Random Thoughts No. 6

School reports. A grandfather proudly showed me the reports of his 7 year old grandson .I hadn’t the heart to tell him what I really thought. It was divided into 19 separate categories with type-written reports in each category, the smallest, music, was 19 words long, the longest was roughly 42 words, and the average, about 30 words. Forgive me for being sceptical that these comments are as detailed an assessment as they appear. Two ex-teachers thought it was difficult to assess children of that age in any great degree. I don’t blame the schools, I blame the system which dictates targets, information and a host of other requirements not related to the teaching of the children. Assuming there are 30 children in the class, and these comment categories are required for each child, the teacher, or teachers, have to compose and write out, or dictate, 570 items in 17,000 words. This stretches my credibility, I just don’t believe it. What I suspect is that the teachers have standard phrases on a computer, and by tapping single codes these can be coupled together and put into the categories. The question that presents itself then, is whether this flowery language and extreme detail is truly representative. It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of schools and educational levels have gone down, because the teachers are wasting their time with this type of window dressing. In my day the teacher’s comments were handwritten and generally said something like ‘has the ability but could do better, ‘excellent’, or some other sparse comment. Then they used an alphabetical code which soon told the parents the child’s ability when read along with a pithy summary. The amount of work needed for this report, even assuming the computerisation, would have burdened either a teacher, or a combination of a teacher and a backroom staff, excessively. The teachers I spoke to are glad they are not teaching today

Bush really frightens me, has me waking up at night with the screaming hab-dabs. I have known ever since World War II, what I knew in Edinburgh in 1940, time and again depicted on television in race riots, Vietnam, and recent wars, that the American psyche is based on its own myths of the Wild West, of shoot first and ask questions afterwards. I find that Bush’s inarticulate delivery and vague bearing lead me to believe he is purely a mouthpiece for some very aggressive lobbyists. He seems to me to have about as much diplomatic delicacy as a seven pound sledge hammer. The trouble is this huge juggernaut called America, which for years was lying dormant, has suddenly woken up believing its own publicity, that it is a world leader. The precipitate action, and the unguarded utterances, with no reference to the outcome and the reactions of other nations, coupled with a strong political bias induced by the ethnic and fiscal balance at home, and subsidising rogue elements in other countries, should not be the stance of a great nation that considers itself to be a world leader, they are a prescription for strife.

The Olympics, the mummy run, and railways. I can imagine that you are wondering. what twisted mind can link these three items – money as usual, today it links everything. I am heartily against the 2012 Olympics in Britain because I believe over the next five years our public coffers will be empty as a result of the proposed new housing programme, the two wars, bringing the infrastructure up to the level that it is acceptable, without even wasting it on something which so few of us can enjoy, except visually on the box, and that could be the case wherever it was held. We need money seriously for public transport. We must reduce those rush hours constituted by the mummy run, grasp the parking problems in towns and cities, all created because of a lack of public transport of a quality and quantity to make it viable. I believe nationally, we spend a tremendous amount of money both in fines and on wages just for parking, let alone the vast amounts on renewal and the construction of trunk roads, bypasses, and increasing the strength of the existing network to accommodate ever heavier and longer vehicles. We really need to re-examine the whole of our transport philosophy, with a view to getting the individual back into busses and trains, even if it means heavily subsidising. The cost to the individual of using public transport, especially over long distances seems extortionate, especially when the conditions of travel and pricing seem so unacceptable. Even our local bus has seats that only children can sit in really comfortably, because health and safety have cut down on the number of people standing, and, it appears, the bus companies, needing the passengers to make it pay, have increased the number of seats in the same area.

Only those of us who lived at a time when all there was, was public transport, can be truly aware of what has been lost. Travelling on the Tube was always a torture, but on trams and buses one can relax and let the driver take the strain. In those days one didn’t have to wait long for trains, buses or trams, but today it is different.

Categorized as General

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