12 April 1999.
Index of earlier issues.
The movement is growing. All around us are teachers protesting at the way they are expected to treat children when they are first at school. Essentially, they seem to be saying "Children are not small adults, they are innocent and vulnerable individuals who should not be abused by those who have a neurosis about league tables trying to use them to salve their own anxieties".
Charles Dickens, in the middle of last century, was already saying this when he protested about a child of about ten being charged with an adult crime (and, as far as I remember from reading that book a long time ago, being told to go out and find a job), but the idea of treating children as persons with a right not to be bullied doesn`t seem even now to have caught on - other than in certain pockets of what one might call enlightenment. In these still unusual places, it has been accepted that children do have rights, and that one right they have is a right to develop at their own pace.
One such place is Summerhill, where since 1926 children have been free to do such things as not go to lessons if they feel disinclined, to decide by one vote per head (same voting power as adults) all matters to do with the running of the school that are not over-ruled by the law of the land, and to relate to each other and the staff in a way that is natural, relaxed and informal. At summerhill from the very start staff were referred to by their first name, or whatever nickname they were happy to carry, children took it for granted that they had equal rights, and by and large a happy community of young and old thrived - with all the eccentricities of the outside world.
So now the school inspectors, seeing a school with so much enjoyment going on, and apparently not much 'work' (this has to be something you don`t enjoy to qualify) have decided that it should close if it cannot attain 'the standards'.
I actually saw the inspectors' wording as used in their report, but it was execubabble of the most blatant kind, so I cannot remember it. It would have qualified for one those Private Eye 'Pseud`s Corner' prizes.
Presumably this is the kind of stuff you have to get kids to turn out if they are to pass the test.
TALKING OF EXECUBABBLE, I once was obliged to go on a teacher training course in order to avoid losing my much treasured job teaching mental patients (and myself) the finer points of woodworking. The course was a ghastly experience, but served the purpose. Like many of these sort of courses, it was run by people who couldn`t teach (that is why they had to make it to the top, I suppose), and we teaching enthusiasts became students, and were patronised by people who appeared to know nothing about human nature with the possible exception of their own (though many a psychologist will tell you they think that unlikely).
I was digressing. This week I had to turn out some old files, and found in one of them an essay we had been set to prove how bloody marvellous the course had been. Being the sort of person I am, I had taken it completely seriously, and had given the best and most honest answer I could. Here it is (not very well written, I know, but it was a long time ago, and anyway is only marginally worse than my current efforts):
"The effects of Stage 2 on me.
"During the time I have been on this course the only students I have had have been various patients and staff. The thing they all have in common is that they do not either need or want a 'course'. They want to do something with the facilities in the time they have available. So that, whilst I have picked up some ideas about courses and course planning, I will not be able to see if any of them work until I have students who want a course. And even then, in my usual field the form of that course would have to be extremely loose, since there is no fixed way of doing anything in a workshop or studio that is trying to go anywhere.
"Quite a few of the things I think and do were confirmed for me by this course. But does that mean they are right? This has caused me to question some of the things I have been doing as a matter of course. There have been one or two small things I have taken on, but basically (sic!) I still just make it up as I go along, and I suppose that would be the case still if we were working towards an exam. Perhaps it is just the quality of the students' experience that counts, and that may well rest on matters that can't be taught. Since my students don't have to be there at all I can only assume the experience is OK. Are my classes larger than they were 2 years ago, and if so is this because of me or something else?
"I would not expect any changes in myself to be visible to the course team, with the possible exception of a bit of irritability about the course material. Can we expect to know someone that well after meeting them 15 or 20 times? The irritability has come from being expected to assimilate material that is highly questionable, to say the least, or alternatively to list any objections to it - because this is 'academic'. If this is indeed the academic approach it accounts for an awful lot about teachers.
"It has been valueable to get to know some other adult education teachers, although one has to admit it was an uphill struggle to make social contact. Once made (a year or more on, with one or two exceptions) I have been able to swop ideas and share my exasperation.
"To be perfectly blunt, it does not feel as though there has been any great change in myself as a result of this course. It may be that I have worked out a 'system' that seems to work, and won't alter it unless it stops working. It may be that I am thick, but I doubt it (come to think of it, perhaps you need to be thick to think you are not!). It may be that I don't think I've learnt it because I imagine it was there all the time. I suspect that in September, when I have two new classes (indeed, courses) to teach, I will find out if anything useful sunk in, although I don't expect ever to lnow what."
WHILST SORTING OUT FILES this week I also found a correspondence between myself and the Bar Association (the trade association of barristers). I am not sure what the legalities are of reproducing their letters to me, so there will be an element of fiction in them to protect the person who wrote them from ridicule. Nevertheless, they will say essentially the same things that are in the original correspondence. I think probaly the best way to go about things is to treat them as a serial - a kind of 'thriller', or sit-com. (Some of the letters may be missing. We will have to guess at their content).
Dear Mr. Harris
Thank you for your letter of 13 October to Miss ********, which has been passed to me for reply.
As both the judiciary and solicitors as a professional body are independant of this department, neither the Lord Chancellor nor any of his officials are able to to comment upon their decisions or conduct.
Civil operations branch.
More next week, if I can find the right letters. I seem to have lost the original of the letter of 13 October 1989 which prompted this one. However, as you are a great detective you will gradually find out what the matter is.
Southwark has become a bit boring for the moment. I am waiting for them to do something straightforward, normal and unbiassed - then I really will be shocked.
Have you heard the one about Mr. C the rent officer? I must tell you sometime when I revive my enquiries.
early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.
There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.
The Soup Designer`s Handbook.
London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.
(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.
(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)
Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).
We are still redesigning The Other News From England. Noticed the change so far?
There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but I think will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.
(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).
So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.
So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.
A site for forward-looking people, in fact.
It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.
Last week but three carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.
Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".
There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.
(see last week but one).
This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.
In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.
The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for £28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 22.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!
I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.
These people keep springing up and then disappearing again. They have used a selection of names, but the people always seem to be the same. They are a disco without smoke, alcohol or drugs, and serve refreshments (probably very healthy, macrobiotic, veggy, etc) and dance to a wide range of types of music - including "classical", I am told. Sometimes they go to the Bonnington Cafe afterwards. Also, they occasionally turn up at a LETSSwing gig as a dancing group, and make the dancing a great deal more fun.
Saturdays 7-10pm , 6 March, 3 April, 8th May, at The Contact Centre, 60 Hambolt Rd., London SW4. (10 mins from Clapham Common tube stn. or buses 137, 35, 37. For info ring Kathy Hughes 0181 671 7300. They would like more participants.
A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
8- or more-track tape recorder. email email@example.com
Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email firstname.lastname@example.org
£2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.
All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. email@example.com
Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:
From The Other News From England. http://www.othernews.co.uk