Sunday, 28 November 2010

Recent Tory comments re the fiscal disincentives for the middle classes to breed and the incentives to breed for the working classes says it all regarding the contempt for us held by some of the current ruling political class. They should not be playing any significant part in the decision making that will soon affect us all. Regarding the recent comment that some people have never had it so good? Yes and they are still expecting a fat bonus for Christmas. None of them are facing redundancy and none of them face losing as much as twenty percent of their income as is potentially the case for many people legitimately receiving some form of disability benefit.
As the farce continues perhaps we can at least take some comfort from the likelihood there is no great conspiratorial, Illuminati styled group whose hand is on the tiller, steering this government to some Orwellian future. This lot are so clueless they are fortunately, more of a danger to themselves than they are to us and most of them will not be in post after the next election. We should let them know this at the earliest opportunity. Give them time to adjust to the new reality that they will have brought on themselves. As for the center ground we see it collapse a little more every day as the Lib Dems begin to reap the harvest of blatant betrayal. I for one will be interested to see how the Milliband brotherhood fares in view of new revelations pertaining to New Labour’s undoubted collusion with the rendering and torture of Coalition detainees. It was brother David who forcefully denied any involvement when questioned by journalists after the first signs of something rotten at the highest level.
The new Police policy to provide water and toilets for KETTLED demonstrators as was the case in Whitehall, London last week is very interesting. It is quite a good move to offer sustenance and comfort to those you have jailed, albeit temporarily. Is it a variation on the good cop bad cop theme? The message is – if you demonstrate in a way that causes little or no inconvenience and can be ignored by government we’ll look after you. If you don’t abide by this we will contain you and show you who is boss. Over time we will condition you into acceptance that our way is best.
I say take the street. Take water and high protein food, cereal bars etc. Take a sleeping bag in a small bag, a torch and something to read and make sure your mobile phone is charged so you can call people to let them know what is happening. Make it clear to the police that you don’t care for their idea that you are contained when in fact you are now occupying this section of the street and will stay there until you want to leave. Be polite but firm. The problem for KETTLED demonstrators is that they don’t expect to be detained. Go prepared and take up their time not the other way around. Take the streets. Turn the tables. A few pop up Gelert tents hidden inside placards would add to the fun as the KETTLED mass settled in for a twenty four hour sit in. I expect I might see you at one or two demos in the future so you bring the soup and I’ll bring the sandwiches. Cut back – fight back – cut back - fight back – cut back – cut back – fight back – fight back.

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

militants at millbank

Earlier today students marched against the new proposed student fees and a relatively small group hi-jacked the march at Millbank, not far from where I live, in London.  Surely the police could have forseen the possibility but they appeared to be completely taken by surprise for some time. Many of the police offers on duty today were not up to the new improved standard we have been promised and could be seen beating and kicking protesters who were not attacking the police.
I am sure we will see more protest as time goes by though many people I speak with have the expectation that “the community” will not respond no matter what happens and that people will accept THE NEW REALITY with out a whimper. It is still early days and I hope they are wrong.
I wonder if you will march against the cuts or the other excesses of this CONDEM alliance yet to come. Has the current economic crisis already affected your life detrimentally? Do you believe in direct action?  Some years ago Lambeth residents had been complaining about rats on their estate for months. With the support of community workers they  filled sacks of dead rats and mice from their homes and marched into a council meeting at the Town hall. They threw the contents of the sacks on the tables and on the floor saying to the assembled meeting - "You live with it". Next day a team of exterminators showed up on the estate and within days the problem was solved.
Taking to the streets today is a risky business. Successive governments have dismantled many civil liberties. Blair’s lot were among the worst vandals. They did nothing to overturn Thatcher’s anti union law though they promised they would. I feel sure the u turns of the Lib Dems will prove costly to them in the long run.  If they continue to renege on their election promises it could rule them out of the political equation for years to come . Clegg and other Lib Dem MP s were allowed to abstain from the student fees vote at Westminster as part of the coalition agreement.
It is clear that the most vulnerable and those at the bottom of the economic pile will suffer most if planned cuts go ahead. As well as raising student fees this government plans a 40% reduction in funding for higher education across the board.
A recent report that described standards of care at a UK hospital as appalling, has cited the obsession with meeting unrealistic government targets as a major contributor to the problems. The resulting target driven paper work from the demo today will keep police officers busy for days and will take them away from real and meaningful policing.
If I met you and we began to chat I suppose what I want to know most about you is - What do you believe in? Today I would also want to ask – What are you willing to do about it?
Three options come to mind.




Have some of you gone a bit quiet or … have I forgotten to take my headphones off again?


PS Hi folks. I have been getting reports that some of you have had problems leaving comments on THE FIRST SUPPER, my weblog. BLOGGER have changed the way their pages operate inside another web site so it is no longer possible to post comments from inside The Edgar Broughton Band site or from within any other site. I just tried it and nothing is moved from the comments writing window to the blog. So, if you experience this problem try leaving comments by going to BLOGGER via or paste the URL of THE FIRST SUPPER into the address window of your browser and go into my blog directly. Please email me if you continue to have problems with this.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Leamington College for Boys

This post came about after I was looking on the net to see what had happened to my old school. It’s been re-developed into private retirement apartments. Can’t see me ever wanting to go back to Royal Leamington Spa to spend my last days in a part of my old school. Now that is a very scary idea.

“No one is more truly helpless, more completely a victim, than he who can neither choose nor change nor escape his protectors.”
"Since we cannot know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned."  - John Caldwell Holt

The first quote above, more or less, sums up how I felt about my secondary education. The second seems completely reasonable to me. How ever, what ever my criticisms of life at Leamington College For Boys back in the 60’s they taught me how to learn.   
At school and at home language was important and powerful. Speaking "properly" was  mandatory. At home I was encouraged to communicate even when people very definitely didn’t want to hear what I had to say. At school I just carried on as usual which didn’t always win me friends but did gain some respect. In spite of my typically working class background some people think I am posh and when I ask why they say it is because of the way I speak and the words I use. I enjoy language and it all started long ago when I was very young.

"The destruction of words is a beautiful thing"
"It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought ... should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words." - George Orwell, 1984.

During my time as a youth and community worker I often wondered why so many young people I knew had such poor spoken and written English. This was often and unsurprisingly accompanied by a lack of comprehension regarding some of the most basic areas of general knowledge. I remember a conversation where several young men, aged between 11 – 16, were discussing the causes of war. They confused the Japanese and the Pearl harbour episode with The Vietnam war. They didn’t seem to know anything at all about the Falklands War.
One evening a quiz game developed but no one could answer any of the questions. They insisted I be the question master and after some time elapsed, during which no one answered any thing correctly, I quickly lowered the stakes asking questions I felt sure some one would answer correctly. I rather foolishly offered a pound coin for the first correct answer not realising how long it would take. They all wanted to win and I feel sure no one needed the pound. The youth club should have closed for the evening an hour earlier.
After another half hour, which they seemed to thoroughly enjoy, I asked what was the flag of St. George? Immediately a lad answered – the football flag. He described the red cross on the white background. I gladly gave him his pound and we all went home. The thing that concerned me most was that these young people had such a weak grasp of verbal and written communication in their own language. Although it took time it was quite easy to engage with them in ways which added to their vocabulary and general knowledge. I wondered why was this not done in schools to a level that would sufficiently equip them with the basic equipment for self learning that would be neccessary post school. After all they all have to attend school by law.
Recently the head of an online graduate recruitment agency wrote that they reject one third of all job applications from graduates with good degrees from good universities, because errors in English in their CVs and covering letters show ignorance, carelessness and a bad attitude. This being the case what obstacles lie in the path of the young who are basically illiterate in the formal language necessary to progress through life? They communicate with each other but struggle to do so outside of their grouping.
Can it be that texting is adding to the problem? While it's clear that economics plays a part in the form of texting it is usually inappropriate to transpose the technique to a letter ,c.v. , 
exam paper or job application etc.
Exam markers have increasingly expressed concerns over the use of text messaging language in exam answers. The proof of its increased usage came when a 13-year-old Scottish schoolgirl handed in an essay written completely in text message shorthand, much to the bemusement of her teacher.

One extract said: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."
Can you translate the above passage? R U a txt addict? Do you think txting is killing off the English language? R is it jst gr8 4 tkn 2 m8s?

I am well aware that language is a living thing, that it is constantly changing and that the English language is probably more alive than most but I fear this is not the experience of many of our young people, where basic formal language skills are not learned in the first place. I cannot imagine conducting my own life with out these skills but is that just because I am of my time or are there real grounds for concern?
I text, I use a computer, I use a spell checker and a calculator. I don’t want to do irritating (to me) arithmetic in my head when a machine can take the strain. I am not a follower of Ned Ludd but I don’t want to see the English language reduced to a point where we are significantly poorer for it.
Am I becoming a language conservative? Is this another step towards getting old and grumpy? Am I being snobbish about the whole thing?

I end this post with a poem written by a 15 year old schoolboy in 1962.
A fellow old boy scanned it from my old school magazine. I found it on his flickr page.
By the way I didn’t get expelled from school and never hit a teacher as mentioned on the flickr web page.
It seems the legends, both true and false, began before I left school.

Poem by R.E. Broughton IIIN The Leamingtonian Vol.26, no.2 1962