Tuesday, 28 July 2009


This episode of Ruin caught my eye, an everyday story.

"Twenty five years teaching in the university sector, before a disgruntled student took out his ire by stabbing me in the head, and I feel like the traveller coming upon the tomb of Ozymandius, a ruin of self-aggrandising ideology that used to be called education." Mr PT Barnum, from the comments, When The Boat Comes In.

Dear Mr Barnum

That is, indeed, a sorry tale, even though Ruin and Bitter Discord are, here, our business. The personal sorrow and insult smack more harshly than the societal and yours, permit me, might be overwhelming, were it not so sadly commonplace among teachers, nurses, carers of all kinds, rebuked and chastised by Consumerism’s empty-headed spawn; the rise of the fuckwit tracking the ascent of people like Blunkett, Smith and Prescott; the continued pre-eimince of the worthless, soundbiting bully, Cameron and most of all the rank, unelected, snot-eating splendour of the criminal, Brown.

I would differ a little with you, however, on the precise chronology of educational Ruin, although my observations are but a footnote. I remember, in the seventies, looking at a nephew's homework, with a view to helping him understand his teacher's red-inked comments; his teacher could neither spell nor punctuate and could not frame a sentence, so there wasn't really any point in the proposed assistance. My estimation of his teacher's ability was that she would not - at whatever age she then was, twenties, I guess, with a college of education qualification, a Cert Ed, I guess - pass an eleven-plus examination. There, must have been thousands like her,
a decade before Gordon the Ruiner entered Parliament. Tens of thousands

I believe it was the case that there had been an expansion of Teacher Training Colleges, which attracted those not quite sufficiently academically gifted, then, to reach university, on the entirely flawed basis that people could be taught to teach though they, themselves, were, at best, narrowly educated and at worst barely literate. It may be the case that this state of affairs was justifiable by a foreseen need for many more teachers than then existed but if that is the case it makes your own and others' points about a lowering of standards, an all-shall-have-prizes approach to education; the one which, annually, results in those currently teaching lying their faces off about the magnificent efforts and achievements of their hard-working "students," the ignorant, gobby litte bastards who can barely write their own facetious and idiotic Chardonnay names and who can't do a two-times table, yet wave grade A A-levels in our faces, as though they meant something.

I think Brown's offence is graver than merely permitting the downward spiral you mention, even though he is claimed to have benefited from the post-war educational excellence - and in any event I don't believe a word that is said about his brilliance,

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I don't even accept that he might be brilliant in an autistic sort of way, his misuse of language is deplorable, he doesn't understand what he's saying a lot of the time; his remarks do not bear a moment's logical scrutiny; even if you make allowances for him blackmailing and being blackmailed on several fronts, for the fraudulence of his relationships, for the corrosive effect of his ambition, for his sheer rottenness; if you peeled him he would be at the centre, like an onion, there wouild be nothing there, certainly no education as you or I would understand it, so, since he has none himself, other than that which he mythologises, it is little wonder that he fails to see the penury of our national achievement; excellence, for this gross, fucked-up, beastly hypocrite, is refracted always through the lens of his festering ambition, if he is in power, then all is excellent, QED, unwinnable wars won, poverty vanquished, merely by the saying of it. The farce, the debacle, that is British education is, on Brown’s charge sheet, so small a matter ss to be taken into consideration with his graver crimes, an afterthought.

Where he seriously needs his face punching-in is in that he and his generation of career politicians have lied so consistently that it is little wonder that the nation is awash with filth, violence and dishonesty, that such are the defining national charachteristics. The example is set, they all do it, the BBC, the Prince of fucking Wales, the bishops, the lawyers, the lords, the cops, none can tell the truth but only dissemble, finesse and in Brown's case, just like Stalin, tell the biggest lie possible and keep telling it; he really is an utterly horrible fucking bastard.

When the prime minister of the United Kingdom, be it Blair or Brown or Cameron stands before the world and lies consistently, cheered-on in his deceit by a thieving rabble dependent upon him for advancement, it is little wonder, is it, that the children so misbehave.

To watch this horrid freak, the prime minister, lying as he does is more than I can stomach and I have stopped doing it,
can no longer penetrate the entire dawn-til-dusk miasma of mealy-mouthing and dissembling, I can't do it anymore without it hurting me somewhere, I think somewhere in infancy, Sunday school, primary school, where decency took root and was nurtured, not by obnoxious party political diktat but by ordinary people; I see this Goddamned, child-burning, torturing, misbegotten, cack-handed, stuttering freak lying from before he opens his mouth until after he's closed it and I could fucking well weep for them, my parents, my teachers, the unsung mentors, those who fought hunger, fascism, rickets, unemployment and beyond them, those who died, in struggle, in poverty, in war that Gordon Brown might lie to us, the horrible, horrible fucking bastard.

There is no use to call Shame down on his head, for it is beyond his ken; a criminal prime minister ousted, yet feted abroad by his murderous paymasters; a Speaker ousted, exiled to a multi-million pound pension, to baubles and honours and freebies; the Middle East aflame, bombarded, made refugee; Innocence napalmed, gangraped, bludgeoned, shackled, corraled; jurisprudence UK enmeshed in kidnap and torture vile; the entire legislature rotten from top to bottom, it’s vile, bloodsucking cohort anxious to be within a European totalitarianism, shitting from Louis Quinze latrines into our parochial, nationalistic faces; the national wealth, current and future, funds which we have not yet worked to create, given freely to criminal corporate Usury, that it might lend it back to us with interest, a generation lifted, in one fell swoop, from poverty into debt and feasting atop this ruin, this gross, gibbering nancyman, sermonising of Vaal-ewes and Trans-pairency and Sol-you-shuns; snot-eating his way into history’s scorn and ridicule, this nasty, cheap shit, pout and mince as he may, knows nothing of Shame, much less Virtue.

Gordon Brown needs his face punching-in, it is a national moral imperative. Split infinitives, tenses, articles, cases, these are of no moment in modernised, reformed Britain and to lament such failures is to ossify, to be grunoy but compliant; stupid children can be corrected, the villainy of Mandelson and Kinnock thrown in jail, should we but revolt into Decency.

Vainglorious Ozymandian folly, mr barnum, doesn’t approach the moral cataclysm that is Gordon Brown; Ruin, Slaughter, Waste, Turmoil, Cowardice, Oppression, behold his works and vomit up your souls.

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PT Barnum said...

Mr Ishmael

As stirring and grittily raging a reply as I am coming to expect from you. I cannot quibble over one iota of your hellish harrowing of Brown and his ilk. (I do know that his PhD thesis, ten years in the making, was viewed by the external examiner as a towering monument to mediocrity, which begs the question why he was awarded it.)

The abrupt end to my working life is not something I am in the habit of dragging into the public domain, but I suppose I find it hard to detach that concluding act from my narrative of educational decline and cultural bankruptcy during my career.

What I see now, from the other end of the corridor, is that school teachers in the state sector, with one or two starry exceptions, are either those for whom any other career is too intellectually challenging and who feel too "clever" and "vocational" to be clerks, or whose pathology leads them to desire power over the intrinsically less powerful, wherein lies, perchance, the motivation for Brown's desire to teach in a school. And into this already creaking machine, (wo)manned by the inverted snobs of anti-intellectualism, are fed the ideologically-fueled demands for equality of outcome (rather than equality of opportunity).

And so, to your analysis of the degradation, erosion and engriming with filth of all our institutions, I would add this: an education system which values only the parroting of received facts and which actively discourages intellectual endeavour and independent thinking, produces a population incapable, in large part, of the insight of child looking at the emperor in his wonderful new clothes, and instead is only fitted for general knowledge quizzes, a Gradgrindian triumph who can know everything and understand nothing. And that scares me. Everywhere I look begins to resemble an Orwellian dystopia, but there's enough Victory gin to take the pain away if you drink it. And they still let you vote as well....

Caractacus said...

The quality of this writing, discourse and comment above deserve a larger audience.

Anonymous said...

u r write, caractacus.

The Dyer's Garden said...

The rot set in much earlier; Brown is its manifestation much more than its cause, though he deserves all the opprobrium he gets. Even our retired academic fails to appreciate the distinction between begging the question and asking it. It would not matter if question-begging (the concept rather than the term) were not so rife, so pernicious, and so rarely noticed. But it is and is and is.

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call me ishmael said...

Yes, Mr TDG but but is a conjunction, innit?

Miss Boulter would have rapped my knuckles with a ruler had I started a sentence with but, not that I ever did, even ironically.

You may have read my young friend, stanislav, on the apostrophe jihadists but if you haven't the burden of his complaint was that in this medium, where people are often wrestling with alien concepts, such as html, whatever the fuck that is, with skills such as typing and with eye-strain and RSI, then the occasional solecism or lapse in punctuational rigour are to be expected and overlooked, the better that we might forge our online community of understanding and dissent, sidestepping,of necessity, expectations and conventions which we would enforce elsewhere, in media more considered, less, as it were, instantaneous.

A fellow traveller in this quadrant of cyberspace, an unfortunate hunchback by the name of Dennis, could rail for months at the most minor grammatical inexactitude and although a part of me, that part nurtured by Miss Boulter, agrees with him entirely, another part questions the need for such a scrupulous reading of others' comments, of an elitism which at times, in its punctiliousness, discards both baby and bathwater.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is no fixed point at which the Ruin we chronicle and abjure commenced but I am glad that more and more give angry voice to its rejection and apostrophes be damned, just for now.

Elby the Beserk said...

I'm a grammar hypocrite. Should be taught to all, once had full comprehension of it, along with Latin, now mutilating it horribly, often unwittingly.

As for the education system, all I can say is - education? My ex and I agreed we wanted no more of it when our oldest was to enter the middle school system where we lived, and we fled to Bristol and flung them all four on the mercy of the Bristol Steiner School, where their souls were paid due attention.

The education system is FUBAR. An agent of destruction, not of liberation.

Two generations to fix, starting ... now?

Mr. Barnum, sorry for your troubles. All the teachers I know are ex-teachers.

The Dyer's Garden said...

Yet the error I referred to is not of grammar but of sense. So the loss is of the concept for which the phrase stands, not of some arbitrary grammatical rule. For when there are very few ways of saying something, their loss is inevitably followed by loss of the concept itself. And this is what I was lamenting, not the failure to take the nits out of one's own prose, or the absence of other people, like Dennis, to do it for you, unsolicited. But you knew that already, it just did not suit your argument. That's rhetoric for you, I suppose.

That all the preceding sentences begin with a conjunction might be an insult to Miss Boulter, whoever she is, but not to the English language, as far as I can see. If it is good enough for Shakespeare I think it is good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

where is the likes of Hunter S. Thompson when we need him? here! caractacus is right. you deserve a wider audience, but it's a pity that the skills of critical thinking and an interest in reading are being deliberately eradicated. a stupid slave population is easier to manage. we are in a race for survival.

call me ishmael said...

Doctor Thompson would, I fear, excite the apostrophe jihadists to book-burning frenzy but it is a kind compliment, mr anonymous.

I won't have you dissing Miss Boulter, Mr TDG, a chain-smoking -Players Navy Cut - war-spinster, primary school teacher, largely responsible, during my first decade, for instilling whatever it is which brings you and I to-gether, here, however much you misuse parts of speech.

There, how's that for elegance?

With God on our side said...

Like a true bluesman, the despair gives so much to the prose.
Are you sure you're not from Mississippi?

PT Barnum said...

The Dyer's Garden wrote:

"Even our retired academic fails to appreciate the distinction between begging the question and asking it."

I fear I must be stupider than I fancy myself to be, but your point is too subtle for me to grasp. If I have a question to ask, then let it be in two parts.

In whose interests is it that the population is held in mental serfdom, paying homage to tawdry icons, gangstaspeak and slovenly thinking? A rhetorical question, of course.

The second part I have no answer to. Who or what can create in this country, in a manner seen only during the English Civil Wars and Commonwealth, and during the Industrial Revolution, an honouring of learnedness, mental discipline and pleasure in questioning all and any sacred cows?

In an era where the superstitious archaism and toxic fairy tales of the Peoples of the Book threatens to put even NewLabour's ravaging of honour, truth and hope in the shade, we need all the reason and knowledge we can lay hands and minds on.

And I thank you for your kind words, Elby.

mongoose said...

Mr Ishmael and Mr Barnum,

Mr I, I was that nephew in the seventies and it so happens that I was of the last few who benefitted from the golden age - free place at fantastic grammar school, free place at excellent university (and a keeping-together-of-body-and-soul grant to go with it). So, yes, I have collected more than a few bits of paper with grades on them. I would happily burn the lot tomorrow, of course, because their value lies in my head - and my behaviour. It's called education - the development of mind and spirit towards their limits, and the fostering of integrity and kindness. If these things are achieved, it doesn't matter what intellectual processing power one started out with. It should be enough of a "target" for anyone.

Let us make the best of our children - gold and base metal, eagle and sparrow. This is the work but the point, the horribly forgotten, neglected and despised truth is that it is a normal distribution. Kids will never be equal. Let us just give them their chance and let us give all of them a framework of honest humanity in which to live.

And now, of course, my poor wee urchins are exposed to the state education system. And do you know, out here in the Bandit Country of rural southern England, it is not all that bad. Small market towns, you see, often only have one secondary school and so even though it is called a Comprehensive, things still have to be arranged so that kids of all abilities get an education. And in this little town, kids of all types will pass me in the street and say "Hello, Mr mongoose", although I have no idea beyond the vaguest of whom they are.

Kindness, curiosity, politeness, honour, love, gentleness, integrity, the strength of truth - these are the things our schools- and our parents - should be teaching. Is that too difficult?

call me ishmael said...

Let's all look on the bright side. Ms JayKay Rowling has single-handedly, with the help of Warner Bros, or whoever it is, re-engaged boys with the world of literature; not, it is true, the boys of what Lord Prescott shamelessly calls the Underclass, who would more than likely rape Ms Rowling to death were she to venture fragrantly into their demonic and all too real worlds but the boys of the middle class which we all are now, post Blair.

Little Hamish, the pampered, snotty little bastard, queues past midnight with his adoring parents, outside Borders, thinking vaguely, not that Hamish does thinking, just wanting and resenting, that this nonsense is something to do with him, with cherishing, nurturing his inert little consumer consciousness, fucking little bastard, diamonds on the soles of his shoes. Really, though, it's all about his folks' fantasy addiction, Philip Pullman, JayArrArrTolkien and his damned Hobbitry, CS Lewis and now JayKay, Terry Pratchett with tits, and without that awful, noisy MS.

I am old now and of a race which could read before it went to school. I remember when it was cool for children, children like me, to enjoy books written for adults; now, behold, the negative image of that questioning urgency, that helter-skeltering into the scary vastness of ideas-via-words, of solitary communion with largely anonymous authors; consumerised, now, even reading; behold, adults, their crass infantilism legitimised by the presence of their spawn, queueing after midnight, to buy kids' books, as their tax-funded fragmentation bombs rain down on other kids, but wogs, in another place, far away, Voldemort's Death Eaters, made real, hot, sharp and eviscerating, courtesy of HM Govt.

See how people, old enough to vote, Hosannah Ms JayKay at her latest premiere or book-launch, all grateful for what she has done, for boys and their reading. Aye,as we say in Scotland, right.

The Dyer's Garden said...

To beg the question, Mr Barnum, is to make an inference where the conclusion forms part of the premise. This is how, over the past fifty years, the liberal establishment (for that is what it is) has justified fucking up schools & universities and everything else besides.

I suspect Miss Boulter did not know what the phrase meant, but instinctively knew the fallacy it denoted; her successors I am sure know neither, even those who teach at universities. There is the answer to your question, Mr Barnum: with the death of ideas goes the death of everything else.

Still, we have Mr Smith to entertain us with his wit, while we wait for the ship finally to sink - it could be worse, couldn't it?

call me ishmael said...

Thanks, mr mongoose, for your optimism.

Good to know that in small country towns, even a savage rodent, such as yourself, is accorded respec', from da yoof.

call me ishmael said...

Miss Boulter, Mr The Dyers Garden, knew motherfucking everything.

mongoose said...

Mr Ishmael,

My oldest friend is a Headteacher (which word we must now use in case one day we say "Mistress") and in the private sector - a prep school, pearls and blue crew-necks all over the place. Middle class and nice-to-be-nice. A "communicant". The poor wee bastard.

But (sorry) he is a nice man and civilised. I asked him once what was the best he could ever turn out and he said "Kind kids who can read, write, do a few numbers and want to know stuff". I think that in his honesty he has it right but I also think that it goes further.

The thing I find most horrible of all is the braying, shouting, spewing ghastliness of oneupmanship when the poor cretin thinking he is one-up is in truth a thousand down. It is the rise of the twat, of the fucking eegit, who thinks that because he has an insult in his head that he is somehow as good as the next horrible little bastard.

Listen to Mr Feynman - absolute gold BTW - there is learning and humility and honour and humour. "Probablility amplitude. We call it this because we don't know what it is. Nobody understands quantum mechanics." There is what we seek. The next year he won the Nobel prize for knowing more than anyone else but most for knowing what he didn't know. No false glory there.

Brahan Seer said...

It is worth noting that education need not finish when "consumerism’s empty-headed spawn" tumble out of their places of learning. The British Army appears to be capable still of transforming the nations monosyllabic morons into individuals of exceptional quality with a clear sense of purpose. Youngsters, many from massively disadvantaged backgrounds, who are capable of articulating their sense of usefulness and their commitment to delivering the objectives set them.

lilith said...

Powerful post, thank you.

When your teachers can't spell and their grasp of grammar/history/literature is worse than yours it must be hard to keep paying attention. It never happened to me but it seems the norm now.

I occasionally get letters from someone who claims to have a first class degree (in "Marketing", I ask you?) who cannot spell (ok, neither can I) but who also cannot construct sentences or paragraphs. Calfy suggested I imagine that English is not the writer's first language. That works surprisingly well.