Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘conservatives’

Michael Gove makes me want to cry.

I know I am always banging on about education, but I am so dreadfully afraid about what will happen to our schools post-general election, whoever ends up getting in. Maybe it comes from being a newly qualified teacher, a friend and seasoned teacher of 15yrs tells me not to worry, as ‘it all comes around and goes around’. I think that’s what I am worried about.

Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary says he is ‘unashamedly traditionalist when it comes to the curriculum’ which apparently means a return to teaching discrete subjects (maths, english and history) and

children sitting in rows, learning the Kings and Queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic, algebra by the age of 11, modern foreign languages. That’s the best training of the mind and that’s how children will be able to compete.’

This old school approach runs counter to the more flexible current educational thinking which encourages cross-curricular ‘joined up learning’ via topic or theme-based teaching, as espoused in the thorough Rose Review of primary education published last year.

Writing in the TES last month, John White claims that Gove sees progressives such as Rose as ‘his enemies’ who have denied children the advantages of a traditional education. Gove seems to be one of those narrow minded types who think that because they thrived under a particular system of education then it is appropriate for everyone. What he fails to realise (or maybe he doesn’t care?) is that that same system failed a great many people, and has been soundly rejected for good reason. As White points out, ‘It’s a pity that the schooling on which Mr Gove so dotes did not free him from the fetters of black-and-white thinking.’ Modern education should be developing children’s thinking skills, encouraging them to achieve deep learning by discovering things for themselves rather than to be spoon fed facts to rote learn. Group learning, interacting with peers and managing relationships is vital, not sitting still and staring at a teacher. What good is learning a poem by heart, other than to be able to recite it as a dinner party trick 30 years later?

Gove’s determined traditionalism and wish to return to the restrictive National Curriculum of the late 80s (which in itself harked back to the curriculum set out for new state secondary schools in 1904) also completely ignores how the world has moved on in the past few decades. We now have access to facts at the tap of the keyboard; if we want to know the order of the Kings and Queens of England we can just Google it. A ‘knowledge-led fact based curriculum’ is totally missing the point of the modern age. Children will be better equipped by learning to think for themselves, not the least to navigate through the myriad of (mis)information they receive from advertising, TV and newspapers. They need
to discover and celebrate their true selves to help them to find their place in the world as productive and happy adults. Gove despises these “airy-fairy” goals but then again he believes that children should learn about the ‘glory’ days of the British Empire and that “Guilt about Britain’s colonial past is misplaced.”, a view so outdated it is laughable.

Except that I am not laughing.

Read Full Post »

I have always been pretty indifferent to Carol Vorderman. I liked the number bits on Countdown better than the letter bits as I was better at it, and it was fun to wonder if she had a sneaky calculator back there or whether she really did have an abnormal aptitude for mental arithmetic. It was annoying that even though she was ‘brainy’ she also had to be a ‘dolly bird’ whereas Richard Whitely didn’t have to be either, but this was the 80’s and daytime TV wasn’t very enlightened.

But nothing much changes, eh? Our Carol is now advising Cameron on maths teaching. And spouting Tory talking points on Question Time, apparently channelling Sarah Palin in the process [check it out on iplayer; its both a joy and a horror to watch].

I can’t believe for a minute that there aren’t more qualified people (even women!) out there for both these jobs. People who not only know about arithmetic, but mathematics. People who not only know about mathematics, but about how to actually teach it. People who can not only appear as ‘The Daily Mail in human form’ (kudos to someone on twitter) on Question Time but can actually articulate rational and informed argument.

But the Tories instead have chosen to go the populist route and it appears that, as Gaby Hinsliff writes in the Observer today, ‘anything in a skirt will do’. Is Carol Vorderman really the best person they could get to advise on maths education? Or is she just the ‘acceptable’ face of intelligent women/people, with all those less attractive brains doing the work behind the scenes? The whole thing makes me quite agitated I must say. Pretty much the same reaction I had to seeing Rachel Riley, Carol’s replacement on Countdown, on the recent Channel 4 documentary ‘Kids Don’t Count’ as she breezed into a struggling primary school to sort out their failing maths scores. Just because you are good at sums doesn’t mean you know anything about teaching maths!!

Aaand…..breathe.

[As an aside, Cameron says all prospective teachers must have at least a 2:2 and as such Ms Vorderman wouldn’t qualify. Just saying.]

And just because you have a pretty face, an engineering degree and a career in television doesn’t mean you have what it takes to help shape education policy. Just so you are aware though, there are rumours that Carol Vorderman will be offered a peerage and offered a position as a schools minister. I really hope they are not true.

Read Full Post »

The International Monetary Fund yesterday said that our economy is too fragile to cut public spending.  Quite significant news, I believe, given that the economy is the central issue in this election campaign.  I’ve read about it only in the Guardian and the Mirror.  It seems the Daily Mail think maternity leave is more important, the BBC are running yet another day of bullying coverage and seem to have ignored this.  I’ve complained to the BBC about the easy ride they are giving Cameron – because this shoots his plans to pieces – and whatever your political persuasion, you deserve to know the facts.  What do you think?

Read Full Post »

The last few days have seen lots of political activity. Brown the Bully. A future fair for all (complete with carousel??). Give labour a second chance. James Purnell standing down. It may well be a couple of months until the election – but the campaigns are all up and running, posters are being parodied, and the political machine is running in top gear.

But what of substance is happening? There have been the efforts of labour and the lib dems to solve the problems of social care for the elderly – hampered by the conservatives and their castigation of the ‘death tax’ – but very little else. Is this election going to be driven by personalities? I hope not, as neither Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Gordon Brown have much personality!

I want to know who is going to stop meddling in schools. Who is going to pull us out of Afghanistan. Who is going to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS. Who is going to increase funding in higher education. Who is going to improve the lot of my family, and who is going to tax us to the high heavens.

So enough of the posturing, the tears, the softly softly interviews, the accusations. Can we have something of substance to debate please?

Read Full Post »

Should I vote Tory?

Actually, that’s not a real question for this election, as I’ve moved into Simon Hughes’s (Lib Dem) constituency, and he’s a shoo-in. I also admire him. I’ll be voting for HIM, not for the Lib Dems.

But when I consider whether I could vote Tory I am conscious that I am not only considering the policies, good or bad, of the current crop. I am also aware of how it would “look”. Most of my friends are rabidly anti-Tory. Voting for they-who-once-were-led-by-Margaret-Thatcher is up there amongst the most heinous, unthinkable crimes. It’s socially unacceptable.

Obviously my world is only a narrow slice of nice, middle-class professionals, old enough to remember the last Tory administration. And nice and intelligent as they are, there is no way that they will ever believe that the Tories mean what they say when their policies are good ones, or not suspect a hidden agenda that is the reverse of well-meaning.

Like many, I draw a deal of my opinions from conversations I have with people I respect — more, in my case, as a politically unsavvy creature, than I do from careful reading of political manifestos. Given the broken promises and failures of the Labour Governments, and the horrific things they have done in my name, I’m not even sure reading manifesto promises would be a good use of my time.

It’s hard to believe that any of the options would do much better, or much different, from any of the others. So the decision to vote Tory would make me a social outcast, without, perhaps the benefits of taking an unpopular stand.

That is the problem Tories have to grapple with, at least among the people I hang out with.

Read Full Post »

I don’t understand why people are saying they will be voting for Cameron or that they don’t like Brown. In the UK, we elect a party; not an individual. Fair enough, the leader of the party becomes Prime Minister but it’s not like the US where you vote for someone to become President and then for a party. I don’t like Brown. I don’t particularly like Labour at the moment, but I live in a marginal (won from Labour by the Tories in 2005 by a whopping 422 votes) and will therefore be voting Labour at the next election, just to try and oust the Tories. Voting Labour is not a vote in favour of Brown. It’s not a vote against Cameron. It’s a vote for the party I want to see running the country. So why do I keep seeing and hearing that people are voting for an individual when they don’t even live in their constituency? I don’t understand it!

Read Full Post »

Listening to David Cameron, so you don’t have to. Yes, gentle reader I have fallen on my sword and listened to David Cameron being interviewed on Woman’s Hour in a follow up to my comments on Nick Clegg’s appearance (is it an appearance on radio?!) here. Its worse than that actually, since I lost the Word document I used to make notes the first time and had to listen to him a second time. Does anyone feel my pain?

Joking aside, I did try (honestly!) to keep an open mind about the whole thing and weigh what he said with an impartial eye. As impartial as it is possible to be with being anti-Tory that is. General summary: he came across to me as a pompous slime and said hardly anything of substance. Contrast with Nick Clegg who talked quite precisely about specific Lib Dem policies. Cameron was all for the sound bite and waffle which sounds ‘good’ but when you concentrate a bit harder you realise he isn’t saying anything at all.

For example, Jenni Murray probed him on his policy of reintroducing tax breaks for married couples. All he managed in response was to reiterate the phrase that he intended to ‘recognise marriage in the tax system’. What does that *mean* exactly?! He was so sincere about it, he said it twice. I still didn’t know what it means. He did make the slightly interesting point that it was better than ‘rewarding’ couples for breaking up by increasing their benefits as happens under Labour (is that true? I dont know), but as I touched on in my previous blither about this here, I am not sure financial considerations are really uppermost in peoples minds when they are considering marriage.  When challenged with the notion that endorsing marriage might make single mothers and cohabitees feel like ‘second class citizens’ he started blithering on about how fantastic single mothers are and how the Tories will help them by increasing money spent on Health Visitors. Hmmm, thats not really the point.

The most interesting part of it for me was the talk about increasing the number of women MPs in the Tory party. It currently stands at 18 (9%) and Cameron hopes this will increase to 60 after the next election. He no longer rules out all women short lists to achieve his aim of making the parliamentary Tories look more like the general population demographically. He then moved seamlessly into talking about minority candidates, which suggested to me that its more about appearances and the Tory ‘brand’ than anything else.

Still, it the Conservative party were truly gender and colour blind, as they claim, they wouldn’t have to try so hard to get a mix of candidates [see also the Joanne Cash debacle on how all this is going down with the local constituency party]. I am all for equal opportunity representation of course but I wonder how much of it is just another cynical move to win women’s votes. It wont wash with me though; we all know though that just because an MP is a woman, it doesn’t mean she has women’s best interests at heart (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).

Other points of interest:
1.    Cameron denied running a nasty election campaign, reminding us that the first run of Tory ad posters featured himself (which hilariously brought to mind all the airbrushing satire at http://www.mydavidcameron.com).
2.    He denied pandering to demographics. Apparently he had just come from an interview with some lads mag (or similar) and had described himself as liking darts, Guinness and something else laddish I cant remember (and no, I am not listening a third time). Contrast with his pitch to us mums as a good old family man. Jenni Murray said ‘chameleon’, I say ‘opportunist slimeball’.

So, yes, not impressed. I am feeling slightly sheepish at my unashamedly partisan view though, since I did intend to be even handed, I really did. I left a ton of stuff out too, about the so called Labour ‘death tax’, about the proposal for an ‘internet forum’ for parents to complain about inappropriate sexualisation of children and about the expenses scandal. I would love to hear from those with a view different from mine, or from anyone who wants to comment on something I missed. If you can stand it, you can listen to it from the link here.

Listening to David Cameron, so you don’t have to. Yes, gentle reader I have fallen on my sword and listened to David Cameron being interviewed on Woman’s Hour yesterday in a follow up to my comments on Nick Clegg’s appearance (is it an appearance on radio?!) here. Its worse than that actually, since I lost the Word document I used to make notes the first time and had to listen to him a second time. Does anyone feel my pain?

Joking aside, I did try (honestly!) to keep an open mind about the whole thing and weigh what he said with an impartial eye. As impartial as it is possible to be with being anti-Tory that is. General summary: he came across to me as a pompous slime and said hardly anything of substance. Contrast with Nick Clegg who talked quite precisely about specific Lib Dem policies. Cameron was all for the sound bite and waffle which sounds ‘good’ but when you concentrate a bit harder you realise he isn’t saying anything of substance at all. For example, Jenni Murray probed him on his policy of reintroducing tax breaks for married couples. All he managed in response was to reiterate the somewhat meaningless phrase that he intended to ‘recognise marriage in the tax system’. What does that *mean* exactly?! He was so sincere about it, he said it twice! I still didn’t know what it means. He did make the slightly interesting point that it was better than ‘rewarding’ couples for breaking up by increasing their benefits as happens under Labour (is that true? I dont know), but as I touched on in my previous blither about this here, I am not sure financial considerations are really uppermost in peoples minds when they are considering about marriage. When challenged with the notion that endorsing marriage might make single mothers and cohabitees feel like ‘second class citizens’ he started blithering on about how fantastic single mothers are and how the Tories will help them by increasing money spent on Health Visitors. Hmmm, thats not really the point.

The most interesting part of it for me was the talk about increasing the number of women MPs in the Tory party. It currently stands at 18 (9%) and Cameron hopes this will increase to 60 after the next election . He no longer rules out all women short lists to achieve his aim of making the parliamentary Tories look more like the general population demographically. He then moved seamlessly into talking about minority candidates, which suggested to me that its more about appearances and the Tory ‘brand’ than anything else. If the Conservative party were truly gender and colour blind, as they claim, they wouldn’t have to try so hard to get a mix of candidates [see also the Joanne Cash debacle on how all this is going down with the local constituency party]. I am all for equal opportunity representation of course but I wonder how much of it is just another cynical move to win women’s votes. It wont wash with me though; we all know though that just because an MP is a woman, it doesn’t mean she has women’s best interests at heart (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).

Other points of interest.
1. Cameron denied running a nasty election campaign, reminding us that the first run of Tory ad posters featured himself (which hilariously brought to mind all the airbrushing satire at www.mydavidcameron.com).
2. He denied pandering to demographics. Apparently he had just come from an interview with some lads mag (or similar) and had described himself as liking darts, Guinness and something else laddish I cant remember (and no, I am not listening a third time). Contrast with his pitch to us mums as a good old family man. Jenni Murray said ‘chameleon’, I say ‘opportunist slimeball’.

So, yes, not impressed. I am feeling slightly sheepish at my unashamedly partisan view though, and I did intend to be even handed, I really did. I left a ton of stuff out too, about the so called Labour ‘death tax’, about the proposal for an ‘internet forum’ for parents to complain about inappropriate sexualisation of children and about the expenses scandal. I would love to hear from those with a view different from mine, or from anyone who wants to comment on something I missed. If you can stand it, you can listen to it from the link here. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/01/2010_07_thu.shtml)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »