Covid Special: October No. 2 2020

Club News – Ian Payne

We’ve received a letter from Alan Green’s daughter, Nicole, to say that her dad is in East Surrey Hospital recovering from an infection which had serious side effects. The family are awaiting test results to establish the cause and for the time being he is being kept in hospital. We send out best wishes to Alan for a speedy recovery and to Janice and Nicole.

Alan now at home, very tired and needs some more tests 16/10/20

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Editorial — 50K Each way guv? — Vincent Fosdike

So, the schools are back and so are the universities. As we know only too well our revered politicians feel that our economy will collapse if these institutions are not kept at full stretch, awarding top grades to all and sundry. Indeed, grade inflation is obvious to all and the reasons for it show far too many vested interests at work. It sometimes seems that at “Uni” the main function of going there is to learn how to manipulate people and situations by the endless use of political correctness. Indeed, expertise in this art form does offer some useful career paths to the top. But surely, we can’t run the real world solely powered by allegations of “fake news” and “me to”? Someone has to grow the food, mend the roofs and nurse the sick and police the streets. Many of these roles now demand or at least expect graduate entry. At the end of the day the salaries they command may exempt their workers from having to repay the average £50,000 of loans needed to get a degree with no immediate application to their career.

Our culture and legal system demand a minimum of 13 years in education and often an additional 5 years to gain a Master’s degree which is increasingly essential to secure consideration for even low level professional jobs. Most of the information gained in those years is forgotten rapidly and may never have had much application outside of the academic world where it simply supports the ritual of exams for exams sake. It is often argued that education broadens the mind and helps emotional maturity, but as the educationalist Jean Jacques Rousseau said “reason is the slave of the passions”, so the better educated people justify their actions with more sophisticated arguments whilst basically having things more of their own way. Is education merely a social filter? There are frequent articles on the way parents compete to get children into grammar schools, even being prosecuted for giving false addresses to enter a catchment area. It is part of the trajectory leading to elite universities where money is also used to assist a favourable entry result and aid a smooth transition into future management and leadership, albeit with a similar degree to those of less prestigious institutions. Are we confident that those now running the country are really the right people for the job? Does the “system” work? Were these years put to best effect for our society? Most of them did well in the filter system, using the right schools and universities.

Myself and at least one other member of our branch did ten or more years at the Chalk Face (now digitised). We did the postgraduate training to teach in further education and perhaps saw the selection working at the lower to middle section of the system. Much of the dye already seemed to be cast. Those on their way up doing “A” levels were unlikely to hit the prestigious universities though one of my students did well in politics. BUT the conscript groups presented a very different profile. So unmotivated were they that despite our own best efforts they just did not want to be there, they did not buy the dream. One of my colleagues wrote as her lesson plan objective: “to keep them in the room”, this was accepted without comment by a visiting HMI (Inspector). Another colleague became so exasperated with his group that he laid himself out at full length on the teacher’s desk and waited for their reaction. They were indignant that he should behave in this way showing them “no respect”! He pointed out that it was mutual, they started it! It is not unknown for lecturers to be asked to “re-consider” low grades given to such students, college figures must look good, even jobs may be “at risk”.

But help is at hand. Vast numbers of people now attend university, the filters are much less restrictive now. But at the top end of the food chain the filters narrow to select those with the right university degree, the rest will be far more likely to end up with a job requiring in reality a handful of G.C.E.’s and very little emotional maturity. All this for a 50K bill which they may or may not have to repay depending on their salary level. All sounds a bit feudal don’t you think? Keep the ordinary folk happy with cakes and ale at an ordinary “Uni” and extract their parents’ funds if possible, to maintain the status quo! If they take to tearing down a few statutes or insisting on their rights to spread disease, it is cheap at the price; it just shows they are thinking for themselves. They have developed the critical faculty which is the hallmark of Liberal Education or have they?

P.S. Just noticed that 3 students have been fined £10,000 each for breach of isolation regulations. What are your feelings regarding the purpose and effectiveness of “education”?

Please do write in with your thoughts.

Bedtime in the glass house by Vincent Fosdike

“It’s Ginger”!!!! This was my wife’s delighted call on peering at a large pot in the garden which had been empty save for the statutory crop of self-sown weeds for some months. Ginger as a root vegetable has great significance for persons from Asian countries as many of you will know. It is greatly used in cooking and Chinese medicine.

Over the years we have planted the root many times with a view to saving money and a small contribution to self-sufficiency (very small). Never have we succeeded, but this year at last we have struck lucky (global warming?). Of course, as an only child it is greatly treasured and faces the challenging onset of English Winter. How do we look after it? Is it frost hardy? Questions online to Kew Gardens and the RHS were dispatched and things look marginal for our child. They patiently pointed out°that it is an Asian native and in most regions is seldom found if temperatures much below 5 C are normal in winter. We were advised to bring it in doors!! But the pot is too big and dirty. It will just fit in our small two story upright cold frame where it has been put with readings being taken from a specially purchased MAX/MIN thermometer. Greenhouse heaters have been considered but for various technical reasons not purchased. Every morning I check the lowest reading (now just around 5°C).

In desperation we have stuck bubble wrap inside the glass. The sliding doors are carefully closed at night after having put a large bubble wrap bag over the plant. It has nearly grown too tall for this and we don’t have anything bigger. It will be frost netting next but a bit of a fiddle to take on and off morning and night.

We remind each other to tend to it every day and have a rota to show whose turn it is to read it a bedtime story before we turn out the light (put the bag over it) and slide the glass door shut. Will this be enough? Watch this space.

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