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Arf a mo. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Arf a mo.

The ever lovely and soignée shezan referenced a query at hp_britglish asking, Had there ever been and could there ever be a woman PM?


As one might expect, a mort of folk have made a meal of that one.  As one might also expect, my beloved Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher has been excoriated, which I’m not writing about, as it certainly never troubled her.  However, as one might also expect, there’s been a great deal of ‘what idiots all Americans are’ going on – no fault of shezan’s, mind you.


Arf a mo.


Before we overindulge in bashing the Yanks, I pause to note that – thanks to Mrs T’s opponents – the, ah, comprehensively educated Briton is no prize these days, either.  They believe, for example, that Willy the Avon Swan’s Romeo was ‘a Catapult who died on the Titanic’ subsequent to his having leapt off of Juliet’s balcony into the swimming pool.  Birnam Wood came to (shall we say) Dunce Inane because the Bard got the idea ‘after seeing the trees moving in Lord of the Rings.’  Alternately, the scene on the Blasted Ted Heath was the result of Macbeth’s ‘a loosanating’: ‘The witches an the dagger weren’t there.  Macbeth had been smoking up and imaged them all’, you see.


As one such, er, student scrawled in the margins of a schoolbook, ‘I’m not fick I just don’t get this, yeah’ – which, under the new AQA guidelines, might be an acceptable answer.*


It’s not only Americans who are getting thicker, and I can suggest a number of culprits responsible for this Anglosphere-wide phenomenon (including a certain fat croquet-mallet-wielding Labourite bruiser who failed his Eleven-Plus decades ago, has since done everything imaginable to justify the prescience of the examiners, and has waged a demented personal crusade against standards and excellence in education ever since, a part of his party’s innate politics of pique and philosophy of envy).


* REFERENCES: The Torygraph, The Times, and the TES over the past fortnight.

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54 comments or Leave a comment
shezan From: shezan Date: June 14th, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Woooo! Another Thatcher-lover on my flist!!!!

And really. My first stories as a junior reporter were on the British car industry (remember British Leyland, anyone?), strikes and sabotage therein; and on the three-day workweek. I used to work for the Sunday Times BM (Before Murdoch), when the printers' union could kill a week's work on a Saturday night and celebrate at the pub afterwards. As far as I'm concerned, they could rename the Atlantic Ocean the Margaret Hilda Ocean, and it would barely scratch the surface of what the woman deserves.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 14th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)


And now the Wets are trying to pretend they never knew her.

Bloody Cameron.
shezan From: shezan Date: June 14th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ever lovely and soignée, I *like* the sound of that...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 14th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)


... And merit, as well.
aillil From: aillil Date: June 14th, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
‘I’m not fick I just don’t get this, yeah’

It took me about a minute to get this. *giggles* Very sad thing I won't include a session on dialects in my linguistics class, otherwise this would've made for such an entertaining lesson.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 15th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sad, indeed.

We'll want to do something about that. Entertaining lessons last longer in the memory, after all.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: June 14th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er... I went to a comprehensive, I'll have you know.

Though the exam howlers are pretty awful (but weren't they always?)
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: June 15th, 2006 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I had an examiner in yesterday complaining about the medical student who wrote "I don't know anything about X, so I'm going to tell you about God, instead." I hope they fail comprehensively - I never want them treating me!
the_gentleman From: the_gentleman Date: June 14th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was going to suggest that idiots have more opportunities to display their ignorance these days than a decline in standards in general. Then I remembered my compatriots in my English Language A-level. I concede the point.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 15th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sad that you should be forced to concede it.

But I'm afraid that is the world we are stuck with.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: June 15th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

As the Stupids Trounce the Meek, Inheritance-Wise

Jay Leno, successor to the brilliant Johnny Carson on the fabled "Tonight Show", has a recurring bit called "Jaywalking", where he stops random passers-by and asks them simple questions, with high-larious results.

Can't tell you how this depresses me, but it just goes to show... Our President is dumb as a cardboard boxload of root vegetables, and has the brass balls to be proud of it.

Fall of Western Civilization, Y2K, all that. However, I must admit that I didn't know all your Magg's extra names. Margaret Hilda Roberts is a prefect name for my new giant mutant dollie.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 16th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)

It's all entailed, anyway.

Though in some cases, I wonder if itis ignorance or mere inarticulacy. Being glib - the Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, say - isn't always A Good Thing, either.
nineveh_uk From: nineveh_uk Date: June 16th, 2006 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Some thoughts.

I don’t normally do debate on LJ – it’s too easy to get riled in a way one wouldn’t in conversation. To be fair to Americans, shocked as I was that my contemporaries might not have heard of Margaret Thatcher, I have no idea if Canada has ever had a female Prime Minister. On the other hand, I know the Philippines and Israel have, so I suspect not. That said,

The National Curriculum was introduced by the Tories. It, along with decades of under-funding of comprehensive education from governments that never believed in the comprehensive ideal, is the problem with modern education. I spent a day in a secondary school recently observing lessons. It was a good school, but the teachers were strangled by the NC and the obsession with 'standards' that began with school league tables. I do believe that schools should be inspected, and bad teachers (and I've seen a few) sacked, but the present ethos is simply unhelpful. Likewise, I don’t absolve ‘educationalists’ from all blame, either, coming from the generation for whom a verb remains a ‘doing word’; the contributing factors to the present school system are many and varied, but money and the lack of interest in seeing it succeed are pretty big factors.

And that said, modern education is still a hell of a lot better than that my grandmother experienced when she left school in the 1920s. In her 80s, she could still beat her English Lit. degree holding granddaughter at Scrabble. Though a highly intelligent woman, grammar school education was never an option: she left school at 14 and went to work in a sweet shop. She felt her lack of opportunity all her life. Dreadful comments never used to get made about Macbeth, because most of the population never read it at school. My parents both attended selective grammar schools in the 1950s - they were average by the standard of the day, and unimpressive by comparison with my bog-standard comp.

I don’t believe in comprehensive education, actually. Given free reign, I would adopt something along the lines of the Scandinavian systems where children go to ‘high school’ at 15 – and they choose the school. There is no more prestige in attending 'gymnasium' than in attending technical college, or the ‘business’ colleges, hence the former are fiercely academic, the latter the antithesis of the secondary modern. Bring back true grammar schools to the UK, where selection is by the children themselves at 14 or 15 according to what’s most appropriate, where the alternatives are properly funded and without stigma (so the parents of a kid who ought to be looking at technician-level employment don't force him into an unsuitable stream for snob value), and with a universal standard of primary education that allows all a shot at what they want to do. Quite how this would work in the rather more stratified society of the UK is another question.

Normal, non-committal service will now resume.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 16th, 2006 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)


I shan’t even pretend to believe in the ‘comprehensive ideal’, myself: any more than do you, in the end. That being so, why fund it, preserve it, fetishise it, and make it a Party shibboleth of the Party you just chose to join? (Answer to that rhetorical question: because, of course, even now, years after the Young Tony was gushing about Marx to Michael Foot, Labour are the party for the resentful – Mr Prescott, notably – and also, separately, of those who, in their passion for a Good Outcome, sometimes feel that Some People Want to be Shot or At Least Re-educated. Please don’t think I’m desirous of a fight or a broken friendship, by the way, in making that latter point, but sometimes what is written in a white – and eloquent, I may add – heat is rather telling, and that passing comment of yrs in yr main responsive post struck me as telling and as coloured by all sorts of historical overtones.)

In fact, I agree with you that local choice, and the availability of actual choices, is wanted, nay, is the only defensible scheme and ever was so. I don’t believe, as a matter of first principles, in centralised control of the NC sort, although with local authorities as they were at the time I understand the temptation to Do Something: but then, I’m a rather Libertarian Tory, not one of the Statist Grandees of the Eden-Home-Supermac-Heath-Cameron stripe (not that poor old Ted ever quite managed to be a grandee, as he so desperately craved). As any farmer will tell you in light of the Rural Payments cock-up and the revelations that, whilst farmers were going bankrupt waiting for their funds, the civil servants in question were jumping off of file cabinets bollocks-naked and shagging in supply cupboards, government departments are viciously useless things. Were matters up to me – ah, that old staple of public house debates – Dora Saint shd have been put in charge of state education with a remit to get it back to the standard it attained in, say, the 1950s. (Or, indeed, under Gladstone, or at least Campbell-Bannerman. It does no good to half-educate everyone as a substitute for educating less than half of them, and even those who left school at 14, say, in the 1920s, were better educated than many a redbrick MA today. And that is aside from the evisceration of the Grand Old Fortifying Classical Curriculum by those who resented the vy idea that Some Bloody Toffs ’Ad Took Bloody Latin at School.) In fact, my wishes in the matter are vy similar to those expressed in yr closing paragraph here, and I submit that Labour are the LEAST likely party to effect that, precisely because of the class resentments that still infect them; I also submit that the greatest barrier to anything sensible, is, the bloody parents themselves and their cult of greed: a cult for wh any given Conservative government is by no means wholly responsible, as, indeed, social mobility has markedly decreased and class stratification has markedly burgeoned under New Labour, and as a result of what may laughingly be called its ‘policies’ (snort).

So we’ll agree to disagree, shall we?
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: June 17th, 2006 10:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Wemyss, if I may be so bold, I'd like to suggest a new 'filter' to you; a new way to look at New Labour policies; I don't think 'politics of envy/pique' fully covers what's going on.

New Labour's problem with selective education is that nice middle-class children, such as their own, will fail it. Methods have to be put in place to pacify the middle-class aspiring parents; thus 'parental choice', house price rises around certain schools, false addresses and the absurd amount of tutoring going on.

I had the benefit of a rather splendid Northern Irish grammar school education. Nice middle-class children did fail the 'transfer procedure'; their parents either bit the bullet, naggged furiously to make sure they worked hard and got themselves into a grammar for A-Levels, or sent them to one of the new comprehensives springing up. These had an excellent reputation and are a real fillip to comprehensive education supporters.

But I have no doubt that their success, and the success of existing Norn Irn comprehensives, was down to the fact that parents wanted them to succeed. Everyone in the province knows how good their local primary and secondary schools are; no league tables are required, no pretence of choice. Compare also the Republic of Ireland, where the questions in their equivalent to A-Levels are discussed in the national papers the next day.

Education is seen as the way out; I don't know why that doesn't apply in great swathes of England and why teachers don't push that angle; well, yes, that's unspeakable condescension on a grand scale, but why the difference? Is it just another case of Norn Irn being a bit old-fashioned?

I should add that failing the Transfer Procedure brought absolute heartbreak to many children, let alone their parents; people who survived that and made good still talk about it with no small degree of pain. But I cannot support pulling up the drawbridge after I've crossed; the debate about grammar schools in Norn Irn continues, and if you take out the gross party politics, it is not straightforward.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 17th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

All very sensible.

I'm still not quite sure how we got into this discussion, or, rather, how it became the primary focus of my remarks: save that I ought really to know better than to succumb to an irresistible temptation to make a pun upon the word 'comprehensive' and couple it with my unceasing contempt for John Two-Jags Prescott (who, I cannot imagine everyone's not agreeing, IS wholly driven in all things by old resentments).

What is particularly important about yr insightful remarks is that it does rather get us back to the broader point I was making (and making in the context of cautioning against Yank-bashing): at least throughout the Anglosphere, and probably in the Francophone and Hispanic-derived worlds, standards are slipping universally, and want improving. And that's by no means exclusive to state schooling, not when the head of - was it Wellington? - wishes to teach 'happiness' rather than, oh, Classics, say, and David Giles Wemmbley-Hogg Cameron is so obviously thick as two short planks.

Perhaps the solution IS to be found in Ireland, North and South alike.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 17th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
including a certain fat croquet-mallet-wielding Labourite bruiser who failed his Eleven-Plus decades ago, has since done everything imaginable to justify the prescience of the examiners, and has waged a demented personal crusade against standards and excellence in education ever since, a part of his party’s innate politics of pique and philosophy of envy

That's just what's happening over here (NI), except in our case it's an Armalite-weilding ex-Brigadier of the Derry IRA who left school at 15 to become a bucher's boy. Why they gave Sinn Fein Education and Health I cannot understand.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 17th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)


You and eagles_rock want to chat, it might enlighten the rest of us (see above).
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