Friday, January 06, 2012

Hannah and Her Brothers

Mike Adams

Shelby wasn’t expecting such difficult questions when she took a job teaching grammar school in middle Tennessee. But it was an election year and little Emily had been hearing a lot of talk about politics. So she raised her hand on the first day of class and asked “Miss Shelby, what is the difference between a conservative and a liberal?” Miss Shelby thought for a while before she replied with a story that was dated but true. It happened when Miss Shelby was just about Emily’s age:

“When I was in the fifth grade, there was a girl named Hannah. She was beautiful and athletic. She used to try to beat the other boys in the 100 yard dash. She lost time and time again. But one day in fifth grade, she beat all the other little boys in a race.

Patrick, who used to be the fastest boy in school, got mad. He got really mad. In fact, he picked on Hannah so badly that the school teacher grounded him from recess for an entire month. That made Patrick madder still.

“The boys in the class all picked on Patrick for losing his title as the fastest kid in school to a girl. They even went so far as to say that Patrick probably couldn’t beat Hannah in a fistfight. They teased and teased and teased poor Patrick. Then one day he just snapped did something really stupid: he challenged Hannah to a fistfight after school.

“Being a lady, Hannah declined to fight. That meant Patrick got to save some face. But, unfortunately, Patrick would not give up trying to fight Hannah. So finally, she told Patrick to meet her at the baseball field after school one day. The entire school was buzzing over the fact that Hannah agreed to fight Patrick. There were at least fifty kids who showed up for the fight. There were also a couple of dozen people waiting in the bleachers when Hannah arrived at the ball park. Among them were Hannah’s four older brothers; Ben, Peter, Rob, and Luke John.

“Patrick put up his dukes to fight Hannah. She remained calm with good reason. Patrick never saw the punch coming. He didn’t even see Ben come down from the bleachers and approach him from his weak side. But he felt Ben’s punch to his lower stomach. He also felt it when Ben rolled him over on his back, climbed on top of him, and gave him his very first broken nose. Ben pounded Patrick until his face was a bloody mess. It was made worse by the fact that he was crying uncontrollably.

“It should go without saying that Patrick never picked on Hannah again. In fact, he never picked on anyone again. He was greatly humbled by the experience of getting his nose broken by Ben. He just told his parents he was hit in the nose by a pitch and let the matter go at that. Hannah and her family are all conservative Republicans, by the way.”

When Miss Shelby was done with her story, Emily looked very confused. So Shelby started talking again – sort of the way Jesus did with his disciples when they were too dumb to understand a parable:

“Emily, I know you don’t know much about politics so I’ll explain why I shared this story with you. It illustrates four important characteristics of conservatism. I’ll explain them all in relation to Hannah and her brothers:
1. Conservatives believe the individual has unique talents given by a Creator. In the fourth grade, the girls started to sprout above the boys in height. In fact, many of the girls could have beaten Patrick but they did not try. Hannah was taught that it was a sin not to fully exploit her God-given talents. So she always tried her best. Even when she was splitting infinitives.

2. Conservatives are more interested in competing than in sparing the feelings of their inferiors. Hannah knew she would upset the fragile feelings of Patrick. But she didn’t care. The joy of competition outweighed the fear of causing personal offense. At first, she kind of enjoyed the reaction of Patrick. Being the target of jealousy and covetousness is much better than being ignored altogether.

3. Conservatives understand that human nature is ugly and must be controlled through fear. Hannah had an opportunity to sit down with Patrick and negotiate over their differences. But Hannah’s parents instilled in her a deep distaste for the United Nations approach to avoiding conflict. She was raised to believe that peace could best be kept by an overwhelming demonstration of force. Ben certainly supplied that show of force. Why negotiate with a punk who fights girls when you have four brothers who play junior and senior high school football? It is better to overwhelm a relatively weak opponent than to risk an embarrassing upset. Just ask the 1980 Russian Olympic Hockey team.

4. Conservatives believe that the family, not the government, is the foundation of society. Hannah could have called the police or told the principal that Patrick was threatening her. But that is not the way she was raised. Hannah and her three sisters, four brothers, mother, and father all have a saying: “Our family is sort of like the Ten Commandments. When you violate one of us, you violate all of us.” Hannah was raised to believe that, unlike the police, her family can always be counted on to respond in a time of need.

When Miss Shelby finished, she knew she had only told half of the story. But she promised she would later tell the story of another friend so little Emily could also understand the liberal mindset. And, dear reader, I promise to share that story with you in my next column about a little girl named Allison who lived in Illinois.


Why won't any British political party dare champion grammar (selective) schools? I owe mine everything

By Michael Portillo

This was surely one of the most original excuses ever heard for non-attendance at a gathering. Ten years ago, I went to a reunion of staff and former pupils from my old grammar school, Harrow County for Boys, which was based in north-west London. The happy centrepiece of the evening was a tribute to a much-loved master, Harry Rees, who was finally retiring after years of devoted service, not only in teaching history but also in staging school drama productions.

The farewell took the format of the popular TV show This Is Your Life, though, in reference to Harry’s work in drama, it was entitled This Is Your Backstage Life.

At one stage during the proceedings, which were full of fond reminiscences, the organiser said: ‘Now Harry there is one boy you might remember from about 30 years ago, who was a dab hand at painting scenery for your sets.

‘Unfortunately he cannot be with us tonight,’ continued the organiser, pausing for effect… ‘Because he is in Sweden — receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine.’

The explanation was absolutely true. The boy in question was none other than the brilliant scientist Sir Paul Nurse, now President of the Royal Society and in 2001 the recipient of the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on cell structures.

And it was right that Sir Paul should be mentioned, even in his absence, at our reunion, because his rise to the pinnacle of scientific achievement reflected the high academic standards of the school.

I was reminded of my affection for the place when I recently participated in a new documentary series on the history of grammar schools, the first episode of which will be shown on BBC Four tonight.

Like so many other grammar schools that flourished in Britain before they were abolished through a mix of ideology and political folly, Harrow County was a fiercely competitive institution, where all boys were taught to strive for excellence.

It was precisely because of this demanding regime that results were so good. Funded by the state, the school gave bright boys a magnificent start in life, no matter how disadvantaged their backgrounds.

As the BBC programme shows, the grammars like Harrow County were true engines of social mobility for working-class pupils fortunate enough to win places at them. Indeed, Sir Paul Nurse himself is a classic example of this pattern.

He was brought up in Wembley by his grandparents — his grandfather was a mechanic in the local Heinz factory and his grandmother was a cleaner.

Yet from these modest beginnings he became one of the world’s greatest geneticists, thanks partly to the influence of Harrow County.

I, too, feel I owe a huge debt to the school, for I am also from an unconventional background. My own father was a refugee from the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, later going on to become a BBC radio producer after World War II.

Having passed my 11-plus exam, the selective test that decided whether pupils would go to the elite grammars or the less academically orientated secondary moderns, I was lucky enough to study there between 1964 and 1971, before winning a place at Cambridge University.

Founded in 1911 at the zenith of Britain’s imperial grandeur, Harrow County was consciously modelled on the English public school — not surprisingly since not far down the road was Harrow, one of the most renowned establishments in England and the alma mater of Winston Churchill.

The customs of Harrow County reflected this traditionalist public-school ethos. There was a powerful house structure, with the head boy and prefects at the top of the pupil hierarchy. To denote his status, the head boy wore a gown with sleeves, while prefects donned sleeveless gowns.

Latin was compulsory in the early years and Greek was still on the curriculum. Rugby, the gentlemen’s game, was played, rather than soccer.

When I arrived in 1964, the school still had a strongly authoritarian atmosphere, thanks to the tough-minded headmaster Dr Simpson, who firmly believed in corporal punishment. Fortunately, when Dr Simpson retired the next year, the cane was phased out, though discipline remained strong.

What was most striking about the school was its superb academic record, reflected in the phenomenal levels of attainment in public exams. In the year I left, no fewer than 22 pupils won places at Oxford and Cambridge, with all but one of them gaining either a scholarship or an exhibition [a kind of scholarship].

This record was achieved not through lavish facilities or state-of-the art equipment. Indeed, Harrow County’s site was quite cramped, many of the buildings were Edwardian and, in my final years, the classroom furniture was incredibly shabby.

No, academic success was reached through two factors. One was the ferociously competitive culture of learning in the school. Harrow County was unashamedly elitist, with pupils divided into streams according to their ability. The brighter ones were encouraged to take their O-levels a year early, so that they would pass sooner into the huge sixth form, which had more than 300 pupils. In practice, therefore, we had three years to prepare for our A-levels and university exams.

The other vital factor was the high calibre and dedication of the teaching staff. All of them were extremely bright and prepared us meticulously.

I had one history teacher called Mr D’Arcy who produced duplicated, closely typed sheets of information on every conceivable subject that could come up as an exam question, from the origins of World War I to the arguments for the 1832 Reform Act. In all, he made about 200 of these beautifully written summaries, a monument to his diligence.

But it was not all work. The school was also strong in sports, especially in cricket. Moreover, all pupils either had to be in the Boy Scouts or the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). One enjoyable consequence of being in the Scouts was that, at the start of each new school year, we had to camp out in tents on the school playing fields. It was also a tradition that we all had to wear either our Scouts or CCF uniforms every Friday in term time.

But the non-academic activity I enjoyed by far the most was the drama — though I was more of a producer than an actor. For those of us in the sixth form, the great attraction of dramatics was that we would stage co-productions with the local grammar school for girls.

One of the Harrow girls who featured in some of our plays was none other than Diane Abbott, now the Labour MP for Hackney and the first black woman elected to Parliament. Surprisingly, she was a quite shy as a teenager, though she was a good actress.

I look back on my schooldays with a warm glow of nostalgia. They were wonderful times. There was no unpleasantness in the school, no bullying or vicious gangs. Indeed, even though this was the late Sixties, I don’t recall any drugs.

We were certainly aware of the social revolution that was taking place across Britain, especially in music and politics. I was actually a youthful supporter of the Labour Party then, but there was no hint of angry rebellion in the air.

I was lucky enough to make a number of great friends at Harrow County, including the TV presenter Clive Anderson, who was just as funny and quick-witted as a boy as he is today.

I was also close to Geoffrey Perkins, the BBC comedy producer who sadly died a couple of years ago, and Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who has just stepped down as Britain’s ambassador to the USA.

Sadly Harrow County, like so many other grammar schools, disappeared in the 1970s when it was amalgamated with other local schools to form what was known as Gayton High School, later to be renamed Harrow High in 1998 when it became fully co-educational.

The demise of the grammar schools was a tragedy for this country, robbing the brightest working-class children of the chance to be educated to the highest level.

The absurdity of the grammars’ abolition was that the politicians were addressing the wrong problem. Instead of tackling the failure of the old secondary moderns, they attacked the one part of the school system that worked well.

The paradox today is that no major political party would dare to campaign to bring back grammar schools, yet where they still exist, such as Kent or Buckinghamshire, no front-rank politician would dare to advocate their abolition, because they are so cherished by parents.

But at least the new Education Secretary Michael Gove is moving in the right direction, through the creation of free schools and academies which will undermine the miserable, dead-hand of central bureaucracy. The sadness is that, over recent decades, so many children have been betrayed by political dogma.


No "Teach for America" equivalent allowed in one Australian State

They love their useless 4-year degrees. I was a successful High School teacher with ZERO teaching qualifications

QUEENSLAND has rejected a key federal education initiative aimed at stemming teacher shortages in mathematics and science.

The Department of Education and Training has confirmed no Teach Next teachers, who are trained for about eight weeks before they hit the classroom, will be employed in state schools next year.

The Gillard Government said in last year's Budget speech it would spend $18 million over four years on the program, which is similar to the Teach for Australia scheme knocked back by the Bligh Government.

Under Teach Next, "highly qualified professionals" take an intensive training course of about eight weeks before entering the classroom. They then complete the rest of their teaching qualification over the next two years while working and receiving mentoring.

DET executive director Tom Barlow said while the department had explored options for implementing Teach Next, there were legislative barriers relating to the registration of teachers restricting participation. "In order to satisfy teaching requirements in Queensland, graduates complete an accredited four-year undergraduate qualification, or a one-year post-graduate qualification," he said.

"The department is exploring innovative strategies to attract high-calibre teachers for Queensland state schools through scholarship and incentive programs."


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