Tag Archives: Michael Gove

Idiocy and expertise

I have – once or twice – been known to refer to Michael Gove as a “dangerous idiot”. In my opinion he is Dunning-Kruger in living, breathing, frightening action in one of the highest offices of state. He inserted his 1950s oar to screw up education and is now Lord Chancellor. He has somehow not yet screwed this up, probably because most of his changes seem to have been reversals of the chum-brained policies of his colleague Chris Grayling. Those two, plus Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, make up the Four Horsemen of the Brexocalypse: I’ll leave it up to you to parcel out all the roles, but Grayling’s definitely Gummo.

Gove was interviewed last night about the EU referendum, and made this statement: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”

gove-cartoon

What Gove means, of course, is that he has had enough of experts. Specifically, experts who disagree with him. Atop his Dunning-Kruger pinnacle Gove is unaware of how unaware he is and, by the thundering power of his own ego wrapped in his child-catcher ice-cream politeness and seduced by his own connections, he has decided he knows more than they do. He believes he is more expert than the experts.

Oh, but this kind of expert is fine by Gove, I expect.

Specialists with years, decades of training and experience, who live and breathe their subject: nope, but for one exception. The only knowledge he respects is political knowledge. To read a brief, to answer questions, to spin, to dodge, to answer without answering, to make small talk, to win elections.

This explains how he screwed up education, and how he will likely go on to screw up justice – or worse. Empirical understanding valued less than ideology and self-belief. He won, therefore he is correct.

Gove and his ilk are no different than Icke and his, bar a few lizards. It is dangerous idiocy let loose in power, a toddler diving into a ball pit of people’s lives.

2016. What a year. A year that might end with the four horsemen in charge here, and Biff Tannen over there. God help us all. No wonder everyone’s dying.

Time to rewatch Being There.

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Avaragado’s 2013 predictions – results

Here we are again. New Year’s Eve, fireworks, and celebrations filmed several weeks ago presented as if live TV. And most importantly, the results of my fabulous 2013 predictions – as marked by Chris Walsh, as usual. Commentary etc in square brackets.

News

  1. ✗ The Assad regime in Syria will fall. [Bashar al-Assad still President of Syria]
  2. ✓ There will be no changes in US federal gun-control laws. [Obama has called for tighter gun control, but no actual laws yet]
  3. ✓ The Duchess of Cambridge will give birth to a human boy. [21-Jul: Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to the future king]
  4. ✗ At least one Tory MP will defect to UKIP. [Plenty of councillors defected, and one UKIP MEP defected to the Conservatives, but this specific prediction proved false]
  5. ✗ The equal marriage bill for England and Wales will pass in the Commons but not the Lords. [15-Jul: Equal marriage bill for England and Wales has passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords]
  6. ✓ Dangerous idiot Michael Gove will be involved in a scandal over the exam board selection process for the new EBacc exams. [07-Feb: Education Secretary to announce dramatic climbdown over plans to scrap GCSEs]

[Score: 3/6]

Sport

  1. ✓ Manchester United will win the FA Premier League. [22-Apr: Manchester United won their 13th Premier League title by defeating Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford]
  2. ✗ Chelsea FC will change manager at least twice. [Only one change of manager in 2013: Benitez -> Mourinho]
  3. ✓ At least one British person will win a Wimbledon title. [08-Jul: Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013 men’s singles final with straight sets victory over Novak Djokovic]
  4. ✓ Mo Farah will win at least one gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. [10-Aug: Won the 10,000m. Also 16-Aug: Won 5,000m]
  5. ✗ Rory McIlroy will win at least two majors in golf. [Wikipedia: “McIlroy began 2013 with high aspirations, but mostly did not fare well in early tournaments… 25th place at the 2013 Masters Tournament… won the 2013 Emirates Australian Open]
  6. ✗ At least one footballer playing in the UK will come out as gay or bisexual. [Robbie Rogers, but he plays in the USA]

[Score: 3/6]

Science and technology

  1. ✓ Microsoft will buy Nokia. [03-Sep: Microsoft to buy Nokia’s mobile phone unit]
  2. ✗ Scientists will announce the synthesis of one or more atoms of element 119 or higher. [Ununseptium remains the most recently synthesised transuranic element, in 2010. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned]
  3. ✓ NASA will declare that Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space. [12-Sep: Voyager 1 departs to interstellar space]
  4. ✗ Scientists will announce the discovery of an ‘Earth twin’ – an Earth-sized exoplanet within the habitable zone of its star. [Kepler 78b is the same size as Earth, and has same proportions of iron and rock, but is so close to the sun that its year lasts 8.5 hours, rendering it a little too toasty to be habitable]
  5. ✓ The year will be one of the ten warmest years in the global record, and warmer than 2012, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. [13-Nov: “The year 2013 is currently on course to be among the top ten warmest years since modern records began. January-September 2013 was warmer than the same period in both 2011 and 2012.” We’re catching up with Kepler 78b!]
  6. ✓ Archaeologists will confirm that the bones dug up in a Leicester car park are those of Richard III. [04-Feb: DNA confirms bones are king’s]

[Score: 4/6]

Entertainment

  1. ✗ Lincoln will receive the Oscar for Best Picture. [Feb-24: Argo]
  2. ✓ Daniel Day-Lewis will receive the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Lincoln.
  3. ✓ Jennifer Lawrence will receive the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
  4. ✓ The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will involve appearances (in newly filmed scenes) from at least one former Doctor. [23-Nov: Tennant and Baker T, plus future Doctor!]
  5. ✗ The BBC will cancel The Sky at Night (probably while pretending not to). [Still running – Maggie Aderin-Pocock announced in December 2013 as a new presenter]
  6. ✓ The UK entry will finish in the third quarter of the rankings (ie, top half of the bottom half) in the Eurovision Song Contest. [1pt. 18-May: 19th out of 26 puts us 73% of the way down the leader board]

[Score: 4/6]

Celebrity Deathwatch

[We decided to award half a point per death to make the scores more compatible with predictions from previous years, since I included double the usual number of names in this section. We also abandoned the idea to score based on ages.]

  1. ✗ Denis Healey (95)
  2. ✓ Nelson Mandela (94) [Died 5-Dec aged 95]
  3. ✗ Mickey Rooney (92)
  4. ✗ Nancy Reagan (91)
  5. ✗ Richard Attenborough (89)
  6. ✗ Robert Mugabe (88)
  7. ✗ George H. W. Bush (88)
  8. ✓ Richard Briers (78) [Died 17-Feb aged 79]
  9. ✗ Barry Humphries (78)
  10. ✗ Shirley MacLaine (78)
  11. ✗ Bill Murray (62)
  12. ✗ Piers Morgan (47)

[Score: 1/6]

[Total score: 15/30]

A staggering score of 50%! This makes 2013 officially my most successful year ever for predictions. And if the trend of alternating better-worse but generally rising is anything to go by, my predictions for 2014 are on course for 40%. Though I can reveal that’s not one of my official 2014 predictions, otherwise we’re adrift in a glittering sea of meta.

Anyway, return soon for the 2014 predictions in all their 40%-likely glory.

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Hold the Uptrend Visiconk: Viceroy Blair succumbs to LFS

wibbly woo wibbly woo wibbly woo…

At last the great Y2K38 panic has subsided, thanks to patient years of upgrades and an unexpected asteroid in the bagging area. And now comes news long-expected: from Labour’s Space Transport House at the recently polished Aneurin Bevan Coca-Cola Moonbase (a subsidiary of Lunar Disney, incorporated in the state of Tranquility), a solemn announcement over the visiconks.

“Hashtag all,” it begins, in the new vernacular. “It is with great hashtag sadness that we omnipish the 1/5” … “following announcement. Please hold. 2/5” Then a blipvert, and then: “Viceroy Blair succumbed at last to Lunar Flange Syndrome 3/5” … “at Fanta O’Clock LMT this earthsolprebrunch. 4/5” … “Hashtag thoughts and prayers, etc in luvmems of the People’s Princessoriser. Coke is it. 5/5”

Meanwhile, deep beneath the lunar regolith at the Margaret Thatcher Pizza Hut Lunar Mining Corporation Space-Tory HQ — the “Thatch Hatch” — tributes are paid, lolspeeches are droned, but in the Homepods and the gated satellite exclusocaves there is but one refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice at that news!

A row bubbles and bursts over the spacewaves. “You disrespect a dear former leader, an old man.” “Viceroy Blair was divisive.” “He rid the world of dictators.” “He brought ruin to the land, before it became ruined.” And so on. The ancient arguments nursed again into dangerous and bitter flame beneath the pressurised twatdomes.

But as the Interplanetary Labour Party hold the balance of power, albeit in conjunction with the Lunar Independence Party, their will prevails. Many megacredits are instazapped to pay for the funeral, even though this means some go without basic necessities such as Coca-Cola. It’s not a state funeral, oh no, they insist: the Anima-Queen’s eyes buzzed red when the idea was suggested. And so it proves: the laser light extravacremanza is a slightly lighter shade of mauve, thus identifying it unambiguously as merely a ceremonial funeral. The supergun carriage travels via Tube Olive not Tube Potato, entirely different. The entrance to St Ronald’s Cathedral is lined with Chelsea Cyborgs, not the active servicedroids currently engaged in the war against Lunar Eurasia.

It is by no means a political funeral. The guest list for the service merely includes all party donors and surviving members of Blair’s cabinet, with Supreme General Overlord Omicron Mandelson telespazzing in from the Outer Worlds, and Gordon Brown sending a miniclone. Although invited in accordance with the War Crimes (Ignore Ignore) Act 2020, the Immortal Empty Soul of Henry Kissinger sends his apologies, secured as he is behind the impenetrable borders of the People’s Republic of Lunar America. By special arrangement Robodiana, sponsored by the Daily App, hovers above the plastipews scattering underage upskirt images of celebrity children as part of its immoral crusade.

In accordance with no tradition, Big Space Ben is placed in Silent Mode for the duration of the funeral service, and the Tubes are lined with the Boys in Black to facilitate appropriate mourning behaviour. Space Onions are available for an optional mandatory fee from every Coca-Cola dispenser.

These precautions do not entirely stop unauthorised rebellions, including lowered visors and retransmissions of “unbalanced” material such as the F*rty-f*ve M*n*tes speech (name obfuscated to trick the Ultra-Effectivo™ Lunar Unlimited Virgin Omnifilter). A campaign led from the deepest lava tubes of the Northern Line to propel Things Can Only Get Better to hashpos 0000001 in the bongotrends causes controversy when the LBBC decides to broadsmit only every alternate bar, intercutting with footage of Space Pope Colin II humming halluciprayers and rattling a tin from a balcony of St Peter’s Bank of Silica.

And now at last into the cathedral come the senior guests, led by the recently televoted PM Romeo Beckham and the winners of Lunar Britain’s Got Cabinet, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Maximilian Plantagenet Idaho Binge Squabbler, known to his owners as Polly T Parrot. And finally the Anima-Queen and her brood, cleansing the St Ronald’s lino of choking regolith for the ceremonial entrance of the most honoured guest, Eternal Emperor Cameron, and his little dog Gove.

Pray silence, now, for His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Tranquility, Professor Brian Cox.

…wibbly woo wibbly woo wibbly woo

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Avaragado’s 2013 predictions

2012! Who could forget the glorious summer? The coronation of Queen (formerly Sir Alan) Amidala? Britain’s abject failure in the 1500m tug-of-raw at the organic Spacelympics? The universal acclaim for the politics of austerity?

As the dregs of the year drip from the meths bottle of tomorrow into the tramp’s mouth of history and dribble through the foetid beard of ornithology onto the mangy dog’s head of clinical studies at Guy’s Hospital, it is time to stare resolutely past the tramp’s outstretched palm of invisibility to what 2013 will bring forth, or perhaps fifth. Here’s what I think:

News

  1. The Assad regime in Syria will fall.
  2. There will be no changes in US federal gun-control laws.
  3. The Duchess of Cambridge will give birth to a human boy.
  4. At least one Tory MP will defect to UKIP.
  5. The equal marriage bill for England and Wales will pass in the Commons but not the Lords.
  6. Dangerous idiot Michael Gove will be involved in a scandal over the exam board selection process for the new EBacc exams.

Sport

  1. Manchester United will win the FA Premier League.
  2. Chelsea FC will change manager at least twice.
  3. At least one British person will win a Wimbledon title.
  4. Mo Farah will win at least one gold medal at the World Athletics Championships.
  5. Rory McIlroy will win at least two majors in golf.
  6. At least one footballer playing in the UK will come out as gay or bisexual.

Science and technology

  1. Microsoft will buy Nokia.
  2. Scientists will announce the synthesis of one or more atoms of element 119 or higher.
  3. NASA will declare that Voyager 1 has left the solar system and entered interstellar space.
  4. Scientists will announce the discovery of an ‘Earth twin’ – an Earth-sized exoplanet within the habitable zone of its star.
  5. The year will be one of the ten warmest years in the global record, and warmer than 2012, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
  6. Archaeologists will confirm that the bones dug up in a Leicester car park are those of Richard III.

Entertainment

  1. Lincoln will receive the Oscar for Best Picture.
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis will receive the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Lincoln.
  3. Jennifer Lawrence will receive the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook.
  4. The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who will involve appearances (in newly filmed scenes) from at least one former Doctor.
  5. The BBC will cancel The Sky at Night (probably while pretending not to).
  6. The UK entry will finish in the third quarter of the rankings (ie, top half of the bottom half) in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Celebrity Deathwatch

In previous years I’ve named six people. This year I thought I’d round it up to nine, but then discovered three of my names overlapped with Andrew’s (caution: Facebook). Consequently I added three more, to make twelve.

Also, I’m adopting Andrew’s scoring system: each valid death (occurring at any time in the year) scores that person’s age at death subtracted from 100. For example, an 85-year-old’s death would score 15 points, and a 101-year-old’s would score -1 point (thus making it a daft choice). For reference, I’ve included the age of each of my selected celebrities, as at January 1st 2013.

  1. Denis Healey (95)
  2. Nelson Mandela (94)
  3. Mickey Rooney (92)
  4. Nancy Reagan (91)
  5. Richard Attenborough (89)
  6. Robert Mugabe (88)
  7. George H. W. Bush (88)
  8. Richard Briers (78)
  9. Barry Humphries (78)
  10. Shirley MacLaine (78)
  11. Bill Murray (62)
  12. Piers Morgan (47)

Please join me next New Year’s Eve for the official adjudication and other assorted lols.

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Examinations for Dummies

At today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, in response to a question about the government’s apparent plan to replace GCSEs with something like the old O Levels and CSEs, David Cameron said: “On this side of the house we think we need a rigorous system and that’s what we’re going to put in place.” And who could disagree with that?

He also, naturally, took potshots at Labour: “The tragedy is that what we inherited from the last government was a system that was being progressively dumbed down, where Britain was falling down the league tables, and GCSE questions included things like ‘How do you see the moon, is it through a telescope or a microscope?’” (Source: video on the BBC Democracy Live web site, from about 26:06, transcribed by me. I have no idea how persistent that URL will be, but Hansard will have an approximation to that text tomorrow.)

His mocking of the moon question revealed a deep ignorance of the examination system. His Education Secretary, the dangerous idiot Gove, presumably has similarly ignorant views.

What, I wonder, would they expect to see in an exam? A series of questions of equal and maximal difficulty? Presumably the correct answers to all questions would give you an A grade and thus the stamp of Tory approval, with the other grades distributed across those students who answered only some of the questions correctly. There. Easy.

But what have you learned?

You’ve learned that not all students can answer hard questions. Well, that’s not a great surprise. And in fact, for a maths or science exam with absolute right/wrong answers I’d imagine you’ve learned, to a first approximation, that a tiny number of students answer most or all questions correctly, because they’re the brightest in the class, and the rest get very few marks at all.

The reality is, you’ve learned nothing about the less able students or the mid-range students at all. You certainly haven’t learned how able anyone is. You’ve just partitioned the students between “can answer hard exam questions” and “can’t answer hard exam questions”.

This is demonstrated easily by pub quizzes. The worst quizzes consist of equally tough — or equally easy — questions. Either way you sit with your pint of orange and lemonade in grinding frustration, either writing Trotsky against every question or scribbling in the answer before the question’s finished. These quizzes frustrate the participants and serve only to make the question master look foolish.

Here’s what exams should do, which is — not coincidentally — what exams actually do.

Exams should include easy questions so students at the low-ability end of the scale can score more than zero. If you don’t do this you alienate them. You brand them as useless, as utter failures. They feel excluded and worthless. This is not good.

Exams should include questions of increasing difficulty, so you can more easily differentiate abilities. “What is a lunar eclipse?” “Give an example of a way to view the sun safely.” “Draw on the diagram the main components of a reflecting telescope.” (I have no idea whether these are real questions, or whether they’d be considered acceptable questions. They’re off the top of my head and seem to me to be in increasing difficulty. But I don’t set exams.)

And of course you need to stretch and challenge the most able students. “Give one reason why we shouldn’t fire Gove into the blazing heart of the Sun.”

GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education. GCE: General Certificate of Education. Exams allow students of all abilities to demonstrate their knowledge and to receive appropriate credit. They do not exist to serve only the most able students: they must be accessible to all.

Just about anyone with any knowledge of the education system could tell the Prime Minister this. The Education Secretary should be well aware already.

If they both do understand this point, then what are they really trying to do to the education system?

But if not: grade F.

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The Gove-Santorum axis of immorality

Michael Gove is the antichrist, isn’t he? Surely? Or is it Rick Santorum? It’s got to be one of them. Maybe it’s both? Maybe they’re two halves of the antichrist, two snap-together segments. The Lego antichrist. And in the nightmare scenario, the antichrist-enabler Cameron is toppled by Gove’s satanic helpers (prop. R. Murdoch) — who then install their dark lord as PM and scoot across to the US to engage in a holy fiddle to rig the election for Santorum.

Then at their first meeting, the first Gove-Santorum swivel-in, the two shake damp hands and a spark and a purple flash herald the apocalypse. Jagged cracks bubble with lava, flying monkeys with little matching purple hats flock and swoop and snatch up children and animals, and the Daily Express worries about the effect on house prices, blames the BBC, and pins its hopes on a large photograph of Princess Diana.

I mean, how is it conceivable in the modern world, with all its facts and actual knowledge and stuff, that these two dangerous idiots aren’t simply guffawed off the stage?

It is said that a mere touch from the former Senator from Pennsylvania audibly and visibly leeches the intelligence from your bones; and that cameras watching him pass through a crowd are steered away to avoid spotting the desiccated husks crumbling into neat piles of dust in his wake.

And Gove, poor Gove, his grey face never far from confused over-tired tears, is busily thrusting Britain’s education system forward into the 1950s, ensuring institutionalised faith-based homophobia, and sucking up to his once and future boss Murdoch like the Tories of Thatcher.

I despair.

You know, I thought you were supposed to get more conservative as you age: shifting from denim to the elasticated waistbands of M&S and all the comforts of traditional bigotry such as the Daily Mail. Instead I find I’m becoming more militant: I am intolerant of intolerance, of ignorance, of idiocy, of demagoguery. I might be a Grumpy Not-So-Old Man. Or, more likely, one of those militant homosexual atheists everyone is allegedly so afraid of. I fear I am in grave danger of buying a pair of co-op hemp dungarees and selling Socialist Worker on street corners, and muttering fascist under my breath at anyone with a newer iPhone than me.

The irony, I suppose, is that what jiggles my frosting about Gove and Santorum and, in fact, most politicians, is their sheer immorality.

Gove, supposedly working for us as Education Secretary, but meeting every five minutes with Murdoch — who, coincidentally, wants to make lots of money out of education. And good lord: the first “free school” to sign a funding agreement with Gove was co-founded by Toby Young, who is now a political columnist with Murdoch’s Sun on Sunday and whose first column tipped Gove as a future prime minister.

Santorum, misty-eyed wobbly-lipped defender of the Constitution of the United States of God Bless America, who says “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute” and that such a separation was “not the founders’ vision”. OK, let’s hear from Thomas Jefferson, actual founding father and actual principal author of the actual Declaration of Independence. On New Year’s Day 1802, when he was actual US President, he wrote: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

Immorality.

Like giving your corporate chums free labour and calling it voluntary work experience while threatening to withhold benefits from the slaves if they don’t comply. That’s immorality.

Like insisting that your right to marry is determined not by your character or your devotion or your behaviour, but by your chromosomes. That’s immorality.

There surely comes a time at which the immorality of those in and around power — which includes politicians, the journalists that cravenly support them, and the corrupt police — finally turns upon itself. This immoral triangle of power, rusting and crumbling. That day might be closer than we think.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy some dungarees and possibly a small cave in the Lake District.

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