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11th September 2013: The world's gone mad and I'm the only one who knows
13th August 2013: Black is white. Fact. End of.
11th August 2013: Electric cars, not as green as they're painted?
18th June 2013: Wrinklies unite, you have nothing to lose but your walking frames!
17th May 2013: Some actual FACTS about climate change (for a change) from actual scientists ...
10th May 2013: An article about that poison gas, carbon dioxide, and other scientific facts (not) ...
10th May 2013: We need to see past the sex and look at the crimes: is justice being served?
8th May 2013: So, who would you trust to treat your haemorrhoids, Theresa May?
8th May 2013: Why should citizens in the 21st Century fear the law so much?
30th April 2013: What the GOS says today, the rest of the world realises tomorrow ...
30th April 2013: You couldn't make it up, could you? Luckily you don't need to ...
29th April 2013: a vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE, because THE ABOVE are crap ...
28th April 2013: what goes around, comes around?
19th April 2013: everyone's a victim these days ...
10th April 2013: Thatcher is dead; long live Thatcher!
8th April 2013: Poor people are such a nuisance. Just give them loads of money and they'll go away ...
26th March 2013: Censorship is alive and well and coming for you ...
25th March 2013: Just do your job properly, is that too much to ask?
25th March 2013: So, what do you think caused your heterosexuality?
20th March 2013: Feminists - puritans, hypocrites or just plain stupid?
18th March 2013: How Nazi Germany paved the way for modern governance?
13th March 2013: Time we all grew up and lived in the real world ...
12th March 2013: Hindenburg crash mystery solved? - don't you believe it!
6th March 2013: Is this the real GOS?
5th March 2013: All that's wrong with taxes
25th February 2013: The self-seeking MP who is trying to bring Britain down ...
24th February 2013: Why can't newspapers just tell the truth?
22nd February 2013: Trial by jury - a radical proposal
13th February 2013: A little verse for two very old people ...
6th February 2013: It's not us after all, it's worms
6th February 2013: Now here's a powerful argument FOR gay marriage ...
4th February 2013: There's no such thing as equality because we're not all the same ...
28th January 2013: Global Warming isn't over - IT'S HIDING!
25th January 2013: Global Warmers: mad, bad and dangerous to know ...
25th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
19th January 2013: We STILL haven't got our heads straight about gays ...
16th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
11th January 2013: What it's like being English ...
7th January 2013: Bleat, bleat, if it saves the life of just one child ...
7th January 2013: How best to put it? 'Up yours, Argentina'?
7th January 2013: Chucking even more of other people's money around ...
6th January 2013: Chucking other people's money around ...
30th December 2012: The BBC is just crap, basically ...
30th December 2012: We mourn the passing of a genuine Grumpy Old Sod ...
30th December 2012: How an official body sets out to ruin Christmas ...
16th December 2012: Why should we pardon Alan Turing when he did nothing wrong?
15th December 2012: When will social workers face up to their REAL responsibility?
15th December 2012: Unfair trading by a firm in Bognor Regis ...
14th December 2012: Now the company that sells your data is pretending to act as watchdog ...
7th December 2012: There's a war between cars and bikes, apparently, and  most of us never noticed!
26th November 2012: The bottom line - social workers are just plain stupid ...
20th November 2012: So, David Eyke was right all along, then?
15th November 2012: MPs don't mind dishing it out, but when it's them in the firing line ...
14th November 2012: The BBC has a policy, it seems, about which truths it wants to tell ...
12th November 2012: Big Brother, coming to a school near you ...
9th November 2012: Yet another celebrity who thinks, like Jimmy Saville, that he can behave just as he likes because he's famous ...
5th November 2012: Whose roads are they, anyway? After all, we paid for them ...
7th May 2012: How politicians could end droughts at a stroke if they chose ...
6th May 2012: The BBC, still determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance ...
2nd May 2012: A sense of proportion lacking?
24th April 2012: Told you so, told you so, told you so ...
15th April 2012: Aah, sweet ickle polar bears in danger, aah ...
15th April 2012: An open letter to Anglian Water ...
30th March 2012: Now they want to cure us if we don't believe their lies ...
28th February 2012: Just how useful is a degree? Not very.
27th February 2012: ... so many ways to die ...
15th February 2012: DO go to Jamaica because you definitely WON'T get murdered with a machete. Ms Fox says so ...
31st January 2012: We don't make anything any more
27th January 2012: There's always a word for it, they say, and if there isn't we'll invent one
26th January 2012: Literary criticism on GOS? How posh!
12th December 2011: Plain speaking by a scientist about the global warming fraud
9th December 2011: Who trusts scientists? Apart from the BBC, of course?
7th December 2011: All in all, not a good week for British justice ...
9th November 2011: Well what d'you know, the law really IS a bit of an ass ...

 

 
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At the risk of re-igniting the argument in our Guest Book between those who were beaten within an inch of their lives while at school and loved every minute of it, and those whose job it was to wield the stick and didn't enjoy it one bit and couldn't see the point, we so liked this letter from an anonymous teacher to Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, that we felt it simply had to be reproduced here.
 
After all, it's not often these days you find a teacher who can do all this intellectual stuff like writing an' spelling an' that ...
 

 
Dear Mr Gove,
 
When I heard the proposals for your latest White Paper, even a cynical, hard-bitten old teacher like me gave a feeble cheer because I thought finally here was one educational reform I could really applaud. I am referring to your plan to revive languages in the English Baccalaureate.
 
I am biased of course; as a languages teacher, my enthusiasm for my subject allowed me to hope that it might go some way to redressing the past decade's shocking decline in language teaching. That was the inevitable consequence of the batty decision to make languages non-compulsory. Any fool could have predicted the result.
 
The decline is by no means restricted to languages. Last week, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that one in five British 15-year-olds failed to meet its minimum requirements in maths and reading.
 
Britain fell from 17th to 25th for reading and from 24th to 28th for maths in the study of 65 developed nations - our pupils are now behind those from Estonia, Lichtenstein and Slovenia. Education here is described as 'stagnant at best'.
 
But then, as I pondered your language reforms, the awful truth hit home: I would have to carry on teaching pupils who don't want to learn a language. You might say that I can't have it both ways; that I can't think it right that all pupils should have the opportunity to learn a language, but then also dread having to teach the difficult or less than able ones. But I am dreading it.
 
At present my GCSE classes are a haven of calm. I teach lovely pupils who are bright and who choose to do a language and actually see the point of it. This is a stark contrast to the situation further down the school.
 
Let me give you an example of what it's like to teach children in the bottom set at Key Stage 3 level (those aged between 11 and 14) at a bog-standard comprehensive school, not in some inner-city hellhole, but in one of the leafier suburbs of a town in the Midlands.
 
Last month, an 11-year-old boy walked late into my class and proceeded to disrupt it so badly that I could not teach. He threw pencils at his classmates, called out when I asked him not to, refused to work and disrupted all the other pupils until finally I had to have him removed from the classroom because he called me a 'f****** cow'.
 
His actions were totally unprovoked by anything I had said or done - he said it because he knew he could get away with it. His punishment? He had two days off school - a so-called 'exclusion' - because that's the only sanction we have. And now he's back in my classroom, doing the same all over again.
 
Did I get an apology? No chance. Did his parents telephone me to say sorry? Of course not. Why?
 
Because I'm a teacher. And it's OK to treat us like that. After all, they pay their taxes don't they? They practically employ me.
 
Do you know the worst thing, Mr Gove? I was not shocked to be sworn at by an 11-year-old boy. It's not shocking because it happens frequently in my school. And there is absolutely nothing I, nor my headteacher, nor even you, Mr Gove, can do about it. Because you and those who came before you have taken away any sanctions we once had. Because those children and their parents have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. Because an 11-year-old can swear at me, but if I tried to physically remove him from my room against his will, I would be accused of assault and suspended. How can you think that is right?
 
A colleague in the English department has also had problems with a girl in his class. She refuses point-blank to do any work and her father refuses to allow her to do detentions. Well, you might reasonably say, he signed an agreement to abide by the school rules when his daughter came to us as an 11-year-old in Year 7, so why not just tell him to take her somewhere else? The truth is we can't. We're not allowed to kick out pupils, even if their parents won't support us. We will have to put up with her behaviour and her smug, you-can't-touch-me attitude until she leaves.
 
The girl has now been withdrawn from my colleague's class, not because he finally managed to get rid of her but because she accused him of assault. He didn't touch her, of course, and he is a fantastic, caring teacher with 20 years' experience. It's because the girl's father has kicked up such a fuss that it's the easiest option. A tacit admission that we can do nothing about her and her behaviour. Can you imagine the frustration and anger that arouses in us?
 
As a mother myself, that father's attitude appals me. If, when they were younger, my own children had been rude to any adult, let alone a teacher, I would have been mortified. I would have telephoned the school or gone there in person to apologise and my child would have been punished. I would not have cared about excuses such as not 'getting on' with the teacher or 'not liking' a particular subject. I wouldn't have cared because life and learning are not always easy or fun.
 
And that is the problem. Over the years teachers have been bombarded with new initiatives and brilliant ideas from people who, in all likelihood, have not faced a classroom full of children for years. Today we must all produce 'outstanding lessons', as the jargon has it. Teachers must be entertaining and the pupils must be constantly challenged and stimulated. Forgive me for thinking, Mr Gove, that as a teacher with years of experience, I should be allowed to have the occasional lesson which is not brilliant or fantastic or fun, but just an hour when the pupils listen to me and accept that I might have something of worth to impart to them.
 
Instead, all my lessons have to be 'child-centred' and I must remember at all times that 'every child matters'. At the beginning of each year I am given lists of information about my pupils. These indicate whether they are Children in Care, Gifted and Talented, have Special Educational Needs, are entitled to Free School Meals or, worst of all, have Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD). We get plenty of those and we know exactly what to expect from them. The children with EBD will be the ones who disrupt lessons, who refuse to do their homework, who talk while the teacher is talking, who will not turn up for detentions, who will swear at teachers, who will basically make life as difficult as they can. And you can bet your bottom dollar their parents are a pain, too.
 
And what do I do with these lists? I am supposed to put them in my register and plan my lessons accordingly. I am supposed to be aware that every child learns in a different way and at a different pace. I am supposed to produce different resources or objectives for each child so that I can prove that I am a good teacher. Can you imagine the work and stress that that causes? Because some other Secretary of State thought that 'inclusion' - the notion that all pupils should be taught together - is a good idea. Never mind the poor teacher who has to cope single-handedly with a class that might contain a boy who has a reading age below six alongside a gifted pupil. You wonder why pupils become disruptive?
 
And don't be deceived by those teachers who insist that they have no problems with children. Rubbish. They are frightened to admit that they have problems because that would mean not that they need more sanctions to control these difficult kids but that they are bad teachers, producing 'boring' lessons. And God forbid a teacher should be 'boring'. The trendy propaganda is that engaging lessons will make your pupils want to learn, even if it's bottom set French last thing on a Friday afternoon. I would love to see you teach such a class just once, Mr Gove, let alone face the little darlings week in week out. And with no sanctions to help you. And a senior leadership team whose hands are tied too. Oh, and remember that if you phone the parents to say that their child is behaving badly, they will deny it or prefer to believe that you are to blame.
 
Don't get me wrong, Mr Gove, the vast majority of pupils I teach are great. They have supportive parents who are keen for them to do well and expect them to behave with respect. But it only takes a couple of children whose parents are not supportive and who think it is OK to abuse teachers to ruin a class.
 
Don't think, either, that I don't work hard. Even though I've been teaching a long time, I listen patiently to all the new initiatives and I do my best to keep up with them. I really do. I work two or three hours on Saturdays and a couple of hours each evening, planning lessons that I hope will be stimulating and interesting. But I am getting so tired of it because it doesn't matter how hard I work.
 
I can't deal with a class containing pupils with such a wide ability range, and who have all the other problems that I'm supposed to know about. I can't deal with a class of nine EBD children who hate French and therefore me. And whose parents probably say they don't need to learn a language because they're never going to use it anyway.
 
Am I old-fashioned in thinking that in the classroom I deserve some respect just because I am an adult? That I deserve to be listened to just because I'm a teacher?
 
Because of that brilliant idea a decade ago to make the subject non-compulsory, languages inevitably became less and less popular because, the truth is, they are difficult. You actually have to learn stuff and remember it. Why go to all that trouble when you can do food technology, drama, dance, PE or travel and tourism NVQ and get a higher grade with far less effort?
 
Education is supposed to produce rounded students who have an open, healthily enquiring view of the world. Instead we are producing pupils who have no thirst for knowledge, no interest in other cultures and no inclination to study just for the sheer pleasure of it. They are learning that they do not need to work hard - they just need to sit back and be entertained. They will be fed information in bite-size chunks that don't require too much uncomfortable chewing or swallowing. The refrain I hear more often than any other is: 'I don't get it.' Too many pupils won't even try to get it. They would far rather give up and blame the teacher for making it too hard or too boring.
 
I doubt I will be able to continue working until I'm 60, Mr Gove, if you get your way because I don't have the energy it requires even now to control a class of 11-year-olds who can't concentrate, can't spell and can't see the point of anything which doesn't entertain them. What a sad state of affairs that is.
 
Yours in frustration,
 
A Teacher

 

 
The GOS says: So, Mrs.Teacher, you thought that it was a batty decision to make languages non-compulsory, but now Mr.Gove wants to reverse that decision you're up in arms? I dunno. Women!
 
Still, in most other respects it's an excellent letter. Ten out of ten and a gold star. Hundreds of other teachers up and down the country will recognise everything you've described.
 
But in fairness it must be said that there will be hundreds of others who don't. Not all schools are that bad, and not all pupils. Not even all parents. But that doesn't invalidate what you are saying, and there is no denying that many of our schools are in crisis and that teachers can't cope and shouldn't be expected to. In an ideal world (and unattainable though it may be, shouldn't we all be trying to work towards an ideal world?) teachers should teach. Just that teach. Not be jailers, bouncers, policemen, entertainers, sob-sisters, social workers, targets for hatred and derision, social pariahs, victims of assault and abuse whether by children, parents or the press, but just teachers, expert in their chosen subject and trained to have special skill at imparting it.
 
But that's pie in the sky. The reality is that schools are often not pleasant places for pupils or teachers, and that the only way one can see them going is downwards. No stroke of the magic wand by Michael Gove is going to suddenly put things right. We have generations of parents who knew little discipline or self-control themselves, and a generation of children to whom the idea of adult control is not just unacceptable but completely unrecognisable; they will not be controlled because they never have been, and wouldn't understand how to react to it even if they wanted to. Which they don't, obviously.
 
Mrs.Teacher is a bit unfair to Michael Gove. It wasn't him who pushed through the legislation that did so much damage. He was probably at school himself at the time. He was probably in the Shell or the Remove at St.Jim's, being caned on the bare bottom and warming the lavatory seats for the big boys. Nor was he responsible for the wishy-washy liberal ideas of the 1970s and 1980s that did so much long-term damage and downgraded the status and importance of core skills like reading and arithmetic sadly, teachers themselves were not entirely innocent. The GOS was himself a teacher for many years. His own subject was Music, and he still remembers being at a meeting of music teachers and hearing someone say, in all seriousness, that children should not be taught to read music because it was too difficult. If that sort of rubbish was going on in Music, one shudders to think what it was like in Physics or Maths. Compared to differential equations, reading a few music notes is a piece of cake.
 
Michael Gove has made some noises recently that indicate a heart in the right place, but sadly I believe it will be too little, too late. Nothing will answer Mrs.Teacher's heartfelt plea short of a dozen large ex-squaddies patrolling the corridors of every school with bloody great sticks and licence to use 'em. That probably would do the trick, but face it, it ain't going to happen.
 
The GOS solution is quite different, and very simple. Let those who actually want an education go to public schools, with a government grant if necessary. For the rest, lower the school leaving age to eleven, stop child benefits and all other forms of welfare from that age, offer government subsidies to chimney-sweeps, coal mines and factories to operate apprenticeships, and start recruiting twelve-year-olds into the armed forces.
 
Oh bugger. I forgot. We have no armed forces left they've all been killed in Afghanistan or cut. We have no coal mines because of Margaret Thatcher. We have no factories because the Japanese bought them all and closed them. We have no chimneys because of Elf'n'Safety.
 
Tell you what we might still have, though: remember all those sweatshops run by Pakistanis to make dirt-cheap clothes using virtually slave labour from the immigrant community? Now there's a thought. Perhaps our new neighbours from foreign parts might have the right idea after all ...
 
But when all's said and done, you need to remember that Mrs.Teacher's a modern language teacher. In the GOS's day, there was only one subject that was, nationally, worse taught than Music, and that was French. And all language teachers were as mad as a box of frogs. You read it here first.
 

 
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