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Misfire

The dead of Newtown, CT, have only just begun to be buried but certain parts of the media are doing their damnedest to make sure the story stays unburied for as long as humanly possible. Readers, I give you the a report from Nine News and also the take of their print brethren at Melbourne Herald Sun and a piece of froth flecked outrage that has passed their respective in-house test for balanced journalism, factual errors and partisan language notwithstanding. In case the video on that link isn’t viewable from outside Australia here’s a screencap of part of it – you’ll see why in a minute.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 20.03.24

Now let’s get straight into the lip foaming copy, shall we?

Two Victorian high schools sent students as young as 12 on an excursion to a shooting range just two days after a US gunman killed 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook massacre.

And if Victoria was anywhere near Connecticut or if the head had seen the news and been inspired to organise the shooting trip because of it that would be perhaps insensitive in the first case and more than a little fucking weird in the second. However, this took place more than 16,000km – over 10,000 miles for those of you working in old money – away, and, as Nine eventually get round to hinting, was organised and booked well before the appalling murders of last Friday.

“It crossed my mind (to cancel the trip after the US tragedy) … but do you stop teaching swimming because someone drowned?” Ballarat High School senior co-ordinator Michael Cook told the Herald Sun.
“We were really too far committed to it.”

Michael Cook makes a very good point, though if it were me I might have mentioned all those charity sausage sizzles in aid of the Black Saturday bushfires three years ago. I don’t recall anyone cracking the shits about people lighting up barbecues after a couple of towns erased from the map, hundreds or thousands of homes destroyed and 174 left dead by bushfires that occurred right fucking here in this state. Tad hypocritical? Don’t answer yet – I’m not done.

This is Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia from Januray 1966 to December the following year, when he disappeared and drowned (presumably – his body was never recovered and so there are various entertaining alternative theories) while swimming off Portsea, south of Melbourne.

220px-Harol_Holt_PM

This is… well, it kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

From here

From here

In case you’re wondering the Harold Holt Swim Centre was named couple of years after the event. And nobody seems to have any kind of problem with that, instead pointing out that Holt was a keen swimmer when non Aussies ask why the hell they named a swimming pool after a drowning victim.

But I digress, because having dealt with the schlock journalism of emotional shit stirring we get to the slack journalism of getting things fucking wrong.

More than 50 students from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College were taught to fire up to 20 rounds each at the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday.

Rounds? Look at that screencap at the top again. Look more like the kind of guns that fire cartridges of shot to me, but perhaps I’m just being pedantic. Rounds, cartridges, bullets, shot – kinda sorta all the same thing to some people, including some journos who seem to pick up most of what they know about guns from Hollywood. Which would explain the next sentence.

The students, aged between 12 and 15, were heard talking about the Connecticut school shooting during the excursion while their classmates learnt to use the rifles.

RIFLES? Look, Nine, a gun that is too long to be a pistol isn’t necessarily a rifle. Do you really have no staff at all who are know the difference between rifles and shotguns and are capable of spotting it before you go to air/web? Christ’s sakes, I’m not saying you should be able to recognise it as a shotgun event just from what’s going on in the picture (looks like some kind of trap discipline to me, which I’d say is a great way to start newcomers since everything – shot and targets – is going away and you can set things up to throw fairly easy ones to give everyone a good chance of breaking a few clays), but surely you’d, oh, not being a journalist I wouldn’t know, but maybe phone the fucking club and ask?

However, Nine weren’t the only ones to say it was rifles, though they were still using the term while showing close-ups of break action over/under shotties on the early evening news. I’d heard rifles mentioned on the car radio earlier, and although my own first experience of shooting was with rifles I suspected it might actually be shotguns because the school’s in rural Victoria and shotguns probably aren’t uncommon in farming towns. There’s a zillion sodding rabbits out there, after all.

So Nine’s real sin might in fact be not doing their own story and just re-writing someone else’s. Hmm, who could that be?

…told the Herald Sun.

Source: Herald Sun

The Herald Sun, where we read:

A VICTORIAN high school has defended its decision to take students as young as 12 on a shooting expedition two days after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 19.49.24

Journalism or churnalism on Nine’s (and others’) part? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I find it interesting that the Herald Sun piece, time stamped 3:23pm, actually mentions shotguns rather than rifles. Whether that was a hasty correction after everyone else had jumped aboard the outrage bus and was screaming about rifles, because the creature responsible for the murders in America used a rifle too you know, I have no idea, but it just means the story is slightly more factual (it still talks about rounds). It’s still not exactly what you’d call balanced when it contains phrases like this (my bold):

More than 50 students, aged between 12 and 15, from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College attended the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday where they were taught to wield shotguns and fire up to 20 rounds each.

I’ll tell you now and for free, those students were not taught to wield a shotgun or anything else. Wielding is what you do with a weapon (do please check your dictionaries for the definition of wield, Herald Sun journos) and while like practically anything else it can be used as one a shotgun of the type designed for trap shooting is not a weapon. It’s just a gun. I could bore you with details of why it’s not even a weapon, or is at best sub-optimal as a weapon, from the point of view of the fluffy bunnykins, but if you’re interested you can Google the differences between trap and field guns along with the differences in gun design for different clay target disciplines. Or you could trust me on this: it’s just a gun and not a weapon in the same way that a carving knife is just a knife and not a dagger. Dangerous? Yes, that goes without saying. But not a weapon, only a gun.

And not being a weapon the kids would sure as hell not have been taught to wield one. They’d have been taught to handle and shoot one safely and responsibly so that they’re not a danger to themselves or others, which may be the reason they didn’t come back dead or scared half to death but, well, like this.

Students participating in the outing at the shooting range yesterday were heard discussing the Sandy Hook massacre while their classmates fired.

A 14-year-old Year 8 student described her first experience holding a shotgun as “fun”.

“I was a little nervous, but I’d definitely do it again,” she said.

And despite the predictable whining from the state Education Minister and a gun control lobby talking head (why do we even have a gun control lobby here – they’ve already won) about the timing of the trip, protests from the school about it having been booked long before notwithstanding, I personally think it’s entirely appropriate to teach responsible and safe firearms handling when the fallout from irresponsible, dangerous and downright murderous firearms handling is in people’s minds.

Or would you not want to teach kids interested in swimming how to stay afloat because Harold Holt drowned?

P.S. Just out of interest I wonder will the left suddenly learn to love Murdoch now his publications are reminding us that he is – and I have a vague recollection always was – opposed to private citizens owning effective means of defence? Seems odd that he chose to give up citizenship of one country to become a citizen of one of the few, perhaps the only, nation on the planet that recognises that right.

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The pussification of schools #6

Cracked! missed one on their recent list of the 5 Biggest Pussifications of Schools, and while it’s probably not unique to this place the recent example comes from a school just south of Melbourne.

No touching.

Parents claim they were not told directly of the new rule, which extended a ban on contact sports …

Yes, they’d already gone that far, and that depressingly common policy is touched on in Cracked’s number four Biggest Pussification.

… to a ban on any physical contact at all, such as playing “tiggy”, hugging or giving each other high-fives.

Aside from the fact that this comes hot on the heels of a anti-bullying TV ad campaign that shows school kids shaking hands (for some bizarre reason it’s a weird handshake that’s not shown directly because it’s ‘just for kids’, but what can be seen looks less Masonic and more like the kind of gang style handshake done by wiggas) it’s pretty clear that this lame brained rule hasn’t been well thought out at all. Because it effectively bans simple expressions of friendship and support.

One parent, Tracey, said her son was winded on the playground yesterday and, when his friend tried to console him by putting his arm around his shoulder, the friend was told his actions were against the rules.

The friend then had to walk around with the teacher on playground duty for the rest of lunch as punishment, Tracey told radio 3AW.

And that’s not even the right-on silliness apex.

Another parent, John, said his children were told they could not high-five each other.

Seriously? Christ!

“I have a couple of children, and they have been told that if they high-five one another that’s instant detention, and if they do it three times they will be expelled,” John said.

“I mean, what are they actually trying to teach?”

One child was reportedly told that if students wanted to high-five, it would have to be an “air high-five”.

Yes, well, the problem there is that I suspect an air high five is not actually a real thing but some bollocks made up by someone on the school’s staff who’s heard of air kissing. What an ‘air high five’ really is is known as being left hanging.

Now it should be said that the school claims that this is only temporary…

Principal Judy Beckworth said it was “not actually a policy, it’s a practice that we’ve adopted in the short-term as a no-contact games week”.

… though having a no-contact games week doesn’t actually sound a hell of a lot more sensible to me, and especially not in a country that invented a football code so manly and tough that rugby players struggle and a competitor once found himself, and I’m not making this up, nailed to the pitch with his own leg bones. No contact games week? Pffffffft. Serious pussification of school right there.

“In response to an increased number of recent student injuries, including a broken collarbone, wrists and concussion, we decided to have a ‘no contact games week’ at our school,” Ms Beckworth said.

“Parents, teachers and I were concerned about the increasing number of students injuring themselves recently by playing roughly in the playground during games like chasey, tiggy, football and basketball.

“We are very serious about student safety and that’s why we decided to do this.”

And? Such is school life, though I spent years playing school rugby without ever knowing anyone to break a bone or get a concussion or in fact get anything worse than the odd bruise or cut. And I don’t mean anyone in my class or year, I mean anyone in the entire school while I was there. Maybe there was and I didn’t know that the kid two years below me that I didn’t even know by name was suddenly wearing a cast because of an unlucky tackle on the rugby field, but if so there was no mention made, no big hooha and no non-contact games rule even thought of, let alone imposed. I can’t help but wonder if the apparent rarity of injuries was just that we were getting better tuition and supervision on how to play contact sports without seriously risking ourselves or other players, and I also wonder if a high number of injuries – if it really is high – at Mount Martha Primary indicates that that’s not happening.

Not that everyone’s on message with that excuse anyway.

… one parent, Nicole, claimed that the school was backpedalling because some parents were told by the school that the new rule would be in place for a minimum of three weeks, which would be extended if the children did not behave themselves.

They’re kids, for heaven’s sake. It’s practically inevitable that one of them will forget or have a dummy spit and go too far and provide the excuse for the extension. In fact if you’re counting high fives, hand shakes and hugs then they probably already have.

[Ms Beckworth] did not believe the school’s response was an overreaction.

“When you have students badly injuring themselves, it would be unacceptable for me not to take action,” she said.

Oh, Jesus. Look, it’d be unacceptable for you to ignore it, but an event does not necessarily demand action. By all means recheck to assure yourselves that you’re already doing your best and take action if you realise that you’re not, but for Christ’s sake include a sanity check to make sure you’re not going too far. If kids are getting bollocked for putting their arms around a friend’s shoulders to comfort them then I’d suggest that second bit is being overlooked.

The only bits about this whole story that hasn’t gutshot my faith in humanity and set my misanthropy gauge spinning into self destruction again are the newspaper poll result that overwhelmingly showed that people thought the school had gone too far, and the admirable reaction of the children themselves.

The Year 6 students at Mount Martha Primary School were so disgusted by the new rule that they staged a sit-down protest on the school oval at lunch yesterday before they were moved to the school gym and given a dressing down…

I only hope that that spark of dissent in the face of unreasonable restrictions isn’t completely crushed out of them by the time they’re adults.

Tell me this isn’t a coincidence

First, there’s this:

A chief examiner at one of Britain’s biggest exam boards was recorded boasting about the lack of substance in the company’s tests – and their disbelief that it has been cleared by the official regulator.
Steph Warren, in charge of Edexcel GCSE Geography, said that teachers should pick her company’s exam because “you don’t have to teach a lot”.

And then there’s this:

Now I do realise that these are from different countries but the UK and US have quite a lot in common, including the modern sleb culture and persistent worries about dumbing down of edumacation – ‘dumbing down’ is an American phrase, after all. If you want a more UK-centric example of sleb-fascination as an alternative to news you don’t have to look far. Looking at The Daily Mail’s site now their sidebar consists of the following (and I really don’t blame if you don’t read every line of this):

  • Something about Sinead O’Connor getting married again
  • A story about the average weight of British women
  • Something about Anna Nicole-Smith, who is apparently still dead
  • Something about Angelina Jolie
  • Something about Jennifer Lopez
  • Something about X-Factor judges who are apparently called Gary, Kelly and Tulisa (who, who, who and who gives a fuck?)
  • Something about someone called Selena Gomez and Justin fucking Bieber
  • A story about a single father raising twins
  • Something by Jan Moir about someone called Caroline Flack
  • Something about someone called Kimberley Walsh
  • Something about someone called Irina Shayk
  • Something about Charlize Theron’s clothes
  • Something about someone called Chelsee Healey
  • Something about someone called Kate Upton
  • Something about Prince William’s wife’s clothes
  • Something about Declan Donnelly’s car
  • Something about Katie Price
  • Something about someone called Lea Michele
  • Something about someone called Kris Jenner being upset about something Daniel Craig said
  • Something about someone called Alicia Douvall
  • Something about something called a Kardashian (who are apparently not Star Trek aliens but real people… for a given value of real)
  • Something about someone called Amanda Seyfried
  • Something by Jizz Loans
  • Something about someone called Harry Judd
  • Something about Paris Hilton
  • Something about Beyoncé whatsername
  • Something about Twiggy
  • Something about Salma Hayek’s tits
  • Something else about that Caroline Flack person again, but not by Jan Moir
  • Something about a coat owned by Emma Watson, Natalie Portman and someone called Kristen Stewart
  • Something about someone called Anna Massey in something about a loony in Broadmoor
  • Something about someone called Amy Childs
  • Something about Ray Winstone being in something
  • Something about David Jason being in something
  • Something else about Angelina Jolie
  • Something about someone called Jacqui Ainsley
  • Something about Louise Redknapp’s shampoo
  • Something about Sacha Baron Cohen
  • Something about someone called Kara Tointon
  • Something about Venus Williams
  • Something about someone called Kelly Rowland and someone called Amelia
  • Something about something called JWoww (who seems to be a person but sounds like a cleaning product)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
  • Something about someone called Kitty Brucknell
  • Something about a transexual trying to turn him/herself into Barbie (just more plastic, I assume)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Garner
  • Something about one of Michael Jackon’s kids being in a film or something
  • Something about someone called Christine Bleakley
  • Something about that Grilled Bear bloke meeting Mrs Queen
  • Something about someone called Andrew Garfield
  • Something about someone called Pat Sharp and her daughter, and someone called Mark Wright
  • Something about Andie MacDowell’s daughter
  • Something about someone called Rachel Crow
  • Something about another one of the Kardashians
  • Something about someone called Kris Humphries
  • Something about someone called Dianna Agron and someone called Sebastian Stan (almost current affairs in that he sounds like he might be a country)
  • Something about Shakira
  • Something about someone called Coco Rocha
  • Something about Jessica Alba’s sprog meeting Santa
  • Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group
  • Something about someone who’s someone’s widow being angry with Alec Baldwin for whatever he did on that plane
  • Something about Michael Jackson’s doctor getting a prison visit
  • Something about that Katherine Heigl who used to be in Grey’s Annoying Me
  • Something about that Tiff Needell who used to be in the old Top Gear
  • Something about someone called Toni Collette
  • Something about Kirstie Alley’s current size
  • Something about Demi Moore’s daughter’s arse
  • Something about something called Chord Overstreet (who seems to be a person but sounds like gameplay from Guitar Hero) and someone called Emma Roberts
  • Something about someone called Demi Lovato (who seems to be a person but sounds like musical notation)
  • Something about someone called Jennifer Hudson
  • Something about that Amy Childs again
  • Something about someone called Selma Blair
  • Something about Jessica Alba
  • Something about Lady Gaga
  • Something about Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Something about Cheryl Cole
  • Something about Christina Ricci
  • Something else about Katie bloody Price
  • Something about handbags
  • Something about shops
  • Something about shopping
  • Something about Tom Cruise
  • Something else about this Demi Lovato
  • Something else about this Emma Roberts person having a tattoo like the one in that book about the girl with a tattoo
  • Something about bridesmaids wearing tuxedos
  • Something else about Tom Cruise
  • Something about someone called Kendra Wilkison
  • Something about someone called Kevin Federline
  • A story about a fake doctor doing bad cosmetic surgery in the US
  • Something about new Top Shop branches coming to your local high street, providing you live in Australia
  • Something about someone called Abigail Breslin
  • Something about someone called Danny O’Donaghue and Tom Jones
  • Something about Jersey Shore
  • Something about Brad Pitt’s hair
  • Something about someone called Ali Larter’s son
  • Something about cocaine and Charlie Sheen and someone called Brooke Mueller
  • A story about how Christmas drives everyone fucking nuts
  • Something about that horsey woman from Sex and the City
  • Something else about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
  • Something about a body scanner, but at clothes shops to help you buy stuff rather than airports to help delay you while you’re treated as a suspected terrorist
  • Something about some people called Arg, Mark and Dougie
  • Something about Lindsay Lohan
  • Something about Nigella Lawson
  • Something else about Emma Watson, but apparently not her coat this time
  • Something about someone called Adele
  • Something about money and divorces
  • Something that might be about sexual abuse in Mormon communities, but might be more about some Mormon piano group, and appears to be exactly the same something as the something about sexual abuse/Mormon pianists from earlier
  • Something about someone called Jeff Probst and someone called Lisa Ann Russell
  • Something about someone called Patrica Klanic whose husband is a soccer player and has been accused of rape
  • Something about Blur
  • Something else about Andie MacDowell
  • Something about Cameron Diaz
  • Something about David Cameron’s hair (for fuck’s fucking sake I’m fucking losing the fucking will to fucking live here)
  • Yet another fucking thing about this Caroline Flack and someone called harry Styles
  • Something about Prince Harry and his brother’s wife’s sister, except not really because they’re only lookalikes (that’s it – when I’m finished with this I’m going to book a holiday where I’m legally allowed to shoot things)
  • Something about Katy Perry
  • Something about that woman who looked all upset when Jeremy Clarkson said he wanted to shoot strikers and how she used to have a damp spot for Jason Donovan
  • Something about a model who’s going bald
  • Jesus H. Christ in a fucking mothership, something else about Tom fucking Cruise
  • Something else about a Kardashian, possibly one of the ones from earlier but I’m so far past fucking caring at this point I just asked Mrs Exile to hold a mirror up under my nose
  • Something about Prince Charles not understanding Peter Kay’s jokes or something
  • Something about Madonna likeing Prince William’s wife’s clothes
  • Something about someone called Gamu
  • Something about someone called Zac Effron kissing Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Something about Dawn French’s clothes

For those that skipped much of that list it’s 125 articles, 95% of which involve slebs, and close to 0% of which involve actual news. Okay, sure, they do put a lot of shite in the sidebar and more newsy news in the main bit, but even there Sinead O’Connor puts in an appearance along with one or two things about house prices (wouldn’t be the Mail without them, would it?) while the story about exams being made easier appears nearly halfway down the home page.

Coincidence? I find that hard to believe. Whether it’s just an effect of successive governments prioritising the appearance of educational success over actually educating or whether it’s a deliberate attempt to create Orwell’s proles, the undereducated 85% who were conditioned to have little or no interest in the world but were easy to manipulate. As always I tend to go with Hanlon’s Razor and assume stupidity and cupidity over conspiracies, but sometimes I do wonder.

Greengrocer’s in the public s’ector s’trike

H/T Nanny Know’s Be’st

Permitted discrimination

We all know that we’re not allowed to discriminate against almost anyone these days, even though discrimination is, when you get right down to it, someone just making a choice. It might well be a choice that I think makes them an arsehole but the point is that it’s their choice. Still, when it comes to people who might look different, have different body parts in their underpants, worship a different sky-being or even worship the same one in a different way, it’s a choice you’re expected not to make anymore.

No, not even if they are ginger.

Not a bitch, okay?

However, the operative word in that opening sentence up there is ‘almost’ because the other thing we all know is that discriminating against the English is just fucking fine by everybody.* And so I see that Scotland have discriminated – in the sense of a choice and in the spirit of take and take – to take the fifteen hundred quid a head extra they get under the Barnett Formula and at the same time charge English students the thick end of ten grand to go to a Scottish uni.

But only English students.

Education Secretary Michael Russell this week announced that Scottish universities would be allowed to charge students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland up to £9000 (A$13,500) a year from 2012-13, after England and Wales raised their own tuition fees.
But Mr Russell reiterated his commitment to keep higher education tuition-free for Scottish students.
This means students from the other 26 European Union member nations can study for free too, because EU laws essentially preclude members from discriminating against citizens of partner nations, but leave them free to discriminate within their own country.

So there you have it. England and Scotland, not partner nations. The Act of Union is over 300 years old and the Union itself a century older, the two countries have benefitted from each other down the years, and currently one derives a not inconsiderable financial benefit – not just the Barnett Formula but the large public sector north of the border – but whatever that makes them they’re certainly not partners because the EU says partner nations’ governments can’t screw each others’ citizens. Screwing their own is okay, and of course that’s a principle function of government. And therefore screwing different groups of citizens is presumably a domestic issue that the EU isn’t too interested in. It’s discrimination, sure, but it’s officially sanctioned discrimination which means it’s perfectly fine and above board.

So suck it up, fellow countrymen, and pay up without complaining. And please remember not to take it out on any gingers even if it seems like they deserve it.

No, look, it doesn’t go up your nose, it’s … oh, nevermind

* Presumably not fine by English students wanting to study in Scotland, but I imagine they don’t really count anyway.

Bullying victim snaps – the animated version

Yep, Casey the Chifley College bullying victim has had the Taiwanese computer animation treatment from NMA TV.

Is there nothing they can’t make completely bizarre yet strangely compelling?

On a side note news.com.au are saying that western Sydney is divided over the issue.

“Good on him. I was so happy to see a bully finally getting what he deserved,” one St Marys resident said.
“I don’t condone violence but when kids stage an attack like that and record it to humiliate the victim it’s wrong.”
But another resident Jayne Saunders said: “He could have broken that little kid’s neck.”

An explanation might be needed for Jayne and others thinking the same way: when you continually harass and provoke and torment a placid pet to the point it goes nuts and attempts to bite someone’s face off you’ve sown the seeds of your own misfortune. The kid who was picking on Casey – who is apparently not at all sorry for doing so – might have had his neck broken, and had that happened it would have been as a direct result of the violent incident he himself initiated. The question Jayne Saunders and co. are probably not asking themselves is what would Casey have done to Ritchard Gale if the he and the other bullies had simply left him alone. Almost certainly the answer is:

Absolutely nothing.

What did you get up to in school today, kids?

Nothing much. Oh, apart from it was our turn to look after the crocodile. That was pretty good.

THE Northern Territory News launched a snappy new promotion this weekend, giving away a crocodile to a school in its area.

Staff from a reptile park in the territory capital, Darwin, will set up a crocodile enclosure at the winning school and train a lucky class in how to care for their new reptilian mascot.

Well, on the one hand a school pet that’s likely to live as long as and possibly even longer than any of the pupils has got to be better than upsetting all the kids when the hamsters all drop dead again. Hear that, Lydd Primary School in Kent? You thought it’d toughen the kids up and teach them a useful life lesson to have them raise a lamb that they’d eventually vote on whether send off to be turned into chops. In the Territory they’ll feed lambs to their school pet and their grandchildren will decide whether to send it off to be turned into luggage.

On the other hand it’s a fucking crocodile. A whole new meaning could apply to the phrase, “I’m just taking class 3E to feed the school pet.”

Crocodile, for Daily Mail picture editors

And just in case David Attenborough has been in your magic fishtank and explained a bit about Australian crocodiles and you’re expecting this to be a smaller and relatively safe freshwater crocodile rather than a much larger and much more dangerous two-fucking-attacks-in-2011-already saltwater crocodile, you’d be wrong. The reptile park, Crocosaurus Cove, makes a thing of having the real monsters if their website is anything to go by.

Enter the world of the awesome Northern Territory Saltwater Crocodile, with some of the largest in captivity on display. Fish for crocs, ‘Swim with the Crocs’ in the separate pool along side the croc enclosure, or enter the “Cage of Death”.

Cage of Death? If they get one of those too that’d be one school that never has any discipline problems. If I don’t find out who threw that then the whole class – and I do mean the whole class – will be in the Cage of Death after school.

Sadly, if you’re thinking of moving to the NT, finding out which school wins the crocodile and enrolling your own children there purely to make sure they grow up tougher than anyone you know you’ll almost certainly be too late. The lucky school only gets the crocodile for just one term, and that’s a pity because I liked the idea of there being a school producing year after year of school leavers conditioned to utter a single phrase whenever the subject of educational animals comes up. Altogether now:

“That’s not a school pet… THIS is a school pet.”

What did you learn in school today, hon?

Unusually for me I can’t make my mind up about this one.

[Smithereens,] a book of gruesome short stories, which includes a task asking students to write two suicide notes, is being taught to 13-year-olds at some schools, prompting adolescent health experts to warn it could encourage vulnerable teens to self harm.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said schools should not be asking students to rehearse potentially harmful behaviour. ”When you encourage adolescents to undertake activities that blur the line between fantasy and reality … it might tip them into undertaking that activity,” he said.
Childhood pyschologist Michael Carr-Gregg said Smithereens should be immediately removed from schools.
”It could give them ideas about self harm and potentially lead them to believe the world is a bleaker, darker, more miserable place than it actually is,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.

Well, actually I’m settled on one or two things, chief of which is this paranoia that children and adolescents are so fucking fragile these days that almost anything is seen as liable to tip them over the edge in some way, is probably a bit over the top. Newsflash: at school we did Lord of the Flies without becoming savages (well, more savage than teenagers are naturally), To Kill A Mockingbird without instantly becoming racists, lawyers or Gregory Peck, and a couple of Shakespeare romance comedies without anyone expressing a desire get into any item of female attire except in the sense that teenage boys normally want to. My teenage years are not so far behind me that I don’t recall them quite well, and I can say without any hesitation that we were able to tell the bloody difference between the written word and the real world. Teenagers don’t shatter when they read something depressing. No, probably not even the emos.

On the other hand it does seem like the kind of book I’d have hated to get in English class. Lord of the Flies was depressing and bored my arse off so thoroughly that I used to fall over sitting down. Part of its educational effect on me was that I didn’t learn what a good book it is until school was a few years behind me, but at the time I had to read it I did not actually read it at all. I read just enough of it to get the homework done without too many really crap marks, and not a single sentence more. What I’d like to have read would have been some Tom Clancy or something. Or perhaps Alastair MacClean or Ian Fleming if it had to be something a bit older.* Something with some bloody excitement in, for Christ’s sake. So if at the start of a new term the English teacher had plopped a copy of Smithereens on my desk it might have induced feelings of suicide, though not for the reasons that have been suggested, but they would quickly have given way to narcolepsy and catatonia.** And that’s it.

Maybe it’s different if you’re a parent. Maybe I’d also send my offspring off each day with a little part of my mind gibbering and fretting about their safety and their wellbeing until I saw them again each evening. Actually I’m sure I would, but I hope I’d also recognise that they’re likely to be little different from the rest of us at the same age. So despite the headline that made me think it’d be more of this or this the thing I’m really unsure about is just the appeal to kids of that age and wether it can tear them away from fluffy and non-violent things like World of Modern Zombie Warfare Combatcraft 2. And Facebook.

So why the hell are they actually bothering? Ah, silly me, the answer has been staring me in the face all the time. Looks like they’re afraid of someone suing for compo.

If a student harmed themselves after reading it, the school could be in breach of its duty of care.

And they’re worried about the stuff in the book making people depressed? What the fuck do they think their reaction to it is doing?

* Just about everyone read Lord of the Rings themselves. Boys’ school. I imagine it’s normal.
** The thought of Cerys Matthews might have woken everyone up again. Boys’ school. Probably normal as well.

Strange sort of maths lesson.

I have no idea what sort of questions will be asked in lessons as a result of this.

Children are to be taught about homosexuality in maths, geography and science lessons as part of a Government-backed drive to “celebrate the gay community”.

Lesson plans have been drawn up for pupils as young as four, in a scheme funded with a £35,000 grant from an education quango, the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

Among the suggestions are:
Maths – teaching statistics through census findings about the number of homosexuals in the population, and using gay characters in scenarios for maths problems;

“If Alan is being spit roasted by Brian and Charlie but all three change places every time and go at it twice a day how long will it take for them to get through a 12 pack of condoms? There is certainly no need to show how you arrived at your answer.”

This is for kids as young as four, yes? An age at which homo-, hetero-, bi- or anything-sexual is meaningless. Oh, sure, kids that young might use gay epithets but without any real understanding of what it is they’re saying. At that age just fucking tell them how to add up and subtract for Christ’s fucking sake. You can leave it ’til they hit puberty to tell them not to beat each other up because someone thinks someone else is gay.

‘Kinell.

When did The Mash stop doing piss-takes and start doing policies?

I ask only because this makes more sense than some things that are being suggested.

As angry students demanded the right to help themselves to other people’s money, MPs backed an amendment to the government’s higher education funding proposals to just scrap the fucking thing.

Professor Henry Brubaker, director of the Institute for Studies and a long time campaigner for the abolition of universities, said: “Hospitals can train doctors, law firms can train lawyers, journalists can be trained by children and sociologists can train themselves by watching television for six hours a day.

“The vast majority of ‘careers’ are complete bullshit anyway. Sending people to university just means you get pointless, bullshit jobs being done by someone who has spent three years and thirty grand turning themselves into an arse.”

Or increasingly someone who has spent even more time and money getting a Master’s or something, because these days nearly everyone their age has a vanilla degree in something and they’re starting to feel a need to separate themselves from the crowd. You know, a bit like a degree used to do.

Dumming down at The Tellygraff – UPDATED

Okay, everybody makes a typo here and there. I’m no different and now and then I do catch one while re-reading an old post I’m about to reference or quote. However, in my defence I have to point out that the entire staff here at Chez Exile consists of me, myself and I, with cups of tea, additional opinions and interesting links to engage and enrage me occasionally provided by the lovely Mrs Exile. Thorough proof reading is often a casualty if it’s late or a nice weekend afternoon or if I’m rushing to get a post off before doing something else because I don’t have anyone else to do it. Newspapers do, so I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about taking the piss out of them for poor English. What I am starting to feel a bit guilty about is focusing on The Grauniad and its long standing rep because these days The Telegraph seems to be worse. I screen-capped an article there the other day in which “Philippines” had been given no less than four Ps in one use (still uncorrected at time of blogging), though the correct spelling had been used in the rest of the piece, but I’m not going to put it up to giggle over because I’ve since seen a better one. How unfortunate for The Teletubbiegraph that the article is about education, falling standards and the plan for pupils to lose marks for using poor English in their exams.

To their credit someone at the paper seems to have spotted and corrected it before the commenters started, but the point is that The Tele do seem to be a bit slack at checking things before hitting the publish button. Not just spelling. Whoever is responsible for pictures and captions has let a few howlers slip through. Aside from several mislabeled animals and other gaffs spotted by the Ambush Predator there’s this shotgun masquerading as an air rifle and more recently this “small-calibre weapon” (small compared to what? An artillery piece?). I mean, if you don’t understand the terms and can’t be bothered to look them up why bother with the picture at all?

And then there’s the question of what on earth they’re thinking when they select certain pictures for certain stories. Back in January for a warble gloaming doom story about how the decade was the hottest ever the picture caption read:

The Goddard Institute for Space Studies report found temperatures had been getting steadily warmer over the past three decades.

You might expect whoever does the pictures to have used a graph illustrating this claim – and surely there was one in the GISS report – but what they actually chose to show this worrying trend in all its apocalyptic glory was a stock agency photo of a blonde girl in a bikini posing on a beach.

What’s that supposed to say about the story? We’re all going to die, but some girls have got lovely tits, eh? I can’t help feeling it says more about declining standards at The Tele than anything else.

UPDATE – sadbutmadlad in the comments points out that there’s another mistake in The Tele’s picture caption. Instead of “written English” they’ve put “written english”. Good spot, SBML. The Telegraph slips a little further.

What are they teaching kids these days?

By the approving sounds of some lecturers, rioting, trespass and property damage. I dunno, once upon a time it was apples on the desk. In my school days it the occasional bag of sweets or, for one particular teacher, Monster Munch. Now it seems like if you want to be teacher’s pet you have to smash a few windows in and drop fire extinguishers on coppers from a high roof.

The times are a-changing.

When I was a child I had more freedoms to look forward to as I grew up. Some were freedoms my parents decided I was ready for, such as crossing the road to the park on my own, riding my bike on the road, going to the local shops, sometimes with a signed note from Mum or Dad asking for a packet or two of Embassy since I was some years off 16 – I doubt many shopkeepers would do that now for fear that it was a local Trading Standards op or even that someone would simply dob them in. For others I was automatically considered ready by the state, such as buying and using my own tobacco, having sex, driving, buying alcohol* and standing for Parliament (which doesn’t come with the freedom to do all the rest simultaneously although the behaviour of some MPs may suggest it comes with the misapprehension that it does). It would be a pretty depressing state of affairs if the reality was that you’re born free** and then grow up looking forward to your freedom being progressively infringed and eroded, wouldn’t it? Nah, surely not… that’s just ol’ Angry Exile’s deeply ingrained cynicism, right?

Wrong, because thanks to a revoltingly authoritarian head teacher there’s one neighbourhood here where kids can look forward to losing the freedom of association when they start primary school.

Students at [Osbourne Primary School in Mount Martha] on the Mornington Peninsula have been banned from congregating in groups of more than three in a bid to stop gangs of children teasing and upsetting their classmates.

In the latest edition of the school’s newsletter, principal Liz Klein wrote that the rule was introduced to stop “gangs of students wandering around the schoolyard teasing and upsetting others for their entertainment”.

The newsletter states that students are not permitted to walk around the school in groups larger than three.

What a stroke of fucking genius! Why bother teaching children right from wrong? Why go to the trouble of actually dealing with teasing and bullying as it happens? No, far easier just to ban groups larger than an arbitrarily chosen number in the knowledge belief hope that the problem will just magically go away. Oh, for fuck’s sake, where do I begin with this kind of utter fucktardary?

Well, for starters there’s the point that some of the parents have made:

The controversial rule … has been criticised by some parents for punishing the whole school rather than just those students doing the wrong thing.

Quite, and doing so is not simply unjust but fucking lazy, which would be the second point. I can’t imagine how the principal can even begin to justify it unless she was to suggest that it’s a valuable lesson about what to expect when they’re older since governments at every level will take the same lazy route of punishing largely innocent groups of people, and incidentally taking a huge, diarrheic shit all over their liberties – which is the third point – in order to get at a small number of trouble makers. Could this be the idea?

Yeah, I doubt it too. So what does the principal – and am I just being a pedantic pom approaching middle aged fartihood or does anyone else prefer ‘head teacher’? – have to say for herself?

Ms Klein told 3AW today that certain students had made a habit of walking around the school in a pack aggravating others.

Certain students, yet Liz’s response is a measure targeting all students.

Despite being spoken to by teachers, the students had persisted with their behaviour.

Well stack me, who’d have fucking seen that coming? And now those self same little shits can congratulate themselves for continuing to make their fellow pupils’ lives at school just that little bit more miserable than they need be, all thanks to Liz Klein and her policy of don’t-know-what-to-do-now-so-punishment-for-all. Fucking hell, Liz, whose side are you actually on here? The poor bloody kids who were on the receiving end are now being bullied by you and the fucking school instead of, or more likely as well as, the original bullies.

Because that’s the fourth and final problem, Liz. As well as being lazy, unjust, and authoritarian your policy is going to fail as soon as the bullies work out that they only need to split into pairs and target lone kids, which I suspect they might be able to do faster than you did. You’re assuming that in a group of three bullying can no longer take place, and simple mathematics – do you teach that at Osbourne? – should be enough to work out that in such a group two children can still gang up on the third. Fucking hell, woman, that’s more or less how democracies function. Another lesson, perhaps?

Yeah, right.

* Yes, I realise this means that they are not really freedoms as such, but I’m in a bit of a rush and a discussion on freedoms, liberties and negative and positive rights wasn’t the point of this post.
** If you have now got Matt Munro singing in your heads, I have an idea how old you are.*** And if you think beauty surrounds you as well then I also have an idea that you may be on drugs. Or just bloody lucky.
*** If you also have a cat it knows. Trust me, it just does. And its contempt for you has just doubled.

Heretic!

I wish I could say this was a surprise but I’d be lying if I did. Professional apostasy in the British educational establishment seems nigh on unforgivable, particularly if you compound the sin by exposing what’s wrong to the outside world. Hopefully Katharine Birbalsingh will find a job at a school which doesn’t need to fear her for this, if there are any like that left in Britain.

Inevitability redux.

Back in March I quoted a bit of The Daily Mash’s spoof article on traumatising lessons inspired by the real life staged shooting ‘role-play’ lesson at a school in Evesham, Worcestershire. At the time I said that Cracked.com probably had already pencilled it in for a place in Seven Terrifying Lessons Your Child May Be Taught In A British School, and then promptly forgot all about it. In my inbox today was an email from a rellie back in the UK who, knowing I have a chuckle about this sort of thing, sent me this link to a Cracked article titled, ‘8 Real Grade Schools That Went Completely Insane‘. From #7 on their list:

Sometime around March this year, children ages 10 to 13 at the Blackminster Middle School in Evesham were rushed into the playground for what they assumed was a fire drill, when a masked gunman appeared out of nowhere and “shot dead” a popular science teacher.

Well, I wasn’t far off. Incidentally, British schools are also at numbers 4, 3 and 1 on the list, meaning that they outnumbered the combined efforts of the USA and Australia’s sole entry (#5 – locking up the special needs kids in a pen) by two to one.

Kind of makes you proud, doesn’t it?