Daily Archives: 17 October, 2009

people who urinate on war memorials…

No doubt by now you have all read or heard of the antics of Phil Laing, a 19-year-old Student who was photographed urinating on poppy wreathes laid on a war memorial in Sheffield.

The most important thing to remember, first and foremost, is that he does NOT represent his generation. Some of them, yes. A tiny minority. But not all. Plenty of people his age are serving in the forces, fighting overseas, raising money for charity, working as nurses, all manner of positive and good things. But as usual this lowlife gets the oxygen of publicity and lets everyone else down.

A serious example needs to be made of him, otherwise the message goes out that its OK to do this kind of thing. Maybe if people know they will suffer serious consequences, then they will think twice before behaving like this. A token fine or a slap on the wrist is not enough. I know the authorities wont make him scrub the memorial with a toothbrush, sadly.

But there are deeper problems here. How is it OK for an apparrently well adjusted young man who went to a ‘good’ school to do such a thing? How is it that a supposedly poor student can go out and get so rat arsed? How can it be right for companies to be allowed to organise events that cause such things? And how come his friends can even bear to defend him? Is this what public schools call ‘horseplay’, or ‘tomfoolery’? Its almost more disgusting that there are people out there who think it is funny.

I can’t help but think that if he was from a council estate, they would throw the book at him, no questions asked. But his parents will probably get him good lawyers, and talk about what a nice lad he is, and how it was just a silly mistake and how sorry he is. But, surely, if you do something that you know is wrong, then you pay the consequences. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.

But if he is sorry, it will probably be for himself. He’s sorry that he might get kicked out of Uni, and it might affect his career. Is he sorry about the offence he has caused, or the people he has disgraced? I doubt it, because that takes decency and respect, things that I very much doubt Phil Laing possesses.

I’ll be following his court case closely.


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Filed under crime, debate, Navy, News, politics, Remembrance

Education – still failing us?

John Pounds, founder of the Ragged Schools

John Pounds, founder of the Ragged Schools

In 1867 a Royal Commission investigated every school in England. The inspectors looked at every school, from root and branch. Teachers were interviewed, classes observed, neighbourhoods examined and standards assessed. This was the first real national audit of education in the country, an early OFSTED.

Three years later, these findings led to the Education Act in 1870. This was the first major attempt to introduce national standards for Education. Prior to 1870, teaching was almost completely in the hands of national authorities. Education for the poor for centuries was haphazard. The privileged would pay to send their children to school, and the poor would more than likely send theirs to work. Early efforts to educate poor children came in the form of Ragged Schools, one of the first begun by John Pounds in Portsmouth

Countless Education Acts have followed since 1870. But, over 130 years after the first Education Act, why is our Education system still getting it so wrong?

It does seem pretty much to be a systemic problem, rather than through any failings of particular teachers or schools. Governments throw money at the problem, but this week an influential report suggested the scrapping of SAT’s and not commencing formal teaching until the age of 6. In my experience plenty of money is wasted on projects, advisers, and strangely-named departments that add little to what goes on in schools, but drains the Education Budget. The national curriculum certainly does not help matters. Neither do the SATS, which are to test schools and teachers rather than children, but the schools and teachers pass the stress onto the children over something which has not real consequence on their education.

Ministers will point to the ever-improving exam results. We should not be fooled by these, they improve every year, which suggests that the pass-marks are adjusted every year to give politically motivated results. In real terms, the quality of Education has fallen, but to counter this the expectations are lower. Essentially, this is cooking the books.

Sadly, elitism is also still alive and well in this country. Being able to put certain schools or universities on your CV is almost better than having a first class with honours degree from a not so good University. Why should it matter where you went to school? Surely it is more impressive to have gone to a supposedly average school but to have done well? Two-tier education, based on class and not ability, creates barriers for able children.

We should not pillory certain schools as failing, just because their catchment area includes children from difficult backgrounds. They have their work cut out, and they are not miracle workers. The problems go far beyond Education, and have more to do with families and influences in broader life.

Priorities are fundamentally wrong. It seems to be a Governmental Policy to get as many school leavers to go into Higher Education as possible. But is this right? We are chronically short of plumbers, electricians, gas fitters. Many of the people who would have done these jobs are now going to study Media Studies, Sports Sciences or Psychology, because they can rather than because they want to. And then leaving university and finding themselves out of work, while we rely on foreign nationals to do these jobs. But Higher Education has become a business. The Universities can name their price, and a high price it is. Yet their income is largely spent on nice new buildings, and not students. If there were fewer students, there would be more funding to go round for those who want to work.


Filed under Local History, politics, social history