On Teaching

Well here I am. Older than most – eighty-five to be specific. For fifty of those years, as a teacher, I helped people fashion their future. Now I’m in my own future, that uncertain time so dependent on whether you can keep on breathing.

What now? Categorised by the powers that be as beyond my use-by date, I often find myself these days like Winnie the Pooh: sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.

As for the thinking part, I thought I might today share here my thoughts about the classroom as a place of learning. Why not? It’s such an important place. The real nucleus of education. That class at work is close to the only setting where you can truly judge a teacher. Validly and reliably that is.

It is where essential learning journeys begin; where the young bird flies for the first time; where words become wheels in motion; where the penny drops and the mind comes to life.

So here I stand. The following are my ideas gathered through time about teaching behaviour. Do what you like with them.

We first need to answer important questions before we start teaching. What is a classroom? What is a class?

Every classroom is an infinite cauldron of competing forces. Every class is a bubbling pot of individual differences close to boiling point on the day you take over. So when you begin you need to say to yourself, “This is serious. Learn to teach or else!” You might also be aware of the old axiom: “To teach is to learn something twice.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Emile or On Education, has an interesting general principle to start you off:

I have already said your child must not get what he asks, but what he needs; he must never act from obedience, but from necessity.

Interesting. Those “needs” are the key. Should they be elitist ideology or genuine universal requirements. Your immediate task ontaking over? To determine, as best you can, the precise, true needs of each child in your care.

Testing therefore will be important. Real teachers, as opposed to upwardly mobile politicians, know the difference between a diagnostic test and an attainments test, and use them both well, certainly not to create league tables and myths of superiority. So the initial teaching time, say the first six weeks, can include something like this:

Initial Attainments TestInitial Diagnostic Test

TEACH

Retest AttainmentsRetest Diagnostic

RE-TEACH ∞

It’s all basic logic. You need first, as the great educational drama guru Brian Way once said, “to find where the child is at.” You can then apply teaching that is appropriate to age, social status, home background, pupil mental and physical health, past achievements, gender, student ambition, available resources and the teacher’s professional awareness. Yes. The role of the teacher is extremely complex.

Testing will always be a part of that complexity. To be avoided at all costs however is a system of public ranking that in itself becomes the main focus of learning. Have you noticed the huge market for so called test panaceas? Worried about NAPLAN? We can fix it. Do these things and win.

Once you have established how close to the chronological age the mental age is, for each student in your care, you are ready to begin your vital work. If you are an infants or primary teacher, you are a generalist and your assessments and diagnoses will be many and varied. You will have developed your own, professional variety of tests. I have found the “getting to know you” short essay from each pupil a very good starting point. It can reveal many things including information from the Affective and Psycho-motor Domains.

I want to talk now about some of my classrooms. The memories remain.That is how I will share my visions of virtue and folly.

My First Class.Class 4B Boys Primary January 1953 45 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

I was with those boys for a whole year – day after day after day. Each of those days began with a hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God,” and a creed: “I honour my God, I serve my Queen, I salute the Flag.” That routine and comparative order usually moved quickly into chaos. To create a learning climate in such a big class was a challenge for pupils and teacher.

I had so much to learn about classroom management. I would shout above noise, demanding silence. I would bang my desk with a large piece of wood for the same reason. I would blame and punish far more frequently than I would reward virtue. I would delay feedback with written tasks because of the large number of children in my care. It was a hard way to begin my fifty years of teaching.

Abilities in the group were so mixed too. Some were quite bright and many were well below the norms for Year 4. Average age was about ten yet there were two twelve-year-old strugglers who could not read. You had to program, teach and test a plethora of subjects: craft, English, music, maths, science, history and geography, physical education. The inspectorial system was used then. Once a year for the three years of your probation, you were visited by a learned inspector who watched you work and judged your worth as a teacher. At the end of the third year I passed and was awarded a teacher certificate. Such a challenge with but two years teacher training. If I were to begin teaching that class today, their lives would be so much better.

In A One-teacher School. Classes K-6 plus 2 Correspondence; Girls and Boys Primary 1958 19 Pupils: Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.

Here the social role of the teacher was important. It was an isolated community and the teacher was a star of recognised social status. Links with parents were vital as was an awareness of pupil home duties on the farms. Life had taught the older pupils very valuable sibling management skills that were used by the teacher with a number of learning tasks, coping with the age and subject variety – all in one room. ABC radio broadcasts for music and social studies gave valuable assistance. We did lots of story telling for the whole group. Drama also worked well across the grades. Henny Penny for example:

One day an apple fell and hit Henny Penny on the head.

HENNY PENNY: The sky is falling. I must go and tell the Queen. Henny Penny met Goosy Poosy.
HENNY PENNY: The sky is falling. I must go and tell the Queen. GOOSY POOSY: I’ll come wiv ya.

Participation was the aim, not necessarily perfection. Which brings me to a major issue with the contemporary child.

The cyber age has drastically reduced interaction between people in real world contact situations, free of computerised devices. A serious consequence of this is a lack of practice with vital communication skills. I mean gesture, eye contact, the smile and other facial expressions, posture changes linked to meaning – they all tend to disappear in the cocoon of chat group or the SMS. Even Skype is artificial and not the same as a meeting between people without artificial links.

I believe with all my heart therefore, in the vast and present need for drama in classrooms. I mean Theatre in Education (TIE), educational drama, readers theatre and children’s theatre – all required now with constant use.

Another Primary Class After Several Years Of Teaching.Class 6A Girls and Boys Primary 1961 32 Pupils: Maitland, New South Wales, Australia.

A lovely classroom climate. Pupils working busily all the time. No shouting and banging of my desk. A gentle pause instead when necessary, waiting for silence. Important instructions were often given in a soft voice. Listening thus became a reward and helped each good listener’s progress. The effect on classroom climate was important.

One of the pupils from that class recently visited this web page and linked up with me. It was a joy and an honour to meet her. Where does a teacher’s influence end? One of the boys I taught in 1953 also found me in the same way. He was a successful sportsman and teacher. It was also an honour to share coffee and memories with him until he passed away two years ago.

A GA (General Activities) Class.This is a special category of students with limited ability in high schools, staffed by primary trained teachers. My class: boys Median Age 12-14.11 1963 17 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

The curriculum for this group was focused on everyday survival skills. Teaching time was all-day not 40 minute periods, and in a single room. This was my entry into secondary teaching. I was studying part-time for an Arts Degree so later taught English and history in that and other high schools, and later became an English/History Master. My GA lesson notes:

Spelling: Danger, Poison, Beware of the Dog, Keep Off, Give Way, Wrong Way, Go Back, Halt, Trespassers Prosecuted, Wait Here, Do Not Touch, Electricity, Police, Ambulance, Hospital, Emergency.

Mathematics: Addition of Shopping Bills, Distance Measuring, Easy Fractions, The Four Processes: × ÷ + −.

Social Learning: Electoral Rolls, Emergency Behaviour 000, Police Functions, Interpreting Advertising, Our History and Geography, The Rules Of Good Manners, Job Seeking.

There was a fundamental need for these young people lingering at school until the leaving age of 15. It was self respect. A major strategy required was to give them support to live their debased lives. One of them said early in my time with them, “Gee Sir, you can’t be very bright having to teach us dumb ones.”

We were friends, those seventeen lads and I, and found ways of succeeding with practical things. I met one in the street after he had left the class. He was very excited and wanted to share with me the news that he had found a job with a panel beater.

Is it not an essential duty of all educators to strive to avoid isolation, despair and varying degrees of self contempt in the young? That is a call to arms for us all.

HSC High School English Class. This was a final year class with students from several cultural backgrounds. Year 12 Mixed Gender 1997 27 Pupils, Sydney, Australia.

One of my students, a young man from this class, one day gave me a poem after a lesson. It was a very good poem, hand written. So good I asked him where he found it.

“I wrote it Sir,” he said.
I heard his words with genuine surprise.
“It’s a very moving poem,” I said. “Tell me about it.”

“Well Sir, I am a Kurd. I have lived if four countries counting this one. It makes me very sad because I have not felt that any one of these places is my home.”

There he was, as I observed, a young eighteen-year-old refugee, sharing his anguish with me as a friend. I wondered what my country had done to him to make him feel so much an alien. My humble contribution was to offer support and give him more power to analyse and write in English.

Year 10 History. This was a class with students from several cultural backgrounds. Year 10 Mixed gender 1997 30 Pupils: Sydney, Australia.

My subject one day with this class was the outbreak of World War I. The specific topic was the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip. Part of my tale of the assassination ran thus:

The motorcade mistakenly turned into a side street where Princip happened to be hiding. The first three cars began to reverse to the main road giving Princip a chance to fire two shots at the archduke from point-blank range. Within minutes the Archduke and his wife Sophie were dead. Three weeks too young for the death penalty, the Serbian Black Hand member Princip was sentenced to 20 years gaol. He died in that gaol of tuberculosis in April 1918 aged a mere 23.

A day or two after that lesson I was approached by one of my pupils.

“Sir, I’m having a hard time after that lesson about the assassination of the Archduke. Some of the class are bullying me because I’m a Serb and they say I caused World War I.”

This was a shock to me. Suddenly I had to look at my history narrative from a different point of view.

It had been so easy up to that moment to classify “goodies and baddies” in clinical categories. Now one of my pupils was actually threatened by my black and white tale.

I told the troubled lad always to walk away from unfair criticism with head held high. He was not guilty o anything.

“Every nation has a dark side to its history,” I said. ”Austria-Hungary and the Bosnian Serbs had been in dangerous conflict for some time. But don’t waste your time fighting back with events for the bullies to be ashamed of. Just walk away. Learn more history and you’ll find no nation is totally free of shame. Yes. Walk away and learn more. That is your best defence.”

University Class: MA In International Relations (1 Semester 1993) . This was a public-speaking course for diplomats. There were 21 students from many nations.

The teaching strategy here was to immerse the students in great speeches and give them practice through group work largely, in analysing the material for emphasis, pauses, suitable high and low volume, varied speed, connotations, gesture suitability, appropriate posture and valid core themes. Discussion and debate were important aspects of the teaching.

Among the texts were Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Mark Anthony’s speech on Caesar, 1 Corinthians 13, and texts contributed by the students. Interaction and peer support were noticeably a feature of this teaching program, in short “learning by doing” as drama pundits tend to say.

University Equity Program.This was a Federal Labor Government funded one-semester equity course I taught at university for non-matriculated applicants seeking entry to university. The literacy section included definition, comparison and contrast, description, scientific discourse, valid argumentation, public speaking and exam technique.

Nine Intakes, 20-30 Students, 1989-1995 a University In NSW, Australia.

The core of this program was an awareness of the power of analytical writing. Students were required to write one essay a week throughout the semester. The result was 10 essays of 250 words, based upon university model questions, all with feedback within one week. Exceeding the word limit was heavily penalised, as was failure to keep to the set question. Students learnt to get to the point quickly and keep to it without padding or irrelevancies.

I taught the nine generations of this program whose graduates achieved higher results in First Year than any other identifiable undergraduate group. Graduates later included a University Medalist in Psychology, several PhDs and many honours degrees across all faculties. Such is the power of precise, analytical writing and supportive, rigorous, ongoing guidance.

As a teacher, I can say my life intertwined with many of
these lives. One example is a single mother beset with a husband failing with alimony payments. She wanted to get into university and become a lawyer. That dream of hers came true, as did the dreams of many other such students.

My Last School.A High School In Western Sydney, Australia

When I retired from university teaching, I worked in this high school from 1996 to 2004. This poem reflects on some of the outcomes.

Vive l’école

A school is not an inanimate thing.

I found this out today

When I visited a place

Where in my yesterdays I used to teach.

‘Hello Sir’ came the voices,

And their looks of recognition

Seemed to tap me

On the shoulder

As I walked across that playground

At recess time

Into the hollow hallways

Where I heard again the footsteps

Of the past

And in its briefly empty classrooms

I met the echoes of my words

And the reflected sounds of yesterday’s pupils

With their sighs of learning struggle

Their misdemeanours

And their Ahas! of the once in a while

When insight sets in.

It was a weird experience this…

A haunted house without ghosts

Not spooks

But thoughts and words

And struggles and despair and hope

And growth and disobedience

And little triumphs over learning curves

And breakthroughs to understanding

And punishment and distraction

And anger and hatred and inspiration

And penalty and injustice and impossible tasks

And, when the last bell rang,

Memories of transformations that never end.

A school is not an inanimate thing.
 

  November 2004

Note: For images, my thanks to Creative Commons.

The Times Are A Changin’

Money Is The Route Of All

We no longer live in a society. It’s an economy stupid!

Supply and demand are all that matter. Everything is now a marketable financial entity.

Each distinguished sports person today is an entrepreneur. Sport is now the perfect synonym for the free market. Club identity shirts, hats and scarfs sell. Tickets to watch successful teams sell better. Winning, please note, has now become the only mission statement. A few losses and you psycho-analyse the players and sack the coach. After all, in this new era isn’t competition the only way to measure value? Winners these days do a war dance instead of calmly and with dignity doffing their caps or nodding to applause.

What is the role of politics in this Wall Street of existence? Keep It Simple Stupid: balance the budget! Big government is communism. Small government means privatise everything so that corporate and other powers can cash in on things. Compete or else. Call it free enterprise. Democracy. Our way of life. Young men since Gallipoli have been prepared to die for this.

On The Matter of Balanced Budgets: 

The source of all images here is Creative Commons.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age (But the budget’s balanced so that’s OK.)

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. (But the budget’s balanced so that’s OK.)

The number of homeless people in Australia jumped by more than 14,000 — or 14 per cent — in the five years to 2016, according to census data that also includes a “significant” increase in older women on the streets and a growing group living in cramped accommodation. (But the budget’s balanced so that’s OK.)

Scientists have recorded the “mass mortality” of corals on the Great Barrier Reef, in a recent report that says 30% of the reef’s corals died in a catastrophic nine-month marine heatwave…

…The extent and severity of the coral die-off recorded in the Great Barrier Reef surprised even the researchers.They told Guardian Australia the 2016 marine heatwave had been far more harmful than historical bleaching events, where an estimated 5% to 10% of corals died. (But the budget’s balanced so that’s OK.) 

Technological development has not only provided mankind with more profit, but with increased destructive power as well. These developments, combined with population growth, have led to mass casualties, varying from accidents to war. In the 20th Century over 200 million people were killed as a result of man-made disasters — a historical figure unequalled. (But the budget’s balanced so that’s OK.)

FREE ENTERPRISE CARRIES ON REGARDLESS OF CONSEQUENCES. FEW WORDS ARE NEEDED.

ARMS MANUFACTURE – MORE JOBS
CONSEQUENCE IN GAZA
MORE JOBS! SEE! OWE TOO!


LAST HOPE: TOGETHERNESS
See what I mean? Add your own words if you wish.

R (royciebaby)

Trust Me I’m A Politician

(An essay revised in January 2019)

Politics is in the air just now. When is it not?

A typical piece of advice from the Survival Guide For Dishonest Political Bastards

I’ve been thinking of all the votes I’ve cast during my 85 years. Suddenly I found myself hunting up this list of dubious political statements, possibly to help my fellow voters make better judgements. So there we are. Look what I’ve found.

WORDS THAT LINGER – AND FINGER

If you are going to lie, you go to jail for the lie rather than the crime. So believe me, don’t ever lie. Richard Nixon April, 1973 advice to a colleague

No way will the GST be part of our policy. Never ever; it’s dead. John Howard in 1995, one year before he was elected and a little later introduced the GST.

I don’t want in Australia people who would throw their own children into the sea. I don’t. There’s something for me incompatible between somebody who claims to be a refugee and somebody who would throw their own child into the sea. It offends the natural instincts of protection and delivering security and safety to your children. John Howard, 2001.

A number of people that jumped overboard and have had to be rescued, and more disturbingly a number of children have been thrown overboard. I regard these as some of the most disturbing practices that I have come across in the time that I have been involved in public life, clearly planned and premeditated. I imagine the sorts of children who would be thrown would be those who could be readily lifted and tossed without any objection from them. Minister Philip Ruddock, 2001.

Fiction Proven Stranger Than Truth!

But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Miss Lewenski. I never told anybody to lie. Not a single time. Never. These allegations are false. And I’m going to go back to work for the American people. Thank you. President Bill Clinton, 26 January, 1998.

Hussein … spends his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies. Madeline Albright, Nov. 10, 1999 Clinton Secretary of State.

The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries of South and South-East Asia. It must be seen as a part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. R G Menzies, 1965. Really!

It is good contextual information; it can’t be used as league tables. Julia Gillard in March, 2017 on the NAPLAN test.

The nineteenth century American Party, also known as the Know- Nothing Party because members were forbidden to reveal its details, has echoes in our present world.

The Know-Nothing Platform 1856 

(1) Repeal of all Naturalisation Laws.

(2) None but Americans for office.

(3) A pure American Common School system.

(4) War to the hilt on political Romanism.

(5) Opposition to the formation of Military Companies, composed of Foreigners.

(6) The advocacy of a sound, healthy and safe Nationality.

(7) Hostility to all Papal influences, when brought to bear against the Republic.

(8) American Constitutions & American sentiments.

(9) More stringent & effective Emigration Laws.

(10) The amplest protection to Protestant Interests.

(11) The doctrines of the revered Washington.

(12) The sending back of all foreign paupers.

(13) Formation of societies to protect American interests.

(14) Eternal enmity to all those who attempt to carry out the principles of a foreign Church or State.

(15) Our Country, our whole Country, and nothing but our Country.

(16) Finally – American Laws, and American legislation; and death to all foreign influences, whether in high places or low!

Source:  11/12/2017.

Whole Document SourceThe Duke University Special Collections Library: 11/12/2017.

South Vietnam would become a Communist State, and the lives and security of millions who have resisted Communism would be in jeopardy.

The impact of our complete withdrawal, as proposed by the Labor Party, would be felt throughout South-East Asia. We, too, would come under threat. Harold Holt, 1966 – election speech.

In the actions we have now taken we are not concerned to stop Egypt, but to stop war. None the less, it is a fact that there is no Middle Eastern problem at present which could not have been settled or bettered but for the hostile and irresponsible policies of Egypt in recent years, and there is no hope of a general settlement of the many outstanding problems in that area so long as Egyptian propaganda and policy continues its present line of violence. Anthony Eden, 31 October 1956 justifying the disastrous Suez invasion.

Are there not other alternatives than sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders? I have it in me to be a successful soldier. I can visualise great movements and combinations. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, 1914 aged 40, just before he initiated the disaster of Gallipoli.

*****

To end on a lighter note I conclude this little exposé with a reference to political words of a different kind: creative abuse. I have found no better exponent than

Paul Keating.

Peter Costello was “all tip and no iceberg”, Andrew Peacock an “intellectual rust-bucket”, and Wilson “Iron Bar” Tuckey a “stupid, foul-mouthed grub”. He famously called his 1993 opponent John Hewson, “a feral abacus” with a performance “like being flogged with warm lettuce”, and in saying to him “I want to do you slowly”, delivered a taunt that still echoes in the dark corridors of the Australian political imagination. Keating may have lost the election to Howard in 1996 but one suspects that Keating’s special brand of spoken bastardry will endure beyond any memory of Howard’s words. What, after all, do a majority of votes matter, when your opponent has described you to history as a “mangy maggot”, “the old desiccated coconut”, “araldited to the seat” and a “dead carcass, swinging in the breeze”?

As to the ethics of this, you can decide. Source

So there you have it; just my little collection of political dalliances with the truth, garnished with some Keating sauce. I hope I haven’t given you indigestion. R.

_________________________________________

Some years ago I tried to do something about all of this deception. I wrote the little book below. It was the subject of two interviews on the ABC and raised a laugh there and at other places.

Bastards Cover

It was fun to write. Greg Gaul is a masterly cartoonist who caught my ideas so cleverly.

One of many cartoons in the book

I have also given it to some political friends with a waiver saying they did not need it. If you want a copy, there are still some left. The price is $12.50 AU author signed and posted free anywhere in the world. If you want it, just press the PayPal button.

Survival Guide

Tongue in cheek advice to would be politicians to ensure their survival in the present day political climate.

A$12.50

Thanks for your company here,

royciebaby.

A Different History

How Nincompoops Destroyed

The Roman Empire  

New Research Reveals A Distorted History

The Roman Empire is not what it used to be. In fact, it doesn’t exist anymore. Why is this so? The answer: because idiots destroyed it.

Exceptionalism in Rome Was Based Merely On Symbols. 

Ancient Romans were constantly urged to make Rome great. One idolised symbol used in this process: the fasces. This was an imperial token of power carried by lictors in front of magistrates. It was a bundle of sticks including an axe with its handle visible, indicating uncontrolled power over life and death. A lictor was a Roman CIA type who was a bodyguard. He had absolute power. Absolute power corrupts as the loot will lie.

Non Compos Mentis Roman Economists Wrought Decay With False Prophesies.

Expand or die was the cry. The numbskull Roman reasoners fostered the corporate greed of patrician families and ignored all social service needs of the poor. Ruthless Roman creditors had free reign with massive interest and power over debtors. Political life was thus dominated by the patrician nerd 1% – the greedy corporate clans promoting a truly decadent social agenda. Empty-headed Emperors minted their own coins stamped with their own beautified images and used them as mere propaganda tools. The aim was to lift the rulers’ fictitious status and highlight their wealth and importance. The ancient Roman economy was thus often unstable. Airhead Emperors also funded attention-getting imperial projects such as public building works, or fostered costly wars whose dead heroes were lavishly praised to encourage more young men to die bravely when needed.

Roman Money Was The Route Of All Evil.

For no deity is held in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful money, thou hast no temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars to Money in like manner as we worship Peace and Honour, Victory and Virtue  ― Juvenal, The Sixteen Satires

Take for instance Marcus Licinius Crassus (Born c. 115 BCE—died 53 BCE). He was a real estate agent of great wealth who inherited grandly from his father. He spoke blandly in small, unprovable epithets, and had a sex scandal in his CV. A key source of his wealth and power was his entrepreneurialism – much copied in his time. Also an ability to wage war we now know was part of his earning capacity as well as his political influence. In 60 BCE Crassus formed a powerful Trust with Pompey and Caesar to create the powerful corporation FTI (First Triumvirate Inc.) Crassus entered this expansive coalition mainly to promote passing of laws helpful to his investment deals in Asia. It was seizure of power by a corporate cabal. To cap all his self interest the fool eventually got himself killed in a battle.

“What’s infamy matter if you keep your fortune?” ― Juvenal, The Sixteen Satires


A Wall Did Not Stop The Fall.

The Emperor simpleton Hadrian ordered in Britain a wall in 117 C E. It took three Roman Legions — or 15,000 men — six years to complete. 300 years later, in 410 CE, the Romans were gone. Today what’s left of the wall anachronism is a tourist site. In knucklehead Hadrian’s day the pretentious divider was 73 miles long, three meters wide and six plus meters high. All you needed to do however, to make it useless, was walk 74 miles.

Greedy Fools Built Vast Stadiums For Profit Plus Spectacle. 

Airhead patrician corporations built them for conspicuous glory. They gathered popular teams of money-motivated, death-defying gladiators to fight for that glory. The violence raged accompanied by wild cheering in these giant arenas. The bonehead developers got money from huge passing parades of spectators. In the contests, losing was death and disgrace. Winning was fame and riches. The word arena derives from the Roman word for sand – the sand that was strewn in the fighting places to soak up the blood.  The Colosseum held up to 80,000 rapt Romans. Now, like other similar buildings, it is constantly empty.

Ancient Media Moguls Moulded Rome Towards An Ancient Doom.

Powerful morons helped the ancient society crumble as they manipulated and controlled public minds. For example, the Acta Senatus or minutes of the Senate meetings were kept in public libraries but could be examined by citizens other than Senators only with special permission. Indeed one dunderhead Emperor, Augustus, declared them “classified” and unavailable to the general, mind-dead public. This effectively kept the truth from the masses. A brainless head of state thus promoted social ignorance and ultimate decay.

Jackass Roman Industrialists Polluted Water, Air And Soil. 

This happened especially with the aqueduct construction industry. Jobs with the greedy building moguls were scarce and wages were low, in particular with waste-disposal services. For buildings not linked to a drainage system, a lowly paid worker had to collect waste in clay pots and later sell the pots to farmers. Many plebeians were thus virtual slaves, helping other real slaves to do dirty work.  Obviously age did not weary many of these workers.

Declamatory Dunces Of Ancient Rome Worshipped Coal.

Roman priests used to burn Britain’s coal using the extra heat to honour Minerva, their beloved goddess of wisdom and military triumph. Shady later social conmen continued the worship of coal for financial reasons. The crumbling effect on civilisations has been the same.

Idiot War Mongers Caused The Decline And Fall Of Rome.

Normally a narcissistic male, each halfwit Emperor waged un-winnable wars that deprived the nation of its youth and denarii. Typically the moron believed he was always right. He promptly put to death any critic and spoke in short, easily remembered sentences like,  “I came; I saw; I conquered” to stay within the population’s attention span.

Coda: Words Of A Sane General

Modern wisdom that echoes down the ages

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on April 16, 1953

Author’s Note: Any comparisons with crumbling civilisations other than Rome should be taken with a grain of saltpeter.  Royciebaby


Another Hospital Adventure

Dear Visitor

I have been away. Out of this cyber world you might say, for six weeks or so.

Thereby hangs a tale. I think I might tell it as a way of coming back into your company.

Here it is.

On Father’s Day, September 2, I was sitting in my comfortable chair. I decided to visit my computer in another room. Half way there my body mechanisms started to do funny things. The world moved out of focus and began to rotate. Vision faded to black for a moment. My hammies and quads disconnected themselves and my legs turned into disobedient jelly. Down I went.

I managed to catch hold of a solid support to prevent head injury or other critical damage. My knees were not so lucky. They made me stay on the floor and feel intense pain. I called to my wife for help.

“Darling! I think we have a triple O job here.”

Dear Joan helped me into a chair. We together planned a next move. To my great good fortune she decided to drive me to Ryde Memorial Hospital Emergency Ward. She rang first and they said to bring me in. This she did in her usual calm and competent way.

In the wheelchair provided, I was relieved to have the Emergency Ward supervising nurse invite me ahead of a number of other patients, for attention. 

“Would you like to see a doctor?” she said with a smile. My reply left no doubts.

So I began to share life’s struggles for about two weeks with a moving population. There were three beds in immediate proximity to mine.

I have never felt pain like the pain of that first night at Ryde. All night. Sleep for one hour. Not a minute more. Things improved thanks to the fine care I received, but the damage remained a mystery so I remained in the hospital.

I am so lucky to have had such a place as the Ryde hospital available to me. Such a learning about life experience. Sharing the struggle of existence with a passing parade of fellow humans, some far less fortunate than I am, and in the care of true humanitarian people. The medical professionals there, of every level from doctors to the the diligent cleaners and the dextrous pushers of beds, worked so hard for us patients. I owe them all so much.

Such diagnostic attention too, including X-rays, bone scan, heart tests, blood analysis – all dedicated to accurate diagnosis. The first good outcome was that nothing was broken. Physiotherapy not surgery was to be the solution – hence Royal Rehab was my second destination.

Royal Rehab

What a remarkable sanctuary this was for two weeks!

Wheeled away in farewell from Ryde to the patient transport vehicle, I felt I was leaving important friends. Should I wave as I passed by? How skilful the paramedics were with the mobile bed, strapping me in, comforting comments and the actual driving process!

Royal Rehab: Room 15

Suddenly there I was in a new refuge for my injuries. I was very much dependent on others.  In the early recovery stage you can’t dress yourself. You are incompetent in the shower. It makes you count your previous blessings. The caring, diligent and patient nurses are gifts of the present.

I was helped in so many different ways by Royal Rehab. Constant blood tests, needle pricks, pills to take, blood pressure testing (sitting and standing), putting on tight stockings, support when I walked, including to and from meals, doing up my complicated knee brace that I was to wear at all times save in water.

“The mind has mountains,” said G M Hopkins the poet. In individual ways the nurses lifted my spirits, saved me from giving in, inspired me to think positively and even creatively. The little green help button was constantly there for me. I tried not to be a nuisance but I was saved by it more than once.

Lots of little struggles, for example the wet pants just before dawn that made me cry out to the nurse when she answered my desperate button-press. Such calm, comforting precision with that help! Tears of depression another time, at close of evening. This brought forth a visit from a supportive social worker just one day later.

My MRI test halfway through my stay placed great demands on a nurse to organise a taxi, manage my wheelchair and stay with me as support during the process at another hospital. I will have continuing gratitude for such skill and kindness.

Splendid, healthy meals at Royal Rehab are another source of my gratitude and good fortune. Each day I was personally contacted with tomorrow’s menu. Weight loss and gratitude followed.

Hydrotherapy is another golden memory for me. I was so happy in the water I became known as the singing patient. “The Water is Wide,” “All day I faced the barren waste without the taste of water, cool water,” and similar songs kept popping out of my mouth. The exercises and the person-to-person coaching I won’t easily forget. Somehow the warm, clean water in the hard first few days made the pain less. Spoken kindness and expertise were added to that environment.

The gym activities also lifted my spirits as well as my mobility. I felt needed and supported there, with special benefit from guidance concerning the hard to fit knee brace and the thoughtful gift of a long sleeve to wear under the brace. Memorable and effective kindness.

Encore Rapport

The dedication of all the nurses, their social as well as medical skills, made rapport easy and comfortable for me. In an effort to thank people, I set up a series of little events that the nurses responded to in my room.

At every afternoon Shift Changeover (2.30 – 3.00pm) I “summoned” a meeting for both nursing shifts in Room 15. This is what we did.

Here’s the script for the eleven days.

Meeting 1

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: I want to exercise my right to contribute to a Shift Hand Over discussion. 

My contribution: I want to thank the old shift for the fine work done for my wellbeing. The new shift have a huge task to equal their performance. I feel confident you will do this as all help has been so brilliant.

I want now to read a poem I have written today for the occasion.

The Nurse

When your life touches mine

Even small things turn me

Into something else.

Your subtle deeds

Like a caring glance

Or a smile of acknowledgement

Reap changes that verify my existence.

Meeting 2 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for coming here once more. 

My contribution: I want to advise the new shift that they have a huge task to reach the standard of the first shift, yet somehow I am confident they will.

Now here is a poem for you. I wrote it this morning.

What Would I Do Without You?

Take my own pulse? 

’Twould be deadly.

I would have the wrong numbers to check.

Take my own temp?

Not readily.

‘Twould make all your records a wreck.

Make my own bed in the morning?

Sleepless nights is the warning.

And so I endure my ways.

Because of you alone,

I survive these troublesome days.

Meeting 3 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for coming here today. 

My contribution: Today I want to encourage you about examinations. You are all so busy and if you are studying as well, life can be tense. Remember all is not lost after one failure. I had to wait until I was 28 before i entered university as I did poorly at school. Now I have three degrees and have helped many students get their degrees. Never give up your dreams. Work on and stay cool.

Now here is a poem for you. I wrote it this morning.

Why Do You Hurry So?

Why do you hurry so?

Is the world about to end?

Have all the clocks caught a fever?

Is time full of holes to mend?

Why is your day in a rush with a gush?

Why is your patter a scatter?

Slow down please just once in a while,

And let my eyes feast on a slow-motion smile.

Meeting 4 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for coming here today. 

My contribution: I want to tell you about the world’s rarest disease. It is chrometophobia. What is it? Why, it’s fear of money.

Now here is a poem for you.

Things Here I Don’t Understand

Nurse pressed the blood pressure thing – what ho!

He left the room like a startled doe.

A temperature thing-o was so revealing

His eyes explored the ceiling.

Another nurse saw me as fit to throttle –

I thought that thing was a fresh water bottle.

The last transition was a dreadful condition;

My bed got stuck in the up position.

So you see all these bloopers have drilled me with lead

But I am still cheerful as I am not dead.

Meeting 5 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for coming here today. 

My contribution: I want to talk to you about essay writing. We all have to write essays some time or other. Essays set by teachers or lecturers will always have two clues. One will be TOPIC WORDS that tell you what to write about. The other will be DIRECTIVES (such as compare and contrast, discuss fully with examples, to what extent do you agree, define accurately) that tell you HOW to write about the topic words. If you keep strictly to these parts of the question you chance of success will be greater.

Now here is today’s poem. 

How My Pain Went Away Today

I awoke this morning feeling sad;

The pain in my knees was really bad.

On top of this, to extend my blues,

I next received some dreadful news:

Old Tom, my cat, was dead.

A terrible day to begin in this way,

The trouble put water in my eyes.

Yet, in spite of life’s curses,

I still had the nurses

So skilled in pain’s appeasement.

Their many kind words turned into a flood

That washed all my tears down the easement.

Meeting 6 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome once more. 

My contribution: I have nothing special to say today except that I am beginning to feel all your hard work is working for me.

Now here is another poem.

When I couldn’t Find The Bottle

I was in a mess this morning

And the stop was glottal.

Just before the day was dawning

I couldn’t find the bottle.

Now let me tell you, friend or foe,

This problem was distracting;

It became a tale of woe

With my body interacting.

I stumbled here, I rumbled there,

In hope dramatically searching,

But ’twas no use, I couldn’t find where

That bird of a bottle was perching.

Despair set in and my pulse went up

But no bottle could I find.

The need grew urgent, no joy resurgent,

I was partly out of my mind.

Then all of a sudden I hit on it;

What a joy that trouble to fix!

It was down by the bed that I found it,

With its milk for my morning’s Weet Bix.

Meeting 7 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to you all once more. 

My contribution: Hello. Just thanks today.

Here is today’s poem.

The Magic Pill

They gave me a magic pill today.

It quickly drove all my troubles away.

The pain in my neck disappeared like a fog

And my sudden good health left observers agog.

Away went the pimple perched on my nose,

Replaced by the beauty you would find in a rose.

The cramp that invaded my hammies and quads

Was driven afar without pushes or prods.

The dribble when I nibble also disappeared,

Replaced by decorum that was really quite weird.

What was this pill that the nurses were tasking?

’Twas but a smile that was yours for the asking.

Meeting 8 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to you all once more. 

My contribution: Greetings to you all and thank you for coming.

I’ve just done another poem for you..

Achievement

I am not a bird

So I cannot fly –

When I look at the sky,

It’s too vast to try.

I am not a horse

So I cannot carry

Heavy loads along life’s course.

At my advanced age

I can almost recall 

All the fun when I used to run.

Now I am poor with so little wealth,

Yet I have one more prize for the shelf:

Today I put on my complex leg-brace

Entirely by myself.

Meeting 9 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to you all once more. 

My contribution: “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Here’s the next poem I’ve done for you.

The Helping Hand

What is that mystery

That abounds with sophistry

And touches the pulse of my soul?

Who can tell

What magic spell

Eases the pain of my days?

I can barely respond

To those who seek

The meaning of the words I speak.

Yet this I can say

In my clumsy way

With words that are frequently bland:

I endure throughout each day

Because of a helping hand.

Meeting 10 (Next Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: You are once again so welcome here.

My contribution: “Words are the most powerful drugs used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling.

Here’s a little poem I wrote this morning.

Data

It is easy to see I comply with the norm;

Each time nurses see me they fill out a form.

To be sure it’s a good way

For management to rate ’em

As they blithely record each ill as a datum.

My headache gets seven; my sore knee gets five;

It’s a message to Heaven that I’m still alive.

How much I respect nurses’ diligent work!

Never a duty do they shirk.

Those numbers of theirs are so realistic,

In the end I’m just grateful to be their statistic.

Meeting 11 (Last Day)

Me: Ladies and gentlemen: Thank you so much for being here so many times.

My contribution: This is a remarkable patient-centred place. I want to thank you so much for all that you have done for me.

I finished this poem just in time.

Farewell

You thought we were parting didn’t you?

Thought that a farewell

Would leave our space blank?

Not so, you should know,

It’s the way friendships grow,

And Memory is the Master of Time.

So where ere you walk

Even though you don’t talk,

You’ll have company

If you think of me.

*** 

MEBye now,

Royce (85 and feeling a lot better)

WORDS BEYOND REPAIR

WORDS BEYOND REPAIR

A TOTAL MISCELLANY 

CONTRIVED BY 

Royce Levi

Where the loon sits

There sit I

Under the moon

And a blighted sky

The words I hear

Are a twisted notion

Writhing in air

With appropriate commotion

Once before time became expensive a droolworthy citizen named Peterkin Appletree decided to upcycle his house. The first thing he did was demolish his heritage-protected former home, displaying the original front door as a token of his respect for the past.

Peterkin was one of the twitterati and spoke in short, meaning-condensed sentences. This became a major problem during the reconstruction as the workmen wrongly filled in the missing links of his reasoning regarding materials purchased. As a result costs were doubled causing immense capital gain loss in a virtual bear market situation. 

The ultimate outcome was a superb, contemporary mansion without a roof. Now Appletree was above all else a modern man. He was by profession an investment advisor. Downticks were a normal part of his existence. Equities, face values, freezes were like everyday meals to him. So Peterkin didn’t worry.

Peterkin didn’t scream or scurry. He hedged and he dredged and he studied the market, as he turned his home into an open-air cinema and slept in the laundry. Who needs a real home when it can become venture capital? Success struck this man like lightning. Chain lightning. The money kept rolling in. Last we heard he is on the boards of several banks.

On the matter of time, beginnings can be surprising. Things we see as ordinary were often invented for us by gifted thinkers. Do you remember the telegram? The first one was sent by Samuel Morse in 1844 from Washington DC to Baltimore, Maryland. It read: “What hath God wrought?” In the same year the safety match was invented by Sweden’s chemistry academic Gustaf Erik Pasch and the first safe was invented by Alexander Fichet, a famous Paris locksmith. Two years later the German astronomer Johann Galle discovered the planet Neptune and six years later Isaac Singer patented the sewing machine. In 1852 Elisha Otis gave us the elevator and the brown paper bag was invented.

So you see, even to live ordinary lives we have to stand on the shoulders of giants.

A very different kettle of sea creatures (cliché avoided) is Gerald Frankenfood. Now Gerry is a perfect example of the modern-day illiterati. Books are unknown to him. With traditional written discourse he is something between a muggle and a noob. Pen and paper are also his known unknowns that he proudly knows are known to be unknown.  His tool is the iPhone. 

If he writes a cyber question to you it might look something like this: wut hpns win u write lyk dis.  His answer could easily be OMG itz obvs.  

Do you see what I mean? When you finally translate it, it’s much ado about nothing but nothing.

You might be wondering how Gerry and his ilk spend their time. Not hard to discover. They ride the radio waves and cultivate profitable shockable ignorance.

Ignorance can creep up on you. Notice this very deceptive lead-you-astray rime.

Mary Mary quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.

Did you know that this Mary was actually Mary Tudor? Her contrary nature led her to execute hundreds of enemies (284 it seems) mainly on religious grounds. A widely held view is that the garden was the cemetery (constantly expanding) where Mary’s victims were buried. 

The silver bells were thumb screws and the cockle shells were instruments of torture for the genitals. The pretty maids it is said were guillotines although most of “Bloody Mary’s” victims were put to death by burning. Interesting though. How often reality is hidden by false appearances! 

8415bd51ede148bea6690b4fb30b5b44Attribution:https://www.pinterest.com May 4, 2018

How deceptive that illustration is! As a former teacher I find myself noticing how we currently mislead children in so many ways. I’m holding back here a tirade against Australia’s categorisation of pupils via the NAPLAN test. I’m tending to be like Bertrand Russell these days and hold my beliefs tentatively. Things keep revealing themselves as I grow older.

Take the Casablanca Conference between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in January 1943. I’m getting more ideas about it. Historians will tell you that this meeting laid plans for the rest of the war and declared absolute surrender from the Axis powers a confirmed demand at war’s end. 

This was important later in 1945 when the Japanese were afraid of the word “absolute” and the danger for their Emperor if they gave in. The surrender was thus delayed allowing time for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The thought now is that Japan was ready to quit before the two bombs were dropped but for fear of losing the Emperor. When peace ultimately came Hirohito was safe after all. So were all those nuclear deaths really necessary?

Casablanca has another significance not so often noticed. FDR’s trip across the Atlantic, in a Boeing 314 flying boat, was the first time a sitting U.S. president flew in an aeroplane.   (Source:https://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/the-first-presidential-flight-2901615/  3/5/ 2018).

Add to that significance the translation of Casablanca – “White House” – and you have a neat little coincidence.

 

President_Roosevelt_and_Prime_Minister_Churchill_at_the_Allied_Conference_in_Casablanca,_January_1943_A14153Attribution: commons.wikimedia.org May 4, 2018.

Thanks for your company,

R.

Proverbs Beyond Repair

Dear Reader

Been away for a while because I fell down an escalator. Glad to be back.

Here’s a little piece I wrote with one usable hand. Will be fit again soon.

PROVERBS BEYOND REPAIR

A TOTAL MISCELLANY

CONTRIVED BY

Royce Levi

 

Where the loon sits there sit I
Under the moon
And a blighted sky
The words I hear
Are a twisted notion writhing in air
With appropriate commotion

 

Once upon a commotion a principle was born: Pay the Rich To Feed the Poor. The result was jobs for the snobs.

Pump A. Nickel was not a snob. He was a human rhetorician smitten with an itch that turned into a twitch. The twitch occurred in his funeral orations after every three sentences. Poor soul. That twitch sapped his strength.

O so tired was Pumpy! Sleep it is a blessed thing beloved from post to post. He dozed off unwillingly while sheltering in a coffin and was buried in the dead centre. Look before you sleep.

“If at first you don’t exceed, buy, buy, buy again,” said the Right Honourable Pierre Terpsichore-a-Stare. Prime ministers dance vulnerable dances. Dance for your daddy my little laddie you shall have a penny when the vote comes in.

Dancing got the better of Terpsichore. Depression set in. A person is known by the corporation he keeps. A profit is not recognised in his own land. True. Pierre Terpsichore-a-Stare is voted out of office at the next election.

Is the climate really changing? Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool that to speak and remove all doubt. Duty is in the eye of the beholder. Old King Coal was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he. Anthracite! He’s got the hole world in his hands. Dig me grey-beard loon? Yes. Cheats ever prosper if they have a lobbyist.

“Grime doesn’t pay,” said the scientist. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” said the sceptic. “It never rains but it pours,” said the weatherman. “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good,” said the denier. The wise owl said, “Let the punishment fit the grime.” It did. A dirty society gets its just deserts.

Tree 13

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as arboriculture. Money makes the world go round. Money doesn’t grow on trees so cut them down for profit. The unkindest cut of all. How green was my valley is what the chain saw. I’ll drink to that. Absinth makes the heart grow fonder. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die in drought induced wildfires or destructive floods. A load of scrap.

Political axiom: Don’t put all your eggs in the one bastard. The Senate has rejected another bill. East is east, and west is west and never the bandwagons shall meet. Still, it’s better to have shoved and lost than never to have shoved at all. A friend in greed is a friend in need. All’s well that bends well. An eye for an eye and a truth for the booth.

Border protection. All you need is hate. All’s fair in love and war. Banners maketh the man. Old soldiers never die, only young ones. Do undo others as they you would undo. Do as I say, not as I do. War kills babies; a poor workman always blames his tools so don’t throw the bathwater out with the babies.

Any sport in a storm. CEOs of cricket need to agonise young men to keep the sponsors happy. And many a mickle makes the Chief’s muckle. One good term deserves another. The road to Hell is paved with free to air intentions. Money is the route of all evil. Slime goes by so slowly and slime can mean so much advertising. A nerd in the hand is worth two in the bush. That my friends is a woebegone conclusion.

images

Pay up, pay up and play the game.

Mirum Hospitium (Remarkable Hospital)

So you wake up to a morning that seems possibly your last because of a frightening dizziness. The world is spinning so you close your eyes to avoid the turmoil. If you get up you’ll fall over so you stay in bed hoping the revolving world will stop. It doesn’t.

You’ve been dehydrated before so maybe water will fix things. You therefore struggle out of bed and blunder off to the kitchen, hands sliding along a hallway wall to help you avoid falling over. Two big glasses of water.

No relief. So you stagger onto an adjustable chair and almost pass out. Your wife finds you there. In conference, you both decide to ring 000.

Remarkably helpful phone service follows. First the ambulance section arranges for a doctor to talk to me on the phone. She checks things out with pertinent questions.

“Are you in pain anywhere?”

“No.”

“Are your limbs functioning properly with feeling?

“Yes.”

I can’t remember the other questions but they made me feel I was  being advised very wisely. Then I was asked to hand the phone to my calm and caring wife to pinpoint the address for the ambulance. I was to stay put and wait.

The paramedics came so quickly to my unit. The date was January 14, 2018. I hope that date brings credit to two fine, professional people.

“Hello,” said one cheerfully at my shoulder. This cheerfulness was magically relaxing to the patient to be.

“That your self-portrait?” he asked jokingly looking at my Frans Hals Laughing Cavalier painting on the wall.

“Every painter paints himself,” I said, “so that is Hals’ self-portrait not mine. A few hundred years out of my time.”

“That your guitar?”

“Yes.”

“Do you sing?”

“Yes.”

“What songs?”

“Folk mainly.”

Then I sang:    O the summertime is coming

And the trees are sweetly blooming

Where the wild mountain thyme

Grows around the blooming heather

to some considerable applause…

While all this was happening, professional expertise had sprung into action. Blood pressure. Standing blood pressure. Blood test. Other tests I don’t understand.

I was in good hands.

A trip to hospital was decided upon. I walked with help to the ambulance. What a spotless, well equipped vehicle! Comfortable travel bed with my paramedic seated beside me getting details – with driver’s licence help.

What a calm, smooth ride to Ryde Hospital, mirum hospitium! The travel bed smoothly unloaded and I’m wheeled into Emergency. Explanation of case by paramedic to one duty nurse.

Ryde Hospital: January 14, 2018

It is hard to do justice with words to the benefits I received there. Such thorough, caring attention by my second duty nurse. There is a businesslike energy in that place. You can feel the concern for you and you can see it in the eyes of the staff. Care for your comfort. Care for your valuables. Care for your identity. Care for your peace of mind.

My doctor’s thoroughness amazed me. So many tests to check my physical and mental capacity. Such caring and helpful advice. My dearest wife too, who braved the traffic to follow the ambulance, and remember we are both octogenarians, stayed in the ward for the four hours I was required to complete. She was treated with much care and kindness too.

And so the diagnosis was benign vertigo. My doctor and nurse gave me the final walking test. Then home in my dearest wife’s care. All free.

Can you see why I am a fan of Ryde Hospital and the fine paramedics who took me there? Lucky country.

Lucky me!

images

Wisdom Begins in Wonder: Socrates

A Teacher’s Thoughts on COMPULSORY TESTING

The Socratic method has long been recognised as an important way to promote the getting of wisdom. It is interesting to pause a while amidst the current test fever in Australia to consider the validity of the classical model. There was never anything trite in the vast area of Socrates’ Curriculum.  Look at the summary of his questioning style: “The Socratic Questions.”

UWASocrates_gobeirne_cropped

Image Attribution: Creative Commons

The Socratic Questions

Source: http://changingminds.org/techniques/questioning/socratic_questions.htm 14/12/17

• Why are you saying that?

• What exactly does this mean?

• How does this relate to what we have been talking about?

• What is the nature of …?

• What do we already know about this?

• Can you give me an example?

• Are you saying … or … ?

• Can you rephrase that, please?

_________________

In the light of Socratic awareness, so many of our current testing procedures in schools fall short because they are concerned with only a small part of the human story. I am not at all sure it is the right part. A new word has come to mind for these tests: TINTs – Tribal Indoctrination Tests (I expanded the acronym for decorum’s sake)

Such tests control the destinies of the young. Success will define tribal acceptability ranging from satisfactory to heroic. Failure will mean confinement to a lesser life.

This judgement of the tribe is focused excessively on the Cognitive Domain. And because of the cost of other methods, the tools of judgement are dominantly one-off tests.

Some of us who have been on the teaching journey for a considerable time cannot help feeling uneasy about the present day league-table fever. And the cognitive area is only a part of all learning. What about attitudes? What about the Psycho-motor area of mental health? How is the current generation faring in those areas? We have no mass-scale awareness of this. Maybe such concern is irrelevant and all we need from the masses is obedience to ad-talk and polispeak.

How strange it is to divide people the way we do into quartiles of visible success!

The category of failure, or even moderate success, is a harsh one these days to belong to. We teachers have learnt the hard way that the bottom fifty percent are half our future.

My Questions

Is TEST preparation replacing other (untested) teaching?

Are categories becoming more important than individuals?

Is stress controlled mathematically in the ranking, especially for the very young?

Is lack of skill with examination technique really a valid reason to berate children?

Is forecasting questions by study-guides a similar invalid variable?

Is postcode an accounted-for variable?

What precisely is the effect of school morale on learning?

Are all test conditions rigorously uniform for valid comparison of schools or groups?

Is there a clear distinction between diagnostic tests and attainments tests?

Does the vast cost of universal testing remove funds from urgent remedial teaching?

Are we really testing the right things?

Unknown       bizarro-stats

Attribution: Creative Commons: Dan Piraro.

_________________

So there you are. Just felt I had to say these things. All those years of sharing learning with my students make you notice things. Things you don’t usually read about in a government’s test reports.

Bye now.