Wednesday, 18 July 2012


After some comments on Farcebook and from recent discussions, I though I might briefly set out some ideas on the subject. Please let me know what you think about the ideas,especially what I have left out or got wrong.

From the academic research I have done into this and from empirical evidence I can say the following.

They are motivated by fear and insecurity, and the need for self-preservation in a world about which they are fearful and insecure to an extent beyond that of those with a normally developed emotional intelligence.

In relationships, they have an over-weaning need to exercise power and control, often by any means, since self-preservation is of paramount importance.

The control takes the form of the carrot and the stick. The carrot takes many forms masquerading as generosity and charm, but is calculated to keep the subject subjected and 'on-side'. The stick also takes many forms, like withdrawal and/or reversal of the carrots, and, crucially to get other subjects to act in concert with them. For example, by contriving some injurious fault of the subject and discussing this 'injurious fault' with their other subjects, so that the subject is tried and convicted in absentia. Here is another facet of the bully, they are expert at playing the victim. The guilty blame the innocent to excuse their guilt. The first the subject gets to know about this is when they, for example have the normal social support withdrawn and possible some spiteful and anonymous retribution occurs. The subject never really gets to know what the causality is of these situations, since preserving the subject's ignorance is an important tool in preserving power.

Bullies are so insecure that even the slightest hint that a subject is not totally in their thrall will provoke many, if not all of the bully's arsenal of control.

Bullies need to 'divide and rule' by a constantly shifting sets of alliances and contrived enemies.

Bullying falls into two general types, the inveterate and the inadvertent. The inveterate is the dyed-in-the-wool bully who can be the head bully or a bully further down the bullying chain of command. The inadvertent go along with the bullying status quo for fear of receiving the same treatment.

It is this last bit that often motivates the inveterate to identify through their highly developed low cunning to identify a strong character (those who have their own minds) to victimise as an example to their subjects.

When a bully is in a situation where there exists a more powerful figure whose power is unassailable, then they contrive to be the power-behind-the-throne.

As alluded to above, the bully often accuses the victim of bullying.

How to deal with bullies

It is important for a victim to know it is not their fault and that they are not responsible for the bullying they suffer, especially since victims of bullying are often intelligent, competent people with a high moral sense.

Unfortunately, there seems to be only one way to deal with bullies and is a lot easier said than done, and requires courage, perseverance and stamina. Bullies need to be confronted relentlessly.

The victim who tires of their victim-hood should know that they are involved in a to-the-death struggle. This does not mean that the struggle will cause the death of an adversary.

Bullies will never be appeased. It is pointless to try.

When bullying accusations fly, fling real accusations back.*

When accusatory questions (questions keep the questioned on the back foot and cedes advantage to the questioner), don't answer, except with another question. You can be fair (although God knows why) and answer the question, but follow up with a question. Never answer immediately. Even if the pause is only a few seconds, it is effective, since it says that the victim is not spooked into a knee-jerk, fearful wish to appease the bully.
“I'll have to think about that one.” And, “I'll get back to you.” are good, especially if the victim goes on to ignore the bully.*

In discourse with bullies, be wary of questions or statements (as rhetorical questions) prefaced with things like, “So you're saying . . ?” And, “Don't you think that . . ?”

*Be prepared, be diligent in constant vigilance and take notes - lots of notes – bullies are well practised in their activity, victims have to learn the battle.

When the bullying has a large element of physical aggression, the victim must appeal to an equitable and canny higher power. This higher power/authority will need evidence, but bullies can be trapped into their activity in such a way as to have it observed and recorded. Physically to confront the bullies is dangerous.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Iggy's Dream School

“They're a pretty low ability bunch.” She told me as she opened the door to the classroom and, once in, introduced me to the class, then left. They were a bottom set and knew it, and seemed to take some pride in it and let me know it. I imagine like The Dessert Rats took to Rommel's pejorative, or similarly The Old Contemptibles after Kaiser Bill called them England's contemptible little army. I had the sense it was the same sense of pride as Hell's Angels felt; something brought about from a recognition of being at the end of a long line of no-hopers – a class full of what Arlo Guthrie called the Last Guy.
From the getting to know you badinage, it was clear to me that these people were actually quite average teenagers with a couple of livelier minds bouncing around too. They were as interested in me as I was in them and they allowed me to ask some tricky questions like why they thought they were the bottom set: why they were apparently so proud of it and why would they be in a bottom set? To cut a long story short, they had been labelled as any number of things, for which I could see no real reason, except that they fulfilled these historical judgements up to this moment – it always had been this way and always would. They had absolutely no belief in their intellectual abilities and nothing had happened in their short lives to disabuse them of this lack of belief.
Of all my classes in my teaching career, I am most proud of them, even more than those that entered Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge and all the other Ivy League schools, because they developed belief in themselves and shook off other people's prejudiced burdens. It was a two way thing, they believed in me that I could help them get their GCSE in science and it was a bit like having your home fans cheering you on, or an audience willing you on to higher and higher peaks of musicianship. I have seen this so often in my career, that I wonder how some teachers and it is usually teachers, get away with it. Furthermore, who in God's name have allowed these people to be teachers; to have access to the plastic, pliant minds of children. Surely, this must rank highly as a crime against children; as child abuse.

School years should be the best years of our lives, but often it is just something to be endured, and endured with some resentment. I think schools should be places that foster self-belief based on continual and relentless achievement and where all parties to the learning community show unswerving belief in the ability of others continually to achieve; to find their best and do better. Implicit in this is an obvious affection between teacher and student. Naturally, the teacher has responsibility for establishing this, and granted, it can be a tough job sometimes, but the teacher must remember that before you is someone's pride and joy and deserving of the best. Even if the student is not someone's pride and joy, they should be and so the teacher should behave accordingly.

This does not mean that discipline goes out the window. Imposing sanctions for poor behaviour that preserves the dignity of all parties reinforces positive relations, especially if one's students see that you adhere to the same principles of dignity, discipline and diligence that you expect of your students. Sanctions should be applied immediately and with a proportionally that should be left to the teacher's professional judgement. There has been a lot of movement away from this idea of late in Britain and, like many of the changes was predicated on a lack of trust of teachers, so one-size-fits-all, highly prescriptive centralised policies have been implemented. When a misbehaving student understands that the teacher has the authority and discretion to apply these sanctions, they will have a lot less latitude to continue their misbehaving. And anyway, people like to know the limits and that the limits are strict.

Teachers should be geniuses in the Einsteinian sense of being passionately curious. I'd like to extend this by positing genius as an aesthetic phenomenon in recognising intuition and inspiration and acting upon it. In this, I am in total opposition to someone from the TDA who said on radio 4 that teaching is much more of a science. In fact, I think that this is one of the most idiotic notions I have come across for many a year. This implies a do-this-get-that-every-time thinking, i.e. a simplistic application of behaviourism. I see this in the bought-in, inflexible and imperative curricula that come complete with lesson plans, which include imperatives for differentiation. This is wrong on so many counts. A recent article in London's Evening Standard by the heads of five major, English public schools would appear to reject this trend in education.

This essay is unfinished, but below is an indication where it should go:

Genius is an art/ realizing intuition and inspiration skills/content syllogism of skills/content
Creativity in all things from pastoral, curriculum, pedagogy... and all considered as a whole
Cross-curricularity history of thought/theory of knowledge

Memorizing and Learning

There is a lot of confusion as to what learning is, and different people and agencies define it differently at different times, so the word becomes ambiguous, but we still all think we know what it means, so we don't question it.
It is sometimes defined as the memorization of facts. This is fraught with difficulty, since what is a fact in the first place. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that there are, hard, immutable facts. They can be considered as cerebral points. All you have to do to 'know' them is remember where you left them – simple recall – worms can do it, i.e., it is not a high intellectual skill, but it is what passes for education.
Sometimes 'learning' is defined as recall of a process, which can be considered as remembering how the aforementioned points are joined up. Here, we're looking at higher order skills, in the sense that causal chains are involved, but is specific only to that process. Again, however, it is simple recall and is habitual.
My definition of learning is when we see the commonality between processes that are quite disparate in nature, but all of which, when viewed through the lens of this intellectual paradigm are identical. One might call this intellectual paradigm, reason, but there are many different forms of reason and logic – all you have to do is to look at how other cultures go about the same social phenomena to see that. Furthermore, and more importantly, an intellectual paradigm is a web of reason whose nodal points are not the hard, immutable facts mentioned above, but change with the phenomenon under investigation. In this sense, it is like a template that you put onto the data and a conclusion presents itself. The template will ignore some data as irrelevant, but an assumption checker is part of the paradigm, and if the ignored data turns out to be relevant, then the paradigm evolves. Therein genius resides, I think. There seems to be a commonality between the processes that historically have led to intellectual events that have caused global paradigm shifts and it is very simple. They all seem to be syllogisms of two intellectual paradigms, e.g., General Relativity links the four dimensional geometry of Riemann Space with three dimensional Euclidean Geometry and time.
One doesn't learn facts, one learns intellectual paradigms, i.e. one learns to think and it is what state schools in England have failed to do, since the abolition of state grammar schools.
There is also individual resistance to this form of learning, because sometimes the conclusions presented are uncomfortable and go against individuals' emotional biases and therefore a more comfortable world view. Learning, as defined here takes care of that, since it implies a striving for the truth and the detachment from bias. In this sense, discovering that one has been in error, is a matter of joy, since one is then no longer in error. Here, we have the difficulty that society puts on admitting error, and some societies, I've noticed are worse than others. Without it, however, we are stuck in a web of fallacy; true fallacies are those things that we accept as true simply because they are often repeated. This is why advertising works, politicians get elected and newspapers sell.