Saturday, 25 February 2012

Fashionable idiocies for the vermin and others

I have been messing around with this blog for ever it seems, hardly starting before I stopped. I am not sure that fashionable idiocies is the right title. I suppose one thesis I tend to is that fashionable idiocies are all we have ever had and perhaps all we shall ever have. I didn't see it quite that way a few years ago.

Yet at the same time, I had thought of calling the blog vermin in that there is a class of human being, possibly in the majority, which uses the idiocy of others exploitatively: thus the vermin feed on other vermin as well as the non-vermin.

I can even see them grinning at us and saying “Well, that's nature”.

I don't accept that.

For some time I half-joked that we needed to extend the list of social classes in Brave New World and add omega; but now I rather think of omegas as being those who are actually quite bright in some ways but are generally quite thick. They're dangerous. They run things high up.

Which is not to say that we aren't all prats sometimes.

I blame, in part, the many with an MBA. Not all of them, but the great mess, those with the Rolex lookalike MBAs.

I know one person with an MBA who is intelligent, imaginative and open; and if I did not know her I would be inclined to dismiss the bulk, as I once did, as “master / mistress of bugger all”. Well, we are all prats sometimes as I said.

Those with these or other business degrees, and maybe I have met the dumb ones, tend to assure you that it is hard work getting one. OK. Getting my exams was hard. I don't think I know everything.

And shitting little round balls of faeces through one's nose is hard. So we need another criterion, in addition.

Politicians justify actions because they were authorised by hard decisions, which is usually synonomic for “I know it is immoral but I'm lying to myself.”

Whatever I write I shall not come near to the appropriateness of the section in HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the various rejects from the rest of the Universe have been exiled on Earth – long long ago – and sit round having meetings.

They do nothing practical and when challenged on that they retort “You know nothing of modern business methods”.

They're not worried. They're rich. They have based their currency on the leaf standard; and, as spring progresses, they become richer and richer. They listen to no warnings about the autumn.

They do not survive the winter

It is brilliant writing: simple and clear, direct, merciless... It expresses the smugness, arrogance and evasiveness of fools with power, the vermin, opportunist creatures who may never have had an original thought, who cannot make anything, love anything or achieve anything and yet want to be admired and obeyed.

So I should have called this blog vermin but fashionable idiocies are their daily bread; so it'll do.

My thanks to Steve Hanson who, without knowing it, has given me the energy to restart.

I hope this will be worth reading at least some of the time. Most of it risks being grumpy nonsense.

Friday 24th February 2012 pm

I heard a bit of Front Row talking about new games. It ought to be said that I am not a games enthusiast. When I was a child I played draughts until I learned chess; and I was quite good at that for quite a few years. I could beat a lot of people; but a lot more people could beat me. I stopped when I was 20 and wanted in my work staff chess team; but not keen to be with them. I wanted to be in the pub or gigging.

I didn't play much after I was 14, when I began to take up cards for the cash from gambling. And when I was 18 and at work I met a real poker player, the most real I had ever met, and stopped after two days before I was broke.

My main problem with chess and poker is that I don't really care if I win. It seems meaningless to me. |Similarly I am content at any level of a game, don't want personality points and do not want to perform Herculean tasks.

I like it if someone recognises quality in a poem that I write; but there are so many poets and so many kinds of poetry (or music or sound art etc etc) that the idea of “best” is problematic at best, and therefore I suspect all other comparatives. So one is among peers.

An aside which I want to get out of the way because it is generally applicable – a fashionable illiteracy. Someone in the programme used the new word “disconnect”.

When I queried this in conversation a while back, the people I was talking to said it is a gain for the language because there is no other one word way of saying that meaning. What meaning? I asked. They told me that I know, as in “You know” and that it is obvious as in “Lawrence, it's obvious”. Eventually they began to answer because I kept asking and denying that I knew. They clearly judged me a moron or an awkward type or both; but one common factor in their various stuttering answers was that none of the answers were to do with disconnection. They were all to do with being unconnected.

I put this to them and they said they are the same.

I'm not keen on being formal tutor to my friends anyway; and even when I tried to explain it, they seemed confused. So I offered immoral / amoral &, perhaps more frequently useful, disinterested / uninterested. It seemed likely from the way they reacted that they had known these distinctions once; but it took them a while to get back there. That's a large area of a programmed brain to lose.

When we came back to disconnected / unconnected, they were positively resistant and vocalising “It doesn't matter”. Presumably, losing the other two distinctions had softened their brains' potential. I suggested that to them and they laughed because they thought I was joking.

One who did seem to get it suggested we shouldn't worry because “unconnect” doesn't sound so nice as “disconnect”.

I let that go at the time, but I have been thinking about it.

I seem to have heard that argument before in the context of poetic diction. But that too may be a lost cause; there's a lot of decorative poetry about. Everyone's an expert on poetry, apparently in direct contact with their own muse. Not that long ago, a student poet (his term, not mine) told me he didn't need to talk with me about metre because he didn't use it. I said that the word, or the word rhythm at least, need not be limited to regular metres; and he said he knew that but he didn't use it at all. I pointed out that he was using it to speak and he said that I knew what he meant. (See above)

Friday Any questions. Sarah Tether had been speaking of the government's cheap labour work experience scheme; and someone remarked that it couldn't work... She said 50% of the participants got a job and, when challenged on the other 50%, said something like “well it's a glass half full situation”.

One can extract a sort of meaning from it; but that assumes there is much solid meaning in the cliché it refers to. It's a claim of success akin to that cartoon from my youth: one distressed survivor meets another in the nuked city and exclaims “We won”

And there was the usual crap about Labour having spent all the money in lieu of an account of government economic policy; and the predictable blame of Greece for UK's troubles.

I recall an article in The Guardian by Larry Elliott as the euro began to unravel, saying: Watch how the Government blames the E.U., but remember that their problems have already started.

Unfortunately, from the clapping, it appeared that the audience did not remember.

I know that audience. Members of it. The sort. They'd come out of their Greek hotels full of breakfast around 10 o'clock in the morning and mutter to each other that the Greeks just sat around. They never got up before dawn to go walking so they didn't see the Greeks at work before it got too hot – before it was light – to work. It's so easy to blame the Greeks. But theft is an international profession and many thieves are British.

Ms. Tether also dismissed an argument on the basis that it was snobbish – this is Cameron's latest wheeze – and dismissed a denial with “It is”

She knows how to frame an argument.

It seemed to convince the audience. I think they microwave their heads.

Going back to Front Row and games, if you remember that, I began to grasp a little of what is intended with all this stuff about teaching Computer Science in an entrepreneurial way.

It had caught my ear because I remembered the IT curricula coming in. I used to teach Computer Science BTEC at FE and attained my aim one year in getting the whole of the year into Higher Education – if you exclude one who just didn't want to go and had a family business job to go to.

I was proud of that; but the college management were not. We were teaching the students too much, I was told. No, I said, we teach them at their pace; but much of the second year work is individualised. We assess them at the standard; but having taught them at their capacity.

A couple of students came back to see us in the first year each year. I remember one saying she was bored. She knew it all. Teach yourself another programming language I said, after assuring her it wouldn't be the same in the second year, and gave an example from my own life – I won't say career. I have no idea if the advice was taken. But I do know that I have since met 5 of the maybe 80 students I saw off to university who went on to do doctorates; and they thanked us, the computing team, for teaching them so much more than their fellows at university.

My aim had been to get them into a degree before fees started, as one could see they would; and to make the most of their brains.

The college management thought this was wrong. There would always be schemes and their finances were not our worry. We shouldn't teach them too much because we might be destroying the market for profitable short courses later. (They'd been reading business gurus books bought at the airport, you see)

When we saw the GCSE courses coming in, we were appalled but were told off for resisting development of education. We were behind the times. We were old fashioned. We were elitist. (The liars are not very imaginative in their slanders; but then they only have to be unbelievable to work, not original.)

And so all the science dropped out and the young people began learning spreadsheets and word processors.

We had no problem with that bit. We used to tell our lot that they needed those skills and would be expected to acquire them within... whatever date we could get away with. We kept the door open for those who struggled. No, no, no, that was undemocratic. There must be a date and measurement and records. (In our scheme, the records were there but not used as bludgeons.)

The important point was that we ensured they could cope with the logic involved, the abstract thinking; so even if they took their time acquiring keyboard skills we knew they'd get there over all. That too was elitist.

Logic!? No. No, this person has a BTEC in Business; therefore they can do the next level up in Computing. They didn't need to be able to reason.

Only someone who has never learned anything much would believe that knowing one subject prepares you to learn a different subject at a higher level; so our ignorant management were up to their necks in egalitarianism. You couldn't argue it on educational grounds because it was an article of faith.

I was put on a disciplinary for allowing one of my team to use a database assignment deemed too difficult. Actually I had used my skills and judgment to let him set the question without my oversight; though I didn't admit that; but when I saw the task it was fine, demanding but fine and at the right level. He had been a special needs teacher for Vacuum's sake.

The new external moderator had seen the assignment but, being an I T man, which meant he could use a few software packages, didn't understand it; so he said it was too advanced. That was a big ruckus.

At the time those of us who didn't see the changes as an opportunity for preferment by arse-licking were busy saying doom doom. 15 plus years later we hear people saying how disgraceful it is that children are not learning computer science.

Though there are some demanding they learn FaceBook.

Last night (Friday 24th) it was quite clear that the only thing wrong with the government's Workfare is SWP propaganda (just as a health minister dismissed 38 degrees as robots).

Clearly that is right. According to the news, doctors are causing trouble. Must be the SWP.

It was, said Ms Tether, I think, they're all alike, only a small minority.

How many MPs are there?

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