If ever we doubted the deep, abiding stupidity of politicians (we didn't, we didn't), this week has brought us proof.
New guidance on school discipline cautions teachers against repeatedly praising the "same good pupils", suggesting that rewards also be given to persistent miscreants who show an improvement, however small. It says schools should not "over discipline" persistently unruly pupils for fear of alienating them and should instead hand out praise five times more often than punishments.
This is, of course, what teachers have been trained to do for the last fifty or sixty years at least. Teacher training colleges are pretty useless, to be honest, but that is one thing they've always had right - a good teacher praises, a bad teacher criticises. All teachers know that. Almost all of them do it.
But the government advice cites research recommending a "rewards/sanctions ratio of at least 5:1". Oh, now we see. Teachers may have known all about this already, but because it wasn't backed up by research, they obviously didn't know it properly so it didn't count. Another piece of common knowledge among teachers is that educational research is carried out by people who either failed in the classroom themselves, or couldn't face it in the first place.
The guidance also tells teachers to take account of pupils' race and culture when telling them off, suggesting that they go easy on those insubordinate youngsters for whom being "loud" or "overfamiliar" may be a cultural norm or "social style". Teachers should understand the importance of showing respect to children from racial or religious backgrounds for whom public humiliation is seen as particularly shameful. In these cases, staff should not use language that might humiliate youngsters in front of their friends.
In other words, the government is now instructing teachers to be racists, to discriminate between children of different races when teaching them and disciplining them. I think we all knew this was the way it would go, but now we have it in black and white. Ha! Black and white, get it? Oh, never mind.
In other areas the guidance advocates a tougher approach, encouraging teachers to give Saturday and after-school detention and to punish pupils who make false allegations against teachers. This means, of course, that the same teachers will have to work on Saturdays because someone has to supervise those detentions. Only, they're not contractually allowed to do so - the teaching profession is one of the few whose working conditions and in particular the number of days a year they must work, are laid down by law instead of by agreement. There's no such thing as overtime for teachers.
And it's not clear just how teachers are to punish children who make false allegations against them, as they won't actually be teaching. When any allegation is made against a teacher, false or not, the very first thing that happens is that the teacher is suspended. No matter how trivial or ridiculous or blatantly false the accusation may be, the procedure is always the same. Kid stays, teacher goes. You can understand why, of course - but it makes nonsense of the government guidelines.
The guidelines have been published to accompany new legal powers enabling teachers to use "reasonable force" to restrain violent children, confiscate mobile phones and punish pupils for poor behaviour on their way to and from school. However, there's no mention of self-defence training for teachers, or additional security to protect them when they try to follow this advice and intervene physically. Bolshy sixteen-year-olds (soon to be bolshy eighteen-year-olds if the government has its way) can be physically enormous, exceedingly strong and mindlessly, unpredictably violent. Last year some £250million was awarded to teachers injured in school.
Of course, the phenomenon of politicians thinking they know best is nothing new. They think they know best about all sorts of things, not just education, They know best about how we should behave towards each other, how we should eat, whether we should smoke, how much we should drink, what we should do with our rubbish, how we should drive, what we should drive and where we should drive it, what sort of illnesses we're supposed to catch and, when we do, whether we should get the treatment we've been paying for all our lives. In fact, there's almost nothing that politicians won't pontificate about and, under the present government, legislate about.
And it's all b*ll*cks. It's all stupidity. It's all sound-bites, dressing things up in loads of words to make it impressive but really just shoving things under the carpet and hoping they'll go away.
Tony Bliar, whose government has the environment so much at heart and is determined to out-legislate the entire world in carbon-saving measures, has just announced that he's not actually going to cut back his own holiday flights because Britain only produces a tiny amount of the world's carbon and the Chinese will soon make up for anything we save. Yes, he really said that, and yes, he's so stupid that he thinks we won't notice that he's made a complete and utter volte-face.
And there's more. The same great Prime Minister has this week reversed his entire position on racism, by becoming just as racist as the rest of us. He claimed this week that the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but by a distinctive black culture. He said the recent violence should not be treated as part of a general crime wave, but as specific to black youth. He said people had to drop their political correctness and recognise that the violence would not be stopped "by pretending it is not young black kids doing it". Most of us will agree with him, of course. But then, most of us are racists because we know race exists and we can't see why you shouldn't talk about it as though it's real. So by moving across to our side, Tony Bliar is either being quite intelligent at last, or incredibly stupid. My money's on stupid.
But Bliar's not right at the cutting-edge of political stupidity. No, the apex of thick, the political "Wanker of the Week" award, has to go to the Scottish Socialist candidate this week who claimed at a press conference that his party is terribly green and recognises the need for urgent action because - and I quote - "the earth's core is heating up".
So The GOS would like to offer that Scottish gentleman a little advice of his own. Now listen up, Jock, 'cos this is the real thing, the bagpiper's underpants, so to speak. What you do is get a bl**dy great drill, and drill down into the earth's crust until you reach somewhere near the core. Only you do it on the sea bed, like they do when they drill for oil. Then when the hole is deep enough, the sea will pour down and extinguish the earth's core and stop it heating up. There! Problem solved!
And there's the added benefit that the water quenching the fires is going to release clouds and clouds of steam. You could catch the steam in plastic bags, ship it back to Scotland, empty it into power-stations and use it to generate electricity for generations to come. This is likely to be at least as effective as peppering the entire North Sea with expensive wind-farms and then sitting back whistling for a wind. You could use very big plastic bags, or perhaps it would provide a use for all those supermarket bags we don't know what to do with?
Only, don't tell Tony Bliar, or he might nip in and do it first, claiming it as his own idea. He's a bit like that. Och aye.
The GOS says: Next week's big news: government research reveals that smacking children makes them behave better, and that bears sh*t in the woods.
At the conference of the NAS/UWT teachers' union in Belfast recently, a delegate described how one dedicated deputy head teacher had left the profession and moved out of the country after an unfounded claim that he had sexually abused a pupil. "I held his hand when he was crying on the day when he had to tell his two daughters why he was off school. I was there when he had to tell his 88-year-old father why he was off school," the delegate said.
And it's not just male teachers who suffer. On the Times Online website is this account from a lady called Kate whose story rings all too true (the underlining is mine): "I am a peripatetic music teacher. I was falsely accused of slapping a child during a lesson when the whole class and FIVE other adults where present . This act was impossible to commit without any of the adults witnessing it, yet only the child and her witness (aged10 yrs & already made 2 allegations herself) were interviewed and the case was referred to the police. I was unable to work for a term, lost all my private earnings and had to withdraw a choir from the National Festival of Youth competition as a result."
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