Torbay weblog davecathy

Sep 11, 2006 at 10:43 o\clock


I have been away. August is a month in this town where most things come to a grinding halt, as it is the peak of the holiday season. I have been busy entertaing guests, be they friends or relatives, been up to London for a few days, and generally having a very pleasant time.

September is proving to be very different, full of committees, group meetings,  fast approaching deadlines, and putting myself about a bit. I thought retirement was all about sitting back and being relaxed. Hell, no, but it makes life exciting and stimulating.

Thank you to all who took the trouble to answer my last piece about education, every comment is valued, and i will probably have a bit more to say when i am fully back in harness. I just need to think of some new contenscious (lovely word) subjects to raise, but I don't think I will have much trouble in that department, as there are several things that are raising my blood pressure at the moment. 

Putting forward strong views does not, I hope, mean that I am some sort of self-opinionated loudmouth, but I do like to get a debate going, as it is only by hearing the views of other people that you advance your own thinking. 


Aug 27, 2006 at 13:12 o\clock


My cousin John has been staying with me. He is an experienced teacher, and because his visits tend to coincide with national examination results, we tend to have robust debates about education that go on till the early hours.


Each year, the number of pupils who obtain good passes in GCSE and A Levels increases, while the popular perception amongst the public, employers, universities and the armed forces is that standards of education are slipping badly, to the extent that many children appear to be leaving school without even the most basic skills, and are ill-equipped to cope with the job market or the complexities of modern life.


Educators insist that the higher number of passes is down to hard work and improved methods by the teaching profession, while others suggest that exams are getting easier. There is probably some truth in both these arguments. Nobody doubts that a good British education is excellent, but an average education is possibly not good enough. People of my generation tend to believe that while in particular instances, pupils may learn things that we did not, overall, education today is less rigorous and narrower in scope than in our day. If true, how can this be?


I believe that because there is unrelenting pressure on teachers to perform better, and because that performance is measured by exam results, we have got into the unfortunate position where children are not being educated as such, but merely schooled into passing examinations, which is certainly not the same thing. Teachers are, I think, almost mesmerised by the process of adequately preparing kids to the examination standard, and see that as the ultimate goal, and by so doing, they pass on that idea, and those anxieties, to their pupils, who see the GCSE and A Level exams as some almost insurmountable mountain that has to be climbed, and thus get the whole thing out of proportion.


Much better, I suggest, was the old idea, where a teacher would tell pupils that he was going to educate them thoroughly in a subject, and when they had obtained that knowledge, they would have no problem in passing any examination, almost with their eyes closed.


Secondly, much more emphasis should be paid to practical skills than at present. As an example, In Maths, a series of procedures has to be taught, and those particular boxes ticked, e.g. compound interest and quadratic equations.  I presume sufficient time is allowed for each of those items to be absorbed, and no more, but in real life, many children will never ever need to do a quadratic again, but they will all their life need to understand compound interest, because of their credit cards, mortgages, hire purchase agreements, etc. Credit card companies exist on the premise that not one in a thousand people understands just what situation they are getting into. The exploding figures on personal debt and bankruptcies bear this out; people are not sufficiently educated in handling money, so perhaps 5, 10, or even 20 times as much effort should be spent on this area of teaching. The trouble is, teachers on the whole are well paid, and are less likely to suffer from debt problems as other less well paid people, so do not see the need maybe.

Coursework is a valuable teaching component, and is highly beneficial, however I do not believe it should be any part of the examination process. I read that in some subjects, it can amount to 25% of the marks towards a GCSE. Coursework encourages children to work alone, to research, to discuss the subject out of the classroom, but it can also be written by friends, parents, or even downloaded from the Internet. How can this be of any true relevance? If, say, an essay is required, that essay should be written completely and without exception under invigilation.


Lastly, I see a modern tendency by teachers to have a personal relationship with their pupils, which I think is wrong. Teachers are not there to be liked or understood. A teacher should command respect, be a slightly remote figure, a man of mystery commanding nothing but respect, with an air of authority. I doubt even that they should know a teacher’s Christian name, let alone whether he is married, single, gay, straight, where he went on his holiday’s etc. In the workplace a good boss is not Mr. Niceguy, but someone who knows his job, inspires you, and treats you fairly. A teacher is there to impart knowledge, to inspire and enthuse you, no more, no less; he should not be a character.


I would be interested in comments from any other readers.  

Aug 17, 2006 at 00:52 o\clock


Many Christians, citing the sanctity of human life, not least the American right including President Bush, are against stem cell research, which has the promise to find a cure for many diseases, and thus save countless lives in the future.

Other Christians, maybe the same ones, are against the use of condoms as a birth control measure, citing once again the sanctity of human life.

Is someone who dies of AIDS contracted by unprotected sex somehow less human than a mere stem cell, which is no more human than a spermatozoa?

Is not the Christian viewpoint flawed, inconsistant, and lethal?

Aug 12, 2006 at 11:36 o\clock


I just wonder how many million hours we have spent between us trying to make sense of the new setup, and how many bloggers have given it up as a bad job.

It is only when your blog disappears that you realise just how important they are to us, and realise just how much time, effort, and emotion we have put into them.

I have nothing against change, especially if it is for the better, but I wish they had informed us first, and told us how to cope with those changes

Aug 10, 2006 at 09:47 o\clock


Listening to: Radio 4. Foiled terrorist attack

It is interesting to see what is happening to this country. For most of my life, Britain has alternated between boom and bust, and it has been a case of governments managing a gentle decline. We are coming up to 10 years of a Labour administration, so what difference has it made?
We have had 10 years of uninterrupted growth, our social services are enjoying unprecedented investment. Some critics say the pace of reform is too fast, others that it is too slow. We are all far richer now than 10 years ago, (and that includes pensioners), interest rates, unemployment and inflation remain at a low level, and overall, crime is falling, and more people are in jail then ever before. There are new schools and hospitals everywhere, more nurseries, teachers, doctors, policemen.We now have a minimum wage for the first time ever, and the link between pensions and earnings is to be restored.
On the other hand, personal behaviour is rapidly getting worse; church attendance and marriage is on the decline, divorce is up. Anti-social behaviour, vandalism, drug abuse and drunkeness is increasing, and the proportion of crime where violence is used is up. Drink driving is making a comeback, road rage becomes more prevalent.
One of our biggest problems is immigation, while half the British say they would like to emigrate.  Seems to me that the world is beating a path to our door, thinking this is a good place to live, while the British themselves think the grass is greener elsewhere. This country attracts not just Asians and Eastern Europeans, but Australians, Americans, and even the French chose to come here to work, while Brits retire in their thousands to Spain, France, etc (but eventually want to return)
Of course, I blame Tony Blair, who else?