Saturday, September 1, 2007

The continued destruction of a national education system

"Uneducated people are easier to govern" -- Saparmurat Niyazov, former dictator of Turkmenistan

UK Private schools must share teaching 'expertise'

So it's not enough that UK private schools must share their playing fields and sports facilities with children from state schools, after "New" Labour irresponsibly and mendaciously sold off state schools' sporting grounds to developers?

It's not enough that UK parents who send their children to private schools have to struggle to pay for that, on top of the tax money they pay to send other peoples' children to state schools?

The problem is not a lack of "expertise" in UK state schools. There are, and have been, plenty of knowledgeable, motivated people in the UK state school system.

The problem is that they are quite frequently crushed in any attempt to improve conditions in those schools. Rather a lot of them have also been the victims of violence from students, or thuggish parents, from whom the government refuses to protect them in any meaningful way.

Over the years, many have quit the system in despair, even moved overseas to teach in countries whose governments are somewhat more serious about running a functional educational establishment.

So now the UK government, having done what it can to cripple education in state schools, is doing ever more to crush it in independent schools.

If the UK government is serious about importing private school "expertise" into state schools, it will simply step aside and permit those skilled and motivated individuals working in state schools today to emulate the successes of private schools, rather than burdening the staff and teachers of the private schools with additional responsibilities to "help" a government that not only can't be arsed to help itself, but is in fact actively hostile to anyone being so helped.

However, I'm sure a few private schools will be spared this destructive tide, at least to some extent.

Those schools to which certain prominent "New" Labour leaders, in the style of US "limousine liberals", hypocritically send their own children.

Needless to say, similar situations exist in some other countries as well, or at least parts of them, whose politicians have similar attitudes.

I'm sure Mr Niyazov would approve.

Stories the SciFi channel SHOULD be filming

OK, great. The SciFi Channel produced the new Battlestar Galactica, Room 10, The Dresden Files, and Eureka. Class acts all. BG in particular makes up for many, many past sins.

But why, why on Earth are they still wasting precious airtime by also making and showing multiple films, repeatedly and ad nauseam, about giant reptiles, solar flares, volcanoes, and giant mummies?

But the worst, least forgivable offense is the SciFi's waste of precious sci-fi bandwidth for weekly broadcasting of Pro Wrestling. The mind reels.

There are still so many excellent scifi stories that have never been put to film. Why don't they devote resources to filming those?

Here are a few of my candidates:
  • Half Past Human, and The Godwhale, by T. J. Bass
  • Run for the Stars, and Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R., by Harlan Ellison
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • A proper version of The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
  • A Child of All Ages, by P. J. Plauger
  • Windhaven, by Holly Tuttle and George R. R. Martin
Oh well. At least they broadcast The Twilight Zone in the wee hours.

Smelling the early 60s

I have been smelling delightful aroma of the early 1960s. Possibly the late 1950s.

This happens whenever I go to the bowling alley.

You, too can experience this.
  1. Visit one of the many US bowling alleys that was built during the era above, and still has the vintage Jetsons-style ball-return equipment.
  2. Stand just above the place where the ball comes out (where the little conveyor belt carries it up from below), and take a whiff of the air coming out.
  3. You will catch the delightful odor of woodwork, machinery, and oil that has been in place down there since that time.

Is today's UK toxic to "Lunar Men"?

The original "Lunar Men" of pre-Victorian England, celebrated for their genius, curiosity and inventiveness:

Over the past few years, I've formed the opinion that in today's UK, people like the "Lunar Men" are, to an unusual extent in a modern country, feared, reviled and despised by the power structure. The official, and increasingly popular, tendency is to undermine such people and "put them in their place" wherever possible.

Recent real-world examples of (what are arguably) the effects of their absence or inhibition:

I've long felt that much of what's happening in the UK today is a striking (if not surprising) parallel to the events in Atlas Shrugged, a book written many decades ago.

I'm sure it's purely a coincidence that the notion of even reading that book gets slammed so often in the popular media...

Enabling torture, rape and mutilation [Warning: Graphic]

News item: New York woman, denied protection by NYC police, is permanently disfigured by rejected suitor

News item: In Bangladesh, women disfigured by rejected suitors; Infant forced to drink acid, horribly disfigured

News item: Women and other vulnerable persons beg for help from police, are refused, raped, beaten. Court rules that police had no legal duty to protect

News item: A woman in Iran faces execution for defending herself and her niece against rapists

These and similar items are detailed in the following links. Beware, there are some alarming graphics.

Disfigurement of children is particularly horrific, and not unknown as a method for thuggish men to inflict punishment on women who don't do what the thugs want.

What these stories have in common is that defenseless victims (usually, but not always, women) are not protected by the authorities, while at the same time being denied the means to defend themselves and their loved ones independently of such protection.

We seem to hear of such stories far more often from places where people are denied the right and the means to legally defend themselves.

And that's not surprising. If a cowardly thug wishes to throw acid into a woman's face, or force her 1-month-old infant to drink it, will he feel more, or less, empowered to do so in a jurisdiction where the woman might be armed, with a legal right to use the weapon on him if he's violent?

The acid-throwing parallel between the NYC and Bangladesh stories is IMO particularly enlightening. It illustrates very clearly that "gun control", and a general denial of legal means and right to self-defense, represent the most primitive, unjust and despicable sort of 3rd world "governance".

In my view, people who consider themselves liberal and enlightened, yet support "gun control", should have a good long think about the implications of their position.


On identifying and developing one's personal gifts

I'm convinced that everyone has at least one "gift", in terms of a talent or skill that's both above the norm, and gives its "owner" pleasure to exercise.

It may be singing, painting, drawing, a musical instrument, motorcycle jumping, entertaining, writing, public speaking, computer architecture, marine architecture, sculpture, soldiering, cooking, hairdressing, biology, political leadership, healing, or just being excellent with animals or children.

I am also convinced that rather too many people are never encouraged and/or given a chance to try to identify what these gifts are, or to exercise them.

The older I get, the more I realize what a sad, even terrible, thing that is.

It's not that there's necessarily a professional niche for every person's gift, or that someone gifted in one area might not want to have a "day job" in another (unless they DO find their professional gift niche, of course), but the idea of a gift never being developed or used is really abhorrent to me.

I know a few people who I think have had this happen to them. In one case, the person was encouraged to become a doctor even though he didn't want to be one. He was OK at it, but hated the profession. I'm not sure what his other talents might have been, but when I compare that with people who aspire to be doctors in order to help people (some of whom I've known), it just about makes me weep thinking about it.

Someone else I know who never wanted anything else in her life than to become a homemaker, mother and loving wife, was pressured very hard to become a sparkly high-society trophy wife and Culture Vulture, and when she resisted that, was cruelly abused and then dumped. (She was a great, if somewhat sad, mother, by the way. I know her kids. Her ex, who is now lonely and bitter, really missed out.)

I know someone else who, from the best of personal intentions and with open eyes, went into a technical field. During uni, that person was in the informal choir for a few years. During the voice tryouts, the music dept. chairman quite gravely told the person they had a professional-quality voice, and they should continue developing it. The person, deciding there were already too many struggling musicians in the world, decided to stick with the "day job". He's been pretty good at it over the years, but his heart's not in it. He's actually thinking of trying to get into voice-over work now, as a sideline at least. Better late than never, I guess.

I am aware of some other examples. Never developing a gift is sad enough, but actually suppressing it is horrible. And it seems to twist people into some pretty nasty shapes sometimes.

Bring out the gifts, I say! Bring back parties with the participants singing and playing instruments, rather than listening to the dang CD player! Get the kids that are obsessed with drawing in school in front of an art teacher. Get the clownish ones in front of a drama teacher.

And for God's sake don't get into the wrong field if you can help it.

And if you do, for God's sake exersize dat gift on da side! Exclamation Cool

It's not about "races", it's about behavior

I would really, really like to see race dropped as the criterion for pretty much anything... unless it's effective and just re-adjustment of the results of of previous racial prejudice... aka Affirmative Action, which I think has (in the US) pretty much accomplished what it set out to do.

Racial prejudice makes us unjustly suspicious of good people who mean us no harm, and whose friendship and support might benefit us (and vice versa.)

Racial prejudice can make us unduly trusting of abusive or even monstrous people who happen to look and/or speak like us.

Overcorrecting for racial prejudice (reverse discrimination) makes us accept horrible behavior from some people, since they're from an 'oppressed minority', even when their horrible behavior is directed at other people who look and/or speak like them.

Racial prejudice (or overcorrecting for it) can lead us to leave those victims insufficiently protected, since 'those people should take care of their own'.

The rules should be very simple. if someone's a criminal, they get arrested. If someone's a victim, they get protected. If someone's a neighbor (and isn't known to be bad), you're neighborly with them. Your kids play with their kids. You loan each other sugar and flour. You may go to church together. You celebrate your shared values.

It should never be about skin color, even if someone vicious, or simply ignorant or thoughtless, on one side or another tries to make it an issue. It's about how well people treat each other, how trustworthy they are, how honest, how well they behave.

The bad ones need stiff motivation to change their behavior, knowing the the good folks of any color or background will come to each others' aid. The incorrigible ones need to be removed from society.

Color is not an issue. Behavior is.

All the good folks, the ones who take care of each other, gather around the village fire at night, and help comfort and protect each other from the darkness that will, to some extent, always be outside the circle of light.

I hope we can finally drop the 'race' issue once and for all, and concentrate on the things that are really important.