Why can’t we let our kids learn?

I’m reissuing this one by request because sadly it’s a relevant now as it was when it was written. Our children are still being pushed to pasdamian1s exams, instead of being allowed to learn. And now we have a new Education Secretary called Damian Hinds, who seems to have noticed that ‘schools need less stress’ and is going to send teachers a ‘tool kit’ to help them cope with it. Tell you what Damian, just get rid of all those tests and examinations and you would be surprised at what would happen in our schools.

I can’t in all honesty say that I expect anyone deeply entrenched in the philosophy that the more examinations children can be required to take, the more they will learn to take much notice of what I have to say about the natural learning process. On the other hand there is a Labour politician called Angela Rayner and what she is saying gives me hope, so this is more for her than for Damian.

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This one is by special request, because so many of my friends think that what is being done to our children in the name of education is damaging, senseless and often downright cruel  and I keep saying it isn’t necessary. So now I feel I must give you chapter and verse.

We’ve known all about it since the early years of the twentieth century when the first 
educational pioneers, like  Susan Isaacs and Maria Montessori discovered that learning is a natural and pleasurable process. And if we ever need proof of the truth of what they were saying, we only have to look at any young creature playing. Kittens may look cute but what they are actually doing is learning how to catch their prey, apes romp in the trees learning to maintain their balance and enjoying every minute of it, human children play all manner of games and enjoy them hugely. What they are doing, without knowing it, is using this natural learning process. It’s what all children do when tests and Ofsted inspections and league tables don’t get in their way. So how does it work?

It always starts with curiosity, which is natural and in-built.

If and when the child follows his curiosity, he starts a whole series of activities in which he learns what he wants to know, by trial and error. Mistakes are part of the process and not at all frightening. You learn from them.

And when you have mastered the skill and found out what you wanted and needed to know, you move on to stage three, which is a state of rapturous happiness. Just watch a baby when it’s learnt to feed itself.

When the skill is mastered and/or the knowledge absorbed, and the child has been making use of it for some time, he puts it to one side and seems to forget it. But there is a fifth stage. After an interval no matter how short or long, the child returns to the skill and hasn’t forgotten any of it, it’s part of his character now, once learnt never forgotten, like riding a bicycle.

So why on earth don’t most teachers simply make use of this process, sparking interest whenever they can, providing the materials so that child can satisfy his curiosity and enjoying the whole thing with the children? One sad reason is, that few of them now are taught about the process. All the information about it was removed from the PGCE syllabuses a very long time ago, to the disappointment of the great educationalists of our much maligned sixties, like Leila Berg and Mike Duane of Risinghill fame and the great AS Neill who ran Summerhill school.

But there is another factor which has to be considered today. Parents and teachers and children are all told by our politicians that they have to be tested to show that they are learning, some of the fiercer ones are even talking about bringing back the cane, god help us all. And of course what they’re saying simply is not true.

The real reason we keep imposing tests, exams, Ofsted inspections and league
tables is that the big “educational” companies make money out of it, it’s an extremely lucrative business and the more exams they can persuade our idiot politicians to impose on our children, the more the companies can earn.

We are in thrall to greed.

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on July 26, 2018. 4 Comments

I have learnt a useful new word

And it’s a word that perfectly describes Donald Trump. I found it in a Tweet written by John Cleese who described America’s uncouth President as ‘vulgar, inflated, vain, boastful, noisily ignorant, sleezy and common as muck’. Spot on John! And then went on to analyse what is the matter with him, describing him as “Pronoid”.

It’s a real word. I looked it up! And I’d like to see it used more often. For as John Cleese wrote: ‘Pronoid is the opposite of paranoid. A paranoid person thinks, without any basis in reality, that everyone is out to get them. A pronoid person is someone who thinks, without any basis in reality, that everybody likes them.’

I think that by now most of us have got heartily sick of hearing Trump describe his great talents. He is good at everything, he’s got brains, he knows everything, he’s got property everywhere. ‘I love Scotland, I’ve got property there.’ Everybody loves him. But he went further in rudeness and uncouth behaviour than any of us have seen him do before, when he met the Queen of England, when, as we all saw from the pictures, he arrived late to his meeting with her and then totally ignored her, stepping in front of her as though she were not there. Uncouth arrogance like that, simply takes your breath away. As somebody else said on Twitter  ‘Have you seen these pictures! Imagine somebody doing that to one of our early Monarchs. He’d have had his head chopped off.’

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It would be bad enough if he were an oddity but there are arrogant, ‘pronoid’ people in all sorts of places. Some of them like Boris Johnson, Jeremy HuntJH and Nigel Farage, cloak their appalling arrogance by clowning and sadly, many people think that’s funny and therefore don’t take them too seriously.

Max Hastings who is a friend of Boris Johnsons (Eton, Oxford, Bullingdon club) has this to say about his friend. ‘It is a common mistake to suppose Johnson a nice man… He is a man of remarkable gifts, flawed by an absence of conscience, principle or scruple.’ And this is the man who is inching up to take the premiership from Theresa May.

And Nigel Farage, the darling of the television companies who is so good at posing with a pint of beer in his hand, as a man of the people, is no such thing. According to reports from Transparency International, he has earned between £524,000 and £700,000 from TV and radio interviews in the last four years.

“Giving power and money to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” 

-P.J. O’Rourke

And never forget. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So that brings us back to Trump again!

What a world we live in. I’ve written about four hideous examples of a pronoid personality, but they are legion, and the ambitious, pronoid men behind the posed public faces are dangerous. We’ve seen enough of them in our lifetime to know that. Think Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Mugabe etc, etc.

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This entry was posted on July 18, 2018. 3 Comments

Thank you for all your messages

BBC1NHSSTILL

Since BBC news broadcast my tribute to the National Health Service, I’ve received emails, messages on Facebook and Twitter from all over the place and from too many people for me to be able to thank you all.

So this is by way of thanks, it was lovely to hear from you and to know that you approved of what I had to say.

And if you missed it, as I did! The producer sent me a link. Wasn’t that kind of her?

So here it is, in case you missed it too:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/health-44703044/nhs-at-70-early-patient-pays-tribute-to-life-saving-treatment

 

This entry was posted on July 12, 2018. 3 Comments

Hot off the press!

Just a very quick blog this time.

I was recently interviewed by the BBC about my experience with NHS when it was first created almost 70 years ago.

My interview will feature on tomorrow’s (Wednesday 4th July) news at 6pm and 10pm on BBC1.

So make sure you tune in and let me know what you think.

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2018. 1 Comment

Tell the truth and shame the devil

Although, if I’m to tell the truth, and I do try to, I don’t think our present day devils would be shamed by it at all. They’re so immersed in their own fantasy world that they wouldn’t recognise the truth if it jumped up in front of them, stark bollock naked, and bit them. They’re a new breed and it’s a breed with unlimited greed and boundless ambition but without a shred of conscience. Think Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, all convinced they were gods and could ride rough-shod over the rest of us and do as they pleased, and, in our present terrible time, the benighted Trump and the kings and queens of Brexit, like Farage, Gove and Johnson and their ilk. That lot can lie through their teeth to con us to vote the way they want us to, and when the conned majority have voted their way and they’re caught out in their lies, they can pretend it was all a joke and get away with it, because no one is allowed to say that an MP is a liar. Even when he (or she) is lying through his/her teeth. And that’s an extremely dangerous state of affairs because it means that the rich and powerful can never be held to account.

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But of course it isn’t just lying politicians. The culture of falsity spreads all through our society. Advertisers tell us gaudy stories about the efficacy and value of the products they’re pushing and we all know and accept it, worse, the media con us with propaganda every day of our lives and most of us accept what they’re saying and writing because it’s done so skilfully that we don’t question it. An article I found in our local freebie yesterday is a horrid example.

Under the headline ‘Experts visit Blake’s home’, the journalist told us that ‘officers at Historic England had visited Blake’s cottage in Felpham and had decided not to put it on their at risk register.’ Well isn’t that comforting. Now we don’t have to worry about the place and we can all get on with our lives and forget all about it. The article goes on with several more soothing and anodyne statements. English Heritage are going to continue to monitor the building’s condition and are advising the Blake Cottage Trust and Arun District Council in working towards a secure future for the cottage. There you are, you see. Sorted. Nothing at all to worry about. Except of course that the cottage is still in EXACTLY the same state as it was in when I visited it and reported about it on my blog with pictures. ‘If Blake’s Cottage had a voice it would cry HELP!’ The rafters are still rotten and broken, the thatch is still falling through the ceiling, there are still damp patches on the walls. Just go and look at the pictures. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The triumvirate who compose the Blake Cottage Trust, who are supposed to hold the cottage ‘in Trust for the Nation’ have ‘owned’ it since September 2015, or in other words for nearly three years and NO REPAIRS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT at all. Nor will they be, no matter how much advice they are given by the kindly Expert from English Heritage. And nothing will be done because THEY HAVEN’T GOT ANY MONEY and haven’t got the remotest idea about how to raise any. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

I hope there are still people in Felpham who are still concerned about our Blake’s Cottage and, if there are, that they will get in touch with me. But I think most people who read that article will be conned into a false sense of security. That is how half-truths work. I’ve been depressed about it ever since I read it.

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However to cheer us up a little, I can also report that a very courageous journalist, called Carole Cadwalladr, who works for the Sunday Observer and recently blew the gaff on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which took a lot of courage because the trolls and harpies who can’t bear to hear the truth have been viciously after her ever since, has been awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism. Respec’ Carole! I wish there were more journalists like you. The mealy-mouthed ones who only say what their bosses tell them to say are a pain in the bum and do a lot of damage.

And on a final cheering note and to celebrate the fact that there are still courageous truth tellers in the world I’m ending with a poem that pokes fun at the liars.

Liars are Lovely.

A liar is a comfortable man. He’s right.

Easy to look at, in a well-placed light,

Where his stage make-up isn’t obvious,

His charm is sweet but rarely nauseous

His false teeth gleam, the toupee joins don’t peel,

The padded shoulders almost pass for real,

A twisted spine is hidden by his suit.

Truth’s such an ugly brute.

A liar’s a companion you won’t fear.

He tells you only what you want to hear

Good for a laugh to gloss the time of day.

Or a slick tale to chase your blues away

Where passion is not raw but sentimental.

Riot and rape, and all things elemental.

May tear the other harder world apart

He’ll keep such horrors from your placid heart;

Nothing he says or does will make you rue it;

He’ll talk of sex but never really do it;

And if you’re fifty make you feel fifteen.

The truth’s so bloody mean.

A liar is a politician, made

To keep all truthful thinkers in the shade.

He’ll mesmerize you till you’re sure you could

Give him your vote for all consumer good

You’ve ever dreamed that you could want or need.

Especially when he smiles into your greed.

He’ll chloroform your conscience as you buy.

Leave megadeath to his remedial lie.

To arm is noble; death is a release;

Carnage is colourful. And war is peace.

And if the bombs should chance to fall on you,

He’ll smile sincerely, “Nothing he could do.”

Knowing that in his artful world, most politics

Are muffled by mellifluous statistics

Where truth is dull, deadly and repetitious,

And readily avoided by the ambitious.

What people need is just their daily lie,

The lie sensational, dull truth put by.

The truth’s so uninspiring; makes you bored.

Leave truth to artists. They can be ignored.

This entry was posted on July 2, 2018. 4 Comments

A bit of publicity

I will apologise in advance for publicising my own work. It invariably makes me feel ashamed to do it, but if I don’t, those of you who want information about the next book, or whatever, won’t get it.

So here it goes.

Endeavour Media are in the process of putting up two new/old books on Kindle and other e-book outlets. New to them, and possibly to some of my original readers, but very old to me because they are the two oldest books I’ve written. They were published in 1985 and 1986, which was over thirty years ago and were both instant bestsellers. Those were the days!

The first one is called ‘Hearts and Farthings’ and is about an Italian immigrant, called Alberto Pelucci, who comes to London from Genoa at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, takes any job that offers and works all the hours God sends until he has saved enough to rent a shop in Tooting. And then….. Yes Tooting fans, this one’s for you. There’s a lot in it you’ll recognise.

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The second is a sequel to the first, is called ‘Kisses and Ha’pennies’ and is also set in Tooting – among other places in London. It concerns two girls, called Anna and Mary, who are sisters but don’t know it because they have been brought up in different households in different parts of London. Until one day…

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They’re available to buy on Kindle via Amazon now, so here are the links:

http://amzn.eu/6z6E3cL

http://amzn.eu/fYQKXoV

So there you are folks. The ads are over. Now for a tea break.

This entry was posted on June 22, 2018. 2 Comments

A birthday card with a difference for our 70 year old NHS

On Thursday July 5th it will be the 70th birthday of our much beleaguered, much loved National Health Service and I’m sure there will be millions of us all over the country who will want to wish it well, and praise it for all the wonderful work it has done over those seventy years. I’ve already put in my sevenpenn’orth about how good it was – and is still struggling to be – in an interview I gave to the BBC for a broadcast that will be aired during the next two weeks, so now I’m going to send this 70 year anniversary birthday card with a difference by telling the truth about what has been and is still being done to it by our determined and untruthful government.

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Theresa May is already talking about how she is going to give it a special birthday present of twenty million pounds. What largesse! And what tosh! She doesn’t seem to realise – or perhaps she doesn’t want to realise – that her government’s spending money for the NHS comes from our National Insurance contributions and our taxes and is not hers to give or refuse to give on a whim. The NICs were introduced at the same time as the Welfare State began. The whole thing had been carefully costed and planned for and we paid the new tax willingly, knowing that among other very necessary things like unemployment benefit and pensions, it was for a health service that would look after us all and would be free for us when we needed it because we’d already paid for it.

So what’s gone wrong? Why isn’t it working now? Why have 15,000 beds been shut down? Why has the nursing bursary been axed? Why have so many A&E and Maternity units been closed or cut down from their original and necessary size? Why are we short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors? We’re still paying NICs and taxes which run to billions of pounds every year. Well, put in a nutshell, it isn’t working and is in dire straits because that is what this government, and previous governments from Thatcher on, have always intended to do to it. They have been following a determined and ruthless plan to destroy it. And no, I’m not playing Cassandra and crying ‘Woe! Woe!’ never to be believed. It’s a verifiable fact. So let me tell you some of the story.

Way back in 2010 a man called Mark Britnell, who was the Chair of KPMG Health spoke to a meeting of American private health firms. What he had to say was hideously clear and, to its eternal credit, the Guardian/Observer reported it word for word. This is what he said:-

In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider and not a state deliverer.’

The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.’

Smart cookies the KPMG. It is now a ‘supplier of services’ to six of the nine NHS consortia which the government instructed the NHS to set up. In 2014 the Greater East Midland Commissioning Support Group, paid KPMG a quarter of a million pounds every month in the first six months of 2014 for ‘services’. Money, as they used to say when I was a kid, for old rope. And they’re not the only wealthy firms in the private health business to take advantage of this enforced privatisation, Ernst and Young are another and so is Virgin Care.

If you want to know more about the racket, tweet or google ‘OurNHS’ and read what Tamsin Cave has to say about it under the headline ‘Why are GPs being told to hand billions worth of NHS decisions to private health firms?’ Google and Twitter can give you a lot of information if you know where to dig.

When it was set up the NHS was responsible for everything to do with our health care, paying for their doctors, nurses, cleaners, ambulance men and all their other staff, the upkeep of their hospitals and surgeries, the purchase of medicines and supplies. Now it is all being siphoned off along with the money to pay for it – our money you will remember – to rapacious private companies who will milk it for as much as they can get out of it and drop it if and when it fails, as big private companies do. Nothing is sacred. Not even the blood that so many donors give for free, to help their fellows. The plasma from it has already gone to a private company.

Please, if you care about our NHS and don’t believe the government propaganda which is pumped at us daily by a nice tame press, which, with the noble exception of the Guardian, is owned by six billionaires with off shore accounts who don’t pay tax, make it your business to find out what is actually going on and spread the word. They are playing a terrible, damaging con trick on us and, like me, you may well want something better for our NHS. Ask how many of our MPs have shares in private health companies or links to them. My own MP for example worked as an accountant for KPMG and his brother is a big noise at the BBC. Give names to the billionaires who now own large parts of it. Let the cats out of the bag. And if you want me to use this blog to pass your findings on, just let me know. Vive the NHS!

This entry was posted on June 17, 2018. 2 Comments