Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Have just come to the conclusion that I must do some proper trawling through some more blogs, as have taken to only reading about 5 or 6 others, at least 2 of which have slowish traffic.

Hmm. What could this mean? Either that there are very, very few people out there whose views I can routinely tolerate, and I just don't have the energy to be annoyed by anything expressing vastly different views, or that I am remarkably unadventurous, or that there are those tiddly little inconveniences of time constraint problems, or that I am actually more than satisfied with these blogs.

Actually I think it is a combination of all these things. But anyway, in the spirit of getting myself all riled up and not doing the washing up, here goes.

20 mins later...Aw shucks: this is all going on hold since dd's 13 year old best mate and effective baby sitter, has just come round and announced she is going on unforeseen fortnight's holiday to Spain. That's it then and how dare she!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Wrong Reasons, Right Result

Thank goodness for that. The French say "Non" to the European Constitution.

And forget the Beeb coverage, which is so characteristically bad that one hardly need point this out. All one needs to know about this at: http://www.settingtheworldtorights.com/

Empty Nest

I do realise that this may not appear tremendously convincing, but I swear to goodness that I've just experienced some extremely shocking pangs of empty nest syndrome. It may not appear tremendously convincing due to the fact that I wasn't actually home alone insofar as Ds and his friend were upstairs, a pal of Dh had just turned up and was watching TV in the other room, and Dh was in the garden trying to get back into the house. But it was the contrast, I think. All day the house has been bustling and then it wasn't.

So there I was, experiencing these awful twinges and coming to the considered conclusion that I absolutely must get pregnant again and where on earth had Dh got to?

As it turns out, I had only actually locked the main door. Most of the other doors were still open, so there was really no need to force the kitchen window.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Theories from the Other Side

All in all, had a surprisingly good-natured conversation with a fully operational teacher yesterday. Amongst other things, he proposed a radically different way of assessing learning. The HEers in the group bit their tongues and conceded the point that assessing such a thing should be deemed a) necessary, b) desirable, c) possible, because we liked him and we wanted to hear what he was going to say next.

What he said was that instead of measuring outcomes through marking test papers, teachers should assess learning by measuring the "disposition to learn" ie: you measure the pupil's engagement with the subject. Whilst we tacitly agreed that the quality of learning is predicated upon how actively the mind of the learner is engaged, we let it pass that the process of testing engagement would appear to be as prone to inaccuracy and subjectivity as measuring learning through outcomes. He was sort of cute and we still didn't have the least urge to hit him. Plus we wanted to know what he was going to say next.

He then proposed that the assessor should also measure the adult's engagement with the pupil's engagement. Given that this may involve a measure of self-assessment, perhaps this is the most practicable part of his proposal, but even here we would have to accept that huge chunks of ourselves are not available to objective scrutiny, even with the best will in the world. However, we let this pass. He was engaging and funny and we wanted to see what he was going to say next.

What he said next was that good learning is predicated upon well-being, with which, of course, the HEers amongst us once again wholeheartedly agreed. However he was of the persuasion that it is necessary to attempt to measure well-being in order to maximise it. Hmmm..

As the pig farmer said to the butcher, "you don't fatten a pig by weighing it". So instead we will just have to get on with maximising well-being in our kids...which incidentally probably means that I shouldn't have exhausted mine quite so much over the last week.

Desperately hard to know when to stop sometimes: I think they deliberately try to confuse me: they can look totally exhausted at 15.00 hours and then perk up at 17.00 hours and not go to bed until beyond midnight. All way too confusing, and not simply in the matter of assessment! But much more importantly, that four hours of non-stop trying to prevent toddler falling over on the ice rink nearly killed me.

Pub Brawls

The other new experience of last night: our bunch managed to walk through a pub brawl completely unscathed. I personally routinely walk through pub brawls completely unscathed because the adrenaline/testoterone charged atmosphere speeds up time, causing me to miss what is happening until about three seconds after everyone else. In pub brawl tempo this amounts to missing about a fortnight's worth of action and during this patch it appears that nobody can be bothered to glass me.

My companion also has a similar perception of pub brawl time but his experience may be distinguished from mine by the fact that during this patch, he is punched and falls over. On this occasion he accidentally avoided the punch by pre-emptively falling over a potted plant thing.

Living and Learning

Well that was a new experience. We were standing in the pub yard drinking to sound of a pleasantly ironic rock band when we started to smell this smell which for all the world reminded me of burnt creme caramel. When it was pointed out that this was highly unlikely, given the rural and rather provincial nature of our surroundings, we started to speculate on other possible causes...burnt onions for a burger seemed quite plausible.

It was only when I got home that it dawned on me that it was actually the heel of my shoe that had caught fire. And in many ways thank goodness for that, since now I will forever know that the smell of burning sugary-type substances is actually a sign that you are incinerating and that you have immovable smoke marks all over your feet.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Blog of the Millennium


Puzzles of the Day

How can be that the very qualities for which one most loves someone, can also be the very thing that drive one almost completely bonkers?

Why is "Arrested Development", often-times brilliant, quick-fire, intelligent, 99% understated comedy, and funniest thing on TV, in a latish night, unadvertised slot on Thursdays on Beeb 4 of all places? Couldn't possibly be because it's American and obviously Jewish by any chance?

How can Francis Fukuyama (in his fascinating book...The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order) write such apparently sensible things in one sentence and then say such massively stupid things in the next? In the latter category he accuses libertarians of moral relativity in their preference for preferences!!!! OUTRAGE. Libertarians traduced. Also he thinks school the answer, when he also says that it is a well-known phenomenon that people emerging from totalitarian regimes cannot handle freedom....ERR??

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Have finally understood just what it is that is specifically wrong with ASBOs; and the problem was staring me in the face all along. It was in the title, stupid! The problem turns out to be that it isn't at all clear what anti-social behaviour actually is. We already have laws that cover car theft and vandalism...so what exactly is the purpose of this legislation?

It seems that it is one of those laws that can be used in the situation that someone just happens to irritate someone else. As a result of this legislation, you could be prosecuted for turning up at your front door in your underwear...(which is precisely what has happened to some poor sod), or doing your gardening in skimpy swimwear (ditto) or dancing with a Christmas tree in your front room without closing your curtains (ditto).

All nuts. So am now happy to file ASBOs alongside the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005...(suspension of habeas corpus) and the Children Act 2004 as examples of yet more appalling legislation and curtailment of liberty by this sweet-talking government.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Don't Look at Me when I'm Talking to You

Friend stayed for weekend. We haven't seen her a great deal since we left the steaming metropolis. In intervening years, she has gone blind...completely blind. What was particularly noticeable was that though she was always a good conversationalist, she has now become an exceptional one. Her sentences and stories are all so finely nuanced and crafted. She listens to others with frightening accuracy and turns everything that comes her way into an opportunity for gentle irony and fun.

From this, I take it that all those injunctions to look people in the eye when you are talking to them, well, it is just a load of bunkum. It could be just as effective to sit around dinner tables blindfolded...or else with loads of time, money, proper Indian Tea and gin and tonics. This last bit because the only other person I've ever met who could match her for conversational skills was a magnificent friend of my mothers who was effectively HEed and raised in the last days of the Raj.

Update from Arch about PLASC

By way of showing just how much one really should not trust this government's assurances, check out the following from Action for the Rights for Children:

"From 2006 the DfES is proposing to collect far more information via PLASC, (Pupil Level Annual School Census), including full addresses, details of services that a child is receiving, attendance and exclusions. We are told by the Independent Schools Council that they are coming under pressure to submit the same PLASC return as state schools. If you would like a reminder of what ARCH was told about PLASC when we first campaigned on this issue several years ago, take a look at the PLASC archives on the ARCH website. It seems that the government's promises were worthless".

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Hesfes 2005...

JM...."We borrowed it from her while she was asleep"(His mother to me..."stop it, don't encourage him".)

My sister (who has a home near HESFES) has kept a photo of a collection of the family from a previous visit which she has hung in the hallway to scare the gasman. Tbh, it looks as if the adults have been let out for the day and have been given very temporary and closely supervised charge of some poor children. My brother-in-law (normally, I may point out, a strikingly good-looking bloke), has a plaster stuck to his forehead and a demonic expression which for all the world makes him look as if he is recovering from a recent lobotomy. He also rather looks as if he is leaning over and pinching my bum. I have the sort of expression you would expect to see on a very pissed off 5 year-old.

LM..."I just cannot listen to anything to do with Pokemon. My sons have talked to me about it for 8 years now, but I can only remember the lead character's name...what is it? Kaa...Poo...Oh, well...whatever. You can bet your life, though, that when an HE adult walks past, I'll suddenly pay attention...but when they've gone, it's "Oh, please, shut up will you!"

Ds...on being at HESFES and mother suddenly and completely unprecedentedly turning into pinball wizard, very uneasily..."This doesn't make sense". He felt alot better when we left the pub a few minutes later and I did the old 'looking forwards whilst driving backwards' routine.

Abiding images:

JK: carrying baby and toddler uphill in same sling, whilst jollying along another four under 9's and a 43 year old.

Dd, 3, on being told to stop doing forward flips into swimming pool, staring wide-eyed at interlocutor, completely ignoring instruction and doing precisely that all over again and again...

Breathtaking walks over cliffs. Have finally managed this as result of Dh joining us for 3 days.

Seeing MF's beautiful face for first time in 6 years and feeling totally overcome with how good everything really is.

SP singing so beautifully.

JP as Jackass...running for a good 400 yards along a field, with elegant but nonetheless very fast strides, smack into a shed and lying face down in grass for 10 mins, much to consternation of elderly inhabitants of the caravan site, who clearly had no idea what was going on.

LM: I've taken to loading random lumps of mud into the back of my car in the hope that they may contain something valuable.

Sadly cannot report any DH jokes as they are all filthy and not in the HESFES sense.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Flexibility of HE

Ah...we are meant to be off camping today, but weather is not looking great and a seriously good offer has come up for Saturday night which would be loathe to miss. Children are not bothered either way...it rather looks like we might pass on getting down there today.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Walking Lightly and Meaningfully and Changing One's Mind

One of the things we got round to talking about yesterday was this issue of emotional balance, of walking lightly but seriously, of carrying meaning and effort without stress. This started through a discussion of an article in a Sunday Magazine supplement that contained the phrase: "Militant Lactivists". We laughed at ourselves as most of us there recognised our previous selves in this label, but actually have we lost something now that we don't care who sees us feed our four year olds, and now that we are not minded to explain ourselves militantly whenever we see an uncomfortable or disagreeable glance?

In a way, I think we have. We are so laid back (generally speaking...there are still times when one's highly practiced martial art defences let one down and up goes the shirt for full exposure, and you think "NO, NO, NO"), but generally, we cannot be bothered to deal with the issue at all. The possibility that we would all become LLL leaders seems to have dwindled somewhat. The fire and the passion to put people right in this regard has gone. But there are people out there who still have weird ideas about all this and are still uncomfortable around the issue. What of them, since it may impact upon others and it may still make a big difference to some that others do not hold some form of prejudice?

Ideally, with an issue of merit...particularly for me, atm, the idea that children should not be made to go to school against their will, and should not be subject to unwarranted coercion, and more generally the matter of over-intrusive and over-large government, the importance of economic and political freedom, that we achieve this balance between desperation and torpor. It is a balance of accepting things, but seeing ways forward, of understanding the arguments, of listening to counter-arguments, of moving from these points in a way that can take people with you. This can involve creative leaps, or gradual argument...it all depends.

I cannot quite fathom what causes a change of mind. DH said something to me the other day that in the instant of picking up my glass and taking a swig, caused me to completely change my mind on an absolutely huge subject. Someone prior to this had been arguing the case that DH had just propounded and this person had presented the arguments in great detail and great wisdom over the period of about four months, but I just hadn't got it. Was it just something about DH's presentation, or was it the fact that the theories the other person had been elaborating upon had actually been subconsciously germinating and then suddenly made sense, when presented with the broader picture again? I just dunno.

Anyway, no real thanks to you guys! You threw me in a complete quandary with your new ideas...:)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Choosing How to React to Coercion

Have just been reading Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" which deals with the matter of how people reacted to being incarcerated in Auschwitz and Dachau. He writes that people, even under these most dire of circumstances had a choice about how they reacted and that it was often those of an apparently sensitive disposition, who were used to having creative interior lives, rather than the apparently more robust or avoidant personalities, who coped best with the pressures of the camp.

Still haven't finished the book...usual reasons, (I fall asleep reading Dr Seuss and the Gruffalo, which is by no means terrible, in fact is absolutely wonderful, but not currently particularly pertinent). Nonetheless, from the first two-thirds of the book, I have concluded: since the camp inmates could still find it within themselves to chose how they reacted to the circumstances, it is probably best that in the course of waiting for the chance for easy autonomy, ie: for the disassembling of all those useless coercive structures, such as over-intrusive government, the myth of compulsory schooling, the notion that bullying is good for you and the ever-present milk-all- over- the- books type problem, to develop the rather complex mix of both recognising potentially coercive sources of pressure, accepting them as a normal expectation, rather than as an extraordinary infringement and then changing my reaction to them! This hopefully means that I will do my best to sock it to these sources of coercive power, whilst not suffering from a heart attack in the process.

Ho humm.....well, can but dream and slightly ironic, given that I've just been ranting more or less uncontrollably about pathetic government in very recent previous post!

Blog of the Day

Just found another TCS, autonomous education inspired HE blog, which of course means that this place feels pretty much like home for me.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Every Child Matters

Really if ever one is in any doubt about the amount of total twaddle this government is capable of producing, you just have to consider the title Every Child Matters. You could consider the general principle of to whom and to what degree a child actually should matter, but it is often much more fun to see just how far in practice a child really does seem to matter to Mr Blair and his cronies.

From the Education and Skills Committee Report of March 23rd 2005, re: Every Child Matters and the Children Act 2004

More generally, the drive to improving both universal (ie: health, education and social and specialist services) and targeted services in the same suite of reforms has been very well received. It is supported by research evidence which demonstrates the value of early intervention to prevent serious problems developing, coupled with targeted and specialist support where necessary. We have been impressed by the commitment, dedication and enthusiasm demonstrated by those responsible for delivering the reforms at the front line. There is considerable evidence of progress already been made on the development of integrated, user-centred services in some areas.

So I actually must be wrong in thinking that it is not an improvement to have to wait over five hours and to make a forty mile round-trip to get a toddler to see an out of hours doctor and that I'm also wrong to think this significantly worse than what would have happened previously. I must be wrong to think that this is not a good example of how early intervention will prevent further problems. Hmmm, OK maybe not. Let us think.

Sensible mums try to contact a doctor when they see problems developing. They may well understand that greater problems are likely to ensue if treatment is not administered fairly quickly and that a quick dose of oral antibiotics, followed by a three day course of same, will save the day. But no. Instead it is necessary to make a series of increasingly frantic phone calls to useless triage and referral services whose staff have almost no capacity to tell a serious problem from a minor one. This is then followed by a good five hour wait for an appointment that these referral staff have grudgingly made in some far away place, which is in turn followed by a long journey, by which time said child will be ravingly confused, seriously ill and unable to take oral medication. Drips, IM antibiotics, hospital bed....

OK, so what was I expecting from all this? I actually AM glad that GPs get to sleep at night and are not wobbling around making bad decisions during their day-time surgeries. I am actually quite prepared to use private GPs instead. But just don't pretend to me that all this tinkering and bureaucracy under the bogusly pious name of "Every Child Mattering" is an improvement on what went before, because this is complete balderdash, bunkum, political hogwash, a total SHAM.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Evolution Everywhere

Those who seem to demonstrate some reason for knowing always say it, and I keep finding that it does seem to be the case, that evolution is a deep idea and this means that it will keep popping up as one of those theories that fits with all other deep ideas and not only that, it usually helps to explain them; it actually fits in with their explanations.

I have lost the New Scientist ref for this, (and they require a subscription for their archives), but a recent article detailed how evolution helps to explain how it is that we are actually here at all, at this point in the multiverse. Apparently (and I read this whilst also being told Sponge Bob jokes, which is a reasonable disclaimer if ever there was one), scientists can be more than a little struck by the idea that we exist at all, at any point in the multiverse, let alone that we are here and now. But the theory of evolution comes to the rescue. Something like: universes which produce black holes (which are somehow more conducive to producing the laws of physics which will eventually contribute to the evolution of life) are likely, by the nature of black holes, to be more productive of other multiverses...hence the greater chance that life will evolve.

I find even only this minimal grasp of this idea quite extraordinarily satisfying, which probably denotes a serious form of lunacy...however...

Pardon my even greater pleasure in finally realising just how closely the action of taking children seriously is linked to the laws of evolution. Again I feel I have the weakest possible grasp on this inkling of an idea but it goes something like this...The benefits of intelligence, rational thought and creativity (which are allowed for when one successfully takes one's children seriously), outweigh the costs (such as energy consumption) of these things because the world is an unpredictable place and those who can respond to it with greater behavioural flexibility (ie: rationality and creativity) are likely to live or live well and problem solve for another day. Bad ideas cause problems because they do not fit reality, they do not present solutions. This, of course, may not result in either the death of the person who holds the idea, or even the death of the idea, but the bad idea will be overtaken by better ideas which do solve the problem.

How is this likely to cause the better, problem solving idea to survive? Well, I think that there is an element of positive feedback in all this...by which I mean that the generation of creative and rational thought generates more unpredictability, which then demands even greater intelligent responses. Therefore, once we have broken the assumption of "coercion is good for you", we can only effectively keep responding with greater and greater rationality and creativity. This means that those who limit the capacity for creative, rational thought will get left further and further behind. They either evolve or get seriously confused!

This last point may give reason for optimism about the possibility of spread of TCS ideas. (Of course there are plenty of those who state that they dislike the ideas but who in reality practice them...I am not talking about them here)...

(This is one of those posts where am daring myself to look a complete fool, but not only that, am off to post this to the TCS list (to be found through the website: http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/), so that the idea can get soundly trounced there and in the process be improved upon! That's evolution for you.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Home Education and its Constraints...Part 2

Have been discussing this subject with a few people since the first part of this post was put up and someone has recently e-mailed an excellent snap-shot insight on the issue of single parenthood and/or illness and home education.

She wrote:

"Doing it alone is hard - hard work, no time out, complete responsibility, the unfairness that your family has missed out so much financially and you personally. However, this has little to do with whether children go to school or not. Personally, and I know many others who share this view - I found it far more difficult to do the school thing. All that money for uniforms, early morning grumpiness, the fear of getting prosecuted for not getting them there when there is no one else to support and/or share the blame, just the responsibility of choosing the school in the first place, the many hours a day spent 'debriefing' each child after all the petty injustices and heartaches of the day and no-one to off-load to about this, the sense of isolation when school-gate parents seem like a different species, issues over homework, being called in and admonished for not 'supporting the school' (which actually means refusing to punish your children for whatever the teacher says they have done wrong) - all this adds up to one massive stress".

By contrast she wrote of HE:

" When you wake up in the morning, welcome your children down at whatever time they decide to get up, chat over breakfast, decide whether to go to the beach or the pictures that day etc, it's hard to feel that HE is a harder option than school."

She writes of the bad HE days:

When you wake after not enough sleep to the sound of arguing over who's turn it is on the playstation in the knowledge that you have a ton of bills to pay and petty admin to wade through, the house is a tip and the grass needs cutting, it could be easy to think that HE is bloody hard. However - if the kids were to go to school, what would change? The grass would still need cutting, there would be even less sleep and a need for instant clarity of mind and organisation skills as soon as you wake- the arguing would be over who had the last of the milk or who 's friend said what, and the bills would still need paying. The only difference would be that there would be a few free hours to get the jobs done while the kids are at school before the grumpiness starts again. Or, instead, after a little assistance and something nice and leisurely for breakfast (pancakes usually does the trick), the kids will maybe settle to something peaceful, maybe one of them will cut the grass, maybe we will make an agreement that the morning is peaceful so that bill paying can be done (maybe insert long discussion about budgeting, banking, alternative power sources, the history of the welfare state here!) then the afternoon will be spent in the woods or we will have a quiz afternoon or watch a film together.

And the single life has its upsides too...which may need a separate entry entirely!

But she reports:

"It is pretty scary when I'm ill - there is no-one to 'look after' the kids. When they were very small this led to some scary times. Nowadays my biggest challenge when I am ill is to give myself sufficient recovery time before plunging back in to everything at a great pace. The kids are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and I am usually lavished with cups of tea and hot water bottles, stories, cuddles etc. Like single parenthood, long term illness is tough. But, again, home education doesn't necessarily add to this - and where it does, it takes other stresses away in at least equal measure. Getting up, dressed and ready for the school run first thing, making sure everyone's homework and kit is present, done etc, doing lunches, discussing problems, worrying about them in an environment you can't help them with immediately all take their toll. It all makes it far harder to be flexible about your wellbeing.

She talks also of external pressures:

"officialdom and society will assume that you are an incompetent parent and will take every opportunity to patronise, interfere and discriminate against you. Being out of 'the system' cuts all this crap and gives you back the control, dignity and competence that you deserve just as much as any other parent. In choosing to 'home educate' we are equal as thinking parents even if we may lag behind financially and can't take a bloody evening class when we want to!!"

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Why it is Right to Minimize Coercion in all Spheres of Life

Thanks so much to the person who made a number of extremely pertinent points yesterday. (I am quite staggered and intensely pleased with ourselves that we managed this and all the other conversations btw!)

Anyway, this person pointed out that I cannot really accuse conservative thinkers of unexplained inconsistencies, when one of my previous explanations of the theories of Taking Children Seriously (www.takingchildrenseriously.com) may appear to contain similar inconsistencies. She, btw, does espouse the theories of TCS, and does think the problem soluble with regard to TCS, but not conservative thought.

She was referring to the matter of whether one views coercion as a result of outside forces or an event that is subject to will. She says, rightly, that I cannot accuse conservative theorists of inconsistencies (when they see it as meet and right to minimise the power and presence of the state because of it's capacity to coerce, but then fail to deal with coercion that presents itself in civil society and the family, presumably because they believe that children must necessarily learn, and have the capacity to cope with, coercion by experiencing it often extensively), when I stated that TCSers think that adults are forever self-coercive, whereas children necessarily need to be protected from adult coercion because they cannot be held responsible for experiencing coercion at the hands of those more powerful than themselves.

"Hmmm...yes, I see your point", I said. There is a parallel inconsistency there. I accused conservative thinkers of believing people both incapable and yet also capable of dealing with outside coercion, and yet within a TCS framework, I also have accused people of being capable and yet also incapable of dealing with the very same thing. So how does this pan out?

Whilst our state of mind is forever created entirely by ourselves, it may be the case that we simply have not built up a sufficient number of background theories that will make it possible to turn unpleasant experiences to positive effect? This will apply to adults as well as children, (I concede).

So conservative (and many so-called libertarian) thinkers are inconsistent in attempting to abolish the power of the state but failing to address coercion in civil society and the family because a lack of substantive protective theories may well mean that people become stuck in the state of coercion. In fact this is highly likely because coercion inhibits the power to think, since it means being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind and is therefore not subject to rational criticism or creative thought. Becoming stuck in the coerced state is therefore a probable evolutionary outcome.

TCSers are, by this argument, right to attempt to minimise the experience of the coerced state by their children and themselves...(common preferences) from all possible sources of coercion, since not only do children (and their parents) learn in an optimal way when the attempt to force theories upon them is not present; but also, in providing examples of how to go about minimising coercion in all spheres of life, people can be helped to see the value of problem solving and may even develop sophisticated and imaginative ways of dealing with such problems in the course of which they will be able to build rational theories about how to protect themselves against coercion that they will inevitably encounter.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Children and Freedom

By way of showing what happens when you regard freedom firstly as a social construct and then as an epistemic event that is subject to will without any explanation as to why this inconsistency should be meaningful, go to:


At one moment, one finds oneself writhing in disagreement. The next you will be experiencing whole-hearted agreement and be pledging lifelong allegiance. All very confusing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Autonomy is the Thing

So this is useful. Prof. Scruton, influential Conservative philosopher who provides the oomph for conservative thought and the viagra for flagging Tory spirits in, for example, his articles in the Spectator, says of home education "I am entirely in favour of it". See his comment at:

He frames his approval of HE in a way that suggests that he sees it as a stepping stone towards more and better independent schooling. I have written a reply to this in his comment section at the above address.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Delhi's Children Learning in the Street

Another example of good learning taking place away from school. Only problem seems to be that the kids would have a problem lying down with the holes in the walls being where they are, but otherwise, a physicist in the subcontinent is clearly demonstrating some very good sense.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Optimal Learning: PS2, Lying Down, Away from School

There are times when intelligent people state their case very clearly and yet they somehow miss the opportunity to draw the most obvious and useful conclusion from it. This can leave one with the desire to seize their attention by stepping in front of them, grabbing their wrists and shouting repeatedly and undecorously..."So? So? SOOO?

The Sunday Times had a similar effect on me this week. Individually, at least four of the articles should sign the death warrant for the notion that schools are a sensible place to learn. Put them all together, and it wouldn't just be the nail in that particular coffin. We'd be dancing on that grave.

Front Page: Couch Potatoes Sprout Bigger Brains watching TV


"Video games, phone cameras, iPods and television shows are teaching a generation how to engage in systems analysis, probability theory, pattern recognition and spatial geometry. They also improve attention span, memory and the ability to follow a narrative."

"IQ scores in developed nations have been steadily rising since 1943 at an annual rate of 0.31 points. (That amounts to 17 points since 1943). In the 1990s, scores accelerated at a rate of 0.36 points. Johnson (in his book, 'Everything Bad is Good for You', published this week in the States, argues exposure to new media may be responsible."


Then more on this idea on the front page of the Review:


"As Joe would put it: “I think playing games or messing about on the computer is much more challenging than watching TV or reading most books. If you are playing San Andreas [the latest in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series] you have to remember so much. It’s like learning to get around in a new city. And loads of games have puzzles and other challenges in them. It’s not just about shooting people.”

"Johnson dates the start of complex, multi-layered television to 1981 and the launch of the police drama Hill Street Blues, shown here on Channel 4. “Watch an episode of Hill Street Blues side by side with any major drama from the preceding decades — Starsky and Hutch, for instance — and the structural transformation will jump out at you.”

"Where once a couple of simple narrative threads sufficed, now there could be as many as 10 distinct strands to each show. In place of one or two stars, viewers were expected to relate to up to half a dozen major characters. In pilot screenings, brain-challenged audiences complained that the plot of Hill Street Blues was too complicated.

"Yet if one compares it to The Sopranos, the hit series about a New Jersey mob family that came two decades later, the differences are plain. “The Sopranos routinely follows a dozen distinct threads over the course of an episode, with more than 20 recurring characters,” Johnson notes. “And every single thread builds on events from previous episodes, and continues on through the rest of the season and beyond.”

So really, why go to school when all you really need are ready access to a computer, a TV and a number of different consoles?


For the next argument against schools, try:

"RELAX! The figure prostrate in bed or on the sofa next to you this morning is not just slobbing out. Scientific research shows that lying down is the best way to think. Researchers now believe the cleverest way to think is while curled up in bed or on a sofa. Clinical tests have shown men and women can solve problems faster when lying down compared to when they are standing up or sitting.

"The research could do away with macho management meetings in the boardroom where everybody stands up. Modern businessmen may be taught people think better on their feet, but the research suggests that lying down can boost thinking speeds by 10%. Scientists have discovered that noradrenalin, a natural hormone produced in the brain by stress, interferes with brain cells and reduces people’s attention to detail and reasoning. When people stand up, it triggers a reaction in the brain which produces more of the hormone. But lying down decreases the concentration of noredrenalin in the brain and helps us to think more clearly."

But it isn't just business men who sit and stand. Does this physiology not apply to children? If it does, shouldn't we be doing away with school chairs and desks, and spending a lot of tax payers money buying in some classroom mattresses? Perhaps rather more cheaply, we could stick with our sofas, beds, baths, carpets and gardens that we already have somewhere else.


And just by way of showing how utterly hopeless and mendacious the whole school argument is, try:

School Boost ‘Tiny’ Despite New Millions


"EDUCATION standards have barely improved despite the massive injection of funds from Labour, a new independent study has found.

"Peter Tymms, professor of education at Durham University and one of the authors said: “I was absolutely staggered when I saw the figures. They beggar belief for the tiny little impact they have had.” The conclusions undermine Labour’s election claims to have brought about major improvements in schools since coming to power. They will add to accusations that the government is wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds spread across hundreds of initiatives have been invested. One has to ask if the money could have been better spent.”

"The report, which expresses the personal views of Tymms, Robert Coe and Christine Merrell claims official figures “clearly exaggerate” the primary gains. Using independent tests, the authors estimate 58% of 11-year-old children achieved the level in English expected of their age group in 2004, not the 77% claimed by the government. In maths, 64% achieved grade 4 according to the independent tests, rather than the official 74%. Even by its own figures, the government’s primary school improvements are looking tarnished. In total, only two-thirds of 11-year-olds reached the required standards in both English and maths. The remaining one third, after six years’ primary schooling, cannot read, write and count properly."



Sunday, May 01, 2005

Wow, What a Day!

What a day! OK, so I fell off the scrambler and it rather feels as if I may have dislocated my right hip bone, and we seem to have invented our own version of Mothering Sunday, with a mutation that could best be entitled Teasing Your Mother Relentlessly (whilst being ably abetted by your dad) Sunday, but it was just a great day.

Go on, keep your kids out of prison and maximise your chances of a day like this!

Day Care and Reduced Risk of Leukaemia

Just in case there are any parents of newborns out there who think that they must now send their tiny tots to rot in day care just so they can reduce the miniscule chance that the babes will develop acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, DON'T. It isn't necessary. Just get yourselves along to your local Home Ed group. Most likely you can stay all day and get infections from all over the age spectrum as well!


The Quick Route to Conservative Values

One can see the point of adopting some traditional conservative qualities such as a bracing, courageous, can-do attitude, but it always feels a bit annoying if this, (as is often the case), is done off the back of others. By this I mean that I think that it must be a lot easier to be courageous and confident in one's abilities, if one is quite convinced that one is vastly superior in this way and have a superior insight into these qualities than loads of other people. This attitude has been perfectly exemplified both by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and Olivia Glazebrook of the Spectator.

Olivia, whose reviewing career in the Speccie I have followed with green-eyed venom ever since she messed with the mind of DH's best mate, and worse by far, demonstrated beyond doubt that she could also play Chopin beautifully, (which is enough to piss anyone off, if you ask me), regularly rails against any fiction which demonstrates even the slightest tinge of neurosis.

But you have to give her some credit. Her "pull-yourself-together attitude" seems to work perfectly, at least for herself. She immediately feels pulled together, if only for having the remarkable good sense to have had this insight when so many others have clearly failed. I am not so sure though that her invocation works quite so well for the neurotic authors she trashes.

But hold on, what am I doing here, right now??? Nah...this is just proportionate self-defence.