A powerful idea with a simple execution


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Words are no longer enough

How can three presidents say the same thing, spanning well over a decade and yet not have the balls do do anything about it?  How much leverage must one lobby group have for this to happen?

My sister lives in the US, in Connecticut no less and she is having to have conversations with her school about how they can prevent a massacre from happening.

I look across the pond and I think “What fu*king kind of world even contemplates such conversations with primary schools?”.   How is that a school’s responsibility?

They are fighting the wrong problem and promoting the wrong kind of solution.  Teachers carrying guns, bulletproof glass etc won’t stop this from happening again.  The problem isn’t that schools are ill equipped, it’s that there are crazy fu*kers out there who have been allowed to amass an arsenal of weapons for little money and with little fuss.

Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.  And if you allow every bozo to carry a gun, sooner or later one of them is going to kill someone.  The only solution is to stop them having such easy access – be that through making weapons or bullets more expensive to doing some basic background checks (i.e. has this person been in prison before / do they have a history of mental illness or short temper?).

The right to bear arms is supposed to be about self defence but the types of weapons that are available to purchase are beyond the means of reasonable self defence – they are military weapons that have no place in a modern, civilised society.

The time for talking is over.  The world is watching America.

Hate the game not the player

David Simonds Starbucks 21.10.12Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll no doubt have heard the furore around certain companies not paying what is perceived to be the right amount of tax in the UK.

You can read some of the articles on this from marketing publications here and here.

The crux of the argument seems to central around the morality of making such obscene amounts of money from the tax paying public and then not paying tax themselves.  Whilst I understand that view, the reality is that what they are doing is legal and if we could all afford it, we would do it ourselves.

My view is don’t get pissed at those who abide by the rules, get pissed AT the rules.  If the government really wants these companies to pay tax, it would close these loopholes but it won’t because it gives people jobs and the alternative has such deeper and costlier effects.

So don’t hate blame the companies, blame the politicians.

PS: there is a HUGE amount of irony hearing politicians decry the ‘spirit’ of the law when a few years ago they were affirming their innocence in the expenses scandals where their actions were largely deemed to have been legal.
How much tax is paid by major US companies in the UK?


A truth that’s difficult to dispute

Tolerance-Bumper-Sticker-(7103)I’m not religious in any sense, yet somehow I found myself recently spending about 3 hours on YouTube watching both Richard Hawkins and Christopher Hitchens take on many religious people with their views.  It made for some very interesting and at times amusing debate,  but the most poignant point was this

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
― Steven Weinberg

A new world view

On Saturday I bought the Guardian, but sure enough I was only able to look at it last night and this morning, so I’m a little behind.

Nevertheless, something jumped out at me from the Guardian Magazine.  It was a set of maps by Yanko Tsvetkov.

They were designed as a satirical take on stereotypes, and I thought they were hilarious, so thought I would share them.  There are many more here.

[NOTE: Apologies for the poor quality photos – camera phone and also some of the language used in the images is NSFW]

When PR wins over policies

So the government has once again backed down on one of its proposed policies as a result of public outcry and a perception of being soft on crime.

This must be the 3rd or 4th back reversal the government has performed in the little time it has been around all of which have been off the back of getting a bit of flack from voters about them.

I have a couple of issues with this:

  1. They were chosen to make decisions so make them, don’t dither.
  2. They need to man up. Criticism of any and everything is part and parcel of the job.  Give in too many times and people stop believing that (a) you know what you are doing and (b) you will actually follow through with any proposals
  3. They need to be honest about why they made the decisions they did – don’t hide behind spin.  Stop treating us like kids and give us the truth and the objective reasons why you believe this is right.  Your ideas are much more likely to be accepted if there is a perceived genuine will to improve things.  And even if they are not, at least they will be more respected.

In today’s world of increased transparency, we need our politicians to catch up and open up.  You want a Big Society, then include it don’t alienate or antagonise it.

Despite not leaning right or left when it comes to politics, there are some politicians who seem quite genuine and Ken Clarke is one of them.  Despite not always agreeing with him, you can see what his thinking was and he is fairly open and honest about it.  But if the price you get for it is to get chastised from left, right and centre then no wonder people respond by spinning things into incomprehensible psycho-babble.

I remember someone (Charlie Brooker I think) saying that because there is now such outcry at any opportunity, politicians are becoming vapid, with nothing to say on politics and policies and the lines between parties is fading away.  Is that really the political system we want?

At the end of the day you get what you deserve, and at the moment we are getting the crap governing we are creating with constant PR battles.

(Note: I don’t buy this ‘we didn’t vote for this coalition’ argument.  You know the system, how it works.  Sometimes this happens.  Now let them do their job.  If they f**k up, kick them out at the next election)

Education and discipline – who’s responsible?

If you read my post yesterday then you will know Jamie Oliver is now trying to tackle education as a whole, after having tried to tackle school meals.

The 2nd programme of the series aired on Wed night and it got me thinking about something else in the lives of our younger generation.  Discipline.

As I see it, in the UK, there has been a gradual decline in discipline in school (and outside it) for young kids.  I believe the reason this is so is that Government policies have created a divide between academic education and social education.

The distinction being that academic education is all about subjects and social education is about how people interact with others.

This division has meant that teachers are only expected to do the academic side, whilst the social side is left to the parents.

The issue this creates is that kids spend more time at school than they do at home , so they get little social education.  And, because the teachers have lost a lot of the power they used to have in enforcing the social education, they cannot play that role and be the role models they were.

Like it or not, one of the best ways of ensuring people understood and learnt how to behave socially was through discipline, but now you can’t do that.  And kids know it too, so they keep playing up disrupting the class and generally not learning and not allowing others to learn.

When I watch the below, I’m astounded by three things:

  • they way they behave – or the fact that they don’t know how to behave in social situation
  • they way they talk – again they don’t seem to understand when the appropriate times to use certain language is
  • their sense of entitlement – to ‘respect’; to being treated ‘as equals’.  Sorry but you’re a kid and a student.  Never, in any school, should you be a teacher’s equal

When I was a kid if you misbehaved, you would be screamed at or something would be thrown at you.  It hurt like buggery but it was never done out of malice, it was done with a purpose of teaching right and wrong and that is how it should be.

Like my view with other public roles (police etc), in order to do their job properly they need to be given the rights to do it.  No point in bitching about ineffective teaching and policing if they’re not empowered to be so.

Anyway, rant over.  Watch the series!

Is a Dream School the solution?

A new series has recently started here in the UK – Jamie’s Dream School. It documents a project by Jamie Oliver.  His project is about trying to ‘save’ some disaffected youths by getting them interested in their education once again. His plan is to do this by using some ‘stellar’ names such as David Starkey, Alistair Campbell and Ellen McArthur.

The first episode aired a few days ago and the full episode is posted below.

I think this is an extremely noble undertaking by Jamie.  Regular readers of the blog will know that I have a ‘thing’ for education – I fell it is one of the pillars of our upbringing and therefore wider society.  And the current system isn’t working.

And whilst the programme makes for good TV and I will no doubt be watching the rest of the series I am left wondering – what exactly will this prove?

Will it show that schools should look to hire professionals rather than teachers? That schools should provide an endless array of disciplines for students to pick and choose from?

There are many challenges for the current system to overcome – lack of quality/passionate teachers; lack of discipline and power given to teachers; too much focus on targets; not enough support for individual needs.  Some of these could be answered by legislation, stronger headteachers and partnerships with private sector (where part time apprenticeships could replace lessons on particular subjects).

Will Jamie’s series go on to answer these?  I don’t know, but in the meantime it is well worth a watch and I will keep posting the episodes (assuming they are good and have a subject matter worth discussing!).

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