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Blogosphericalia< # Leeds Blogs ? >
- The Ashtray's Full
- Going Through the Motions. Again.
- Due Process and Draft Legislation
- The Tale of Despereaux
- Tautology of the Day
- Twitter ye not!
- 140 Character References
- 140 Character References
- 140 Character References
- 140 Character References
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Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Due Process and Draft Legislation
Still, Ed Balls announced the very same day as Badman published that he accepted the recommendations in full. Must be a quick reader, eh?
This is my note to firstname.lastname@example.org Feel free to borrow any parts of it that seem useful (not my signature, though...). Carlotta's take is considerably more detailed.
Your message must be in today, though.
Dear Sir or Madam
I wish to express my concern at the inclusion of a section described as "improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home" in the proposed Improving schools and safeguarding children Bill.
You must be aware that the recommendations arising out of Graham Badman's review into Elective Home Education (EHE) are still open for consultation until October 19. Likewise, you must be aware that the CSF Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into how Mr Badman went about that review; serious questions have been raised over his methodology and the soundness of his analysis. Indeed, Mr Badman himself has - via the DCSF website - recently called for additional information from Local Authorities. It is difficult to understand this last development as anything other than a tacit admission that his original research was inadequate. Mr Badman states in his covering letter that only some Home Educators take issue with only some of his recommendations. This misrepresents the true situation considerably.
Ed Balls announced his complete acceptance of Mr Badman's recommendations on the very same day that Mr Badman published them. After this inauspicious start, how can we have any confidence that the consultation and the Select Committee inquiry are to have any effect when we see that the areas covered are nonetheless to be included in the Bill?
I urge, then, that all clauses connected with "improving monitoring of home education" be removed until the consultation has ended and the Select Committee has reported. Draft legislation can then be genuinely informed by the outcome of these two exercises, as can the oversight provided by the legislators who have the final decision: our MPs.
I would be grateful if you would confirm receipt of this message, and I look forward to a more substantive response in due course.
Dr Ian Appleby
Sunday, March 01, 2009
The Tale of Despereaux
"I know, I know, there's this rat, see? And this chef, who makes soup..." Stop me if you saw that one already. Despereaux certainly hasn't been helped by studio scheduling that saw another rodent/liquid meal animation appear first. I have to say, though, that this offering is a lot more filling. Roger Ebert reckons the plot is all over the place, and there's some justice in his observations, but what interests me more, here, are the implicit messages of the movie: all the way through runs a meta-narrative about how story-telling, stereotypes, and power combine.
Let's look at the king, first; his domain is famed for its soup, which brings joy to his subjects. Indeed, soup becomes a metaphor for what makes life worth living -when it is banned, the sun ceases to shine, and the rain ceases to fall. I am very much drawn to an equation that makes soup=42: it's a simple, comforting, and nourishing dish, and as I get older if not wiser, that's increasingly what I want from life. Why ban soup? Well, the king's beloved queen espies a rat in her soup (all the obvious jokes are eschewed), which brings about her immediate demise. In his grief, the monarch bans soup.
And rats. Brilliantly, the opening scene of the film has Sigourney Weaver intoning a narration about how rats shun human company, and stick to the shadows, while we see Roscuro the rat enjoying the sunrise and chatting to his human companion. Already, then, we know not to trust all we will hear. This rat can talk, but because "everyone knows" they are vile, no-one considers that he might have an apology or explanation to make for his presence in the royal soup. The parallel is not explicitly drawn - after all, Roscuro's "crime" is in fact an unfortunate accident - but still we have an entire group demonised for the actions of a tiny minority - in this case, a minority of one. Remind you of anything? And the point is made that such demonisation costs the demonisers hard - there is no sunshine, no joy, no rain, no hope of rejuvenation or future growth. In short, no soup.
Ms. Weaver announces that societies only get heroes when they really need them. But then again, we already know she's an unreliable narrator. Cut to Despereaux's point of view from his cot, surrounded by anxious adult mice. Anxiety, we come to learn, is the mouse's natural state of being; these mice are specifically worried by Despereaux's lack of cowering. Mouseworld is depicted as a place of upright, bourgeois citizens. Initially, it seems to be a simple contrast with the anarchy of ratworld (which, it has to be said, is depicted through some rather disturbing "Skull Island" type imagery that implies that non-white society is somehow barbaric), but it soon becomes clear that these "decent" citizens live in oppressive fear of the council, and their unspecified "rules." Despereaux's father is caught in a dilemma - report his son's "deviant" behaviour, or risk it being reported by another informer. The council banishes Despereaux, invoking these same "rules," which are intended to keep society "safe." Amusingly, cats and carving knives are the two terrors invoked by school, but the clear demonstration of how shadowy terrors can be used to justify the removal of liberties is rather less likely to elicit a smile.
In passing, it's worth remarking on the recognition of schooling as a system of inculcating attitudes seen as socially desirable. The headteacher tells Despereaux's parents that "no-one starts out afraid." For that, you need schools... Naturally, I'm drawn to a film that clearly suggests schools suppress an individual's interests and intrinsic motivation.
The really subtle achievement of the film, though, is to undermine Despereaux's own motivation. As part of the attempt to make him a "proper" mouse, he and his brother set out to the library to nibble books; Rather than eating, Despereaux ends up reading a fairy-tale, which fills him with notions of chivalry and heroism. Now, I've argued in these pages before that our violent society is partially sustained by narratives of heroism in warfare. The chivalric values of an old fairy tale become Despereaux's moral code. If I'd actually read Don Quixote, I'm sure there would be a parallel to draw; certainly, Despereaux can get no support from his fellow mice.
He does convince Roscuro, however, who determines to apologise to the princess for causing her mother's death. The hollowness of this chivalric code is shown in two episodes: the princess, despite earlier having mourned the departure of the rats, cannot see past her stereotypes about rats to listen to Roscuro's apology, driving him literally and metaphorically back into the darkness.
Secondly, Despereaux uses it to convince the chef's muse, Boldo - a mixture of vegetable and kitchen utensil - to accompany him in his attempt to rescue the princess. Boldo is rapidly overwhelmed by the rats, who munch away at his vegetable parts. The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth is often claimed as a touching tribute to pointless sacrifice; Boldo's demise is a more pointed denunciation of the power of tales of heroism to mobilise the young and idealistic to throw their lives away in protection of old power structures.
Given that I only seem to get to the movies with Ms Dynamite-E-e these days, I am fascinated by the implicit messages in children's movies. I am delighted, and amazed, that such subversive messages should appear in a big-budget, mainstream kids' movie. Would that many more would encourage such a critical reflection on the customary narrative arcs we are shown. The kneejerk reaction of an injured superpower, the demonisation of one group or another, and the depiction of a society living in fear are all too readily applicable to the world our children are growing up in. The film not only clearly rejects violence, it exposes the narratives that sustain it. Instead, it lauds tolerance and an openness to forgiveness and dialogue. I doubt we have ever needed the latter qualities more than now, in the face of the shadowy terrors dangled in front of us, and the restrictive and mysterious "rules" imposed upon us in the name of our safety. That soup tastes pretty good to me.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Tautology of the Day
But there's little less interesting than meta-blogging. Tim has been watching the newspapers for a while now; he's created the Sun Lies project, and now looks to be casting his net wider. It needs to be done. Tim has proved conclusively how both the Sun and the Daily Mail dishonestly manipulate their comments to imply unanimity with the papers' view. You might think that neither tabloid is any better than it ought to be; at least the broadsheets don't play that game.
Well, the Independent ran this travesty of an article today, which harmonises nicely with the mood music playing from the DCSF's open windows that tries to conflate Home Education with child abuse. Incidentally, the Victoria Climbié Foundation have emphatically distanced themselves from the NSPCC's attempts to link Victoria to Home Education:
VCF - The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK is genuinely concerned about the link being made between Victoria Climbié and home education, and Victoria as a hidden child. Victoria was neither home-educated nor hidden.Quite. I know from mailing lists that a number of people have protested about the Independent's coverage. Numbers of comments published as of going to press? Well, take a wild guess, why don't you. Yet, just as with the dodgy tabloids Tim highlights, the comments box remains ostensibly open, luring the casual reader into thinking there is nothing controversial (let alone plain wrong) in the article on the site. It's dishonest journalism, and there's your tautology for the day.
The reality is that there is no such thing as a 'hidden' child, only children who are allowed to fall through the gaps. The key issue here is how statutory services interact with children that are known within the child protection system. [Front page, 26.02.09]
Twitter ye not!
I'm leaving the updates in the sidebar, though...
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
140 Character References
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
140 Character References
16:41 Working in a university office, why would I possibly need a stable internet connection or a working PC? All hail the Eee PC. #
16:41 10 mins to get the 16.51 Leeds train. Oxford Rd to Manchester Victoria. What are the chances? #
19:40 Twitux won't let me click-thru URLs. What's a good client to install on Debian Lenny? Tweetdeck? Gwibber? Any thoughts? #Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter