33 comments on “Timmy elsewhere

  1. The State School system in Britain is run by Unionised, hard core Leftist women. By and large.

    It utterly fails to teach anyone very much.

    The British Army, on the other hand, is the largest adult education body in Europe. It has a roughly 100% success rate with those young men the State School system has failed. Their education service is, I believe, Unionised, but the Unions do not run the system, it is moderately leftist and it is not run by women.

    I do not know which of those factors is important but the likelihood that any part of the British education system works is, in my experience, highly predictable based on 1. the degree of Union power, 2. the strength of Leftist politics among the teachers and 3. the number of them that are female.

  2. SMFS.. I’m not so sure that the gender of the teachers should be of any great import, it’s more likely that the “system” imposed upon their teaching methods is the culprit.

    In defence of female teachers I submit my own schooling 60 years ago.. Infant school had 100% female teachers and junior school around 80%. This was coupled with antiquated buildings, limited resources, a “deprived” catchment area and class sizes of 40+. Yet I don’t remember many who moved from infant to junior at the age of 6 or 7 being unable to read, write and “rith”, and the literacy and numeracy rate at 11 was damned-near 100%. The fact that the junior school had a raving psychopath as a headmaster might have had something to do with it though!

  3. I put a similar question to The Great Wise One last night as she’s an erstwhile peripatetic reading specialist who had no adherence to any politically correct system, if it worked she used it. Here view was:

    1. Reading isn’t and innate skill and some children will just never learn to read (to the level being discussed).

    2. We (try) to teach children to read far too early. She reckons that we should follow the Germans and other Europeans and not worry until they are 7 and then blitz it in a year. The problem is that “my child can read at the age of 3” is a middle class boast that at best meaningless and at worst very destructive. It puts pressure on other parents and teachers when their children aren’t ready and on politicians to “do something” to get children reading at an age when they aren’t ready.

    3. They have to keep disruptive children, and there’s more of them, in classes. When you’ve 30 odd 5-7 year olds in a classroom a couple of disruptive children is really disruptive. Teachers don’t get chance to listen to children read, which is really important she tells me, as they’re doing crowd control. This is why she left.

    4. The parents who have children most likely to need extra help aren’t the sort of parents who will read to their children and listen to them read back, which is just as important.

  4. The transfer of information from the teacher to the pupil requires that both be willing participants. If education isn’t happening, it’s about 99.99% certain that the child is at fault, which is why in the bad old days, if a boy wouldn’t learn his letters you simply hit him with a stick until he did. Threatening to sack the teacher achieves nothing, if he in turn is not allowed to hit the child with a stick.

    BwaB, my mother taught me to read before I started school because she was too lazy to read to me. The idea that I should have been made to wait until I was seven to read horrifies me.

  5. Just shows we should be spending more on it, doesn’t it?

    How many of the 1.5 million non-readers will nevertheless be able to recite large sections of a certain holy book?

  6. RlJ,

    Not saying that you shouldn’t learn to read below that age, just that that’s when the schools should start to concentrate on it.

  7. I could read long before starting primary school. There was another girl in my class who could read as well.

    Apparently when our parents told the teachers this on our first day the reaction was “don’t be ridiculous”. Within a day or two they changed their minds and we both got to read what we wanted, as it made their lives much easier.

    Also, I don’t recall anyone in my primary school being unable to read by the time they left at age 11. It just staggers me that this can happen to such a large degree now.

  8. I wonder if part of the reason that commenters on here don’t remember non-readers is that they were likely to be in the highest set in a streamed system?

  9. Given that we spend 5% of GDP on the state education system why can’t it teach kids to read?

    Because the three delightful moppets at the head of Tim’s article not withstanding, the problem is teaching children to read English when they are not actually English speakers.

  10. Bloke with A Boat:

    No, Scottish primary schools weren’t streamed in my day, and there was no streaming in the first two year of secondary.

    Things may have changed now though.

  11. “No, Scottish primary schools weren’t streamed in my day”: mine was in my day. Why wouldn’t you, for heaven’s sake? What possible advantage could there be in teaching an IQ 140 child with an IQ 80 child? They might as well be from different planets.
    (The poor wee “mental defectives” had a separate class.)

    “and there was no streaming in the first two year of secondary”: again, there was in my day. The penalty for being clever was that you had to do Latin.

  12. Whilst I agree that your average NUT member couldn’t teach a bull to piss, there is one other factor at play – the apathy of your average benefit claimant underclass parent.

    That’s the elephant in the room.

    Remember the study that showed that people’s IQ was largely set by the age of three, and that parental story book reading etc and engagement was the major contributing factor…?

  13. I spent a gap year working with what were termed then “mentally handicapped” children who had to have an IQ below 75 to leave the state system. Pretty much all of them, except for the aphasic children who had no language skills, mastered simple reading such as following written instructions and could write phonetically. A childhood friend and his wife, both modern educators, believed the state provided too little help, when their daughter of average intelligence failed to learn to read on the whole word guessing system and sneered at the rightwing oldfashioned methods my children used to achieve literacy. The thought of their years of salaries and pensions riles me.

  14. I don’t buy the theory that it’s all the fault of the parents. Any bright kid in a dysfunctional home might be expected to jump at the chance to get out and learn some skills.

    Children can tell the difference between a good teacher and one who’s just killing time until the pay cheque, from roughly second year of primary school. Chatter at the school gates shows the concerned parents know too.

    In any large organisation you’ll get some incompetents who need to be invalidated out. What that % is is a matter of debate. 10%? 20% more? The notion that the rate of incompetence among teachers is a smidgin over 0% is risible.

    We need to find ways to incentivise teachers and weed out the incompetents. We know what these ways are.

  15. My twin daughters were off the reading scheme (at primary school) almost before they joined.

    One middle class competitive mum collared my wife one day.

    ‘Your girls are quite good readers, aren’t they? James is a good reader. He’s on level 2. What level are your girls on?’

    Expecting the answer to be 1.

    My very non braggadocious missus – who’d had a bellyful of this doris – replied: ‘Level 16.’

    Cue mental collapse of competitive mum. Very amusing (to me), and I’m only telling the tale anonymously…

    But it’s not for all kids. Some were excellent on the climbing frame.

  16. bif, there you go, proving my point.

    1. There are no more poor teachers than there ever were, the difference now is the little darlings don’t have to listen to them, so they don’t.

    2. Many ‘poor’ teachers waiting for the next paycheck were once idealistic young teachers who have been overwhelmed by the system.

    3. Even if you think your teacher is boring, he still knows how to do algebra and you don’t. If you were to shut up and listen to him for five minutes you might learn something.

  17. @ GlenDorran
    When I started school my mother allegedly warned the teacher that I knew the reading primer off by heart. She was too sensible to scoff*. Lanarkshire coal-mining village, so not a centre of literary intellectuals (but more sensible than Hampstead). I don’t remember any of the kids being unable to read by the time we moved into Form 2
    *whether or not she believed her, the possibility was worth watching out for.

  18. Why? Because the task assigned to any gov agency, dept, whatever, is never the 1st priority of said agency. . .nor even the 2nd or 3rd.

  19. Roué
    I don’t think we agree as much as you think.

    A friend in Haringey took his children out of the state system. He said two thirds of the teachers were useless.

    After eye watering costs in the private system he reckons that one third of the teachers are useless.

    Teachers come in several guises:
    Useless and demotivating
    Useless
    Bored but follow the curriculum, devil take the hindmost.
    Enthusiastic but useless
    Knowledgeable but fed up (your category for most of them)
    Good but weird
    Brilliant but not very good at understanding difficulties
    Brilliant.

    A cull is in order. If that means classes of 40+ I (speaking as a parent) am in favour.

  20. “If that means classes of 40+”: my primary school did a good job with classes of 40+; I know because my mother kept my report cards.

  21. When I were a lad we were taught to read from encyclopaedias, down t’pit, in the dark, with our eyes shut. Class were 200 strong. Get a word wrong and teacher would give us a week’s detention tied up hanging by our ankles… etc, etc.

  22. @Rub-a-dub

    It’s not a laughing matter that poor kids can’t read, thanks to your fellow travellers, but let’s take you seriously for a moment.

    At least you could read!

    The comments section hearabouts and elsewhere is going to be mighty thin in years to come.

    Maybe that’s what ‘they’ want!

  23. Martin Davies (Commenting at the ASI) is right in suggesting that *what” we teach them matters.

    One of the saddest passages in Frank Chank’s book concerns his attempts to teach a 15-year-old with a reading age (in English) of 9. Mr Chalk has to teach him to read French, because it’s on the national curriculum.

    If that boy could have transferred, without stigma,to do woodwork, or plumbing, or extra English, who would have lost out?

  24. I was being sarcastic, bif. Sorry.

    My point is this: education is a cooperative exercise between teacher and pupil, and it makes no sense to coerce one and not other. We used to coerce pupils, and now we are talking coercing teachers. If you want to sack me because Johnny isn’t learning his letters, then I have to have the right to refuse the attempt if he’s just mucking about. Either that or pass the stick.

    C J, you are quite right. The problem is forcing the ineducable to stay in school. And the reason why we do that is because the true purpose of compulsory secondary education is to keep troublesome teenagers off the streets.

  25. Johnnydub – “Remember the study that showed that people’s IQ was largely set by the age of three, and that parental story book reading etc and engagement was the major contributing factor…?”

    So the children of bright people tend to be bright? It looks to me like the elephant in the room is another elephant altogether.

    You know, the genetic related one.

  26. Pogo – “I’m not so sure that the gender of the teachers should be of any great import, it’s more likely that the “system” imposed upon their teaching methods is the culprit.”

    Should is the wrong word. Perhaps it shouldn’t. But it appears to me that it does. The system is not independent of the gender of the teachers – and more and more the administrators. Nor are the methods. Look, a lot of female teachers do not like male students. They mark them down. It is the only measured bias in education. That is a clear gender difference.

    But female teachers do not like confrontation. They do not like handing out warnings and failing marks. They want everyone to be happy. So they avoid competition. They are also much less than competent at maintaining discipline among disruptive boys.

    “The fact that the junior school had a raving psychopath as a headmaster might have had something to do with it though!”

    Indeed. As we have more and more non-White children who tend to have much more serious behavioural issues, we need more psychopaths as teachers and Heads. Instead we get useless females with sociology degrees. Then we are surprised at the results.

  27. A further thought about the sex of teachers. If you are a right leaning young male contemplating a career in education, you know that you are going to spend your whole life working with and for left leaning women. I doubt you would find that appealing.

    Also, once one group becomes predominant in an area a positive feedback sets in which excludes other groups. Children should be exposed to male and female teachers, of both persuasions, and given an opportunity to form their own opinions.

  28. I know two people who have gone into teaching. Both left university with a useless degree, did some very mediocre job somewhere, and then – wooed by the guaranteed salary, some sort of initial bonus the details of which I forget, and through lack of anything else to do – became teachers. For a lot of women, teaching is simply a better alternative for those who aren’t very bright to working a dead-end job somewhere.

  29. @ Tim Newman
    I know/knew a goodly handful of people who went into teaching: one of them got a cricket blue and, while teaching maths coached a lad to become a future test cricketer, several are professors and a few are/were university lecturers – I applied to the college that most often comes top in the Norrington table in utter ignorance of that fact because Dad went there and for that same reason I was accepted (the scholarship was ‘cos I was good at maths but I could not have got through an interview without his reputation) – none of them fit your description.
    On the other hand several of my elder son’s teachers (compared to just one or two out of twenty-odd of my teachers 50+ years ago) – resented the fact that he was visibly more intelligent than them. There is a generation gap: when I was young, teachers encouraged bright kids and I sometimes got favoured on those grounds but my brilliant elder son was persecuted at school (he spent more time in hospital while at secondary school than I had in the whole of my life).

  30. Roue le Jour – “If you are a right leaning young male contemplating a career in education, you know that you are going to spend your whole life working with and for left leaning women. I doubt you would find that appealing.”

    If you are a sane right leaning man, you will know that you will not be spending your whole life working with and for left leaning women. Because they will drive you out. They will consider any right leaning remark sexual or racial harassment and your contract will be terminated. That is if they do not report “something not right” about your interaction with the children.

    Tim Newman – “For a lot of women, teaching is simply a better alternative for those who aren’t very bright to working a dead-end job somewhere.”

    This is one of the losses caused by feminism. Female teachers used to be the best and brightest women around. Simply because there were so few jobs for women. Being a teacher was a good one. Now smart women are all off trying to become partners in law firms and international bankers. The schools are left with the dross of both sexes.

  31. @ Tim Newman
    Recently retired in almost all cases (I think a few may have deferred retirement), BUT these guys were still teaching in universities/public schools while my son was getting beaten up for being too clever at the local state school (because he said he did not want to go to a public school). So it is not purely a generation gap (though it is in part) – it is partly ideological. The kid in a state school who is visibly brighter than his/her teacher and/or the rest of the class is the modern equivalent of an “uppity nigger” – unless he/she is a member of an “underprivileged group” whereupon she/he becomes a soviet role model – whereas my friend who would not have made the Test squad if he had tried (he could certainly have played county cricket if had chosen to so) was happy to coach an even more talented boy to launch him on a Test career.
    There are still a few good teachers, such as the maths teacher in my son’s first year at secondary school who found three boys were way ahead and taught them separately using third year books – but their benefit is undermined by the bad ones: the next year the three boys were made to work from second year books with the rest of the class by an inferior teacher, throwing away two years.
    Some of the bad ones are either really stupid or rely on the incompetence of the state system – according to one fat ugly (and smelly) middle-aged female primary school teacher who had never risen above basic classroom teacher grade my son knew less when he left her class than when he joined it. She had not thought to check the progress report from the previous class teacher…

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