and head for Frankfurt.

Our leaders who had
made financial services
the core of the nation
even though their reliability
and stickability were always doubtful
then responded by
blaming anyone poor and foreign
for our troubles.

Housing: Rich and Poor (Newsnight)

According to the Tory chair of the all-party committee on housing, trying to house everyone is very difficult, very complex, very, very, very difficult. He knows because he once worked for a charity that tried to house people. And it was very, very, very difficult. We heard all about it on Newsnight. And it was very, very, very difficult.

Earlier in the programme, a Tory ex-pensions minister explained that the consequence of economic policy (the banks apparently, not the government) was that the rich had got richer and the poor poorer. She didn't quite put it like that. She said the policy had favoured those who held assets (the rich) and had been hard on those who had no assets. She described this as a 'side effect'.

Anyway, trying to house everyone, is very, very, very difficult.

(At the height of council house building in the 50s, they were building over 250,000 council houses a year.)
(The glory of the council house sell-offs was alluded to as a policy which had helped home ownership.)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

My thoughts on A-level Archaeology and Art History being banned.

Welcome to Tory Britain:

Not just petty nationalists (Brexit means 'controlling immigration), not just class warriors (bring back grammar schools) but pathetic philistines (banning Archaeology and Art History A-level).

Like studying Archaelogy or Art History (or anything actually) somehow narrows you down to being either an archaeologist or an art historian! Like somehow knowing such things is of no 'use' in life, work, or for you as a person! Like education shouldn't be concerned with such things! Like having teachers who teach these things or students who study them doesn't have a contribution to play to everyone's life in a school, in ways that aren't measurable!

If you have humanistic attitudes to life, education or identity, prepare to shed them now.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Progress 8, ebacc, thoughts from a retiring teacher

I put up some questions on Facebook about Progress 8 and ebacc. A teacher, Susan Singfield, who i don't know, replied as follows:

"'Progress 8' means the students' best 8 grades are averaged out to give them a points score. The 8 have to include ebacc subjects, which are grouped in 'buckets.' There is officially space for creative and technology subjects (depending on how the school organises its timetable) but they are all in the 'last' bucket, I.e. the optional one that you can go to after you've got all your ebacc subjects out of the other buckets. There are a few things standing in the way of those who want to take more than one of these 'extra' subjects:

A) the doubling of points for English and maths (now worth twice as many points as other GCSEs in terms of a school's ranking) means that they are given more and more time on the timetable. Currently 5 hours a week each in a lot of schools. This time obviously has to come from somewhere else. It usually means the kids can take fewer GCSEs, thus limiting their options and making it less likely they can take more than one arts or technology subject.

B) schools need to ensure that kids meet ebacc requirements, so 'encourage' (sometimes this means 'attempt to force') students to take extra ebacc subjects instead of arts or technology, to give them a better chance of getting an ebacc, e.g. taking history as well as geography when only one humanities subject is actually a requirement. 

C) in order to get students on board, ebacc is talked up, even though it's a performance measure for schools and doesn't actually affect kids much so long as they pass a variety of subjects. This means that arts and technology subjects are sometimes belittled by options staff, as students are talked in to taking other subjects that they haven't initially selected. This leads of course to a smaller uptake and a downgraded status.

D) A lot of schools are only allowing students who are unlikely to meet ebacc requirements to pursue more than one arts or technology subject. This makes them look like subjects suitable only for less able candidates, when really they can be valuable to students of all abilities. 

E) the GCSEs themselves have changed so that they are much more theoretical. For example, GCSE drama is now 70% written work and only 30% practical. This makes them much less attractive.

It's a long post. I hope it helps. I'm happy to try to clarify further if necessary. I have just quit after 22 years as an English and drama teacher. I have no appetite for it any more. It's a travesty."

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Reluctant ex-Labour Minister finally agrees to come on and make a comment about Jeremy Corbyn for the 327th time

"I am very unwilling to comment on Jeremy Corbyn
very unwilling indeed
and everyone knows that my loyalty to the Party
is unmatched
my record in government stands for itself
and as I say
I am very, very unwilling to comment on Jeremy Corbyn
but seeing as you ask me
and seeing as you've twisted my arm
to get me on to the radio
and the tv
and reluctant though I am
Yes I can't say how reluctant I am
in fact
I'd have to say that if anyone ever votes for
Jeremy Corbyn
we are heading for something like a nuclear winter:
decades in the dark
decades in the wilderness
decades of disaster
(take your pick which of those 'decades'
you'd like to quote me on)
But as I say
I'm very, very reluctant to make any comment
and very, very reluctant to come on air like this..."

Saturday, 8 October 2016

I've applied for the job of a mainstream commentator to comment on Jeremy Corbyn

I've applied for a job as a mainstream political commentator,
I've written two pieces as examples of what I could write:
they are both about Jeremy Corbyn
on the day before he did the reshuffle.

One of the pieces 'imagines' that Corbyn brings in people from all sides
of the Labour Party
and it condemns him for being weak, dithering, undecided
unable to control the Parliamentary Labour Party
not having the courage of his convictions
and is now the prisoner of some big hitters from the past.

The other 'imagines' that Corbyn has a cabinet made up
largely of people who have been his supporters
and it condemns Corbyn for seizing the levers of power
of surrounding himself with yes men
of creating a mood of fear amongst the more moderate
forces in the party
of behaving like some tin pot South American dictator
or trying to run the Labour Party as if it was his.

How am I doing?

Friday, 7 October 2016

I'm not on the list, I'm not on the list

I'm not on the list
I'm not on the list
All I have to do is tell them
if I know someone who should be on the list.

If I don't tell them

that I know someone who should be on the list,
then I'll be on a list of people
who don't help them make the list.

And people in my family 

will be on a list of people 
in families of people
who don't  help them make the list 
of people who should be on the list.

And people (who people in my family know)
will be on a list of people 

who know people in the family of someone 
who didn't help them make the list of people 
who should be on the list.

So, if you're not on the list
or the list of the people 

who don't help them make the list
or the list of people who know people who
don't help them make the list
you're OK.
It's all OK
It's going to be all right.

Lists, lists of foreigners, lists of foreign born people

Lists of foreigners
Lists of foreign born people
living and working alongside
those not on lists
Lists of children sitting alongside
children not on lists
Lists to be sent in to government
Lists of names, addresses that can
pass from official to official
from department to department
so that what starts out as 'information'
drifts into ways of saying to those
on the lists that they should have less
they should have no guarantees of the
right to work or live alongside or amongst
those not on the lists
And when it comes to a time when
those who want to say that hard times
are not the fault of people in government
and not the fault of those who own and control
the lists are ready and waiting
Look who's on the lists, they'll say
The lists say it all, they'll say

Thursday, 6 October 2016

I was listening to a pogrom on the radio today

I was listening to a pogrom on the radio today
coming from a party conference where they had a lot to say
about people who move, people who move here
and I got it from the pogrom this is something to fear
I should worry about the people next door
I should worry about the woman cleaning the floor
I should worry about the student on the bus
I should worry about anyone moving amongst us
I got it from the pogrom we need more checking
I got it from the pogrom we need more inspecting
'cos any troubles we have, any troubles we know
never come from the people running the show
let's put our hands together and please give thanks
to the people we trust - like those running banks
please give thanks to those who own stocks and shares
they're the ones we can trust to wipe away our cares

I was listening to a pogrom on the radio today
it sounded more like a programme coming our way
a programme, a plan, a strategy, a dream
a way of building up an idea of a nation
based on selection and segregation.
I know going on about it makes me sound like a bore
but, tell me, haven't we heard this sort of thing before?

Security alert: Before you read this...

Before you read this
I have to ask you some questions:

Could you tell me if you are any of the following:
migrant, immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, emigre, clandestine, sans papiers, foreigner,
or a son or daughter of any of the

or if you LOOK like as if you could be any of the 
In which case please
state your name, date of birth,
height, weight, inside leg measurement, blood group, hospital records, skin colour, income, 

preferred sandwich type.

Are you are in receipt of any loans or any imported meat products?

Do you intend to stay in this country longer than two minutes?
Do you intend to study anything that is not maths? Do you have a wife, husband or both?
Please sing the national anthem when I say the word 'Queen'
And answer the following questions:
why is Britain great?
why everywhere else is not so great?
what is the Anglo Saxon word for great?
do you wear red, white and blue underwear?
Please step this way
To see if you have answered all these questions truthfully,

we need to do a rectal examination. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Philip Hammond, Chancer of the Exchequer

Philip Hammond (Chancer of the Exchequer) explained on Today programme that the Tories will invest government money in productive areas of the economy like transport and housing and this will bring growth and jobs.

Reminder: Hammond is a Tory. What he said is classic mainstream Labour economics. I'm not one to say that this either works or not works. It's not socialism. It's the state pump priming bits of the economy. What's odd is that a) it's Tories saying this (having attacked this view for years) and b) that they think putting money into things like transport and housing is of itself suspect because it's rather 'public use' sort of stuff...

Of course, when challlenged on this, Hammond said that it was nothing like Labour.

Then he said that the point about leaving the EU is that it would enable them to 'control immigration'. Nick Robinson pointed out that that might mean that exactly the same number of migrants might come to the UK. Hammond didn't deny this.

I take this to mean that the main purpose of going on about migrants is to shore up political power by constantly talking about migrants as 'the problem' when quite clearly some people in government don't think they are.

ON both counts, Hammond does indeed go down as the Chancer of the Exchequer.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

It's not going to be grammar schools of the 1950s. It's going to be all-out war between schools.

We have to be clear that what the Tories are unleashing in their schools policy is not a state-directed 11+ Grammar-Sec Mod system. It's going to be a local, devil-take-the-hindmost, hand-to-hand fighting between schools. One school in an area will announce that it's going to be selective. Another school will say 'Therefore, so will we!' Then the other schools will all say, 'We have no choice, it's not what we wanted, but we're going to be selective.' There will be local turf wars over what kind of selection, what kind of selection procedures - academic, aptitude or whatever. Schools will stop co-co-operating and start doing whatever it takes to get pupils.

This is really important when we're thinking about strategy on how to fight this. The Tories will say, 'This is not us 'deciding' this. It's the localities. It's 'free' choice.' They will say, 'We choose between Sainsbury's and Tesco's so why shouldn't we choose between schools? That's why we get the 'best' food shops.'

This will neatly wipe out the difference between buying food and being selected for an education. The analogy would be if we tried to choose between Sainsbury's and Tesco but Mr Entrance-guy stood on the door and only let in people he said could come in.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The politician is listening to concerns...

.The politician is listening to concerns
so though he is in favour of equal pay
he thinks that slightly less equal pay would be reasonable.
The politician is listening to concerns
so though he thinks there is no point in spending billions
on nuclear weapons
he thinks that spending a bit less on nuclear weapons
would be reasonable
The politician is listening to concerns
so though he is against selection in secondary schools
he thinks that some selection in selected area
would be reasonable
The politician is listening to concerns
so though he thinks that migration is not the cause of
worsening living standards
he think that he should say that migration is the cause of
worsening living standards
The politician is listening to concerns so though he is against capital punishment he thinks that partial execution would be reasonable
The politician is listening to concerns.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Middle is the new right: but they're telling us the left has got to be middle!

We're going to hear a lot about the 'middle ground' over the next few weeks. Martin Kettle is going on about it in today's Guardian. The 'theory' is that a) there is a middle ground b) it's nice being in the middle ground c) the left has to get the middle ground.

I see the following as a problems to this theory.

1. Simply saying there is a middle ground doesn't mean that it exists.

2. People are not simply one thing or another. Many people have mixtures of views some of which correspond to views that are traditionally 'left', some traditionally 'right'. These apparent differences and contradictions arise out of the fact that life contradicts itself. I may have reactions that stem from my economic situation which are in contradiction to, say, the views I have of royalty or people who 'speak nicely'. 

3. At any given moment, people's views and actions move and applying the metaphor of left, middle and right may not correspond to them. So to take the example of 'immigration'. It would appear from the way the media speak that 'immigration' is now officially a 'problem'. This makes it more serious and more dangerous for all of us than say, the consequences of the bankers' gambling crisis, the austerity measures put in place following that, tax avoidance/evasion and climate change. If a politician doesn't say that immigration is a problem that 'shows' that he or she is 'not listening' or is not in the middle ground. This means that coming up with some plan that will a) prevent people coming to live here, b) prevent Brits from living outside the UK c) probably result in EU migrants having to go back to the EU is now 'middle ground'. 

4. Same goes for Trident renewal. It is apparently 'middle ground' to be in favour of Trident renewal. In fact, there is a right wing argument against Trident renewal - spend the money on tooling up the regular army. Simplistically reducing Trident renewal to 'middle ground' is just demagoguery or what I would call testosterone politics: my weapons are bigger than yours - see me defend UK better than you by building more weapons. 

5. Same goes for any form of nationalisation. So though I lived through the 50s and 60s when trains, gas, electricity, water, education, health, coal, steel were all publicly owned and that's how we lived (presumably in the middle ground of that) it is now left to wish any kind of return to those times.

So we will get many siren calls for the 'middle ground' when in fact (I would argue) a set of right wing ideas has filled the 'middle ground' - or if you prefer, the scheme left, middle and right is like a sheet of transparent plastic, marked out with 'left, middle and right' on it'. Underneath this sheet, reality has moved rightwards. Middle is the new right.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Immigrants: ah but what about the self-employed?

It's been pointed out to me that 'migrants undercut self-employed people's' rates and fees.

i've replied like this:

I agree that self-employment is a different category - I should know, I'm a self-employed person. The problem with it though is that it's largely outside legislation and that's how a lot of the self-employed like it. Everything about it is 'voluntary' our stamps, our fees, our ability to fix those fees, how we are paid...etc. We all know of self-employed people who get paid under the table (it's not just Sam Allardyce). There is no way of addressing the problem of 'undercutting' without bringing self-employment under rigorous legal control. The problem is that many self-employed people would run screaming to the press about that, saying that the only way they can survive is getting paid on a wink and a nod, and don't we 'all' benefit from cheap building work, home help, gardening etc etc? So, the fault again, is not with migrants but about the whole non-legality of the self-employed sector.

Hello Labour politicians. I've scripted an opening line of a speech on immigration for you:

Hello Labour politicians. I've scripted an opening line of a speech for you:

"I've listened to people's concerns about immigration. I think many people falsely blame migrants for living-standards cuts engineered by George Osborne."

After that opener, feel free to use anything from my previous two blogs to back up your argument. 

"Listen to people's concerns about immigration'? You mean concerns you created!

There is level of hypocrisy and two-faced conning going on over migration.

On the one hand, politicians want migrants to come to help them balance the books. They want  young, strong, clever people to come to Britain to work on building sites, run the transport system, health service, work in new industries and work on farms and in the food industry. The taxes migrants pay, pay my state pension. It definitely isn't my NIC that's paid for it. That was spent years ago.

Meanwhile, governments Labour and Tory have failed to welcome and trumpet this replenishment to the economy. They have failed to make provision for the arrivals by building, renewing and expanding the social housing stock - council homes. Why should those brave Caribbeans of the 1950s and 1960s, say, who came to work on the building sites and in transport and health (in particular) have had to put up with the lousy, rack-rented housing of, say, Paddington? What horrible trick was it, to get them to come, to build up the post-war economy and say to them: 'You can go and live in the worst housing in London. Tough on  you!'

If that wasn't bad enough, we then get the same politicians - or their heirs - saying, 'We must listen to people's concerns about immigration'!!! Where do these concerns come from? They come from the fact that you politicians didn't make provision, you didn't trumpet the contribution the migrants have made and go on making. You just thought you'd get that contribution at the cheapest possible price to the Exchequer. You politicians created the conditions in which people 'have concerns'.

And if that wasn't bad enough (!) you have oafs and liars like Boris Johnson who hope that by constantly flirting with racist or near-racist words and phrases, they can conjure up votes and popularity. 'Good old Boris. He tells it how it is.'

Nearly every racist, every anti-migrant, every scapegoater in history has done it in order to win or secure power - a power that ends up in repression for everyone. The issue of migration or the 'racially inferior' or any such, is a means to an end: power. And when power is won, the repression required to move migrants about, to select and segregate people becomes (or even starts out as) a repression of all.

One story from history: the Nazis got to power in part by saying that 'the Jews' were the cause of Germany's problems arising out of the First World War and the uprisings within Germany by Communists and Socialists. 'The Jews' were, they said, behind both. This was one of the ways that they won power - legally through the ballot box.

The first political acts they took were against everyone - not the Jews. They were the Reichstag Decree and the Enabling Acts. The effect of these was the end of political parties, the end of a free press, the beginnings of martial law, the locking up of the leaders of the Communist and Socialist Parties, the locking of trade unionists. Acts against 'the Jews' came very soon after. The first concentration camp - Dachau - was for Communists, Socialists, trade unionists and dissidents.

The racism directed at the Jews was one of the means by which the Nazis won power, one of the means by which they could re-shape democratic politics into a dictatorship and a totalitarian state, and a way in which they could re-shape the economy so that it was free of any organisation which could fight for better wages, better conditions, pensions and holidays. Racism was used as a means by which they could attack everyone bar the army, the small business people, non-Jewish professionals,  and the super-rich.

"Listen to people's concerns about immigration'? You mean concerns you created!

There is level of hypocrisy and two-faced conning going on over migration.

On the one hand, politicians want migrants to come to help them balance the books. They want  young, strong, clever people to come to Britain to work on building sites, run the transport system, health service, work in new industries and work on farms and in the food industry. The taxes migrants pay, pay my state pension. It definitely isn't my NIC that's paid for it. That was spent years ago.

Meanwhile, governments Labour and Tory have failed to welcome and trumpet this replenishment to the economy. They have failed to make provision for the arrivals by building, renewing and expanding the social housing stock - council homes. Why should those brave Caribbeans of the 1950s and 1960s, say, who came to work on the building sites and in transport and health (in particular) have had to put up with the lousy, rack-rented housing of, say, Paddington? What horrible trick was it, to get them to come, to build up the post-war economy and say to them: 'You can go and live in the worst housing in London. Tough on  you!'

If that wasn't bad enough, we then get the same politicians - or their heirs - saying, 'We must listen to people's concerns about immigration'!!! Where do these concerns come from? They come from the fact that you politicians didn't make provision, you didn't trumpet the contribution the migrants have made and go on making. You just thought you'd get that contribution at the cheapest possible price to the Exchequer. You politicians created the conditions in which people 'have concerns'.

And if that wasn't bad enough (!) you have oafs and liars like Boris Johnson who hope that by constantly flirting with racist or near-racist words and phrases, they can conjure up votes and popularity. 'Good old Boris. He tells it how it is.'

Nearly every racist, every anti-migrant, every scapegoater in history has done it in order to win or secure power - a power that ends up in repression for everyone. The issue of migration or the 'racially inferior' or any such, is a means to an end: power. And when power is won, the repression required to move migrants about, to select and segregate people becomes (or even starts out as) a repression of all.

One story from history: the Nazis got to power in part by saying that 'the Jews' were the cause of Germany's problems arising out of the First World War and the uprisings within Germany by Communists and Socialists. 'The Jews' were, they said, behind both. This was one of the ways that they won power - legally through the ballot box.

The first political acts they took were against everyone - not the Jews. They were the Reichstag Decree and the Enabling Acts. The effect of these was the end of political parties, the end of a free press, the beginnings of martial law, the locking up of the leaders of the Communist and Socialist Parties, the locking of trade unionists. Acts against 'the Jews' came very soon after. The first concentration camp - Dachau - was for Communists, Socialists, trade unionists and dissidents.

The racism directed at the Jews was one of the means by which the Nazis won power, one of the means by which they could re-shape democratic politics into a dictatorship and a totalitarian state, and a way in which they could re-shape the economy so that it was free of any organisation which could fight for better wages, better conditions, pensions and holidays. Racism was used as a means by which they could attack everyone bar the army, the small business people, non-Jewish professionals,  and the super-rich.

Jeremy Corbyn: Talking of migrants...

Jeremy Corbyn, please say loud and clear, over and over again (because I know that this is what you think and believe):

1. Migrants didn't impose the austerity wage freeze, cuts to the NHS, education budgets, closures of libraries. That was Osborne.

2. If migrants are on low wages, that's because employers are breaking the minimum wage law. Get the employers.

3. Migrants didn't bring in council house sell-offs, migrants weren't the ones who stopped building new council houses.

4. Migrants didn't gamble with trillions, lose it down the black hole of lousy loans, nor get us to bale out the gamblers.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The media political commentator reflects on a great year attacking Corbyn

The media political commentator has a great year and jots down his record for what he's said and done this year:

"1. Attack Corbyn day and night.
2. Support leadership challenge.
3. Support Owen Smith.
4. Carry on attacking Corbyn
5. Corbyn wins.
6. Say that Smith was never going to win anyway.
7. QED - as a commentator I'm really credible and wise."

Friday, 23 September 2016

Evidence on last year's SATs for whoever wants it

Below is the evidence I sent into the National Association for the Teaching of English when they called for comments on last year's SATs. I notice that the Select Committee on Education is now calling for evidence too.

I offer my testimony below to anyone who wants to use it in any way they like.

(One area I have missed out in the testimony below, is the fact that children who used a comma or semi-colon in the right place and broadly of the right shape, could receive no mark, if the comma was the wrong angle, the semi-colon was too big. I have recorded this in detail in an earlier blog. The effect of these right punctuation but supposedly wrongly positioned or angled punctuation was that borderline passes became fails. This could have the effect of a school being not 'outstanding' or not 'satisfactory' and therefore suitable for forced conversion.

Let us picture the idiocy of that: a school has to be turned into an academy (which will not necessarily make it better) because a child correctly put a comma where it should be but drew it 'wrongly' angled. This is education 2016!)

Below is the evidence I gave to NATE:

I observed at close quarters the way the tests worked as one of our children is 11 and was doing the tests.

1. The booklets that schools use to train the children to do SATs have mistakes in. Some of these arise out of the fact that the terminology used in the GPS test keeps changing and the people who produce the booklets or the schools can't keep up with the speed of change. It is pointless for the authorities to say that they have produced a glossary to clarify things when schools are squeezed for budgets and need the booklets quickly. 

The booklets contain mistakes in how questions are worded. So, for example, I noticed that one of the questions had two possible answers. Close observation of previous years' tests showed that this was the case in the tests themselves. 

2. One of the systems the tests use is multiple choice. The people designing the tests must be aware that this poses the so-called 'plausibility of the distractor' problem. This means that one multiple choice question does not necessarily have the same weight as another. One multiple choice question can have very plausible distractors ie three alternatives all of which could be true, while another mcq could have implausible alternatives. The marking of an exam can't distinguish between these. This applies to the GPS tests and makes them less valid.

3. There are non-grammatical elements in the GPS test, most notably questions about antonyms and synonyms. These have no grammatical content and are simply in the test for historical reasons. 

4. The antonym question this year was for the word 'fierce'. This emphasised the incorrect and pointless use of words ripped from context. There is no antonym for 'fierce' when it is taken from context as exemplified by such variant usages as e.g. a fierce argument, a fierce storm, a fierce speech and - more recently a fierce singer like BeyoncĂ©. 

5. The terminology for types of sentences is one example of how GPS terminology is problematical. So, this kind of grammar classifies sentences into four types. (This in itself is highly questionable). One of these types is called by GPS a 'command'. However, behind this definition is the need for this sentence to include an imperative form of the verb. In the questions on this, the child has to choose which of four is a 'command'. However, at least one of the sentences in last year's test included the modal 'must' which in common usage is of course a 'command'. In other words, 10 and 11 year olds are asked here to reject their common sense of the word 'command' - which is, after all, knowledge about language - in order to select one specific usage as a means of spotting the imperative.

6. Several of the terms that are compulsory for GPS are highly specific terms and it is not clear why they have been included e.g. 'fronted adverbial', 'determiner'. The term 'fronted adverbial' is clearly a 'fuzzy' term as it seems to apply to phrases that are essentially 'adjectival'. It also complicates matters concerning differences between single words (ie adverbs), phrases (ie collections of words that have no verb) and clauses (ie collections of words that include some verb form or another not necessarily finite). 'Determiners' has created a new layer of classification over and above 'articles' which now includes such words as 'every' and 'each' but no one can decide if it includes numbers. In other words a category has been introduced which has no clear boundaries and it is by no means clear how it is useful.

7. Some of the punctuation that is considered right or wrong is clearly not right or wrong. The Oxford or 'serial' comma is outlawed when it is in fact common and correct usage. This was a question on this year's paper. The commas re distinguishing between defining or non-defining relative clauses have become redundant in many accepted places. 

8. The requirement that 'exclamations' must begin with 'How' or 'what' and include a finite verb is clearly an absurd use of the word 'exclamation'. 

9. The GPS test continues to use language ripped out of context, artiificially constructed sentences, which creates a curriculum spent looking at language that children do not read, write, hear or speak. This is a major problem. Language belongs to all of us, not to the people who devise such sentences and such usages. The sub-text to this seems to be concerned in prescribing such sentences as 'ideal'. However, written language is much more diverse than this, as expressed through poetry, adverts, brochures, notices, bulletins, emails, texting, song lyrics and much more besides. If the purpose of these tests is to reveal the grammar of written English, it fails on that count alone as it does not reveal the variation in grammar of the varieties of written English. There are text books on this. I referred to them in my talk at NATE two years ago. 

10. All language is in context. There is always a context for all language. The context for the language of the GPS is the fact that it was not introduced because of the intrinsic properties of grammar, or grammar-teaching. It was introduced for the sole reason that a tests in grammar supposedly produces right or wrong answers. This is stated quite clearly in the Bew Report (2011) which is the sole justification for introducing this test. This point was an add-on to the Bew Report after the April interim report and was added on without a single academic reference piece of evidence. The test was solely designed to test teachers not children as it came under a brief to report on 'accountability'. The idea is that teachers' are tested on their ability (or not) to teach GPS. This is the true context for this particular use of language. In other words, the grammar is twisted into absolute alternatives in order to fit the requirement to be right or wrong. This is precisely where Nick Gibb fell down in the famous Martha Kearney interview. To all intents and purposes he wasn't wrong, it was the test that was wrong. Gibb 'wobbled' over whether 'after' was a preposition of subordinate conjunction when this is a matter of dispute between linguists themselves, as evidenced by Geoff Pullum's comments on the matter. There is no reason other than the test's requirement to produce right/wrong answers for this to be an absolute matter of being a subordinate conjunction or preposition. 

11. There is a further problem concerning the sole use of this kind of grammar as a way of describing language. Essentially, it's a system to describe language that is derived from meaning and structure. However, at least as important a determinant is what might be called 'social function' or 'use in context'.  The reason why the terminology changes or varies is because ultimately this kind of grammar is self-referential. It can only keep referring to itself in out of context situations. This is why ultimately there is no resolution to the subordinate conjunction OR preposition argument. Again, when terms like 'command' or 'exclamation' are used, these are words that refer to social function and yet the 'grammar' requires specific grammatical structures for these terms to be valid. This is a confusion and trivialisation of language use. There is a serious and useful discussion to be had with children about 'ways of commanding' or 'ways of exclaiming' and examining the differences in tone and meaning in these. Reducing it to tick-boxing particular forms of the verb or sentence is virtually useless in terms of language-use. 

12. Talking of language-use, the most pernicious aspect of all this is the effect it is having on children's writing. In the exemplification required for e.g. 'working at the required level' many of these GPS features have to be obeyed. The consequence for all this is that we are arriving at 'writing by numbers' - teachers teaching writing according to the number of these grammatical features being included. Meaning, purpose and function have become sidelined. This is writing in order to fit an idealised picture of correctness rather than concentrating on how to interest, excite, persuade and convince. The core basis of what in fact was the classical education (!) ie 'rhetoric' has been dropped. Ironically, in the rush for 'core knowledge' (in this case, 'grammar') another aspect of traditional core knowledge (rhetoric) has been dropped. 

13. Historically speaking, it is quite clear that other ways of examining language have been trialled and these tests represent a rejection of these. So in the early 1970s, the Schools Council, representing hundreds, if not thousands of teachers, teacher-researchers and academics, working with M.A.K. Halliday, produced 'Language in Use' an extensive programme of 110 units involving school students of all ages investigating language in use. A teacher's booklet produced by Peter Doughty accompanied the units. This was and still is a model for how such work can be produced and then modified through practice. It is important to remember that GPS came from a completely different process: it was imposed through one stroke of the pen - a comment made in the Bew Report of 2011 and 'accepted' by Michael Gove. There is no evidence of teacher input and no evidence of knowledge of pedagogy involved. The knowledge of language that is embodied in the test is of one specific kind only. There is no evidence offered as to whether most children of this age really understand the terms being used, no evidence that it helps children write for a purpose. 

14. We urgently need to open up the discussion again as to what kinds of 'knowledge about language' are age-appropriate and useful in primary schools. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Momentum for children is the only political event for children around? Oh please!

I've just posted this on the thread following Suzanne Moore's article about Momentum organising creches and events for children.

In the 1950s we sang Stephen Foster songs - many of which were actual or derived from 'N-word' minstrel shows and traditions see 'O Susanna...' which gave us the image of the idiot African American, along with 'Darkies [sic] Sunday School' and others.

One of my favourite books was called 'The Meeting Pool' and it was only when I picked up a book in Singapore on images of South East Asia in children's books, that I discovered that the representation of Chinese people in the book were entirely along the lines of all Chinese people being deceitful, sly and dirty. Coral Island is almost unreadable, Thackeray's poem about 'the Chinaman' (which I was supposed to learn off by heart) is absurdly nasty. One of my favourite poets, Edward Lear, relies a great deal on the idea that foreign words and names are of themselves necessarily absurd, odd, or just intrinsically funny. Spike Milligan - someone else I adored - assumed that all people in India or Pakistan were absurd and/or funny just because of the way they talked and that he was entitled to take the mick because he was born in India. I won't even start on the representation of disabled people, Jews and of course the whole of womankind largely restricted to domestic roles, or waiting for lovers to turn up.

When such things were raised in the early 1970s, we were inundated with a torrent of mockery and abuse about such things being 'politically correct' but truth to tell, between 1700 until quite recently, it's clear that children's books "contributed to" an 'ordering' of society into hierarchies in relation to men and women, upper class, middle class, working class and vagrants, white and black, British versus the rest, and so on. Of course, not all people accepted that ordering and plenty of us had parents who would point out such things even as we read them...or put alternatives in front of us.

Books we regard as 'classics' like 'Children of the New Forest' - in its full version is a highly political examination of the two main strands of Protestantism in and following the Civil War and how they might or should unite rather than fight each other but of course also has to deal with the legitimacy or otherwise of the monarchy. Is there any important reason why you get the blind spot from a blind, lame person and the great existential threat to Peter Pan comes from someone who's got a 'hook'? Long edited out is the Blyton version of the doll story where the black doll desperately wants to be white. Dahl was wise enough to modify the Oompah Loompahs from their original form as 'pygmies', prior to 1939, there was hardly a children's book which simply showed working class people living their lives without being beset with drunkeness, thieving or violence. A look at the boys' magazines 1880-1920 is an unrelenting tale of British might and right, over 'fuzzy-wuzzies'.

Back in the classroom in the 1950s, it was the height of the Churchill cult, my local authority primary school had a 'Churchill House' along with Fleming, Bannister and one other, as if Churchill was a non-political figure!

If you want to know how 'political' children's TV is, then remember when 'Playschool' (which I worked on in 1971) had black presenters like Floella Benjamin, they were inundated with foul racist abuse. The initiative to have Flo was itself political - one that I would agree with - and people who opposed it saw it that way too and hated us for it. Of course it was a conscious move to say, 'this is who we are', even as Enoch Powell and others were saying 'hell will break out because this is who we are'.

None of the above is an argument for censorship or banning. I'm not going there in this post. It is simply to say that the argument that Momentum for children is somehow some uniquely political initiative is a nonsense.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

More news from the land of purges in the Labour Party

This is NOT my story. It's by someone who put this post up on Facebook.

"So I've been given the boot from the Labour Party for 'inappropriate comments' on social media. People employed by Labour have been through my Facebook and Twitter and cite one tweet over 18 months ago (before I was a member) where I call Tristram Hunt a "f**king tw*t" during the Andrew Marr show. The tweet received no likes or retweets so I am essentially being expelled for shouting at the TV.
Meanwhile Labour MPs are allowed to openly attack Corbyn and us supporters calling us all sorts - bullies (Angela Eagle), anti-Semites and Nazi apologists (John Mann), in need of heart transplants (Blair) and Jess Phillips wants to stab Jeremy Corbyn in the front. I could go on.

On Thursday social media was full of Labour MPs cheering on Tory MP Ann Soubry calling John McDonnell 'a nasty piece of work'.
Then there's Owen Smith ally and former Blair spin doctor, John McTernan who, after being asked to tidy his desk at work, threatened a junior member of staff saying "C*nt, you will be c*nted" in a reply-all email to the office.

Tristram Hunt, is amongst other things, the man who told Oxbridge students that 'the top 1 per cent' must take back the leadership of Labour.
He and his like have spent the last year not politically engaging but plotting, scheming and using every lever they still have a hand on in the party and the media to character assassinate Corbyn and his supporters. They have hired PR companies to bad mouth him, they have banned branch meeting of the membership who overwhelmingly support him.

Yet in a hangover haze I say, in simple accessible language, what millions think to no one on social media and I get kicked out.

I probably shouldn't have chosen the expletives I did to describe Tristram Hunt, but I don't see them purging the right for the same thing.