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Thursday, September 22, 2005

If Grange Hill had been set in Glasgow ...

Natalie Solent directs us to Shuggy's blog, who recounts a wee stoushie in a Glasgow school. My father used to teach in a 'hard' school in Glasgow (it might even have been the hardest school in Scotland, but I haven't checked the league tables) and he would tell stories like this all the time. I once browsed through the pupils' memories board for his school at Friends Reunited and read - and I'm not making this up - a post that went something like "Does anyone remember the time that someone shot Mr. ***** in the leg? Oh, how I nearly wet myself laughing." (Obviously, I've tidied up the grammar a bit.)

Now, in case you're mystified why Britain's education industry has been deprived of my talents as a teacher, here are a couple of reforms either of which might encourage people like me to enter the profession:

1. Raise a teacher's starting salary to about two hundred grand. In that case I could afford to employ my own body guard, or

2. Grant teachers the right to expel from their classrooms, on a whim and with no right of appeal, any pupils of their choosing.

Meanwhile, Bishop Hill and Brian Micklethwait both blog about truancy. Truancy is one of those problems that everyone agrees the government should do something about. Earnest members of the audience ask the Question Time panel what should be done about truancy. Worthy Question Time panellists tell us all how appalling truancy is and why something should be done about it. The government pledges to spend billions of pounds doing something about truancy. Something is duly done about truancy.

My response to this is, as ever, calm, measured and thoughtful, and goes something like: Have you gone stark, raving mad? Did you really come up the Clyde in a banana boat? Are you deliberately trying to encourage children to murder each other? In my experience (and I did go to school, so this is not some airy-fairy theoretical analysis based on consumer utility functions and labour supply curves), the pupils most likely to play truant were the same pupils who, when present, would be most likely to knife the teacher. A class full of truants is, when the truants are doing their truanting, a peaceful class. When the truants weren't there, we would discover that the teacher would often have interesting things to say. I am firmly in favour of truancy. It is a much under-rated educational innovation.

Of course, when I express these views to my father, he always comes out with some blather about depriving children of their right to an education, but I can tell that he agrees with me, even if he won't admit it.

Play truant, play truant now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Comment of the year

I've never met Harry Hutton and he's never heard of me (probably), but I really need to buy him a drink sometime. Here he is, in a Samizdata comment, explaining the virtues of a flat rate tax:
I once saw a fight in a pub about Estonian flat taxes. This one guy was mouthing off about how iniquitous they were, not being progressive, and this other guy says, "DonĀ“t be a c___. Tax revenues have increased," and head-butted him.

We all piled in on the side of the flat taxes guy, on the grounds that Estonian tax revenues have indeed increased.

Why do I find pub violence so funny?