Sunday, February 14, 2016

The end of love on Valentine's Day

They were packing away the red hearts and gaudy tackiness in Tesco at 3.00 this afternoon. No time for a quickie in the novelty aisle. Must be getting ready for the headlong rush towards Easter. Shame that love - even plastic-wrapped and commercialised - has to be over so soon. Still, plastic-wrapped erotica is probably still available in other forms and outlets at all hours of the day and night, if you're desperate and know where to look...

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A salute from the past

Taken in August 1942, the photograph shows my Dad (left, front row, with the gravity-defying forage cap) and his fellow Sappers just after passing out at Weston-on-Trent Camp near Derby. I've seen this photo many times, but last week I noticed something that I'd previously missed. Nearly all the men have followed the instruction to give a thumbs up - in Dad's case he's gone for both thumbs. Compare this image of joyful soldiery to the man at the opposite end of the front row, who's giving a full-on, reverse-Churchill, two-fingered Roman salute (and seems to be wearing slippers without socks!) The 'Roman' connection is striking, because many of this group ended up in Italy - Dad included - and landed either at Reggio or Salerno. Don't know the guy's name or anything about his subsequent military career but for a full-on reposte to the staged mateyness of the photo his 'two fingers to the lot of you' takes some beating.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Managing failure in the classroom - the ghost of the 50s and 60 returns...

Michael Rosen's open letter to Nicky Morgan about the dangers of the return of creeping selection are a timely reminder of the waste engendered by the grammar school system. Talk about helping the brightest tends to be a diversionary tactic. Selection now, with its emphasis on critical reasoning test results, means that children from poorer backgrounds won't even get to sit the 11-plus in the first place because parents can't afford the tutoring fees. I live in an area with two selected grammars - and a well established system of private tutoring that takes kids as young as 7! I also grew up in Leeds as the 11-plus was ending. Mine was the first year that didn't have so to sit the exam, so my parents never got to find out if - in the not-so-infallible view of my primary school teachers, I was/wasn't 'university material', aged only 11. Primary teaching in those days - as Rosen so well illustrates - was about managing failure for around two thirds of pupils. Now, in selective grammar areas, its about letting parents battle it out to get their children the supposedly best tutors so they can pass the 11-plus. A grammar school place has little to do with helping the clever working class, more ensuring the sharp elbows of the middle class get what many of them view as their just reward.