Tuesday, May 4, 2021

HOMAGE TO CHAUCER

 

Whan that May with his sonne sa bryght
 

Whan that May with his sonne sa bryght

Maketh ye earth warm and setteth alle to ryght

Then shal lytel byrdies mak melodye

And giveth preyse to him wha sitteth on hie.

 

Then cometh tymme wi langre dais

And man to womman turnes hys gais

Wi amorous thochtes of futur blyss

Yf onlie she wad chuseth to be hys.

 

Quod he, I love thee marvellyss welle

be my guidwyf and with mee dwelle.

I am but a sympell churl, tis treue

but seeeth eternitee in a lyf with you.

 

Now womman thinketh to be wyse

Picketh a mate with lovynge eeyes

And thee shal everr blesst be

By loveth hym as he loveth thee.

 

Based on The Canterbury Tales prologue*, I’m hopynge that this explains itself, and does not seem like a mock of the great parent of our world-encompassing language. 

With a little effort (and a modern font) Chaucer’s Middle English comes alive and reads quite easily. It is great fun all round having children read it out and they can, using rhyming couplets (as above), reproduce their own homage. The vocabulary and spelling has to be supported, of course, but the only tricky bit is getting the first line. After that’s done, it more or less writes itself for the first couple of verses. And then you've done it; your primary pupils have written in Middle English! We did it recently for April (hence the prologue reference) to meikle delyghte and som pryde tae.

After such a lesson, there's only one direction; onwards and backwards to Beowulf! Kids love this, Beowulf slays Mylie, Nikki, Ariana and all the other swamp-owned succubi.

 

*

 Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

              When April with its sweet-smelling showers
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
               Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
 And bathed every veyne in swich licour
               And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
               By the power of which the flower is created
...............
FYI: There are many youtube examples for how to pronounce this; some are rubbish, but you'll quickly identify them. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Happy Birthday, Will

 

Shakespeare, needed like never before

Nay, upon my word such gross forgetfulness
Betokens deserv’d calamity to this nation.

Just another dead White man?

Shakespeare's work is a crucial component of a child’s journey to full literacy, and love of their own language and culture. Not just for our time, but for all time. And it’s not just me that’s saying that!*

Properly taught, even young children love Shakespeare. Obviously, they love the tales told. But also, delighting in the parsing of even the most flighty of passages. And too, learning them to confident recital – what a power for a child to have and pride for their parent or teacher! I state this as a fact, directly known.

As part of the general educational plan for the English speaking West, it is equally crucial that Shakespeare is kept away from children and that teachers are ignorant, and perhaps even hostile, to our language’s greatest champion. This has largely been achieved, at least in primary schools. Alas, we lose more than Hamlet when we lose Hamlet. For not only is the delight and beauty, wonder and wisdom lost, but also that connection to the world's greatest wordsmith, which is ours by birthright as native English speakers, and thusly a mighty source of pride of kinship. And by the necessary form of this, strength. This is what they are trying to snuff out, and why.

'They' are always the same people. I appreciate that perhaps you cannot see them yet.

We’ve got a fight on our hands, ye celebrants of the numinous turned to word: Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more.

*   This learned reference for the delight of the many Shakespearians among the readers.

PS. Our many English readers can, of course, have a double celebration as this date is also Saint George's Day. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Anonymous Teacher Calls for More Nietzsche in Scottish Primary Schools

 

Lighten Up

Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it.

Looking through, Teaching Scotland, the GTCS’s professional journal, one is struck by the manic marriage of its unrelenting moral censure of Scottish culture with imminent rapture. Magazine after magazine, piling up like pancakes, berates us natives as racial bigots, while holding out the almost grasped promise of excellence to be at last achieved by multiculturalism; itself contingent on us natives removing ourselves from the future. O, and embracing digital solutions, kindly sponsored by the same global cabal that bring you viruses and vaccines. A small price to pay, Teaching Scotland implies, for us losing our patrimony and presence.

All this is very complicated and serious, however. And we wonder if this focus on social targets and political goals is taking light-heartedness and fun out of teaching, as it most definitely has out of the magazine? This observation has led an anonymous teacher* to call for more Nietzsche in Scottish primary schools, apparently as a counter to this seriousness. Despite that stern moustache, it seems that the German overman was a noted advocate of prankishness:

”Maintaining cheerfulness in the midst of a gloomy task, fraught with immeasurable responsibility, is no small feat; and yet what is needed more than cheerfulness? Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it.” — Nietzsche. Twilight of the Idols.

Noting, not only its role as a fun increaser and balance to excessive seriousness, but as an intellectual quality in its own right. For it was ever a sign of intelligence and a lively spirit at work; naturally gathering to itself wit and ironies, self-depreciation and smiling eyes behind the rebuke.  Good old, Nietzsche, always looking for a laugh and in it finding a truth presciently apposite to our Scottish school circumstances. Such prankishness should be encouraged in schools, so naturally it isn’t! Perhaps, rather than more ‘conversations’ about the underlying racist and sexist structures of our schools, we need more prankishness. Especially when such ‘conversations’ begin.

It would be nice to think that Nietzsche would be added to the German wall in our primary class to keep Arminius, Wagner, von Manstein, Beckenbauer and Merkel company.

What think ye?

*   It was me (identity withheld to preserve anonymity).

NB. I’ve described Teaching Scotland as the GTCS’s professional journal, but really it is so much more than that. In fact, mere words cannot convey the vasty extent of my opinion. Perhaps, in a later post, assuming voluminous requests, I may do so. Consider me as Macduff, but yet without the sword.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

FOURTEEN

 

Ayont, and quit this place.     

Without a high IQ, by 14 years old school education has reached its limit, and at this age and stage of your life you should be out of school and doing something useful that earns money. Those that want to can stay on, providing they’ve got a reason and the cognitive firepower to back it up. However, as the general level of intelligence declines, we should be adjusting school leaving age downwards to give the less brainy children an opportunity of usefully employing ages 14-18. My mum and dad left school at 14 and this did not harm them. Nor were my grannies rendered deficient by leaving school at 12, indeed, the exact opposite.

This strategy is not insulting to the less intelligent, less academically gifted, or those whose interests lie elsewhere. Such children know themselves well in advance of leaving age. It does them no good to pretend that they have a potential for a certain sort of future, when they have not. Indeed, forcing them (for such it is), to stay on past their threshold of tolerance for school-life does them harm, and often to others who are forced to accommodate the disruptive power of unwilling teenagers. This Quit at Fourteen strategy is thus, realising, not denying, options. 

A very large proportion of jobs, particularly service and support, could easily be done by 14 year olds – as they were in former times. Indeed, many of those jobs could be done just as well by even younger children, and to their pleasure and development. [Perhaps this to be explored another time]

By providing employment for our now school-free teens, this would have the added benefit of reducing the sad need for military-age males from broken countries (perhaps broken by us while wearing our NATO mask) to come here seeking employment or welfare or revenge - the first two categories now being filled with our own young people.

Middle primary should be preparing children for this possible meeting with reality, rather than indulging them in fanciful, if not dishonest, dreams of reaching for the stars, which too often turn out to be black holes.

What think ye?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

PAVLOVIAN

Alas, not the dessert.

Regarding the recent necessity of transferring the entire school curriculum online, I have heard numerous contradictory reports; running the gamut from high praise to complete waste of time. One can easily imagine the various factors attendant on the various opinions held. And all are probably true, with the consensus averaging into the middle range. This concurs with my opinion; this process has been fairly successful, in that the averagely diligent pupil and parents, combined with the averagely diligent teacher, has produced an averagely successful outcome – within the limits imposed. Whatever damage has been done to pupils by the lockdown and the necessary online classroom they have been attending for the last year is trivial, at least as far as their learning is concerned.

Regardless of the various personal outcomes, though, one would be correct and fair in claiming that, from a strictly operational viewpoint, this has been well-handled by schools. And so, I nod an approval to the IT monkeys behind it all.

However, that small blessing of my endorsement dispensed with, I now wear my worried face.

And this is because now that this trial run of remote, screen learning has been proven, both in the operational sense and in the apparent wide parent acceptance (admittedly, with no choice!), we can expect more of the same. More of the same means even more time spent looking at screens, and at an ever younger age. And when the new upgraded virus revisits its old haunts in its 2021-2022 Tour – and we have been promised this by the philanthropist king of the vaccines and his CDC courtiers – everything will be already in place for the stay-safer option of a more permanent remote learning ‘experience’. Of course, children already spend too much time in class looking at screens anyway, but at least this 2D experience is somewhat mediated by the 4D presence of classmates in meatspace. This new learning will do away with this distraction, and the need for the teacher-avatar to get changed out of their pyjama bottoms.

My worry is that these developments further legitimise the life online, from being an adjunct of teaching and learning, to being the main means. As I see it, the most important second order effect of this is to embed deeper in the child’s mind all the techniques and gimmicks, from garbage-level computer artwork to the lab rat level electronic feedback, of laboratory-style animal training as the default form of human learning. And to make the teacher rely on pre-made resources to facilitate this – such resources often made by the same interests that own and promote the online learning platforms! Thusly, making these geegaws and symbols the same foundation for our children’s school learning as they are in our adult world. i.e., the principal means of informing our distorted world-view and training our responses to this. Everything on-screen and everything controlled by those who own it. Their ambition for our future 4D world curated through their control of our children’s 2D world.

Online learning is ultimately an enemy of our children.

In short, this is programming in the manner of Pavlov. I would remind you that his famous experiments were with dogs. Alas, the powers that direct this coming mind experiment consider us and our children as an animal much further down the phylogenetic scale.

What think ye?

 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

MORECOMBE PROMENADE 1953

 

Full circle

 

I saw him leave a pretty girl

and walk over the road

for round two

carrying the gravity of a grown man

but still with a youth’s speed

and adding a corporal’s strips.

 

I said to my girls, Just walk on. Go!

Which they did, for the first time ever,

without question or complaint;

their female antennae sensed

the danger in my voice

as I saw in my mind’s eye

 

him back 10 years and inside a circle

of part shocked, but mainly thrilled, pupils

punching the shit (and dentures) 

out of Mr Porter.

And curing him forever, I’m fairly certain,

of his famous facetiousness.

 

I tried not to look hostile or too afraid.

He noted my girls who had stopped

at safe distance and were watching.

Clearly understanding the intention

and my expectation of, at 51 years old,

another fistfight.

 

Excuse me, Sir, you won’t remember me, but…

I remember you, Williams.

I just came over to tell you, Sir,

you were right and  I want to apologise

for my behaviour back then.

Seemingly, the Army finally did what I tried to do.

 

Well, I’m glad to hear that you

are keeping out of trouble? 

Well, sort of, Sir. I’m putting it to

best use in the boxing ring.

I’m Northern Area Army Champion.

And so, we chatted for a while


his girlfriend was brought over

who turned out to be his fiancée.

Congratulations were given and

had I not been with the girls

I would have suggested a celebratory drink.

Never was one warranted more.

 

Removed from his angrier younger self

he had become a personable young man

and hardly carrying menace, excepting

a physique which suggested

the ability to prevail.

30 years of teaching and every day

 

a fresh lesson, and this the best.

A kid just not kitted out for school

who finally found his feet when

he found a better use for his fists.

Bad boy made good, my own tiny role

a justification for tonight’s whisky.


This poem is a true story. And it is a story that is nearly always true about a pupil, no matter who they are; time fixes things.

This is from my Queens of the Reich which is linked above.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

WORKING MEMORY: IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!

 

It’s brain science.

That portion of brain power that is free on the point of introduction to a new idea, to actually engage with this new idea. This is obviously a limited resource, and so logically one should strive to de-clutter the introduction process of extraneous material and leave the working memory (in this case of a child in class) free to get on with the task of learning something new. A typical pupil, coming fresh to a new lesson, has a working memory of four to six items, or facts, that they can hold in their mind at the same time as they engage with the lesson. Use up this working memory before the new lesson has started and the child will struggle to understand what they are supposed to be learning, or properly focus on the task.

Of course, as we are talking about brain function which is hardly understood, even by brain scientists, this is just a metaphor, but it conforms to reality as we commonly experience it; don’t give someone too many new things to do at the start of learning something new, or you’ll confuse them.

And so, schools being what they are, this is what we do. Flying in the face of science, common-sense and our own everyday experience, we, as mandated by pedagogic practice, clog up the minds of our pupils before the lesson has started with; targets consulted, learning powers to be activated, skill sets accessed, required group protocols, Walts and Wilfs*; and so, as a consequence, their working memory is gone!

This is all supposed to help by making the lesson content and intention explicit. Certainly, to someone ignorant of the concept of working memory, this pre-lesson loading may create the impression of great thoroughness and intellectual endeavour, with all the learning bases touched, but really, it does the opposite.

Those children who can, eventually come to ignore all this pre-lesson excess and keep their working memory safe for the lesson. The others? That’s why we have remedial.

What think ye?


*   Actually, these learning twins can be a useful mnemonic, if used sparingly!  It tells the pupil what we are learning and what the teacher wants to see in completed work. In school, of course, they are battered to death daily.