"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climate change

Do you know I'm about fed up with stupid people? (You hum it, I'll join in.)

It's half term and I am looking at my syllabus at what comes next for Yr 10. It is the Environment. (Or if you one of 85% of Yr 10, the enviroment.)

I'll nail my colours firmly to the mast here: I believe in climate change. Even in temperate Northern England I believe we are seeing its consequences, although as we are in temperate Northern England those consequences aren't yet huge. This generation of young people seem to take the problem more seriously than their elders.

I'm tired of being told by doubters that the science is dodgy and being pointed to web-sites that offer an alternative perspective, only to discover - even with my very limited I.T. skills - that those same sites are funded by organisations that are linked to other organisations with a direct interest in the oil industries - or the U.S. Republican Party.

I'm tired, every time George Monbiot publishes something in the newspaper, to see the vitriol poured on his head by people whose log-on time and spelling suggest a concerted campaign by those who are mainly American. My that "Guardian": such international influence.

I am tired, even after the University of East Anglia e-mail fiasco having been investigated by at least three public and transparent enquiries, to be told repeatedly that these scientists were corrupt and were manipulating data. They were not. Professionally precious and hiding petty jealousies possibly, naive, certainly but corrupt, no.

I'm tired of hearing the IPCC slagged off as if it were a cynical organisation intent on duping the public rather than an independent international organisation of leading climate scientists.

I'm tired of hearing the American National Acadamy of Sciences treated in the same way.

I'm tired of hearing that these organisations and many like them are part of an "international conspiracy" to usher in a global government.

I'm tired of hearing the same old denial phrases dropped into radio phone-ins, blogs, newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, when all of those things are part of a denial public relations strategy. Typically, these attempts take the rhetorical form of legitimate scientific debate, while not adhering to the actual principles of that debate and are most closely associated with the energy lobby, industry advocates and free market think tanks.

I'm tired of hearing that measures to combat carbon emissions will damage industry and I'm tired of hearing people who should know better, but clearly know nothing, encouraging a confused public to be cynical about climate change.

I'm tired of hearing about the "thousands" of scientists who are not in agreement about science of climate change. How many scientists are there on the planet? Do the maths. What has someone with a PHd in the lifecycle of a Mayfly got to teach me about climate change anyway?

I'm tired of being told there is no scientific consensus when there most certainly is.

I'm tired of hearing, after particulalry cold snaps, people sniggering about global warming as if they couldn't tell the difference between weather and climate. Perhaps they can't.

And I'm actually bored by the whole discussion because it can't be conducted with the objectivity required for such a serious issue.

No doubt someone will, in response, point me to another website which denies climate change. Don't bother. There are literally millions of websites, blogs, articles etc. on both sides of the debate. There aren't enough hours in the day!

I am therefore proud as a British citizen, that my Government - albeit the coalition I didn't vote for, has set the world's toughest targets on carbon emissions in an attempt to combat climate change. Read more here I am also deeply frustrated that it is a unilateral act.

In yesterday's newspaper I read with some alarm that 2010 was the worst year ever for carbon emissions and that as a consequence the 2c increase target is pretty well out of the window. This is what would happen if we managed to limit average temperature rises to a mere 2c:

Heatwaves which killed tens of thousands in 2003 will return every year. Southern England will see summer temperatures of around 40c. Agricultural yields will drop and half a billion people will be at risk of starvation. Glaciers will recede, reducing the water supply for cities including Los Angeles. Coastal flooding will affest 10million more people. A third of species will become extinct.
Read more here

As Caroline Lucas, our one Green Party M.P. noted "The climate crisis is the greatest security threat we face. If we are to avoid going down in history as the species that spent all its time monitoring its own extinction, rather than taking action to prevent it, we need to move to the equivalent of a "war footing", where the efforts of individuals, organisations and governments are harnessed together and directed to a common goal." (Guardian letters 01.06.11)

And do you know what really, really frustrates me? Some of the worst deniers are Christians. Why? Because they have no theology of stewardship but are willing to listen to political rhetoric.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Joyce and Lillian

Joyce and Lillian were discussing a mutual aquaintance this week:

......and then she said she was pregnant. Pregnant! I know! I wouldn't knowingly leave her in charge of an uncapped fountain pen let alone a baby.

Yes, well someone with her I.Q. should have a low voice too.

When they say what you don't know can't hurt you, she should be practically invincible.

She said she was finding herself. I suspect she'll wish she hadn't bothered.

Well she looked to be lost in thought. I'm sure that was unfamiliar territory

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A small legal judgement against conversion therapy that may have profound consequences.

Homosexuality was removed from psychiatry's glossary of mental illness in 1973. How then could anyone treat something healthy?

They described her as "reckless", "disrespectful", "dogmatic" and "unprofessional". They said she showed "no empathy" towards her client. Why? Psychotherapist Lesley Pilkington had tried to turn a gay person straight.

In a landmark ruling this week, Pilkington, 60, was found guilty of treating a patient for his homosexuality. A hearing of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy - the largest professional body for therapists - concluded that the treatment she gave constituted "professional malpractice."

The unanimous verdict came with heavy sanctions: Pilkington's accreditation to the organisation was suspended. She was ordered to complete extensive training and professional development. If she does not file a report in 6-12 months, satisfying the board that she has complied, she will have her membership revoked: she will be struck off.

The Guardian 27.05.11. Read the full article HERE

Sir 2. Teenagers 0.

One of the Pastoral Staff collared me today:

Ah I'm glad to see you. Melissa's asked if she can be moved out of your R.S. group.


She says you're always on her case and you make her sit on her own.

That's teenspeak for "He moved me because I'm always talking to people around me and distracting them and not getting on with my work."

Unreasonable man. She also said you picked on her.

That's teenspeak for "Now that I'm sitting under his nose he can see how little work I do and I'm not used to having to complete work to a reasonable standard and be held accountable.

So not moving groups then?


Jaimie. I've told you three times now to get on with your work. Show me what you've done so far. Oh, a blank page. That's very impressive in your GCSE year. You may have noticed that at no stage did I say "If you can be bothered." It's not an option. I expect you to do the same work as everyone else.

For God's sake!


My work fell on the floor.

There's nothing on the page. Are you trying to tell me that the words dribbled off the page and landed on the floor?

This is pathetic.

I agree.

It's rubbish this. I hate it.

I'm sorry to put you out so much. What's liking something got to do with doing your best?

I'm not doing it. I don't see why I should.

That'll work well as a strategy in later life. Good luck with that conversation with your first employer. This is really impressive two days before a parents' consultation evening. Have you got a death wish?

My mum say's she doesn't want to see you any more.

We'll see.


Ring Ring: Hello, is that Jamie's Mum. I'm just ringing about the parents' evening. Jamie says you no longer want to see me.

Oh. What subject is this?

Religious Studies.

I don't have Religious Studies on my appointments list.

I gave him 5.25.

Strange that I don't have that.

Particularly as he said you no longer wanted to see me.

Can you do 5.55?

Perfect. See you then.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He just doesn't give up does he?

Harold Camping is a bit embarrassed but he realises where he went wrong. "Sorry folks, it's October. My bad!"

Halloween would be good.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End of the World: 21.05.11 and a haircut.

I've put up with this all week.

Sir. Sir, right. Is the world going to end?



Yes, of course......Eventually. Do you remember when we talked about cosmology...?

No Sir. This weekend.

I shouldn't think so.

But it says in the papers ....

Stop reading tabloids. I tell you what. If the world ends this weekend, I'll give you all a £1,000 on Monday.


The story made it into the Guardian today, although interestingly not under "International News", which I felt was an omission - not that they were buying into it. Anyway, I felt I ought to be a bit better informed. For those of you for whom the imminent end of the world is something of a surprise, let me run a few factoids by you.

Harold Camping, 89, resident of - you guessed it - California, has calculated 6pm today as the end of the world based on his reading of the book of Ezekiel. He has gone so far as to print posters proclaiming "The Bible Guarantees it." Anyway it's all because of those gays again. Seemingly God just can't rise above it. Poor, petty, capricious little deity that Camping's God is.

Oh good. Someone else who will have me, as a Christian, tarred with the same brush of religious lunacy and intolerance.

"Dad! We don't listen to Americans in religious matters." (Daughter2)

It gets worse. He made the same prediction in 1994 and covered his tracks then by saying that he got the maths wrong. That Old Testament eh? You just can't rely on its figurework. Perhaps he forgot to carry the one.

Now call me a cynic but if God wanted us to know the date of the end of the world, why bury it in the mysterious maths of Ezekiel?

Anyway Mr. Camping intends to watch the end of the world on T.V - Fox, by any chance? This surprises me. Isn't he expecting to be raptured then? Clearly not if he's still going to be at home watching T.V. He doesn't say how the T.V. networks in California will survive the massive waves of world shattering earthquakes to beam this event into his home but let's not be picky.

So, 6pm. Is this GMT? Surely it is, after all the Bible was written in English and The King James' version would, presumably, have had GMT in mind.

I went for a haircut this morning.

My barber, a personable young man called Janek and I got into conversation about this.

"That's a shame. I'm working until 5 and I'll be owed a week's wages. Still the least I can do is give everyone a good cut so that they'll look good in the divine presence. Shame about 6 o'clock though, I was going for a meal and there's a new bar opened on Cardigan Road I was going to try out. Will you be mentioning it in your sermon?"

Well I was thinking of waiting and seeing how things go.

Now, where else could you go for a good haircut and an equally good conversation about books, films, music and eschatology?

What would I be doing during the conflagration before I'm raptured above it all? Singing Verdi's Requiem in Leeds Town Hall. That seems pretty appropriate. At least I'll be in the right mood: "Day of anger, day of terror. All shall crumble into ashes" (The Dies Irae) Seems on message.

Bugger! I've not cancelled the papers.

Oh well, see you next time.

"Possibly not - or tomorrow in the queue for the Pearly gates."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Virtual Learning Environment

So, today was their GCSE Religious Studies day. I don't think it went very well judging by their little faces as they came out.


I doubt it.

Yesterday I had a small group in a computer room.

Right you lot. Sit on the same row and I'll sit behind you so that I can be sure you do some revision.


Sir. How do you find that Virtual Learning Environment thingumy?

What? WHAT? A day before your exam and you're asking me how to find the revision material!

Sir. What topics are we doing?

Please tell me you're not serious.

It'll be fine. I'll revise tonight and tomorrow morning. That should do it.

In your dreams.

I learnt something about the VLE though, which I shared with my Yr 10s this morning. I told them about the Yr 11 group and they all looked dead superior.

... so you remember I gave you revision homework last week for your exam on June 9th?


Well look what happens when I press this button. It tells me who has logged on and the date they did. And guess what? None of your names are there for any of the topics. Now we'll just go round the class and you can tell me in turn why you don't need to do the homework.


A result, I think.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eurovision 2011

All other songs can be found HERE

The old certainties are gone. Last night's competition from Dusseldorf was won by a country most of Europe's viewing public would be hard put to find on a map and I feel strangely adrift in a world where such other international musical giants as Bosnia-Hertzagovina beat the United Kingdom. Are we the nation who invented pop music and gave the world the Beatles?

Our entry, the reformed and former regular chart-topping boy band Blue, were given early false hope by a maximum vote from Bulgaria but subsequently only managed the crumbs of other nations' votes to end in a less than creditable 11th place. Their career suicide is all but guaranteed.

O.K. oil-rich Azerbaijan may be about the only country on the continent able to afford to host this extravaganza but a winner? Really? Of course this result ignites the usual controversy about the distinction between those countries who are really part of Europe and those which subscribe to the Eurovision T.V. Network. Arezbaijan, a European nation. Who knew?

However, of more interst to me was the lamentable standard of many of the 43 entries. Could there be a link between a desired early exit and the prohibitive cost for the winner of hosting next year and bankrupting the T.V. budget for the next millenium?


It's not all about the singing, of course. The Hungarian singer wore a dress so short you could see her vagina according to my elder daughter who also described the Russian singer as a sleaze-ball. The sulky (when it became clear he wasn't doing well) French Tenor dressed and sang as if his was a little known number from Les Miserables and Iceland's group would have been better called Take Fat. The Ukraine's singer gave it her all but I rather felt that her accompanying sand painter (yes, really) was conducting a dirty protest in the background which is perhaps why I have no idea what the song sounded like.

And what are we to make of Jedward, Ireland's twins, John and Edward Grimes with their gravity defying hair and red sequins? It was a cleverly written song in that the boys' lack of musical talent was hard to spot in a song so relentlessly upbeat their voices hardly stopped long enough on a note for us to register their tunelessness.

I was shocked, on attempting to vote for Italy to discover I'd misdialled only to vote for Moldova, a country represented by a group of men in tall pointy hats resembling the Smurfs accompanied, to little obvious purpose, by a fairy on a unicycle. Georgia seemed to do well for sympathy votes but only because the country is so poor that the singer had clearly had to make her own frock out of some green curtain trim. And don't get me started on the Bosnian singer. I know they are still in post-war austerity but wearing charity-shop trousers really isn't the thing on international T.V. and as far as I'm concerned Serbia should still be in internationally imposed purdah becuase of its slaughter of Bosnians and Croats. Keep poltics out of Eurovision? Puleezee! Anyway their singers looked like the girls who advertise Sheila's Wheels car insurance only more Mary Quant.

And where was The Vatican City's entry? Hey, if San Marino can muster an entry I'm sure with all the musical and vocal resources at the Vatican's disposal they could have come up with something.

And the ones that didn't make it to the final: Portugal's protest song from a group of middle aged citizens about the unfairness of the financial cuts seemed, one felt, to have missed the mood somewhat and poor Israel's Dana International couldn't progress to the final what with transvestism being so last decade.

In short, the whole programme was an extended party political broadcast for UKIP and I kept expecting Nigel Farage to join the German compare team; talking of whom we had another object lesson on humour failing to cross national boundaries.

And so to the voting.

There had been some effort in the semi-finals to split up the usual suspects so they were in different heats and couldn't therefore vote for each other. Cyprus was lost to music in this way which left us with the historic and unprecedented spectacle of the Greek jury having to give its maximum marks to someone else in the final. My fervent prayer (apart from "Make it stop, Lord" obviously) is that both Greece and Cyprus are voted out in the semis one year soon and then we can watch the national emotional melt down of two countries whose citizenry sit drooling in front of the T.V. during the final rendered incapable of making a decision without a Greek language song to automatically vote for.

Even so, the Scandinavian, Balkan and Former Soviet blocks still managed to try to stitch the voting up although true reciprocity was often stymied by the elimination of one half of the partnership. Bosnia and Croatia voted for Slovenia, Serbia for Bosnia (my, how short memories are when Eurovision's on), Romania for Moldova and vice versa, Iceland for Denmark, Norway for Finland, Belarus and the Ukraine for Georgia, Armenia for the Ukraine and so on. But we in the west of the continent are learning belatedly to organise , so the U.K voted for Ireland, Austria for Germany, Belgium for France, San Marino for Italy, Portugal for Spain and Turkey for Azerbaijan.

No one voted full marks for Russia.

Still at least we've got the well worn phrase "And now to our neighbour and Dear Friend (insert name of country) our maximum 12 marks" down to a mere six expressions this year. This galls the U.K. audience as we have neither friends nor neighbours.

And was it just me or did anyone else notice the Danish lad, in a fit of gratitude to the fragrant young Dutch presenter who had just given him 12 marks, shout to the camera "I want to F*** you"? At least I think he was talking to her. I doubt it was me, although while we are on that subject, did anyone else note the almost total lack of women in the audience? It could have been Manchester's Canal Street on a sunny Saturday evening. This does not bode well given Azerbaijan's poor record on gay rights. There could be no one in the audience next year.

So next year, Ulan Bator.

Is that the capital of Azerbaijan?

Who cares?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leading a horse to water.

A mother came to see me after school recently. She brought her daughter with her. They were upset that I'd spoken harshly to the daughter about her attitude and progress in the lesson. This is a Yr 11 class one week before their final examination and I am afraid I showed little symathy: I'm taking no prisoners and showing no mercy at this stage in the term. The girl is a pleasant enough individual, and certainly has potential to do well but she won't because she simply does not concentrate and when she dosn't listen she does it quite ostentatiously so that I find myself competing for her attention and the attention of those around her.

I am cast as the baddie. I should have more sympathy and sensitivity apparently and telling someone to act their age when they back-chat for having been caught off-task (again) and to stop assuming they're going to do well just because they have a high target grade isn't motivational enough.

Do you know what? I'm tired of tip-toeing around the egos of some (a minority) of these kids - mainly girls. This class have been difficult all year - for two years in fact. Not because they are badly behaved as such, but because a significant minority have an arrogant complacency about their ability which I don't share. So I tell them. They are a high ability group but not so high that they can wing it and do well.

Not nurturing enough it seems.

A week before the exam and I am testing their knowledge. It is lamentable. I know I've taught the material but I also know they've not revised it. They have no sense of urgency and seem genuinely perplexed/dismissive when I express my concern.

Chill Sir. It'll be alright.

No, actually it won't. I know this is Religious Studies but I don't think relying on prayer or other forms of divine intervention is entirely wise at this stage. Why don't you know this topic by now? The exam's on May 17th. No pressure.

Well I don't need this for my job. Why do we even need to do it?

Now this is like a red rag to a bull to me. Even given the fact that exam nerves have made some contribution to this negative state of mind, one week before the exam is, perhaps, not the right time to be posing such existential questions.

Education, it seems, is only valued for what it can get you not for it's own innate benefits.

I rise to the bait every time. I can't let it pass:

There are a number of points here:
a) Given your grade profile in other subject areas I don't think you can afford to be so complacent that you can drop any grades in any subject.
b) Apart from English and maths and, in some cases, science, employers don't care what subjects go to make up the rest.
c) Employers are interested in the whole C.V. and in evidence of a balanced curriculum.
d) Around the room is a wealth of careers information about employers who like to see R.S. on a C.V.
e) There's no point moaning at me. This is a National Curriculum subject and if you don't like it, write to your M.P. Good luck with that. Parliament has resolutely stuck up for the teaching of R.S. since the earliest Education Act made schooling compulsory.

They remain unimpressed.

I can't revise, me.

Roughly translated this means I'm a lazy individual and I'm giving myself permission not to bother.

Trying to tackle this one is a waste of time in most cases because they "Yes, but." you at every turn.

No. I can't revise, me.

So on Tuesday a significant number of the 420 or so will under-achieve. That's not to say they'll do badly necessarily, but they won't do as well as they should. They'll come out with a C grade, for instance, and be happy with that even though they could have got a B.

A few weeks into September, a member of the school's Senior Management Team will make an appointment with me to discuss my department's performance in this summer's exams. The A-C profile will probably be quite reasonable but when it comes to Value Added - what they got (or didn't get) in relation to their predicted grades - it won't look quite so good.

I'll be asked why they didn't do as well as predicted. I'll talk about the after-school and Easter break catch up sessions I offered but which they largely declined to attend. I'll talk about the letters I wrote to the parents of those I was particularly concerned about and I'll refer to the significant numbers of parents who aren't interested in seeing me at consultation evenings. My conclusion will be that you can lead a horse to water ........

What are the chances that they'll understand?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From today's Guardian: "My sister wanted a godless funeral. But still invited God."

I read THIS article today and really enjoyed it. I hope you do too. Leave me a note to say what you thought.

Then the undertaker asked what religion my sister was. "Atheist." I replied. That, of course, was a nonsense. Atheism is - doh! - not a religion.....For my mother's cremation we had, via that secular miracle the INTERNET, procured the services of a Rabbi. (Oh yes, my sisters non-religion was, in fact Jewish.)

(Jon Canter)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Joyce and Lillian

Eavesdropping again:

Well - who does she think she is? All stuck up and hoity-toity.

Yes, mutton dressed as lamb I'd say.

I mean, that dress, she's a slave to fashion but it was bog standard wasn't it?

And all that 'Hail fellow well met' stuff. . . I mean, really!.

She let the side down I thought.

Yes, but take as you find.

I suppose. Do as you would be done by I say.

Yes, and all's well that ends well.


Incidentally, what do you think that the dollar price of oil per barrel will fall to this week?

The influence of Royalty ....

Amazing, isn't it?