The Title: ‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’

‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’i (Sister to the Independent)

At first I thought this was one of those wacky surveys that strenuously connects those learning how to drive with those quitting A levels. But no, pupils across the country are leaving their A level courses (up to 31% students in some areas). The reason? Too much heavy focus on academia.

I can see their point, the few practical A level options available are looked down upon. BTECs which the Government claims are equal to A levels are considered the easy option by the general public.

quitting a levels

from Google images

However, is the issue attitudes towards practical subjects or is it more of a problem of unnecessary pressurization? Each Government wants to drive more and more students into further and then higher education. A levels and university  doesn’t suit everyone. Sure, encourage people and fund equal opportunities but if some pupils enter A levels only to realise it’s not for them then perhaps alternative paths such as apprenticeships should be endorsed.

 

If A level and uni applications decrease then so what? As long as students are doing what they enjoy and not what parents or the Government think they should enjoy then don’t fuss. Currently, university applications are decreasing. As I’ve just mentioned this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, I believe at the moment the chief reason is more to do with the rise in tuition fees and the increased costs of living in a difficult economic time rather than self-realisation and back bone from students.

Gun Madness

I know I’ve posted something similar about gun crime/control before but this appeared on facebook the other day and I thought I’d share it.

USA madness

I really think that says it all.

Why do Americans protect their right to own guns so forcibly? I mean keeping an old pistol or rifle for sentimental reasons or perhaps historical is fine. Just like farmers might want to own some sort of fire arm for practical reasons. But why would anyone want a machine gun? They’re weapons of war, not simple keepsakes or even useful in the life of  an ordinary person.

What surprised me was Wayne LaPierre’s (vice president of the NRA) response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”

Armed guards outside schools is NOT the answer. If kids see people with guns on a regular basis they will start to consider it normal and a world with such a casual attitude to killing machines is not one I want to experience. Even ignoring the obsession with guns you  have to ask, who is going to pay for it? In a recession with police budgets being cut (no idea if this is happening America as well as the UK) where is the extra cash going to come from.

Wayne LaPierre lives in a war-torn fantasy land. Where innocent kids fear going to school and money grows on trees.

On Gay Marriage

Currently in the UK the big debate is over gay couples getting married in religious institutions. Earlier this winter the proposal for women bishops was defeated by a measly six votes so it would be nice for the church and other religions to catch up with the modern world and support equality and tolerance.

One argument against gay marriage is that historically marriage was between heterosexual couples. This argument is invalid.

  • Historically women couldn’t vote
  • Historically men under 30 couldn’t vote
  • Historically British people had to pay for healthcare
  • Historically you had to come from a wealthy, respectable, well-bred family to get anywhere in life (although it could be said this still holds true)

It doesn’t mean it’s right or should remain the same.

Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional institution, in fact it might strengthen it. The divorce rate is steadily increasing, single parent families are becoming more common so why shouldn’t two men or two women marry and raise a family? Surely that is both more stable and beneficial for the children than a heterosexual married couple who argue all the time.

Why can’t someone choose to be both gay and Christian? Or lesbian and Hindi? and be faithful to their religion by marrying in the eyes of the church/temple etc? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible but surely they advocate tolerance and equality? That seems to be the moral thing to do. It’s time to enter the modern world and start creating   harmony instead rifts.

Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%

We are the 99% – London

The Occupy Movement originated in New York as people banded together to protest against the banks, large corporate companies and selfish institutions who command the majority of the worlds’ wealth despite only making up 1% of the population. The Movement claims to represent the 99% of disenchanted, frustrated citizens. The Movement spread worldwide with protests breaking out on the streets with varying effects. The Arab Spring revolutions aimed to over throw tyrants and dictators in order for the people to claim back their country and their rights. Over here in Britain the protests had a very different feel, almost unrecognisable as connected to the violence breaking out in the Arab world.

In November 2010 British students paraded in London, protesting against the tuition fees rise and cuts in Education spending. Although most remained peaceful there were sporadic outbursts of violence and vandalism resulting in the injuries of both protesters and police. At one point the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was attacked. Demonstrations also took place in Cardiff, York, Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bath, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh and Liverpool. Events also happened in Universities as buildings were occupied in Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham and York. There were more protests a year later but with an increase in policing and the threat of plastic bullets things remained more civilised and controlled.

Police clash with protesters in London

In 2011 the Occupy London Movement realised a statement declaring their intentions to refuse to accept public sector cuts, pay for the banks crisis and protect against pollution. To see the full statement click here.

In 2008 the UK Zeitgeist Movement was founded, which claims the problems of corruption, poverty, war, starvation and homelessness are ‘symptoms’ of an outdated social structure rather than the fault of political policy or institutional corruption or a flaw in human nature. This slightly different view claims to not belong to any particular strand of political thought; it sees the world as a single system and all human beings as a single family. It recognises that all countries must disarm, share resources and ideas and accept one another if we are to survive.

To me the Zeitgeist Movement is very optimistic and not at all realistic. For all countries to essentially become ‘friends’ a miracle in needed. Even after wars end and countries have been rebuilt and new alliances made the thought is always there, niggling at the back of peoples’ minds. For instance, despite WW2 ending in 1945 many of the British population feel the need to shout out to the Germans “two world wars and one world cup”. WW2 was a couple of generations ago; the people who are still holding grudges and sneering at the supposed ‘opposition’ have no right to do so. I’m sure there are similar feelings all over the world in relation to bygone eras. If two countries that get along cannot disperse these racist sentiments how can we expect countries in the midst of war, terrorist attacks and general uncertainty to make peace and drop all weapons?

As for protesting, which the majority of the Occupy Movement is about, do they really work? As we can see with the student demonstrations (an issue close to me), it made no difference. The tuition fees went up and first year students starting this year are going to leave education with higher debts than ever before. Equally, strike action has not seemed to influence government decisions, public sector cuts still happened, large parts of the NHS are being reformed and citizens are more disillusioned than ever.

London protests against budget cuts

The big question asked up and down the country, symbolised by the Occupy Movement, is why are we suffering for something which is not our fault and mostly out of our control? Sure many people got into debt but it was the banks who continued lending money to those they surely knew wouldn’t be able to pay it back. The banks essentially gambled their money, a risk that didn’t pay off, and now the public are paying increased taxes so they can receive huge bonuses and retire knowing someone else will come in and sort out their mess.

You can argue governments don’t have a choice but to bail out banks and resort to taxes in order for the economy to stabilise but shouldn’t they at least hold the bankers and business men accountable? No, they don’t. And why? Because they don’t want to cut off the votes and financial support of the wealthy, powerful 1%. What does the other 99% matter when they only command little influence?

Twenty five years ago the top 12% controlled 33% of wealth, now it is the top 1% controlling 40%. The incomes of the top 1% have increased by 18% over the past decade whereas the middle have seen a fall in income. The more divided a society becomes in relation to wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t rely on the government for medicine, education, security or healthy environments such as parks, they have the means to purchase these for themselves. As riches increase the top 1% become paranoid and will fight against the formation of a strong government who will redistribute their wealth into the majority of the population. A government which is gridlocked will not raise top-rate taxes or decrease bonuses.

Those of a more conservative view will argue the top deserve to be at the top, they worked hard to get there in a meritocratic society. And sure they have examples at the ready, Sir Alan Sugar for one, David Beckham etc. But, by increasing inequality they are also shrinking opportunities and as a result, undermining efficient productivity. With a lack of social mobility society will stagnate and eventually crumble. It really is ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’.

To make matters worse the globalised marketplace allows for corporations to use cheaper, overseas labour thus denying their countrymen jobs. In July 2011 Government ministers handed over a train building contract to a German company rather than keeping it the UK with Britain’s last train-maker, Bombardier. After years of proud work on British railways and trains many lost their jobs due to the Governments actions. Bombardier, in Derby, had been around for 170 years and at it’s peak produced 200 wagons a week for railways all over the world, but now that legacy has come to an abrupt end to the detriment of many British workers as well as the manufacturing industry.

So the occupy movements have the right idea but can protests really help? Even ignoring the violent clashes that Governments are unwilling to respond to it doesn’t seem like they listen to demonstrations and parades, after all 3 million people didn’t stop Blair from going to war in Iraq what chance do we have this time?

‘Stop the War’ march in February 2003

Links

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011332/Bombardier-Ministers-hand-Germans-3bn-train-deal-costing-1-400-British-jobs.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

http://occupylondon.org.uk/about/statements/initial-statement

http://www.thezeitgeistmovementuk.com/about

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15646709

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_UK_student_protests

(Images from google)

[links] Posts of Remembrance

9/11 – a date which will never be forgotten. The day the world stopped and watched in horror.

Posts to read, sit quietly, think and remember.

http://nittygrittydirtman.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/lessons-learned-from-a-911-survivor/

http://foiegraschick.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/remembering/

http://iamanafterschoolspecial.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-day-the-devil-took-over-ny-911-revisited/

http://iamanafterschoolspecial.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/september/

http://plaintextnotes.com/2012/09/11/on-911-being-whole-together-as-we-are/

http://outsiderlookingin.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/never-forget/

http://feedmylove.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/remember-september-11-2001/

http://readstuffwithme.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/911-a-lesson-learned/

Personally I can’t say much about this date as I was only eight or nine but one thing I do remember was in the classroom at school perhaps a few days after the event. We were doing an activity which involved writing answers on white boards and holding them up. As usual we got a bit bored with what the teacher asked and began drawing silly things, smiley faces etc. Of course we all got moaned at, until our teacher noticed one particular boy had drawn a picture of a tower with a plane flying into the side. At our age we weren’t overly aware of worldly events but in that moment the room froze. Even if we didn’t understand the whole issue the teacher’s face was enough to send the most hardened city kid running for the hills. Needless to say he was sent off to the headmistress for a right talking to and has probably never thought of 9/11 in the same way again. My memory is hazy but that one event remains clear despite my eight-year-old self not truly comprehending the seriousness of the matter.

More September 11 – http://en.search.wordpress.com/?q=september+11&s=date&t=post

What the Paralympics Taught Us

Wheelchair Rugby (google images)

Disabled sports are hardly ever advertised or televised and it is generally assumed someone with a disability cannot partake in the same activities as everyone else. As we are all now aware this could not be further from the truth. Wheelchair basketball is one of the most violent mainstream sports, rivalled only by wheelchair rugby. I cannot think of any other instance where a disabled person is left to fend for themselves after being knocked out of their wheelchair.

You watch with awe as these athletes pushing themselves to the limit, not just to prove to the world they are as capable, if not more capable than most of their able-bodied peers, but to explore the limits of the human body.

We were watching the blind football, where the crowd has to remain perfectly silent unless a goal is scored so the players can hear the soft jingle of the ball. It was truly amazing. I can’t kick a ball when I can see the thing let alone have such ball control as these athletes did – and they can’t see a thing!

To me, and every other able-bodied person, it is almost inconceivable that the achievements attained by the Paralympic teams are possible. In some ways I believe they deserve more recognition than the Olympians since they overcome barriers which without their drive and determination would see them struggling to survive in our cut-throat modern society.

Ellie Simmonds – Paralympic swimmer (google images)

Not only do these Paralympic games teach the world that disability or illness should never stop you from reaching your dreams, they have provided an excellent block upon which foundations of understanding can be built. I agree that there are some things about disability which should never be said, but sometimes political correctness goes to far and prevents able-bodied people from accepting the disabilities of others and treating them as ‘normal’ human beings in fear of offending. I’m sure, in reality, that those with disabilities would much prefer their status as ‘wheelchair user’ or ‘MS patient’ etc does not define their identity. They are so much more than their disability and the Paralympic games have opened a gate for true acceptance, respect and unity.