Thursday, 3 December 2015

Another Bloody War

Our rulers last night voted to kill more innocent people in the name of fighting 'terrorists'. Corbyn's interventions were reasoned and correct, but the vote was never about what is right or what is reasonable. Today, two things come to mind:

How badly the British ruling class were beaten last time around.

And this.

Admittedly this time the ruling class are attacking people who live a long way away, not Manchester, but the same sense of untrammelled power from an unaccountable group who have decided that they embody God and King and Law pervades this decision. I have seen some praise for Hilary Benn's speech. I am reminded of the line about Fraud's millstone tears and the brains of little children.

I am also reminded that whatever the Tories and their milquetoast PLP supporters might say, they have not convinced the public that this lunacy is in fact sound policy.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sometimes the headline is enough

From the Graun's homepage at the moment. Brilliant.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Last post on Gove's Bible nonsense (probably)

Education has continued to become a more horrible place to work since I last blogged. The proposed changes to Ofsted mean that everyone has to desperately revise the way lessons work in order that we can tick the new boxes that mean you know how to do your job. This is even more tedioius and time consuming than you can imagine.

On top of that, the failure of all the teaching unions to keep a coherent strike strategy to stop the pension tax thus far means we're stuck with being screwed even more for at least a while.

And now Gove's managed to find some rich Tory fucks to pay for his narcissistic Bible project. I think I'll see if the English department want ours, since it's fuck all use in RE - as I've mentioned before.

Now Dawkins has chipped in with something fatuous.

I am a little shocked at the implication that not every school library already possesses a copy. Can that be true? What do they have, then? Harry Potter? Vampires? Or do they prefer one of those modern translations in which "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, all is vanity" is lyrically rendered as "Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher. Everything is pointless"? That is Ecclesiastes, 1:2, as you'll find it in the Common English Bible. And you can't get much more common than that, although admittedly the God's Word translation provides stiff competition with "absolutely pointless" and the Good News Bible challenges strongly with "useless, useless".

Where to start? Labour decided that not all schools need a library any more and the Tories apparently agree. So the first sentence should probably read 'I am a little shocked that not all schools have a library,' which is a sentence I could agree with wholeheartedly. As it stands, it's little more than petulent whingeing. Our school library doesn't have a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, which is surely a crime against literature.

Then the further whingeing - 'they don't have a 17th century version of a book that is available in many more accessible versions but which I have a nostalgic attachment to because it reminds me of the old days at public school, but I BET they've got some of those books kids actually enjoy like that Harry Twilight fellow, eh?'

I suppose what's getting to me is the way that this whole issue seems to have become a faux-battleground where middle-England can indulge its nostalgia for some mythical Jennings/Mallory Towers-era of education (a world without If... and with no memory of Kes), and engage in yet another defence of white middle-class privilege against the evil hordes of philistines with their 'pointless'es and their 'useless'es on their Klout Twitterbooks - why, public school-educated white men are the *real* oppressed class!

And this is the battle they pick? Honestly, what do we all actually, in the sense of 'how does this help education' rather than 'how does it make Mail readers feel', gain from Gove's vanity project, other than the chance to bury a book (with his name printed in gold on the spine, no less) at the back of the stockroom?

It's not relevant to Key Stage 3 English or RE. It's not part of any of the major GCSE RE specs and is highly unlikely to form part of the English or Eng Lit GCSE specs either, I suspect. It's not useful for A Level New Testament study either, for the twin reasons of unreliability and inaccessibility. What a pointless, pointless act to become a national priority that requires the intervention of the Secretary of State and multiple comment pieces in newspapers.

So that's it. The only national story relating to RE in my memory and it's a bunch of fatuous reactionary dicks belly-aching about whether people should be made to read more 'thees' and 'thous' than they would be expected to if they aren't from Staffordshire. And RE is NOT ABOUT THAT.

Trust me, I'm a Marxist RE teacher.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Soundtrack to a Strike

Very much a work in progress this. I was trying to think of stuff that should be on an OST for the day. This is what I ended up with:

The Workers - Let's Work Together
The Specials - Ghost Town (h/t Perrin124)
Rage Against the Machine - Maggie's Farm
Captain Ska - Liar Liar
Billy Bragg - There is Power in a Union
Manic Street Preachers - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will be Next
Manic Street Preachers - Natwestbarclaysmidlandslloyds
The Enemy Within - Strike (cheers again to Perrin)
Luke Haines - Never Work
Radiohead - Electioneering
NxtGen - The Andrew Lansley Rap
Marxism 2008 Closing Rally - The Internationale

Any further suggestions welcome - we'll use it on the next one. Solidarity, comrades.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

All in all, pretty good

Right then. First things first. The government's lines on this have simply got to look ridiculous to most people by now. If it doesn't, I may have to despair of my sunny, optimistic view of human nature. On the upside, the last poll I saw showed a majority of support for our action.

From the inside, it was good. I was on two picket lines today and no one crossed at either of them. The demo in the city centre was pretty good:

The general turnout seems to have been pretty good - 7,000 in Leicester, 20,000 in Bristol and Liverpool, for example and the strike action seems to have been fairly solid nationally.

From my personal experience there was a good level of general support from the public, too. Unfortunately no one particularly amusing was in opposition (unless you count the homeless bloke who shouted 'Get back to work you lazy bastards' at us. Which I don't, on account of its being genuinely baffling.)

The biggest problem was that there were a couple of thousand people and the only space that was available for speeches was in a marquee big enough to hold a couple of hundred. That, and the ice rink that was filling most of the space, leaving us wedged up against the Guild Hall. These are, as I'm sure you'll agree, pretty minor complaints.

Of course the big thing now is: what next. Personally, I think we should be planning for more action in January. What say you, interwebs?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Oh, for Gods' Sake

There are many reasons not to like Michael Gove. But aside from his elitism, parochialism, incompetence, viciousness, fundamental opposition to the concept of public service, his general meanness of spirit and possession of less charm than Arnold J Rimmer, his stupidity is what is currently annoying me.

This isn't actually related to the strikes - that's a whole other seething cauldron of outrage. This is his move to put a copy of the KJV in every school in the land - with a foreword of his own.

OK, it's only 2 lines, so it's not worth getting too worked up about. But he's not a Biblical scholar. He can't have anything to add to the text other than his own opinion on it - and who the fuck cares what he thinks about the Bible? It's only a few months since he tried to remove the statutory requirement to teach RE from the national curriculum, and has completely opposed including RE in the EBacc. And judging from his behaviour, he clearly isn't much of a Christian either, so sending round copies of his no doubt awe-inspiring thoughts on the KJV just smacks of arrogance.

What really annoys me about this is not the redundancy of spending money at a time when he's cutting everything else on a book that all schools have plenty of anyway (as the National Secular Society have pointed out).

There are 2 major annoyances that outrank this:

  1. He doesn't seem to be in a rush to send out copies of other major religious texts. The excuse for this surfeit of self-promotion is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the first simultaneous English-Arabic translation of the Qur'an. I don't remember a free copy turning up at school.

  2. The KJV is not a good translation. Most of the NT is based on a single, late, Greek edition and from an educational point of view the NRSV is much better, being a modern English edition based on decades of study by scholars piecing together a representative text based on the widest possible selection of the most accurate available texts. Personally, I wouldn't use the KJV in teaching.

In short, another day, another reason plethora of reasons to dislike the secretary of state for education.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The inevitable pre-strike post.

Phew, we're nearly there. The Tories have obligingly refused to 'negotiate' any further so not even Barber has an excuse to cave in now. We're nearly there.

*A scuffling is heard from the back of the crowd. A scruffy urchin forces his way through the press of bodies. Removing his woebegone cap in an automatic gesture of genuflection, the wide-eyed, soot-besmirched imp stares in wonderment.*

"What's that, Tide? You wanted the Tories to break off negotiations? Why you left-wing communist with your infantile disorder!"

"Young fool", saith I, loftily, "that is not so. For you see, there were no negotiations to break off!"

"Why sir, you are a veritable verbal prestidigitator and no mistake! But how so? For surely I heard Mr Cameron this very morn insist that they would make no more concessions. Logically there must have been some in the first place for there to be any more even in potentia?"

Ahem. I'm dropping this frankly ludicrous pseudo-literary device now.

No. There were no negotiations. There was a bit of clumsy divide-and-rule, trying to hive off the very lowest paid and those closest to retirement from the rest, but it was so appallingly done that no one fell for it.*

Even more brilliantly, the government point-blank refused to carry out the triannual review. This is the 3-yearly review to check if the pension fund is OK. The fact that they wouldn't do this review is pretty good evidence that they knew there wasn't a problem. For corroboration you could look at these two interesting facts:
  1. The teachers' fund has had £46 billion more paid into it since 1923 than has been taken out.
  2. Teachers' pensions are unfunded. The money just disappears into the Treasury.
They should really just admit that the extra money would in fact go not on our pensions anyway, but on deficit reduction. Because we don't need to put any money into the pension scheme. So while Cameron boasted yesterday about cutting corporation tax and a maximum wage for the wealthy has been ruled out, the poorest paid in society (civil service pensions average at around £5,500 annually) are to be taxed to reduce the deficit. Say it again: "WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER."

I'm not going to be dumb enough to try to predict the future in a situation like this, but I think it's clear that the best chance of breaking this deceitful, manipulative, plutocratic shower of piss that calls itself the coalition has got to be a big day next week. And where possible it has to be whispered: All out and stay out.

Because this isn't about protest. It is about winning.

*Here's how it would work. Those earning under £15k would not face an increase in contributions. Hurrah! You might think. But this would include pro-rata posts. So you could work 2 days a week and still face a doubling of your contributions. And guess what? Lots of low-paid workers are part-time! Clever.

At the other end of the scale, the over-50s were told they wouldn't have to face an increase in retirement age. But they'd still have to double their contributions and they'd still have had the RPI measure switched to CPI. So they'd still lose.

*Attenborough whisper* The mistake I think the ConDems have made is in assuming that we're as stupid as they are.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Post of Surreal Frivolity, or, Why Kevin Ovenden Has the Head of a Giant Fly

This has nothing to do with anything really, but it's been hanging around the periphery of my mind's eye (not sure where that would be - in the corner next to the Locked Trunk of Teenage Embarrassment?) and tonight seems to be the time to expunge it.

Here it is: I think Kevin Ovenden has the head of a giant fly.

Wait, come back! Let me explain.

I've never met Kevin Ovenden. From what I've seen of his comments on Lenin's Tomb he seems like a sane and interesting commentator. This is in no way a comment on Kevin Ovenden.

On Lenin's Tomb he posts like this:

Perhaps some of you already see the problem. For the rest, watch MY MAGNIFICENT BRAIN.

In my head, Kevin's ID becomes:

See where I'm going with this?


See, I'm not mad! NOT MAD, I TELL YOU!


Sorry, Kevin. I'm not entirely sure why I had to share this. Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, I'm off to bed. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, I'll probably kill this entry in the morning.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Louise Mensch Beverage Scale of Permitted Capitalist Criticism

Following Louise Mensch's remarkable revelation of a new form of critique of political economy on Friday

I have reflected on this remarkable insight. If she's right, then whilst the liberal left are 'swooning at her brio' we're missing valuable research time. As Marxists we are bound by our own credo to rigorous materialist analysis, and beverage consumption is such an obviously materialist habit that it deserves close attention. Let's elaborate this remarkable theory, I thought to myself in my secret underground Marxist lab at Proletarian Towers. And to that end, I have devised the 'Louise Mensch Beverage Scale of Permitted Capitalist Criticism' heretoforeafter referred to as the Mensch Scale.

The Mensch scale is a comparison scale between 0 and 4, where a level 4 subject is permitted full criticism of capitalism up to and including promoting anarcho-syndicalism as an alternative means of the self-reproduction of society, and level 0 represents someone whose consumption of beverages enmeshed in the capitalist system of production should just keep their fucking mouths shut, the ingrate serf scum.

Like the Beaufort Scale, we must have examples so that if we are in conversation with someone we know exactly the point at which any criticisms of the capitalist system or any of its constituent parts goes beyond the permitted maximum. As soon as this point is reached, the correct response is to raise your hand firmly and instruct the vagabond to halt their discourse. 'Cease your mimsy prattle, fool,' instruct the presumptuous ignoramus, 'for the way in which liquids that trickle through your digestive tract AS YOU PRESUME TO PEDDLE YOUR CRITICAL MIND-TURNIPS THIS DAY were produced preclude your being given an attentive ear.'


As an alternative, you may use the classic 'T' symbol beloved of basketball sportspersons to indicate a 'time out'. In our case of course, the 'T' will stand for actual tea.

Enough elucidation - I realise that you must be gagging to classify yourself, family and friends!

Level 4
Permitted criticism of capitalism = Total. Academies, Goldman-Sachs, concentration of capital, etc.
To achieve level 4, you must drink untreated mineral water collected yourself from a babbling mountain brook near your hermitage. Of course, you must not boil the water before drinking it, unless you mine the metal to create a kettle yourself. Purchasing so much as a camping kettle with one of those little whistle cap thingies on it basically takes you right back to the level of the Koch brothers.

Famous Level 4s: none.

Level 3
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = TNCs, sweatshop labour and the military-industrial complex.
To achieve level 3, you are allowed to drink water from the tap, despite its being produced by privatised water companies. You *must not* add Robinsons' Barley Water to it to make a weak lemon drink, however.
Famous Level 3s: basically, this is John Harvey Kellogg.

Level 2
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = privatised train networks, quality of the gifts in Kinder Surprise.
To achieve level 2, you may drink tap water and fairtrade tea and coffee. On no account must you purchase this coffee from some kind of franchise or drink Ribena. THIS WILL RENDER YOUR UNHAPPINESS WITH TRAIN JOURNEYS NULL AND VOID.
Famous Level 2s: Lucy Mangan, probably.

Level 1
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = the speed of service in Nando's. AND NOTHING ELSE.
Level 1s will drink Fentiman's lemonade at National Trust gift shops, then think NOTHING of washing it down with R Whites. Why don't these people just FUCK OFF AND DIE? They probably drink Ty-Phoo, the despicable BASTARDS.
Famous Level 1s: YOU. If you're LUCKY.

Level 0
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = What on earth makes you think you can criticise capitalism, you insignificant, smelly turd? IT PROVIDES YOUR BEVERAGES.
Level 0s would drink Coca-Cola at a Showcase Cinema, EVEN IF SOMEONE WAS WATCHING.
Famous Level 0s: given the size of the sample, it was hard to narrow it down, but here's two:

Luis 'Chile' Eduardo, Columbian Sinaltrainal union official working with employees of Coca-Cola bottlers, who routinely receives messages like this:

The Paramilitaries of Magdalenena Medio, The Black Eagles, call on the terrorist Coca-Cola trade unionists to stop bad mouthing the Coca-Cola Corporation given that they have caused enough damage already. If there is no response we declare them military targets of the Black Eagles, and they will be dealt with as they prefer: death, torture, cut into pieces, coup de grace. No more protests![1]

Erol Turedi, one of the Coca-Cola Icecek (Coca-Cola Turkish subsidiary) workers sacked for asking for a wage increase and organising union representation in their workplace. At a demonstration where 200 sacked workers walked into the Dudullu plant,

'1,000 police [were] drafted in to cope with the 200 protestors. The Cevik Kuvvet - 'robo cops' in full body armour - mass outside and are deployed into the building in groups. They fill the corridors. They occupy the balcony. They take the floor above the workers. Hundreds of police appear in the atrium, with riot shields and batons at the ready. The police charge nets six arrests and forces the protestors into a corner, the women and children huddled at the back by the walls. The men stand in front of them. They have linked arms together in an effort to protect themselves and their families, but when the assault finally comes their efforts are proved to be instinctive rather than practical. In front of them are 1,000 police and behind them the children have started to cry.

Finally Coca-Cola's managers agree to talk to the union. So while the police corner the families downstairs [union] President K and the union lawyer go upstairs for talks. It is late afternoon when they gather in a meeting room, which is small. Around a table, which is large. Alongside the managers, which is essential. And next to the police ... which is baffling.

... If events were going badly upstairs, events downstairs took an unexpected turn for the worse. On the frontline Erol looked out at the police - 'they just pulled down the gas masks and that was when we knew.' ... Their eyes widen as they tell of stumbling into each other in panic and blindness, gasping for breath. Thye curse the polie as children were separated from their parents and the men beaten with riot sticks. And they hold out their hands when they talk of being bundled into the police wagons outside, of reaching up to the small windows to gasp for fresh air - only to be sprayed in the face by the police.[1]

Shut up! You drank Coke! What do you think you're doing, Level 0s?
[1] Mark Thomas, Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola, 2008

Friday, 2 September 2011

Just so we're clear...

This is a BAD idea:
Ministers are scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to "restore adult authority" in the wake of the riots in England.
Here are some reasons why neither I nor any teacher I know thinks this is good:
  1. Pupils should not be afraid of their teachers, as this is a barrier to their learning. If you are afraid of your teacher, you are less inclined to view your education as an opportunity, and more likely to view yourself in opposition to it.
  2. There are plenty of alternatives to force in dealing with classroom behaviour issues. If you do need to use force, you have already lost your authority.
  3. The link with the riots is specious. It is not a coincidence that the riots happened in the most deprived areas of London. The underlying cause is inequality, not a lack of caning.
  4. I didn't get into this job to beat children. However annoying it is when a lesson doesn't go to plan, grabbing hold of a kid is not a solution to the problem.
  5. This whole thing feeds into the right-wing myth that the primary cause of bad behaviour is a lack of discipline. This is part of the whole hang 'em, flog 'em, dose of national service bollocks. As Lenin recently noted: Greece has national service. It is not 'discipline' that is the problem. Discipline is an issue for the army and a prison, not a free society. Yes, we need a certain level of co-operation to do our jobs, and yes there needs to be an understanding that there are consequences for poor behaviour, but this has to be based on the understanding that co-operation and good behaviour are beneficial to the individual students and their peers, not 'cos I'll give you a clip round the ear if you don't. Which can be complicated and tedious, but has the benefit of not being neolithic.
As you were.