Archive for February 12th, 2009

Fanning The Feet Of Flames Of Fascism

In Muslim-obsessed surveillance state Britain, Dutch MP Geert Wilders has been banned from entering the country because he has a video that says nasty things about Muslims. No doubt he is a loathsome individual: his hair has a touch of the Michael Flatleys about it.

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Some Anti-Metaller Bigotry

Animal husbandry
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See this matter of naming Landsdowne Road the ‘Aviva Stadium’? I couldn’t give a rat’s ass, as far as I’m concerned it’s Landsdowne Road, though I don’t really care if it exists. What bothers me is how easily people will get used to referring to it as the Aviva Stadium. The other day a friend of mine said he was going to see Megadeth at the O2. You’d think metallers would be a bit resistant to change of that sort, that they could continue to call it the Point, which is what it is. You’d be wrong: they’re impressionable sheep, like most of the population of this island.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Estate Agent

A statue of Rupert Brooke in Rugby
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As the relatively golden age fades further into the distance, the thought of all those conversations about rising house prices feels like the moment in one of those dreams when you are seized by clarity and you say to yourself, wait a minute, there is no way I am getting married to an elephant… this opulent hotel lobby isn’t my school classroom…there’s no way I’d have left for work buck naked…- it’s all a dream!

I mean. You look back and you hear people talking about rising house prices a) as if it would go on forever; b) as if this were a good thing and the only difficulty was getting on to the property ladder; c) that there would be no negative consequences of this for anybody ever.

There were dissenting voices, I know, but what I am talking about here is the impression, looking back, of so many millions of conversations held where people talked about this guff as though all was well with the world. Of course, they were egged on by media outlets for which property-related advertising was an important source of revenue,  and politicians whose parties depended on property developers (a more appropriate term is needed for these people)  for contributions. I recall one ad in a newspaper which, serving up a clipping of a house selling for some IR£40,000 in the 1970s and now selling for £1m, strongly invited the reader to consider the possibility that a house worth €250,000 could, some years hence, be worth €28m (the figures are my rough recollection). Such a possibility still cannot be dismissed, but only in the context of Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation. Which is something we all hope for, if the IMF supplies us with a loan we can’t repay.

Anyway, it looks like things are looking up, up North:

Estate agent attacks house price fall forecasts – Belfast Today

Financial experts have predicted further turmoil in the housing market as job losses and repossessions mount during the recession.

But Mr Mitchell, attacking those predictions, said that the situation in England, Scotland and Wales – where values rose over a longer period of time and would therefore take longer to readjust – had been very different to that in the Province.

“In Northern Ireland our prices exploded over a short period of time and have reduced just as quickly,” he said.

“In our view there is therefore no basis to suggest our values will become further depressed.”

In Northern Ireland, the fact that the economy is going down the shitter is no basis for predicting a falling demand for houses. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that reading this is like when Rupert Brooke wondered if there was honey still for tea at the Old Vicarage at Grantchester. OK, I use ‘like’ loosely here, but there is still a sense of this old world, untouched by the ravages of the present, in the sight of estate agents talking up prices, and articles getting written about house values, as if all of that continued to matter. Me likey.

Postrectalism

‘Truth’ falls by wayside in this post-rationalist world – The Irish Times – Thu, Feb 12, 2009

Our new religion has no official title; you can call it whatever you like or nothing at all, just so long as you learn to abide by its rules. I tend to think of it as post-rationalism.

The countercurrent to what is described here as ‘post-rationalism’ is what I tend to think of as post-rectalism. That is, the act of pulling something out of your ass and using it to perform social criticism.

Thus:

There is no such a thing as personal failure either, just a failure by society to ensure that every individual reaches his or her full potential and achieves happiness. Hence, in Northern Ireland, we are told by opponents of academic selection that children do not fail exams, but, rather, that exams fail children.

There seems to be two underlying ideas at play here.

First, there is a belief that with proper scholastic nurturing there is no limit to any child’s academic potential. Examination results tend to buck this theory so, for that reason alone, exams have to be dumped.

Second is the belief that a child will be psychologically damaged by the experience of having failed at something (or, if you prefer, damaged by the experience of something having failed him or her).

This latter conviction has led inexorably to the point where in many schools it is now virtually impossible for children to fail at anything, even sports. On school sports-days, there are only first winners, second winners, third winners and so on. How all of this is supposed to prepare young people for adulthood, of which failure and disappointment are an intrinsic part, has not yet been fully explained, but doubtless it will be.

So opponents of academic selection are a) in thrall to ‘post-rationalism’; b) think there is no limit to a child’s academic potential; c) motivated by the same concerns as people who promote first winners, second winners and so on at sports days. The problem with this is that a), b) and c) are demonstrably false.

First of all, it is on the basis of reason, not its rejection, that academic selection is opposed. Leaving aside the question of whether or not it is appropriate to determine a child’s future aged 11 on the basis of a school test, the system of academic selection militates against children from poorer backgrounds. So in the parliamentary constituency of Lagan Valley, where David Adams stood for council election, 2% of children in grammar schools receive free school meals, but for secondary schools it’s 19%. It may be perfectly rational, narrowly speaking, to support academic selection on the grounds that you do not want poor people to go to the same school as your child, but it is also perfectly rational to oppose academic selection because you think equality of opportunity is a good thing.

Second, the word ‘comprehensive’ means encompassing the whole ability range. This is what Circular 10/65 noted:

A comprehensive school aims to establish a school
community in which pupils over the whole ability range and with
differing interests and backgrounds can be encouraged to mix with each
other, gaining stimulus from the contacts and learning tolerance and
understanding in the process.

You can’t recognise variations in children’s academic ability and at the same time believe in the unlimited academic potential of every child.

Third, opposition to academic selection is not opposition to the experience of failure as such (almost no-one opposes exams), but is in part opposition the fact that, because of the system in place, children are labelled as de facto failures at age 11, which is inhuman. It is equally inhuman, by the way, to label children as de facto successes at age 11, but the effects are not as punishing.

The rest of the article is post-rectalism of a stripe that does not merit much attention. Bar this:

Other words have been stretched almost to breaking point in their
everyday application; one such is “truth”, which is essentially
meaningless now.

As if he’d know.


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