Below is an exchange of emails between me and my eleven year old son’s history teacher which have suddenly made me realise how truly ghastly State education is in secondary schools, and how I must do something to get my son away from this appalling and useless State education system which is obviously already wrecking my son’s real keenness to learn.
He is an obviously bright person who could do well with decent teaching, but equally obviously, it looks as though he will be badly let down by useless teachers in a useless educational system orchestrated by a dangerously useless doctrinaire Labour Government engaged in fourteen years of social engineering and manipulation to impoverise the entire population intellectually as well as financially.
January 27th 2010
Dear Mr H,
I have just had a lengthy conversation with my eleven year old son about homework and I asked him:
– What subjects have demanded homework from him and what is currently outstanding
– if all the teachers of various subjects who are demanding homework showed which clicks progressed/navigated to the document containing the homework for each subject
– If the teachers projected the documents onto the whiteboard and explained the contents and exactly what the pupils had to do and by when
– I also asked him if he had asked for and received help with someone actually showing him how to navigate to the homework documents and made clear what was required from within those documents.
My son told me that nobody has shown him how to navigate the site and open and/or print homework documents.He claims his requests for help in this regard when he has attended the homework club have been totally ignored and he clearly describes having no help there whatever. He is also vague about any of his teachers setting homework and he comes across as just being vaguely aware that teachers might have mentioned it, but he has no actual real knowledge of what it is and repeatedly claims he cannot understand what any of this homework would be from the website.
Specifically with regard to his history homework, my son tells me that he is adamant that he has never been in your class when you have set homework and explained what is required from the website. When I asked him how it is possible for him not to have been in class when history homework was set he simply says it must have been when he was away from school (he has been ill for a couple of days at some point).
When I asked him why he has not asked you directly what the history homework is, he informed me he has made at least three attempts to ask you and either been brushed aside and on one occasion he described your direct answer as ‘I have already set the homework in class; you can go and find it on the website or ask one of your classmates’.
– which my son tells me he cannot as he simply cannot make head or tail of the website document and class mates he has asked have been unable/unwilling to tell him.
I have endeavoured to pick holes in my son’s statements to me, and I cannot. So I merely report what he has told me and I have no real idea how accurate any of this is as I know his thinking is highly erratic at this time, mainly owing to a sudden rush of adolescent hormones to his brain.
When I put myself in his place and attempt to find out what I might be expected to do for homework and by when from the history documents on the website, I still haven’t a clue. So, if I can’t understand what is required I cannot really expect an eleven year old child to.
First of all none of the links work if clicked on my two year old Apple Imac. Although I presume they will send me to the correct website if I type the addresses in; I cannot even copy and paste the addresses and would have to re-type them. I find this bizarre and a completely unforgivable failure of the software writers.
On one of the documents you sent me in your email as an attachment ( feedback sheet) it is impossible to read all the copy in the boxes under the headings levels 4,5,6, etc as some of this copy is obscured by a window and, although it looks as though there is a button to allow access to the rest of the copy, it doesn’t work on my computer; another ridiculous piece of software engineering of the sort I find utterly contemptible.
On the second document (what is history – castles) you attached in your email to me, which I had already studied at length from the website anyway, the only conclusion I can come to is that the homework required for my son to do is all of the tasks listed, as there is no instruction that I can see to do anything and one is just left to work on the assumption that all tasks are required.
There is a nagging feeling in me which tells me this is not the case as there seems to be quite a lot (about nine tasks ) and certainly much, much more that the 70 minutes that appears to be set for the homework. Also there are some confusing contradictions in the instructions which may indicate that not all of these tasks should be done.
One of the problems with the history homework sheet that I see is that there is so much gobble-de-gook meaningless information, that is pretty much nothing whatever to do with a normal and simple instruction for homework such as: write an essay of 1000 words on medieval castles and the life lived in them using references X, Y & Z., that my brain glazes over in a fog of incomprehension. It is clear exactly the same happens to my eleven year old son.
I was forcibly reminded on a visit to Sainsburys last night, how destructive a lethal overdose of this type of information is when the newly ‘revamped’ Sainsburys presented a dizzying confusion of insane muddle. Supermarkets spend huge amounts of money researching how to manipulate customers as much as possible and a well known significant part of this manipulation to encourage greater spending is to deliberately muddle products and constantly move them around shelves. This forces customers to wander around the entire supermarket in a daze for far longer periods than they wish to to and it results in greater spending.
Last night I noticed this had reached heights of supermarket arrogance which were positively despicable. It was made completely surreal as virtually all products everywhere were largely obscured by acres of large bits of bright red and orange cardboard with idiot slogans on them. These made it even more difficult than ever before to find out where anything was to such an extent it made me instantly determined to avoid Sainsburys for good at all costs.
This Sainsburys nonsense reminded me forcibly of how my complaints about muddle and endless manipulation and spurious information rammed down our throats by websites is very valid.
It is what makes a nonsense of the internet.
My conclusion is that it is virtually impossible for me to ascertain anything relevant about any homework from the documents on the web site and so I am not surprised that my eleven year old son is also clueless about it.
The fault lies entirely with the nature of how people have chosen to use computers as there is no reason why a homework page on the internet cannot be exactly and precisely the same as I experienced homework instructions when I was at school. They were a simple, understandable written instruction to do A,B, or C. Home work instructions before computers poisoned our lives were not presented as some kind of game of obfustication where information was hidden, disguised and made incomprehensible with a babble of mindless bureaucrat-speak from some nightmare Orwellian 1984 style vision of purgatory.
With all the best will in the world I am completely unable to help my son understand what he is supposed to do for his history homework. Nor does the use of a website enable me, as a parent, to be fully in touch with any aspect of homework, as it was trumpeted to do, and it in fact leaves me much worse off as a parent trying to ensure homework is done and kept up to date than pre-website type homework mechanisms.
I am rather at a loss as to how to proceed from here.
On 27 Jan 2010, at 14:12, The teacher H wrote:
On setting the Independent Learning tasks in lesson I also
projected the website onto the board and demonstrated to the
students how to download the booklet, as well as explaining
which tasks they should complete – and exacatly (sic) how they
should approach the tasks.
I give the students my e-mail address and make them aware of
the Independent Learning club in the library, who download
the booklets for the students and print them off to assist
them. I am always willing to help the students who let me
know they are struggling.
I have attached the tasks booklet to save your son having to
access it from the website. As you will see, the level six
and seven tasks do recommend a website, for which we have
provided the link to save your son trawling the internet. During
the academic catch-up I will be able to assist your son with the
work, and ensure he fully understands where to, and how to
access it from for future tasks.
Teacher of Humanities
January 18th 2010
Dear Mr H
Ref: Your ‘phone call 27 Jan 2010
You telephoned me today about my eleven year old son not having completed his history homework.
I asked him about his history homework last night and why he had not done it at the homework club on Tuesday Jan 26, instead of having nothing to do after finishing English homework.
His reply was that he had no idea what the homework was because he had not been told what it was. Asked why he couldn’t find out on the web site, he said he couldn’t access it.
I have no idea of how much of what he says can be taken at absolute face value and how much might be typical child prevarication.
However, I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the idea of the school website being used for homework – or most other things, for that matter.
I use a two year old Apple computer. My first experience of the website was that not only was it needlessly difficult to navigate (like nearly everything on most websites due to randomly scattered, excessive and unrelated information vomited onto the screen in a state of total, unfocussed confusion, dispensing with any concepts of useful graphic design) but the homework bit was incomprehensible. One of several reasons being no document would open due to me ‘not having the application’ to open it.
When, entirely by means of telethapy, I discovered this was because arcane (open source) software (that I had never seen or used in thirty years of using computers) was being used and the website does not inform users to go and obtain it, I still found nothing much worked; But I did manage to open what appears to be the instructions for history homework.
Because of the deliberate ignoring of an concepts of ‘ease of reading’ i.e graphic design, it took me ages to stumble around trying to work out what was required.
It appears to me, but I am still confused, that you require pupils to write various essays and construct a graph randomly using the internet to find all the information needed. There is a strong inference that there are no text books being used in class from which this information would have come from in pre-computer days.
If this is the case, I am appalled. The random use of the internet to find information seems to be an incredibly bad way of replacing more traditional education – and text books.
If pupils were directed to a specific (and useful) website that would be better, although still dubious. As it is, I know from my own daily use of the internet, that it is a completely silly, time wasting way of acquiring vast amounts of mis-information to randomly trawl around looking for reliable facts about anything.
I know because I do it all the time. And, apart from the accuracy of any information gleaned, and there is virtually no way of knowing what is correct and what is fiction, there is the fact that using the internet in this manner takes a horrendous amount of time and so completely rots the brain, that using it as a replacement for more normal, more focussed, school education seems farcical.
This is not intended as any criticism of you personally, and it may be that I am missing something about all this and that it isn’t really as bad as it does seem to me.
But have I actually got all this wrong ?
Not withstanding my views expressed here, it is the case that my son has had continuous difficulty with homework and the website – and I can quite understand why.
The bottom line would be that blaming either me or my son for being unable to find things on websites etc cannot be logical as it is clearly the job of people trying to convey information to others via the internet/websites to be able to concisely communicate with accuracy and speed instead of very inaccurately and in a state of complete confusion at the pace of a terminally sick snail.
Which is pretty much how the internet generally behaves.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Tags: Children, Education, family, Gordon Brown, Government, HOMEWORK, Labour Party, News, Politics, Poverty, Prime Minister, Sainsburys, Schools, SECONDARY SCHOOLS, SOCIAL ENGINEERING, STATE SCHOOLS, Supermarkets, TEACHING