Dumbing Down: The Awful Truth

I know we still have a couple of months before the GCSE results come in but already I can make a confident prediction: Britain’s 16-year olds will be proved with a record number of A and A* grades to be the brightest 16 year olds in the nation’s history.

Any commentator who dares to use unhelpful phrases like “grade inflation” will be dismissed by the current Schools Minister (presuming Gordon Brown can find any MP still willing to serve under him as far hence as August) as an ‘elitist snob bent on undermining the very real achievements of our hardworking children and their hardworking teachers who have done so much to position Britain at the forefront of international league tables of academic excellence, comfortably beating Afghanistan, Chechnya and Sudan, and only a notch or two below such well-known scholastic hot-spots as Burkina Faso, Albania and Somalia.’

Meanwhile, here is some recent research comparing difficulty levels in Maths papers in the last four decades.

1. Teaching maths in 1970

A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.

His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.
What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is 80% of the price.
What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80.
How much was his profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.
Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2005

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habit of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.

Your assignment: Discuss how the birds and squirrels might feel as the logger cut down their homes just for a measly profit of £20.

All right, these are actually made-up examples from a joke website, but can anyone spot any major difference between the satire and reality? Have a look at the joke in full at this site. It goes on to satirize health and safety legislation, Government incompetence and the rise of Islamism. If it weren’t all so depressingly true, you’d almost find it in your heart to laugh.

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BBC – Radio 4 Woman’s Hour

June 19, 2009

BBC – Radio 4 Woman’s Hour

James discusses men’s relationships with male friends on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.


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C4 Podcast Interview

James weighs in on Obamacare on C4’s (Clarence Mitchell IV’s) show. Click here to listen.

One Response to “C4 Podcast Interview”

  1. Michael says:June 17, 2009 at 2:45 pmCongrats on the interview. Just one question though; isn’t it true that returning the provision of healthcare to private interests could lead to a monopolising oligarchy that, in the final analysis, treats it shareholders prior to its patients? How can healthcare be provided in a way that doesn’t finally become a bloated private-sector version of the ineffective State sector that it is trying to replace – or, more briefly, how can we keep monopoly out of healthcare?The ideal is of course independent hospitals and clinics, and independent health authorities, but surely the market will swallow these up and impose a uniform and inflexible health care system much like the one that many people seem to be disenchanted with…

What the BBC Didn’t Want You to Know about the Belfast ‘Romanians’

Sometimes working out what’s going in Britain by listening to the BBC can be almost as confusing as working out what’s going in Iran by relying on the official Islamic Republic News Agency. This morning’s Today programme report on the 115 “Romanians” driven out of their homes in Belfast by racist threats was a perfect case in point.

If you listened to the report carefully, you would have realised that the victims weren’t simply Romanians. They were in fact Roma. But not for one second did anyone from the BBC acknowledge this, nor is it mentioned on the BBC website. It only slipped out by accident when a local race-relations worker interviewed on the programme happened to mention the victims’ ethno-cultural identity.

Should we be bothered by the BBC’s gag-inducingly PC circumlocution? You bet we should. The BBC – more’s the pity – remains arguably the most trusted disseminator of news in Britain. Yet here, it chose to treat its audience like children: children who simply could not be trusted to be told the full truth unless they came to the “wrong” conclusions.

Now you may feel, as I do, that it is no more excusable to persecute someone because they belong to a gipsy group than it is to persecute them for their nationality. (Or indeed, their sexual orientation, or their educational background or social class). But it is up to us, as grown-ups, to make up our own minds on our moral position on these issues, not for the BBC to do it for us by withholding key facts.

It is precisely this kind of mealy-mouthed disingenuousness on the subject of race and identity which drives a put-upon electorate mad with frustration and despair. So long as the BBC – our three main political parties too – go on disseminating this Orwellian version of reality, the far Right will continue to grow.

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One thought on “What the BBC didn’t want you to know about the Belfast ‘Romanians’”

  1. Josh Parrish says:18th June 2009 at 1:22 pmHow about the simple error in implying Romanian is a race? Romanians are not a race unto themselves. I’m not from the UK, so it may be a US/UK difference in word use, but you wouldn’t refer to Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Northern Ireland as “racist,” would you? Roma is a race, Romanian is a nationality. Conflating the two to maintain political correctness is silly–and something I would expect from the BBC (or NPR on my side of the Atlantic).

    James: you are a great writer. I generally don’t follow events in the UK, but I read your columns because you think and write well. Keep it up.

Comments are closed.

I’ve Moved

I’ve Moved

James Delingpole’s totally fucking brilliant blog is currently at The Daily Telegraph.

Note: This is here merely for historical purposes. Actually his blog is here: delingpoleworld.com, and soon to be at jamesdelingpole.com.

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Green Jobs. What Green Jobs?

They call him The Terminator. And not unreasonably so – for Terminate is exactly what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done to the Californian economy.

Remember how, not so long ago, the Golden State used to boast that if it split from the rest of the US it would become the world’s fifth biggest economy? Not any more. With unemployment at over 9 per cent (and rising), a business exodus more frenzied than the great wildebeeste migration, and a dollars 41 billion hole in its finances, California is on the verge of becoming the first state in US history to be declared bankrupt.

But hang on just a second. Wasn’t this exactly the kind of economic debacle that was supposed NOT to happen under Arnie’s take-no-prisoners stewardship?

Isn’t this why, in the early days, they called him The Governator: because he was going to “cut up the credit card”, slash  red tape, high taxes and anti-competitive business regulations, slim down the bloated public sector and turn California back into the lean mean fighting machine it used to be in the days of Ronnie Reagan?

Well yes. That was the idea certainly – and it was one that persuaded quite a few of us at the time. Sure Arnie had his repellant aspects – not least, as Clive James put it, the fact the he resembles a “condom stuffed with walnuts” – but, at least, we thought, he was our humourless, monosyllabic Austrian SOB and not the enemy’s.

As actors went, we thought, he wasn’t one of those Tim Robbins, George Clooney, or Alec Baldwin types whose first move on taking the governorship would probably be to turn half of California into a giant welfare park for the homeless and released death row prisoners, and the other half into a ginormous ice rink for endangered polar bears. Arnie, we thought – and he was, after all, campaigning on a Republican ticket – would be a proper no-nonsense Conservative.

So where did it all go wrong? The kindest interpretation is that Arnie is but the hapless victim of a state so irredeemably left-wing, union-dominated and bureaucratised, that he couldn’t change its ways even if he wanted.

Like France – which each day it more closely resembles – California is caught in a classic socialistic bind: it can’t afford the welfare state, but it can’t imagine life without it. Having started with the best of intentions, the theory goes, Arnie realised he cared more about being popular than he did about giving his voters the economic cold shower that might have rescued them from their statist stupor.

At best, then, Arnie is a moral coward. He had the political capital early in his governorship to clean out the Augean mess of California’s Jabba-the-Hutt welfare state and, like Tony Blair in Britain, he funked it because he preferred being liked.

At worst, though, Arnie is something much more dangerous than that: a deluded fool with the power to do real harm. Consider his green policies. In 2006 California signed into law the toughest anti-global-warming measures of any state in the US. And perhaps they’re working – certainly the freak snow storms which visited London last month and are now sweeping Washington DC suggest someone somewhere is doing something right to bring on the new ice age – but the effect on California’s economy has been disastrous.

The killer has been the State’s forthcoming “cap and trade” measures, which will cost Californian households around $23 billion in increased electricity bills and impose strict limits on businesses regarding the amount of  CO2 they emit (with hefty fines for exceeding it). This is why so many businesses are fleeing California (and why unemployment is so high). The last thing they need in a global depression is to find themselves hamstrung with needless extra costs which their competitors don’t have to pay.

Schwarzenegger’s nimble response to this crisis? To go into indestructible replicant mode and plough on regardless. “I recommend very strongly that we move forward,” he said recently. “You will always have people saying this will lose jobs.”

No, Arnie. Not just people saying you will lose jobs. People ACTUALLY losing jobs. Thousands if not millions of them. Under your governorship. As a result of green regulation that you personally introduced.

And where California leads, unfortunately, the rest of America follows. The tax and spend, eco-fascistic policies which have proved so disastrous in California are about to be applied wholesale across the US by President Obama. Copied in Britain too by David Cameron’s Tories, if the Spectator is to be believed.

Arnie, you great big dumb schmuck, you have a hell of a lot to answer for. And I don’t just mean Last Action Hero and Kindergarten Cop.

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Christian Forgiveness: Much Overrated

Fred the Shred

Should “Sir” Fred “The Shred” Goodwin be sent by extraordinary rendition to prison in Equatorial Guinea, strung up by his wedding tackle,  painted in honey and left to hang there while he is eaten slowly alive by mosquitoes and soldier ants?

You might well think so, but I could not possibly agree. First, we must remember that the estimable RBS chief executive has committed no crime whatsoever under English law. Second, the punishment is far, far too good for him.
When I mention these feelings to my more sophisticated friends, they tell me that I am the victim of a cunning government ploy to deflect attention from the REAL villains of Britain’s economic crisis. No I’m not. I hate and blame Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Lord Myners et al, every bit as much as I did before. I just think it would be an awful shame if we missed the opportunity to give Sir Fred “The Shred” the proper kicking he deserves.

Let’s consider the facts. “Fred the Shred” got his nickname by ruthlessly slashing costs at all the companies he worked in. Did he, you wonder, say to any of his dozens – if not hundreds, if not thousands – of sackees as he handed them their P45s: “Och aye the noo, ah ken ye’re the crappest employee we’ve ever had, that ye’ve cost oor business thousands of poonds and tarnished oor company’s reputation forever. But ah’m not a man to bear grudges. Here. This massive pay off and pension package should guarantee you and your wee bairns a life of luxury to the end of your days….”?

Of course he ruddy didn’t. So why should his employers at RBS have treated him any more generously?

And Sir Fred “The Shred” wasn’t just any old rubbish employee. He is, in fact, the most utterly rubbish employee in British commercial history. No one in Britain has ever cost their business so much money. Even “rogue trader” Nick Leeson only cost his bank Barings  £827 million. But RBS, thanks in good part to Sir Fred’s recklessness, has just recorded pre-tax losses of £40 BILLION.
So how, pray, can this appalling loser – the sort of person Sir Fred himself would have viewed with the utter contempt in the days when things were going well for him – now justify accepting from his ruined bank an annual £693,000 pension? How can he live with the shame?

Well Sir Fred might be able to. But I don’t think the rest of us should let him. Ever. I know that never forgiving somebody is not the Christian way. But I’m not sure that Christian forgiveness has any place in modern Britain. It belongs to an age when if people did bad – really bad – things, they had the good grace to feel so awful about it their lives become a living hell. Do you see any evidence of that inner torment on Sir Fred’s grinning features? I don’t.
I take it all back. To Equatorial Guinea with the man, at once. And bring on the honey, the mosquitoes and the army ants!


The Smiths vs The Pet Shop Boys

Anyway, Brandon Flowers’s speech. It was about the day aged 13 when he’d had to make a choice between two singles collections (Mom only gave him enough money for one). Either The Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs or The Pet Shop Boys’ Discography. He chose the Pettoes and I think he was right, don’t you? Sure we love The Smiths, they’re great and all that, but if you had to take just one set of music to a Desert Island, which would it be:

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others; Panic; There Is A Light That Never Goes Out; Stop Me If You’ve Heard This On West End Girls; Go West; Being Boring; It’s A Sin; Can You Forgive Her; Rent; Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money); etc.or

It’s a toughie, but I reckon Pet Shop Boys have the edge. They’re more dancey for one thing (useful if there were any exotic plants on the island you could synthesise into E), they’ve more variety, they’re more sophisticated and a lot more influential.

I mean, apart from The Sundays, who did the Smiths ever really influence musically?

Also Neil Tennant would never have misspelt “cemetery”, would he? Nor would he have ventured into terrain as crap as Morrissey’s PETA-style whinge, Meat Is Murder.

Of course, both The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys write beautiful, moving songs suffused with a rainwashed melancholy that makes you believe as you listen that to be English is at once the most tragic and wonderful thing in the world. And really choosing between them is like having to choose between Bach and Beethoven.

But if you had to be really picky, I think you could say that Morrissey’s moping is a bit one-note and solipsistic, whereas Tennant’s is more nuanced, tender, sympathetic. And Tennant’s miles better at light shows and wearing silly hats.

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Worrying about Pop Stars Who Don’t Do Drugs

Why the hell am I blogging about the Brit Awards? Because my wife wouldn’t let me watch Generation Kill! or Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan, that’s why. Just as well we did watch the Brits though, because this year the usual cheese-fest of girl bands and chart singles you’ve never heard of was interspersed with moments of pure brilliance.

First big excitement: our friend Florence Welch from down the road, who used to be our babysitter, getting the prize for best newcomer. Her band Florence And The Machine is great – particularly her Kiss With A Fist single – and she’s going to be deservedly huge. And she’s actually nice with it. Really nice. Go Florence! Go!

Second big excitement: The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Crikey his speech when he gave the Outstanding Achievement award to the Pet Shop Boys was good. Guess it’s what comes of being a sweet Mormon boy: you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t do caffeine, you never ever pollute your brain with intoxicants or stimulants or fun-ulants of any kind. Result: you’re a pop star who can still string a sentence together.

As my friend Danielle Nay rightly points out, though, he seriously needs to get a new jacket. That military-style one with the feathered epaulettes has had way too many outings. Also, much as I admire – and envy – his drug-free articulacy, I still think there’s something basically wrong with pop stars not taking drugs. Bono especially. I bet he doesn’t take any drugs any more and he really ought to. Incredibly strong ones that prevent him from ever, EVER lecturing us on politics. Or making another pop record. Or doing anything, in fact, except living in a Syd-Barrett-style cupboard in Dublin or Ougadougou or wherever – and minding his own business.

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My New SS Panzer Toothbrush Thrill

Can I tell you how excited I am by the latest toothbrush heads my wife has got for our electric toothbrush? Well, tough, I’m going to anyway. Rarely has my life been improved so greatly for such a tiny increase in financial outlay. In fact, possibly never: I really am THAT excited. I feel rather as an Allied tanker might have done if in December 1944 he’d gone to look for where his Sherman was parked and found a brand spanking new Tiger there instead.
“So THAT’S what a proper tank looks like,” he’d have gone. “One that doesn’t have armour thinner than a Kit Kat wrapper and has a proper gun and looks really big and scary. And has cool black crosses on the side too!”

Yes, that’s pretty much how I feel about these new toothbrush heads. They’re called the Oral B Pro White and they polish your teeth and grind through your gummy crevices with the precision, vigour and raw mighty power of Kampfgruppe Peiper

thrusting through the Ardennes. “Why did I not have this killer-weapon-in-the-war on plaque at my disposal before?” I wondered. And the answer is that, up till very recently, my wife had been buying the Oral B toothbrush heads for sensitive teeth. They were crap. The worst thing of all was, the brushy bits were  not broadly spaced enough to let the tiny food bits escape which meant that all too quickly they started to smell rotten.

Now readers: over to you. Can you name other examples of things which you can buy which aren’t very expensive but which, in your experience, have improved your life immeasurably?

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