Archive for the General Ranting Category

On literary snobbery

Posted in Books, Children, General Ranting with tags on March 20, 2014 by pieman70

Sorry about not posting, real life and a big juicy helping of laziness has prevented me so far. Not that I’ve been short of material, just with family, children, work and videogames blogging takes a backseat. Hopefully there will be more regular posts but no promises

Anyway, to what was bugging me.

Freya has been enjoying some books known as the “Rainbow Magic” series. The plots are unimportant, but suffice to say the writing is fairly repetitive, predictable and hackneyed. Then again I’m a man in my 30s and they are broadly aimed at girls in the 7-10 age bracket. Why do I mention this? Aside from a way to subtly boast of my daughter reading above her level it is that recently I have heard teachers in the primary 3 upwards bracket have told children that these books are not to be read as part of school reading.

Now, back in my early secondary school there was a certain mantra often repeated by the English department. “No point horror books”. I never read a point horror book but from what I can ascertain they were a series of horror novels. The English department seemed to feel they lacked the artistic merit or intellectual challenge to have a place in the school.

We live in a world where many don’t read books, and I can’t help this weird snobbery has something to do with it. Effectively the school has told children that, having found books they enjoy they can’t read them any more, worse, this is now being done at an even earlier age. I understand that teachers want people to challenge themselves and read more complex books, preferably erring towards “the classics” but to my mind with these arbitrary bans all they’re doing is cementing reading’s place as something you have to do rather than something that is fun, something that you would do by choice in your own free time.

I also have a gripe about the “classics” how english teachers will shove Austin, Hardy and Bronte down everyone’s throats for personal reading. By all means study them, but they seem genuinely surprised that someone wouldn’t find tales of genteel women in society enchanting.

First and foremost we should be encouraging children to read recreationally, from there on teachers can channel this towards more challenging fare, although this may require them to have a broader knowledge of literature. A kid likes SF? perhaps enjoys trek or 40k tie ins? Why not suggest Clarke, Wells or Asimov? Someone enjoyed the Sharpe series? Try the Aubrey Maturin books. The current one size fits all is putting people off and definitely has no place in a primary school.


Government 0 Internet 1

Posted in General Ranting with tags on January 22, 2009 by pieman70

mysociety are a great group of people, they’re behind such websites as theyworkforyou, the site that from a simple postcode will tell you the names and official contact details and voting records of all your elected representatives. In fact I’d go further by saying they’re the vanguard in an effort to stop the government taking advantage of the general apathy of the public to sneak through legislation.

Recently, Ministers were trying to put through an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act which would take ministers expenses out of the FoI remit. In short, they were going to put through a paper that would mean we, the elected public couldn’t request to see exactly what they’re doing with out money.

This isn’t petty snooping, the ministers have to reveal exactly the same expenses as any self employed person has to in order to avoid being over taxed, so if its a standard they’re holding others to it is not unfair that they be held publicly accountable by the same standard. It also prevents abuses of ministerial expenses.

The announcement of this bill was released at the same time as the controversial decision to go ahead with the 3rd runway at Heathrow, in short a blatant attempt to bury the bill and hopefully sneak it through without the public noticing. In fact what is worse is that, not only did Labour try to sneak it through, but none of the opposition made any move to inform the press or public about this. Basically all the ministers were keeping quiet in the hope of being able to keep their expenses out of the public eye.

Fortunately Mysociety organised a major Internet campaign, with a facebook group and everything, to get people to write to their MPs and ask them to vote against the bill. There was a small amount of media coverage and the majority of MPs said “Caught” (OK, they didn’t say “Yes you got us, we were trying to hide this from you but you got us good you rascals”) and voted against it. Now its very hard to see any sitting MP in a good light, they all let this through, kept it quiet and hoped it would stay buried. Its very hard to see them as greedy self interested spongers who don’t want us to know exactly how their abusing our tax pounds.

Thankfully MySociety are doing good work in keeping all workings of parliament public, and in a more easily digestible way than the online Hansard. Its sad that we need a group like them, but with the current Governments habit of trying to hide controversial legislation and the press’ seeming inability to catch them at it (I could go on about journalists being lazy and only re-hashing press releases as opposed to doing all that difficult research but that’s for another post) it is important that a group like this keeps them on their toes.