A Mischief Of Magpies

If the Sun were the size of a beach ball then Jupiter would be the size of a golf ball and a Mischief of Magpies would be as small as a pea.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Seemingly Infinite Stupidity of the Human Race

A lot of things make me rather upset on a daily basis. I like to think that this is a sign that I am in touch with the world that we live in (which is indeed rather upsetting to many people every single day), but mostly it is because I watch the news and occasionally catch the headlines of tabloid newspapers when I am at the shops.

This week, I have mostly been apoplectic.

Several things have led to this state of constant rage; for example the declaration by the Sun "news"paper that certain MPs (who voted against the proposition to extend the baseless holding of possible terrorist suspects by police informed by rather shoddy and biased "intelligence" that has already led to one innocent person getting shot in broad daylight. Six times.) are "Traitors" for not supporting Tony W. Blair in his seemingly unilateral quest to impose such legislation. Or George Bush's shameless speech at the US remembrance ceremony defending his stance on Iraq. These ceremonies are not the place for partisan sabre-rattling and the defence of policy. If I were one of the soldiers sitting prominently behind Bush as he delivered one of his Veteran's day speeches (which seem to get more and more shamefully political every year) I would walk off in disgust as soon as he started. Which, of course, is never going to happen in real life as the people behind old George have obviously been hand picked to behave themselves. Another thing that got me all worked up was the below-mentioned story of the mother who demands to know why she was not informed of her daughter's abortion referral. One wonders if the Daily Mail would not have been equally outraged at the levels of teenage motherhood in this country, had the girl been shamed into having her baby.

But what has riled me the most is the fact that the education system in the United Kingdom is rapidly and irreversibly falling apart, thanks presumably to the obsession with league tables and performance ratings that are so prevalent these days. I am partly responsible for the teaching of university undergraduates, and it seems that these kids (sorry, these young adults) have been taught by their schoolteachers how to pass exams, and Nothing Else. They are left with an inability to solve simple problems by themselves, or to engage in outside, unguided study. Some of them are barely able to string a paragraph together without a "scaffold" to build it on.

This is not the fault of the teachers, by any means. There are many excellent teachers in this country (and, to be fair, a goodish amount of absolutely shocking ones). The fault lies with the education authorities, the headteachers and the goverment. Since the league tables were brought out, the be all and end all of teaching has been getting the pass rate up. A-level passes are at an all time high, but it is fairly evident that school leavers are not getting any smarter. Quite the opposite in fact. What worries me is that this culture is extending into universities - with the up and coming RAE in a couple of years, departments are chopping and changing and gerrymandering their academic divisions in order to obtain as many precious 5* ratings as possible. This adds to the rage I feel at much of the media in this country (especially anything that involves Rupert Murdoch) because if the up and comings of this world cannot think for themselves, then will the mass media eventually decide things for them?

It is indeed a slippery slope.

The only thing that cheers me up is the goings on at Heart of Midlothian. I'm a Hibs fan!

Internet control

There's a lot of discussion at the moment about the issue of who controls the internet. The United Nations see it as a resource and want to set up a regulatory body to take over from the United States. I'm a big believer in the saying "If it's not broken, don't fix it". I dread to think what would happen if there had to be committee meetings everytime a change had to be made.

Let's be realistic here. The issue here is money. Pure and simple. The internet is a tool of communication for most people and an invaluable source of information. You have to pay someone if you make a phone call or send a letter. You have to pay someone if you want to buy a book. With the internet, people have access to free email, blogs and websites on any subject you care to mention. You have to pay your internet service provider, of course, but after that there is potential for massive profits to be made everywhere and the people in power never like to see that happen.

The internet was developed by the United States and I don't see why they should have to hand it over. I'm not a fan of their government but I don't see anything wrong with the way the internet currently functions. It's easy to use and easy to access. Let's leave it alone.