Thursday, January 25, 2007

Four legs good, Two legs bad!!!

I cannot be the only one in the world who wonders sometimes who on earth writes the news scripts?

This week's corker has to go to the radio news reader (shamefully I can't remember what station as I was just flicking to find news of any sort) who came up with this faux pas after an emergency landing by an aircraft due to the death of the pilot in transit:

" the plane landed safely at x airport. No-one was hurt in the emergency landing...........(pause)........except the pilot of course."

At bookclub this month we have just discussed "The Spirit Catches you and you fall down". If you haven't read it, it is well worth the read. A book written by a journalist who followed the life of a little Hmong girl with epilepsy and her family. They move from Laos to the US whereupon it is discovered that this little girl has epilepsy. In the Hmong culture, epilepsy is seen as a gift, it is described as the title. Many shamen have this gift. Anyway in America epilepsy is seen as a medical condition that is treatable. However, neither her parents speak English or read Hmong nor at the time were there interpreters. There is a real cross fire of culture and in the end, by whatever means, the little girl eventually becomes so sick that she doesn't recover and remains from this day forth, in a vegetative state. I shan't give too much more of the book away, suffice to say that I found it very impressionable. Whereas initially it is so easy to "judge" from a western stance, ie: were the Hmong stupid not to take the tablets, surely they must know that medicine was the only help for her, of course the doctors were right; in more depth it is actually incomprehensible to really understand HOW the Hmong felt about this and why. This culture is so far removed from any of our pre-conceived ideas of technology, medicine, illness and even hierarchy, that it became a book that certainly I (not sure any of my fellow bookclubbers remained with my by this point!!) started seeing from, if you like, a levitational view. I really knew that I could never understand why this happened and to be honest, I don't think I was meant to, but it really helped me open my eyes. It was well written, the author had certainly got to a certain degree of intimacy with the Hmong, and reported the history and the facts as such, but had she understood them, no, absolutely not, and she won't, just as had a Hmong written the book they would never have understood it from a Western POV.

That said, if you like books that make you think outside the box, ie: this is not a particularly easy read, it is also written in a very journalistic way too, then try it.

The other "bee" in my bonnet this week is an article in the in the UK about the call to scrap catchment areas for schools and basically to draw names out of a hat for intake for schools. I can see what they are trying to achieve by doing this: ie a mixed intake so that lower socio-economic areas are not necessarily going to be the lower achieving schools, house prices remaining more constant because there will be less desire to move to a good school catchment area etc but my problems with it are thus:

1. A good school is not solely down to the area. A good school comprises, in my opinion, of a good strong headteacher, motivated staff, funding, a mix of pupils who are inspired.

2. What about people who do live, and have always lived, within walking distances of local schools that they are more than happy and expect their children to attend, they have to get into cars, add to the pollution and traffic and parking problems to drive 4 - 5 miles across town to a school where their child's name HAS been drawn.

3. Private schools are going to be oversubscribed and thus this will eventually have a knock on effect for funding for state schools ie: less pupils= less capital = not achieving #1 in my list!!

4. People are always going to "change religion", move to a good catchment area or bend the rules to ensure as much as possible that their child gets the best possible education.

It's crazy. I am sure my parents never had the problems that my generation are now facing. Our house in the UK backs onto a school, currently we will presume that our younger two will be offered places there. We hope T will, but as his entry will be to Y5 it may be harder and he doesn't really fit into this argument, he is a different case. That said, if either of the others don't get in, we are lucky as the next options locally are also excellent schools but I will be fulfulling #2 and driving 3 miles to a different school - madness! In our area in the UK a lot of the problem is down to the fact that they are building more and more houses and not keeping the amenities up so that everyone is accomodated. Before we left for overseas, they had already knocked down one house three doors down and built three teeny tiny postage stamp sized town houses in it's place, so now as a minimum there are three (but probably 6 or more) people living in the same sized plot as 1 or maybe 2 were before!! There are or maybe have been 60 houses built on wooded area all of which are "family" houses so that is another 240 people to get into the already oversubscribed doctor's surgery and 120 more children probably to get into the local school that attaches to my house...........

Would we pay privately to ensure them a good quality of education if we were in a situation where our next offering of school was crap - probably, yes, because we could if we tightened our belts but why should we? and what happens to people who can't?

Maybe all this money spent on developing lovely wooded natural land could have been spent on schools or amenities? Nah, of course not, at the end of the day, that won't line some business man or politician's pocket so s/he can continue to send his/her children to a private school away from us riff raff.

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