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Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:58 pm
by Adam Blake
Hugh, I couldn't agree more with Mr Carlin but it's nothing my mother didn't tell me when I was 12. At least the old system was straightforward: The secondary-modern kids were the biddable work force and cannon fodder. The grammar school kids were the smart-ass proles who were given the opportunity to assist the public school kids who were trained to rule.

But there was a sea change in education under Thatcher. The idea that knowledge was worth pursuing for its own sake was replaced by the idea that knowledge is worth pursuing for commercial exploitation. The philosophical ripple effect of this is virtually endless. Already we have seen how fields such as philosophy, art, literature etc are actively discouraged in favour of economics, business studies etc etc etc.

But this thread wasn't originally about education. I think Social Darwinism needs to be re-addressed in light of the despicable declarations of Cameron and his employers in the media and high finance with regard to the harrassment and demonising of poor and vulnerable people.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:20 pm
by Adam Blake

Differences between my grammar school and the local comps in the 70s:

1. No girls. Disastrous for me. I like girls better than boys.
2. Rugby instead of soccer. Disastrous for me. I loved soccer, hated rugby. (And yes, we were taught to call it soccer instead of football.)
3. Much harder academically. You were expected to work and work hard. If you didn't, you were punished, sometimes physically.
4. Pathetic (in hindsight) attempts to ape the public school system: houses, house masters, lots of latin names for things that didn't need to have latin names, big emphasis on sporting achievement, camping trips, country hikes, cold communal showers etc., atmosphere of homosexuality encouraged and then cruelly beaten etc, masters who were eccentric to the point of insanity, ie, who couldn't get jobs at / had been sacked from public schools.

You didn't get any of that in bleeding comps!

Plus, the emphasis was on a CLASSICAL education - Latin, Greek, Ancient History etc. I kind of liked that but I retreated to the music department at every possible opportunity. The music master was insane but he liked anyone who was good at music and who sang in his choir so I was OK. I was good at acting and reading too, so I'd always win the reading prize which meant the headmaster liked me so I got along, bumping along the bottom. I refused to do any work once I made the connection between rock'n'roll, electric guitars, marijuana and the NME but I just managed to avoid expulsion. See, you wouldn't get chucked out of a comp for not working. You did from my place. Maybe that's the difference right there!

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:14 pm
by Neil Foxlee
The original of the Python sketch referred to above:

But I digress...

More to the point (not on education):

- especially the last line.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:47 am
by AndyM
I have been weighing up whether to contribute here but sadly I have decided I will....

Grammar school ? Me too. In my case this meant a longish journey from an inner London council flat to a suburban school which had some of the imitation-public school trappings already mentioned by others and a few more besides: teachers wearing gowns (as in cloaks not - sadly - American frocks), houses (ours were named after military 'heroes'), even a school song (which to my eternal shock and shame I can still sing).

I was overweight, crap at sport and suspected (not incorrectly) of being a poof. So far so grim. But I was funny (ah how time passes....) and knew so much music trivia I got by with cultural capital. Also helpful if there were one or two even less reputable specimens in your class so that you were never quite top of the bullies' list.

Most of my classmates had much more securely bourgeois backgrounds, so it's where I learned about class differences and worked out my ambivalent location in relation to them. As I got the bus back towards inner London rather than deeper into the leafier suburbs I was seen as 'rough'. This could be useful.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:53 am
by AndyM
Oops, got cut off, but determined to continue!!

All in all, it was my passport to higher education and some (distorted) sense of class mobility. I would have had a much worse time at the terrifyingly rough local comp, where the fat/queer combo would've been all the more problematic, and knowing the line-up of Curved Air wouldn't have cut much ice. And all the class/culture/never-quite-fitting-in stuff has become a central part of my academic writing & research, so I can hardly be too dismissive. Grammar schools, for all their pretensions and ghastlinesses, were lifelines for smart working-class kids.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 1:56 am
by jackdaw version
Hugh Weldon wrote: [ . . . ]
As for Jon's 'sodding the whole fucking system', it is a viewpoint I am sometimes tempted by, though I see no need to utterly damn and denigrate a system in which I evidently did learn something, only possible it seems in the postcode lottery posh area 'good' comps these days. But then again perhaps the only lesson you ultimately learn is that knowledge is so very very not power. [ . . . ]

Just to be clear here, my "sod the whole fucking system" is directed at the English class system as a whole rather than the old grammar school system, which I had not even realized had been disappeared by Thatcher or whoever. Exile has its advantages! I am sure however that someone of Hugh's moral sensibilities and intellectual discernment has no trouble seeing that to defend a poor system because of one's own self improvement is not entirely consistent with the view of "We're all in this together . . . " Not that I'm saying the grammar school system was a poor one; I'd be inclined to say the opposite on the evidence of this discussion. Obviously, the English class system is designed quite specifically to ensure that we're not all in anything together. There are lifeboats for one class and you'll be damn lucky to get a straw to grasp at if in steerage.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:22 pm
by Mags
I didn't get into a grammar, in the depths of south london under ILEA we still had them, and only people from particular groups/areas were entered... but they still retained schooling along gender lines at least until the mid 80s, and our 'technically' comprehensive teachers tried to shout at us in Latin. Made as much sense as any other language I guess. Sadly also told we were no good because we couldn't work our how computers worked (we had them third hand from the boys school down the road dating back to 197something but somehow worked out how to work more up to date progammes...). Constant headache. Women I know now who went to grammars have done OK, maybe not so mindwashed as at ours, and a fair number went to uni. A few of us escaped into a bit of politics, music etc and gained some identity. From our perspective, the schooling system was pretty perverse and set up to train people to do different things according to the needs of the state/status quo - we were told at those fabulous careers evenings to be nurses, secretaries, breeders, and I so hope that it's changed in that area. But to be fair my brother and friends were offered the options to be garage mechanics, electricians etc. 'We knew our place'. Not. Being involved with local community was the tool then, breaking out from expectations, and has been the best thing that's happened to those around me including from grammar school kids. However rubbish it was, spirit survives.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:37 pm
by jackdaw version
jackdaw version wrote: [ . . . ]There are lifeboats for one class and you'll be damn lucky to get a straw to grasp at if in steerage.

I'm referring mostly to British political, social and economic issues here. When it comes to global environmental issues, Gaia seems to be ensuring that we are increasingly all in the same boat. Obviously there are local variations, but I'm of the opinion that money may get one only the briefest of reprieves from the looming turbulence and that it is likely than those who rely on money so much for so many reasons, psychological as much as physical comfort, will actually have it harder 'cos the upset will be comparatively greater.

What Mags says,
. . . Being involved with local community was the tool then, breaking out from expectations . . .

strikes me as very true and key to dealing with what's coming up. One wonders how much "local community" the rich have. And, of course, they're mostly the prisoners of their expectations.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:18 pm
by Neil Foxlee
In the longer term, we may all be in the same boat, environmentally speaking, but for the time being, some places are worse affected than others.

Eg Pakistan, where a fifth of the country has been affected by the worst floods in 80 years. Over a ninth of the population has been displaced.

Also parts of China, where the situation has received far less coverage (in the UK at least): "By early August, over 12 million people had been evacuated. Millions lack drinking water. A total of 1.36 million houses have been destroyed and more than 97,200 square kilometers (24 million acres) of crops had been innundated, while 800,000 ha (2,000,000 acres) of farmland had been completely destroyed by the end of June."

Which may have nothing to do with grammar schools or UK politics, but JD's point does at least relate to the title of the thread...

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:25 pm
by Neil Foxlee
Meanwhile in Moscow, where the death rate has apparently doubled during the heatwave and accompanying smog:

""Alexander Frolov, head of Russia's weather service, said Monday that historic records and the study of lake deposits indicate that this summer's heat wave could be Russia's worst in 1,000 years.

Speaking at a Moscow a news conference, he said: "This phenomenon is absolutely unique. We have an 'archive' of abnormal weather situations stretching over a 1,000 years. It is possible to say there was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last 1,000 years in regard to the heat."

Health authorities say that living in Moscow these days is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day."

It's been widely reported that the Russian heatwave and the Pakistani (and presumably Chinese) floods are linked - something to do with cyclones and anti-cyclones (and presumably climate change/global warming).

Hope Pirkko's OK.

Re: "We're all in this together..."

PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:50 pm
by Neil Foxlee
According to The Times (at second-hand), George Osborne's emergency Budget will hurt Britain's poor more than the country's wealthier families, casting doubt on the Chancellor's claims that it is progressive, an authoritative analysis suggests today. The research argues that, while Mr Osborne described his Budget as "fair", by 2014 the poorest group of households with children will suffer an average 5.2% reduction in their annual incomes. That compares with a 1.1% reduction to the income of the richest group of families, according to the research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).