Monday, November 30, 2009

Global Warming

After staggering back from the Newsagents yesterday, carrying the vast bulk of the Sunday Times under my arm and idly wondering whether anybody had ever managed to read a whole one; an article caught my eye about global warming. (I thought it was now called 'climate change'- why are things always being renamed? Did it offend someone?)

As I read the text and looked at the pictures, it dawned on me that maybe the reason many people are a bit sceptical about this topic is that those who write about it often don't make their case very clear. (I'm no expert myself)

For example the article claimed that rising levels of atmospheric Carbon dioxide causes global warming. There was no discussion of the possibility that it could be the other way round. (Maybe it can't be, but it would be worth knowing). Also, why did the accompanying temperature graph show drops from 1900 to 1910 and from 1940 to 1950, but the CO2 graph next to it showed rises during those periods? I'm not saying that there aren't simple explanation for these things, but if the Times can't be bothered to tell us what they are, then you can hardly blame readers for being a bit doubtful.

We are told that half a trillion tonnes of CO2 have been added to the atmosphere which sounds like an awful lot, until you realise that we haven't been told how much the atmosphere weighs. We then learn that temperatures have actually gone down between 1998 and 2007- and then that they haven't. I'm sure this must be important, but then there is no mention either of how the average temperature of the Earth is actually measured or how accurate it is (I haven't a clue)

I can't help but think that if I'm asking question like this whilst stuffing my face with toast and regretting my previous nights intake of real ale, then lots of other people must be asking more probing ones. Surely if we are faced with the possibility of mass human extinction then we deserve science articles in our papers that actually make sense.

Michael Barile

The case of former Dundee Maths Teacher Michael Barile has been dragging on for a couple of years. Reading between the lines, he appears to have manhandled a couple of highly unpleasant kids in his classroom and threatened them. There is no suggestion that he actually struck any of them.

He was sacked by the school, charged with assault and found guilty. His life has been completely ruined, his home has been attacked and his car vandalised. Now the judge has said that he shouldn't have been charged in the first place.

There are only two options for teachers nowadays:

1) You are a strict teacher who insists on good behaviour at all times in your classroom and demands that those pupils who refuse to behave are punished. In a good school this isn't too difficult. However if you adopt this approach in a bad school, you will eventually crack. (How many times can you cope with being told to "F*** Off!" by an obnoxious pupil who has got away with it time and time again because they know perfectly well that nobody higher up will want to get involved).

You then either lose it and whack the little wretch, get stressed and take it out on your family, or you give up and take the second option which is:

2) You are a nice teacher who turns a blind eye to what goes on in your classroom and always thinks the best of your pupils; blaming appalling behaviour on their 'difficult backgrounds' and 'challenges that they face' (or some other twaddle). This is a much easier path which is openly encouraged in many schools and on Teacher Training. It will not result in your appearance in court, but you will have to try not to think of the thousands of children who would have loved to learn something in your lessons but couldn't.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sheffield Student Houses in Crookes

Well it's that time of year again, when students across the land start looking for houses for the next academic year. It seems to get earlier and earlier each year (I remember we didn't start looking until about Easter).

If you happen to be lucky enough to be studying at Sheffield University and would like to live in a nice house in Crookes, then contact this guy who comes highly recommended from a friend

Thursday, November 26, 2009


My new sofa arrived yesterday, so Mrs C helped me load the old one onto Chalk Enterprises' van and I drove down to Oxfam, feeling a warm glow at the thought of doing my bit for those less fortunate than myself.

It took quite a while to work my way through the procession of gigantic 4*4 buses returning from the half mile school run and by the time I arrived, I had pretty much convinced myself that I would be greeted by a loud trumpet blast, before being escorted up a red carpet by a man in livery, with a dancing girl throwing rose petals down in front of me. All the staff would be lined up either side cheering, like I was Jordan.

It wasn't quite like this, but nevertheless I proudly marched up to the front desk and announced to the vaguely odd looking bloke that I had a nice sofa to donate which was clean, tasteful and compliant with all fire regulations. Could he possibly just help me carry it the ten feet from my van to the shop? I waited for him to embrace me with joy and invite passers by to come in and meet me, but instead he muttered into his feet:

"Sorry there's nobody here that can help you"
"Staff can't carry things for customers"
"But it's there, ten feet away! I only need you to hold one end of a sofa. It's not heavy. I'm sure he could carry it" (pointing at a little African boy in a large poster on the wall)

A short, plump woman in a suit with a badge that said 'Manager' then arrived. I explained again that I just wanted to donate my sofa to the little boy in the poster and indicated my van parked outside. So near and yet so far.

Unimpressed with my attempt to end global povery, she proudly announced that: "Staff aren't insured for carrying things! What if they slipped and had an accident?"

An elderly customer then offered to help; gave the manager his walking stick and before she could tell him that staff couldn't look after customer's belongings, the sofa was in the shop. All feelings of satisfaction however, had unfortunately long departed, to be replaced by a deep frustration at the direction we seem to be going in.

It might just have been my imagination, but I could swear that as I drove off, the same little boy in the huge poster covering the whole shop window seemed to be sticking two fingers up at me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bede Academy

In Bede Academy they want to chuck out the hell raisers who allow their mothers to park incorrectly, whereas everywhere I've taught, you pretty much had to murder the headmaster before being asked to leave. (Then you appealed to the School Governors and were let back in with another final warning)

I reckon they would struggle over the legality of this punitive parking policy, but it's good publicity for them without a doubt. See if you can get your school to announce something similarly draconian; maybe a detention if your father is late submitting his tax return or an essay if granddad is seen watering his shallots during a hosepipe ban? Next time there is a parents evening, go out into the car park with a torch and check everybody's tax disc.

(I've cut down on the amount of capital letters I use in this blog after a couple of recent complaints. I you'd prefer some more, just say. I only want to please.)

Scotland's For Me!

According to a recent survey of Scottish teachers, everything I have said over the last four years about behaviour in schools is completely wrong. Scotland is obviously the land of milk and honey compared with England, so let's all get up there straight away. (Maybe)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

School Phobia

A boy played truant from school. Following Government guidelines, the county council took his parents to court. They ended up being told to write a letter of apology to the family because the boy is apparently 'school phobic.'

I can't be the only one who finds myself increasingly divorced from modern society. Why are we going down this path which can only end when everybody has a medical condition of some kind to excuse their behaviour?

There are loads and loads of useful phobias. If a child doesn't want to get up in the morning, then they should claim to be Eosophobic. If they don't fancy sitting exams then a diagnosis of Testaphobia will do the trick. Don't want to come in during the Winter? Just be Cryophobic. (No need to be Chionophobic any more as every school seems to close as soon as the sky turns grey.) Hyelophobics can escape chemistry practicals and Papyrophobics must be provided with a Laptop Computer.

What on Earth is this lad going to do when he starts work? No doubt his employers will not be permitted to ask about his condition and will only discover it when he doesn't turn up.

Mind you, I can feel a bad case of Soceraphobia coming on over the festive season...

Science and Engineering

Science and Engineering have long suffered from the problem of being unfashionable and fairly difficult. They require some serious brain power rather than the ability to make a poster, take part in a non judgemental group workshop or just talk rubbish all day. Fewer and fewer bright students are taking these real subjects, so each year we drop further and further behind other countries. (Although we do have lots of Politics and Psychology graduates. Maybe they could design some offshore wind farms, space elevators or efficient solar panels for us?)

The Institute of Engineering and Technology are holding a series of competitions to try and get pupils to consider careers in Science and Engineering. Good luck to them as I don't think the Government are particularly interested. Have a look here

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queen's Speech

My advice to all teachers with half a brain is to get out now and retrain as a lawyer. The latest Government 'guarantees' announced in the Queen's Speech will surely open the floodgates for disgruntled parents to complain and sue their children's schools. (And let's be honest, many of them will have a good case) I reckon we also need about 4 million personal tutors immediately, if all the pupils who have 'fallen behind' are to be given one-to-one help; so there's another career choice for you. I can't help wondering if there will be enough teachers left?

But it's all very well promising lots of good things on the teachers' behalf, but what about the other side of this contract? Where is the guarantee that parents will be held responsible for their children? Will they be guaranteed to discipline their children and support the school when it does the same? Where is the guarantee that teachers will be able to teach without endless new initiatives and mindless tick boxing. When will we be able to stop endlessly dumbing down, giving out prizes for nothing and most important of all- when will we be able to get rid of violent nightmare pupils to secure units, preferably deep underground?

Feel free to add a few wills? and whens? of your own

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hsu-Shian Ming

Every age produces a genius who stands above their contemporaries. For example Newton, Einstein and Hsu-Shian Ming


Watched the telly last night for a bit. Whoever said that the adverts are the best bit was clearly barking. I really am sick to death of Christmas; thank God its nearly over.

If moving sedately from side to side whilst waving some sort of game controller at the tv is our main weapon against the rise in obesity, then we really are stuffed.

Here's a puzzle someone told me over the weekend:

There are eight identical looking balls on the table in front of you along with a set of balance scales. (One of the balls is actually a bit heavier than all othe others) You don't get to touch any of them, you just tell me which balls to put on the scales. I will do two weighings and then you must tell me which is the heavier ball. (Each side of the balance scales is big enough to fit as many balls on it as you like)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crime Scene

Note to all Heads. Next time a teacher comes into your office and says something along the lines of:

"I know, why don't we pretend to have been beaten up by robbers one morning next week to frighten the kids. I've got some fake blood from the joke shop and there's loads of bandages left in the first aid kit. Jim's got a mate who's a copper and they can come round, put up some of that stripey tape they use on the telly and pretend to investigate... it'll be a great laugh and we can call it 'Didactic Learning' or something daft! Go on, can we?"

It's probably best to say "No!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There is a pub in one of the more wretched areas of Downtown, where you will inevitably be approached and asked if "you would like anything?" What they really mean is: "Would you like anything that is on sale at the Co op round the corner?" They then send a young scrote out to steal to order and you pay half the retail price. Whether this includes 3 for 2 offers and suchlike, I have no idea. It's like hiring a personalised shopper only slightly cheaper.

Anyway, apparently the recession is fuelling shoplifting. I can't help but think that a society where nobody dares tells children that stealing is wrong; combined with a legal system that prevents any real punishment if you are caught, is probably fuelling it a bit more. That's just my view however and no doubt the Honourable Society of Shoplifters will be getting ready to sue me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Boy Named Sue

As someone who knows very little about libel law, I was a bit worried by this article a couple of weeks ago in the Times about bloggers being sued for libel. Apparently our laws give us much less right to free speech than, for example in America; so suing for libel here is becoming increasingly popular for those able to afford it. Apparently it costs a fortune to defend yourself against such a claim. Why they can't be dealt with by a magistrate in half an hour is beyond me.

The author Simon Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association, who claim to be able to treat children for various ailments such as asthma and colic by manipulating their spines. He wrote in the Guardian that there is no evidence for this claim and they decided to try and silence him.

Other examples include the website Bad Psychics who apparently received a legal threat from some disgruntled psychic and took down their offending article. (If a psychic threatens to take you to court then no doubt they know what the outcome will be, so it's probably best to back down.)

The Society of Homeopaths took exception to Andy Lewis' Quackometer website which investigates dubious medical practices and threatened him with a libel suit, which seems to have had more effect than their medicines.

If everyone I have written unfavourably about decides to sue me, then the courts will grind to a halt and I will have to flee the country and live where the idea of free speech is more valued. I could perhaps set myself up as a magnet therapist, but I'd probably attract the wrong sort of people...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Eddy Nugent and The Map of Africa

If you enjoyed "Picking Up The Brass" by Eddy Nugent as much as I did (reviewed here), then you will love his sequel "The Map of Africa" where young Eddy is sent to cause chaos and mayhem, as he is posted first to the jungles of Belize and then Germany, to face the might of the Soviet Union with a few battered old Land Rovers. Unlike most sequels he doesn't run out of material halfway through and it's every bit as entertaining as his first book.

I'm not giving much away by confirming that there are no gruelling descriptions of SAS Selection or steely eyed killers moving silently through the darkness and Eddy is certainly not sent on any secret missions behind (or indeed anywhere near) enemy lines. He is to be found instead shirking, drinking and generally getting into trouble with his friends.

Basically you'll laugh a lot if you buy it. So do so this minute.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Creationism and Evolution

Whilst we're on the subject of Evolution, 60% of Brits apparently think that Creationism should be taught alongside Darwinian Evolution in Science Lessons.

From this we should conclude that 60% of the population are pretty dim. Creationism should certainly be discussed in lessons as it has excellent comedy value; but as for actually teaching it as a serious theory, I'd rather do Homeopathy, Crystal Healing and Fortune Telling.

Science is a strictly evidence based subject, not an opportunity to rote learn ancient myths.

They Don't Do They?

The Government appears to have finally discovered three years after I wrote about it in my book and about a decade after it became common knowledge; that believe it or not, some parents are actually prepared to tell lies in order to get their child into a decent school rather than just give in and send their child to an awful one. I'd love to know how much Dr Craig was paid to tell them something that many teachers and parents could have done for the cost of a second class stamp. Even better, he doesn't think that it should be made a crime, instead he wants to encourage councils to take parents to the civil courts. (Great advice when the only council that has attempted this had their case thrown out!)

My advice for what it's worth, remains to do whatever it takes to get your child into a good school.

It's simply a form of Darwinian evolution- parents who give a damn about their children take the trouble to do the research in order to find out how to fool the school if necessary. Those that don't, er... don't.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Eve Ritchie-Fallon

Headteacher Eve Ritchie-Fallon has become the latest person to be hung out to dry by the CPS following their policy of: "Believe any accusation made against someone in authority, no matter how ridiculous"

For a whole year this highly regarded woman; credited with turning around a failing institution, has been suspended from her job awaiting trial not for burglary, fraud or murder; but because a pupil alleged that she slapped him when he wouldn't stop smoking!

Never mind the fact that he was already at a special centre for nightmare children; had a history of bad behaviour, or that he had ADHD and would say the first thing that came into his head.

Mother was no doubt advised by her no win no fee solicitor that there was a good chance of some taxpayers money coming her way, and also that her dear son could do whatever he liked at the centre, as nobody would dare punish him whilst this complaint was being investigated.

I wouldn't have wanted the Head put on trial if she had run down the street waving the boys ear muffs (what sort of boy wears ear muffs?) whilst shouting "That'll learn him!". However despite being found innocent of all charges by the court, Hampshire Council are still suspending her whilst they carry out their own independant investigation! I wonder whether local Council Tax payers think this is a sensible way to spend their money?