Dear Friends, sorry to have been away for a while. I have just published this book with Amazon: An Advanced Survival Guide For Dishonest Political Bastards. I started the book with a review by a fictitious senior lecturer from Sydney University writing (fictitiously) in The Sydney Morning Herald.
I thought the “review” might be readable on my web site so here it is. This second book is a sequel to one published in 2005 without the “Advanced.” The new book will be available in e-form and paperback in a few days. Thanks for your visit.
Dr Adrian Arbiter’s Critique*
Royce Levi, in his Advanced Survival Guide, has provided an ironic historical satire about political behaviour in the modern world. To do this the writer adopts an assumed right wing persona and proceeds to praise devotedly “approved” historical figures as ideal role models. These models of political behaviour are certainly not angels. To the mocking writer they are.
They notably include moguls Joseph Pulitzer, Randolph Hearst and Edward Bernays as well as Australia’s highly successful John Howard and another prime minister Harold Holt. History is the key: political mores are linked to past events in both peace and war. The order in the House is actually organised disorder tied to political agendas.
There is a touch of parody in the writing. The so-called “advice” consistently reeks of extreme, ruthless, political gamesmanship. Big tongue in big cheek.
The how to do it subject matter is presented in roughly historical order, with a pointed warning at the head of Chapter1. There we are told that “Every House of Government is a theatre of pretence where myths and legends are acted out in the masks and costumes of false reality.”
We meet first Joseph Pulitzer, “giant of influence,” and “power broker extraordinaire.” His media magic, involving “stunts, exposés, ‘Crusades,’ innovative illustrations, and sensationalism,” is portrayed as a source of immense power. Note the difference between a democrat and a plutocrat: people power versus rich power. We meet the powerful Greek word: kratos: ‘power.’ The Pulitzer Prize, still ranking as one of the highest social achievements, is even today still an indication of Pulitzer’s power.
Then we find Randolph Hearst, via what is known as the Yellow Press, providing us with more strategies of political power. Newsman Hearst is presented as a powerful role model closely linked to success in politics. “His papers attacked President McKinley, even suggesting he be removed from office by force. In 1901, at the height of the Hearst abuse, McKinley was assassinated.”
The Advanced Survival Guide also delves into the life of the omnipotent Edward Bernays. Much is made of this man’s importance, his extensive impact on generations of humanity. “It was Bernays’ vast personal influence, his mind control of the masses, that determined so much of the shape of the twentieth century. “
It is in the mind games of politics that Bernays is declared indispensable. The man’s own words provide the evidence: “…we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” This is golden guidance for politicians who are au fait with mind control populism.
Attention to the main figures above is far from the complete story. The text abounds in allusions to other mind play, ranging from Plato and his cave (see Chapter 12 p. 42 ) to Nixon’s “silent majority.” The text is the author’s personal journey, rich in its variety and often surprising. One of the surprises is the array of Des Carts axioms such as “as fit as a diddle,” scattered throughout the text. Approval from the French philosopher René Descartes seems unlikely.
Extensive referencing is another feature of the book. Sources are meticulously recorded. One can assume that because this is a “guide,” the author’s intent is to encourage in the probationary politicians expansive and rigorous reading. Web sites as well as specific texts are thus referenced.
The Epilogue is a puzzle. At first sight it seems to be an off-topic collection of irrelevancies. Maybe, we are told, the supplement comes via social media from a recently retired prime minister. At the beginning and end of the Epilogue however, there are significant editorial notes. They point out that politicians are dealers in off-topic subjects. “Skill with talking to fill out time is standard political practice. At the extreme level is the American filibuster, but far more common is the long-winded beside-the-point speech in defence of disastrous policies.”
Apart from the entertainment value of many of the Epilogue’s items, the author seems to be deliberately having fun with sayings. He provides his own defence: “Political methodology depends, indeed thrives on glib-tongued, fluent irrelevancies that hide ill-timed, unsuitable or inconvenient reality.” The variety makes interesting reading.
We discover via the narrative of this text, a new political term: in-for-a-structure. “It refers to the very common practice of selling off state property or services and then using the funds to build tall buildings. This creates the illusion (or is it delusion?) of creative power. As the writer puts it, “No negatives. Do it. Sell off the family jewels and look masterly.”
The tone of the writing seems to deserve my final words – words about its jocular spirit. Humour and satire have long been linked to each other. Lemuel Gulliver’s (Jonathan Swift’s) adventures are one of the best examples of this.
Mock heroic urgings abound in the text. An example: “Your task is to use Bernays on the reasoning-impaired masses and, through them, win the power and the glory O so ready and waiting for YOU…We use ’em! Confuse ’em! Enthuse ’em! Advance triumphant you partisan know-it-alls. Go! Go! Go! Fool the fools.”
With those words from the text I leave you to your own reading. Adrian Arbiter.
Dr Adrian Arbiter is a fictitious Senior Lecturer in Politics at Sydney University writing in The Sydney Morning Herald.
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 Test
Initial Diagnostic Test
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.
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.
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
Right now people all around me seem to be on drugs – word drugs. As I watch their narcotised, stupefied, insensible, befuddled, delirious, hallucinating behaviour I feel as though I have just fallen into Alice’s Wonderland. Why is this so?
I try to understand.
Rudyard Kipling once said that words are the most powerful drugs used by mankind. I fervently agree with him. I do know however that some words are as valuable as penicillin. They are not the ones I am thinking of.
The words currently in my mind can lead to the darkest of consequences. Many of the users of these words aim to suppress logic. They seek to give you a good feeling about unverified things and thus take away a great freedom – your ability to make decisions based on truth and reliable evidence.
What is the motive for this? It’s quite simple: to get your money. A second aim is to gain power over you. When your existence depends not on reason and proof but on the schemes and devices of fable pedlars, you are no longer free.
The selling artifice has become a Janus deal for the power seekers of the modern world. And the bend sanctifies the means.
In the table below then are some of my narcotic words. Their possible ramifications are also shown. All of this is a struggle that continues for me.
“It’s not cricket.” Did you know that the first recorded use of that expression in England was early in the seventeenth century when folk were accused of playing cricket on a Sunday. That was one way out of a Laurel and Hardy “revolting development.” An excuse was needed to avoid God’s wrath.
Regarding the rules of ethics though, is cricket today the moral pastime it was once claimed to be? No comment from me. You decide.
I do have a comment here however. About something else.
This little speech of mine is a consequence of 50 years of teaching: 29 teaching children or youths K to 12, and 21 teaching teachers. Yes, it is definitely not about cricket. A topic for between seasons perhaps. Anyway here it is. You decide.
I am a graduate of Fort Street, a selective high school in Sydney Australia. I remember Fortians with affection. Yet my memories of my students who struggled to learn with me in underprivileged Western Sydney also give me much comfort in my old age. Learning can be such a victory for some of us! I have noticed that the joy of sudden understanding lasts even longer sometimes than the school itself.
A Parting Plea
Education is not a black and white simplicity. It is technicolour!
An infinite range of variables can influence the learning success of a child. We can mention postcode, home conditions, parent ambition, gender, health, height, hearing capacity, eyesight, teacher-child-relationships, relevance of subject-matter, difficulty of subject matter, teacher mastery of subject-matter, intelligence (whatever that is), attendance at school, change of school, constancy of failure and constancy of success as some of the potential controlling variables. I do not claim this list is complete.
Therefore, how do we measure teaching competence?
Don’t you dare tell me we can measure teachers via pupil performance in objective or one-off single day written tests! Don’t you dare tell me you can measure the competence of a teacher of literacy in the same way!
You have to get into that teacher’s classroom. That is where the essential action takes place. That is what needs to be observed. That is the cauldron where learning has to happen. The judge has to be there; has to taste the climate that children face every day; has to smell the smells; has to see what windows don’t open in hot weather.
In my school teaching days I was inspected by experienced, observant mentors twelve times. Twelve times they passed judgement on me according to what they saw in my classrooms. Once, two Year Eleven boys tried to help me. They said loudly for the inspector’s benefit as they left the classroom,”Gee that was a good lesson!” The inspector smiled and winked at me, but those two young men knew that a glossy CV was not enough for me to get promoted in that system. They knew that I was on display there where you cannot hide incompetence. The inspectorial system was replaced some years ago by a Harvard business model in my part of the world – alas!
Regarding that poem, education ministers and administrators should remember that the students below the test mean are half our future.
There are some challenges for teachers with that failing group of students that objective attainments tests do nothing for. The test psychosis in the minds of political administrators just now is courting disaster. I am not saying we don’t need tests. Test teach retest reteach has got to be part of every teacher’s program. What I am against is the tyranny of haloed attainments tests over everything else.
All my best wishes to the teachers of today. I am compassionate and proud that I understand ( to a large extent) what huge sacrifices you make and what difficulties you face.
Down the ages children have endured pain and suffering for many reasons. Today, as a consequence of bungling and crude reasons for detention, covered up abuse, poverty in postcodes, and heinously accurate weapons of mass destruction used deliberately with sham excuses against thousands in civilian populations, the trauma and anguish of children tears us even further apart.
This brief post is only a little cry against the anguish inflicted. Butterflies wings in a tempest probably. But the tiny fluttering may start a small breeze. Nothing never happens.
Suffer little children to come unto me … Matthew 13:16
So far I have lived twenty-three years longer than Shakespeare. Oh my! What he would have done with that extra time.
As for humble me, I have noticed so many dark deeds in my eighty odd years I will feel guilty unless I at least draw attention to some of them now. That is why I am writing this.
That looking glass of mine still seems to be getting darker and darker. All my years of teaching and that infinity of classrooms have created so much data.
I feel driven just now to talk about the shadows that worry me. Are you familiar with Plato’s Cave? That sums up the way I feel pretty well. So many people in my life have announced THE answer to so many things. One of my problems is that I have seen so many unexpected changes I am beginning to wonder if you can be sure of anything.
Is uncertainty the only certainty? But wait a minute. If my answer is “yes,” how can you be certain about the certainty of my answer? My brain needs a rest. Contact with these four heroes of mine might help you understand what I am trying to say: Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing?
Please note therefore I’m into suggestions not certainties but possibly useful points of view here. For now, as I’ve said elsewhere, I focus on one cause of my anguish at a time. This is the second post in my list.
I am sick of all the sad news around me so I have decided to laugh a bit here.
The problem this time is
Things are not what they seem to be.
FAKE NEWS 4 SALE. MEDIA WHERE R U?
FROM OUR FOR REIGN CORRESPONDENT
I bought a bottle of grow-tall juice by Beanstalk Jack Inc. from my chemist last week I know it will work because I have seen breathtaking computer generated TV images to prove its effectiveness. Six foot six within my reach! I took my first dose this morning. Watch this outer space!
Midas Merten sold me a pair of Bullshit-detecting Reading Glasses for my 83rd birthday. Cost him a fortune I believe, although included was a pair of absolutely free Climate Change Sunglasses. Haven’t detected anything yet, as I read, but patients are a virtue.
Error-free pens are the latest craze in the US. They are just now poker machine prizes. A new age is approaching and it’s good buy to misspelling.
My dear wife has bought me a Truth-selecting Hearing-aid for our anniversary. So sweet of her! When I hear words of suspect truth, I notice the volume gets louder but it’s good to know lies won’t trouble me anymore.
That Anti-aging Potion I also bought from my chemist last week has caused me a bit of trouble. It’s a three times a day job with a free, precise measuring glass and a homogenised plastic spoon. The first day of treatment went very well but for the last few days I can’t remember where I put the bottle. Damn!
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How Political Schemes Do Come True
A dog has just been elected to the Australian Parliament after a long series of court battles. Citizen Canis, as his owners named him, was declared a valid, living being by the High Court and approved on constitutional grounds because dogs have not been specifically forbidden by law to occupy a seat in the House Of Representatives. The dog is functional. All it needs is one bark for yes and two barks for no. The new independent member for Black Tree wags his tail a lot. Frequent requests for support in divisions are usually backed up by gifts of export quality steak.
Citizens are advised that postage stamps are now, as the border enquiry suggests,
A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
“threatening our freedom and much envied way of life. Classified sources now reveal messages in stamped envelopes have been detected avoiding border security. This is a clear and present danger. All foreign stamps therefore will now be vetted by dedicated, well versed geologists. Please note that this may lead to delay of up to six months in delivery.”
The Treasurer has announced for tomorrow a state of the art plan to reduce costs and improve the lives of the aged and the disabled with a spectacular Budget switch. On this given date, all motor services for members will cease. Parliamentary vehicles and drivers’ roles will be be diverted to welfare service for the aged, incapacitated and dying. This will save as the needy will die off more quickly than politicians and so reduce costs and workload.Self-sustained member transport will be applied henceforth. Free bicycles will be issued. For the bicycle infirm, substitute three-wheeled scooters are planned. Long distance transport will, from this day forth, be by train only. All air transport is banned save for helicopters in a state of emergency. Overseas conferences are already missing from members’ agendas, interstate conferences will be fewer in number, and Skype and internet conferencing will become the new mode of travel.
Notice this. Bold steps have also been taken to reduce needed attention span in Parliamentary Question Time. Now, for both questions and answers, the number of words spoken will be limited to what can be stated in a single breath. Breath Detectors have been fitted to all microphones so that if a second breath is taken, a BD switch renders the member totally silent. An increase in the use of gestures has been noted. So too have the many Speaker demands to withdraw unparliamentary gesticulations.
In addition, we report that Standing Orders in the Parliament of Australia have been privatised. The Speaker now has digital support, at a small taxpayer-funded cost, for all judgements. Notable is the Question Time Relevance Monitor. Now, whenever an answer strays from the topic, a whistle blows and a QTRM recorded voice will say loudly, “Tell the truth you devious scam artist.” Disruption has already become suddenly rare and speeches in reply are noticeably brief.
Last Comment: Ad Folk Regularly Advertise Confusion
I just don’t understand these things.
Because I am old and infirm, I don’t get out much. This means I depend on television for my awareness of the world and for advice on how to spend my meagre pension. As you can see, that is serious business. I have to concentrate hard to get things right.
That is the problem!
They keep saying things that don’t make sense. I am nearing an Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood over this. Big challenge in my extreme maturity!
Look. Here are some examples of what I mean.
I needed a new scrabble set because I’d lost Q. So I saw this advertisement
BUY ONE TODAY AND GET A SECOND ONE ABSOLUTELY FREE.
I contacted them and told them I’m pretty poor so I would just like the free one please. This caused an immense fuss as they said no. Well how about that! How can something be free if you have to buy something else to get it? So I’ve made a new scrabble rule. If you’ve got u and e, you’ve got q.
And then there was my wheelbarrow insurance.
I couldn’t afford to pay a lump sum so I spaced the cost into 12 monthly payments. Would you believe I broke an axle in January and they told me I could get only one twelfth of the value as I hadn’t paid for the whole year. They didn’t tell me that on the big blurb that got me in. Fabulists!
My sweet tooth got me into trouble recently. I love hundreds and thousands.
Now look what that has done to me. In one of those shops with good deals I saw a huge jar of hundreds and thousands marked SPECIAL. Now I’ve no surplus money for luxuries, but I decided on a cunning little plan to forgo toothpaste for a month and use salt to clean my teeth.
That was how I bought the great jar. That was why, when I opened it, I had another mixed anxiety and depressed mood outbreak. The jar was only half full. Jar size trickery. No thousands just hundreds. For some sad reason those pretty sandwiches I made were not delicious at all.
And now I must tell you about the Truth Converter I picked up at Vinnies for a song.
It works under the old AV system. I’ve kept my out of date AV recorders just for old times sake. When you’re 83, old times are important. Things fade away like the old Stanley Steamer don’t they, for various reasons, but they might still be useful one day. This one was.
This Truth Converter works for me! Only me.
I just plug the lead into the old AV recorder.
Look at these results. A mindblow! Look at what I fed in and what came out.
robust discussion … a vicious argument
responsible spending … gainful cuts to welfare
a deep trust alliance … all the way with LBJ
a finely balanced budget … any profitable asset sold
as soon as is practical … before the next election
within reasonable time … after the next election
telling the truth … agreeing with me
nothing but fake news … not agreeing with me
great prime minister … great at hiding the truth
There you are. What fun my little toy is! Only paid $1.50 for it. Can’t wait to get back to it.
Finally, to end this post, here’s a little piece I wrote.
Once in a fit of ill-informed hate
Back in the mists of my time,
Somebody wrote the use-by date
When I would be past my prime.
Then, it was thought, my mind would decay
And the voice would lose its thrall.
Thus, even though I still seized each day,
No one would heed me at all.
It is true, now that I’ve seen a few years
And I’m often in need of a bed,
Some people don’t give me access to their ears
Or even a nod of the head.
But there’s always a trumpet with smiling face
Who will tell you he’s got a solution;
But alas he is crass, brain so far out of place
Any wise thought’s a true revolution.
Yet he’ll offer false dreams with lucrative schemes
To turn all your strife into money.
All that does for me is awaken my screams
As I hide his junk mail in a dunny.
It’s a lonely place this, with your energy spent,
Where half-truths will still come and go;
If you spend your last cent to dispense with the rent,
There are few other strings to your bow.
Yes here then am I, much older than most,
Foundering, some say, and dismasted.
You may feel that I’m past it, or even a ghost,
But I’m not a loot wizard’s snared bastard.
A Loot Wizard
Thanks and respect to Howard Littlejohn
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Twitter is no longer a place for me.
That is all I have to say about that.
All images on this site are my own or from Wiki Commons, Creative Commons or Public Domain. If there is any error, please tell me and I will fix things immediately. All my thanks to the wonderful Wiki service and to the artists who share their gifts.
The words of my title here are from Mordecai Vanunu. They are my inspiration.
Subtitle: Education On Probation
I have noticed so many dark deeds in my eighty odd years I will feel guilty unless I at least draw attention to some of them now. That is why I am writing this.
So let us begin a journey of revelation even though the past cannot be changed. Perhaps we can refashion its consequences.
First a poem about unrealities imposed by political ignoramuses:
Here I am,
Limping through what was once tomorrow,
Struggling, sighing, crying, prying,
Lying in the clutches of the quicksand known as status.
Why is this so? If you should wish to know
The reason for my life’s hiatus,
Visit my classroom of a dozen years ago,
The bleak place where my grade will forever be
Aligned, confined, maligned, defined as E
For all the world to see.
Not people in that place
But ordered classifications of merit or disgrace,
Probed and detected by tests ad infinitum,
Whose validity moves only fools to cite ’em.
So from that space in my stark inferiority,
Degraded by others’ implied superiority,
I’ve wandered aimlessly deprived of sanity,
Longing to meet unclassified humanity.
O why am I cursed, reviled and frowned upon
Because I am not an alpha but an epsilon?
There you are then: some initial thoughts about the present.
Any thoughts of the past? My past?
Well yes, actually, my eighty-three-year-old mind seems to want to hang on to my school memories.
My school life begins.
At any given moment there is always so much still to be learnt by every child. Take me as a child for example. Here’s a bit of my history to illustrate the challenge for curriculum designers.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
A A Milne knew all about me then, and I knew him. But what of the rest of the world? Look at all the things I didn’t know about.
Who was ruling the world then?
Australia — Prime Minister — Joseph Lyons
Germany — Chancellor — Adolf Hitler
Italy — Prime Minister — Benito Mussolini
Russia / Soviet Union — Secretary Joseph Stalin
United States — President — Franklin D. Roosevelt
United Kingdom — Prime Minister — Neville Chamberlain.
Look at what was happening to other children.
“Kindertransport” allowed children to escape from Germany to the United Kingdom in December of 1938 of to save up to 10,000 between 1938 and 1940. Many of these children’s parents were killed during the Holocaust.
Look at the inventions I was to use eventually, but so much later.
Teflon is created.
Du Pont produces “nylon”. The first nylon toothbrushes are marketed.
The ballpoint pen, also called a biro,is invented in Hungary by Laszlo Bir.
The photocopier is created in the USA by Chester Carlston.
Freeze Dried Coffee is created by Nescafe.
Look at the arts that were not yet able to shape my thoughts.
Action Comics issues the first Superman comic.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs;
Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney;
Jezebel, starring Bette Davis.
Look at the “adult” events so far from being understood by the child.
Adolf Hitler is Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”
Howard Hughessets a new Round The World Air Record of 3 days, 19 hours.
The first use of a seeing eye dogs occurs.
RMS Queen Elizabeth is launched at John Brown, Clydebank, Scotland.
Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.
Albert Hofmann synthesises LSD.
Mexico nationalises foreign oil wells.
The Munich Agreement is signed.
Japan commits the Nanjing Massacre in China.
Germany invades the Sudetenland.
Freak Waves at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia have 300 swimmers caught in a rip.
Now my teachers belonged to an era very different from today.
Yet I wonder why those teachers of mine still seem to be keeping an eye on me; those mentors of Miranda Primary School south of Sydney New South Wales Australia, in my time. That distant time had war, Empire Day and the White Australia Policy. Yet Conan, an Australian boy originally from China, was in my class and we were mates.
Those teachers of mine must have been contributing factors to that friendship. They made the curriculum of their time work for Conan and me despite the troubled world we were in.
That’s my point. Love, empathy, professional awareness can win against a hostile world and inadequate administration. Is that happening in 2017? Not sure.
Above all, there was something about those teachers I trusted and respected. Such trust is a vital need today. Teachers teach everyone from PM to Inmate 765. Their work has vast consequences. They need support and open, free doorways to their own learning. Bad schools created by a balanced budget cost far more than Shakespeare’s Horatio could ever have dreamed of. University student-mortgages kill learning.
Mr Manuel, the Miranda silver-haired headmaster (principal these days) had a lovely rose garden. I can still smell the roses. To track it down today you would need to excavate the vast shopping centre now eulogised as Miranda Fair. This could create two kinds of depression.
Miss Rogers, who taught me to read in Second Class and struggled to remove the threepence I put up my nose one silly day, still seems to be somewhere near me now. I can still sing “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” the song Mrs Jurd taught me in Fourth Class. Ben Jonson’s 1616 poem “Song To Celia” still lives in me because of that teacher.
Mr McDonald, my Fifth Class teacher, ladled milk to others and me as long as we brought a mug. Departmental policies extended this innovation to sealed bottles in the Fifties when I became a teacher. The milk was free in those days. I loved it. It made me feel I was part of a family not a contest.
Just now my looking glass seems to be getting darker and darker. I have been a teacher, K to university, for fifty years. Three degrees and an infinity of classrooms. That creates a big data base for judgements and comparisons.
That’s why I feel I’ve just got to talk about the shadows that worry me, as I leave the leading lights to their own narcissistic power. I can’t talk about everything at the one time. For now I focus on one cause of my anguish. Here it is. More later I hope.
The Curriculum Testing Calamity
Too many externally imposed, one-off tests in reality decide not what you are but how well you can do the tests. Look at the lucrative flood of HOW TO DOs for Australia’s NAPLAN Tests. We teachers warned about this before this travesty of assessment was introduced. Those sales to me are indicators of the false status given to NAPLAN.
Of course we teachers use tests. We are professionals. We teach, test and reteach. We use diagnostic tests and we use attainments tests. But they don’t give children nervous collapse and create false league tables. Can’t we do better than allow the ridiculous tyranny of one-off testing to decide the fate of children and their teachers?
More or less on this matter, here’s a little poem I wrote some years ago when the troubles began to emerge.
Dear Teacher Did You Read It?
Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?
What I said was true–
My darling mother died when I was only ten.
It is true I didn’t understand we’d never meet again.
It is true my world became a beast that seemed to snarl and bite.
It is true that every kindness ceased and even God took fright.
It is true my father ran away when his world seemed to end.
It is true I searched the human race and couldn’t find a friend.
It is true I longed just one more time to hold her hand in mine.
It is true I jigged away on trains to the end of every line.
It is true you are busy every day, planning and doing your work.
So much to read and so much to say that it’s only rest you shirk.
But why did you talk about full stops and little slips of the pen
And give me an E on my report card and make me write it again?
Dear teacher did you really read my story really truly read it really truly?
What is a professional? Clearly someone who by study and experience has earned the trust of society. A practising surgeon is a clearly recognised professional. That surgeon, that adversary of death, pain and suffering, is widely recognised. How ludicrous it would be to force his patients to do a politically devised objective test before each operation!
Teachers have to do exactly this.
We teachers too, have difficulty in gaining the professional recognition awarded to surgeons. We have all been in classrooms and therefore claim to have the power to judge teachers. Very few of us have been awake in surgeries.
The surgeon creates, and deserves, instant respect as an enemy of death and illness. The teacher, as a proponent of life with all its vagaries and vicissitudes, may never know the precise consequences of a lifetime of teaching and so self-respect is often the main incentive to carry on. If you get out of the classroom and wander into the deceptive backrooms of administrative expertise, you can quickly rise to power over the classroom teacher.
But if you love children and teaching, carry on regardless in those classrooms.
Well now here I am: eighty-three and looking back on all those classrooms. I am so glad those teaching years happened for me. I feel justified in my professional status, despite my flaws from time to time.
One special thing I really do believe. If you were to give me a child in my classroom for a year, or even half of that year, I would be able to tell you far more about that child than twenty NAPLAN Tests.
And there on my old and rickety, pain riven legs I stand.
The Browning Version Terence Rattigan
Andrew Crocker-Harris: You must excuse me. I had prepared a speech, but I find now that I have nothing to say. Or rather, I have three very small words, but they are most deeply felt. They are these: I am sorry. I am sorry because I have failed to give you what you had the right to demand of me as your teacher: sympathy, encouragement, and humanity.
Goodbye Mr Chips James Hilton
“These examinations and certificates and so on–what did they matter? And all this efficiency and up-to-dateness–what did that matter, either? Ralston was trying to run Brookfield like a factory–a factory for turning out a snob culture based on money and machines…”