Are We Losing Ourselves in ‘The Other’?

miliband migration

There are so many people you hear lamenting the “loss of our jobs” to immigrants, who are often just seeking a better life for their selves and their families. Sensationalist headlines, suggesting British cultural traditions are being drowned out by ‘foreign’ celebrations. Word of mouth even, when people are asked, “why did you choose to vote UKIP?”, it will often be down to the want to keep our borders closed, and the ‘Other’ out.

But why? Why is there this fear, or rejection at least, or external cultures? What are people seeking to defend?

There’s a really funny Vice News article on what it is to be British. It’s so accurate of the Inbetweeners generation, and also proves that the patriotism here is often limited to extreme levels, seen in jest, or with concern. Our culture is not a ‘one size fits all’ culture. It’s an amalgamation of various influences; a melting pot of culture. British way of life is one which is built upon immigration. From Notting Hill Carnival to going for a curry and a pint, we are a country built upon the influence of immigration. Since the arrival of the Windrush in 1948, when the first large wave of Caribbean migrants arrived, Britain has been lucky enough to welcome migrants to our shores consistently, and grow from it.

Why should we allow people to come to Britain to seek asylum? This British culture that is feared to be lost or trampled upon by these overbearing cultures… What exactly is it? I can’t think of one British cultural tradition which runs deeply throughout the nation; especially one which is disappearing. I cannot think of one uniting understanding that holds together the British peoples.

Except one. Tolerance. We are a country of tolerance and pluralism. You could argue: ‘But this blog post suggests otherwise!’. This is not what I want to convey. I want to argue that we, Brits, are a lucky group of people, who are free and should be thankful we live in a place that people run to to be free. Our British culture is that of tolerance; we do not suppress women, with laws stopping them from driving, or forcing them to wear certain clothes. We do not prevent people from worshipping their god of choice. We do not restrict what language is spoken. We do not prevent families from having more than one child. We have a free press. We can travel the world. We are not at risk of state-enforced violence, or martial law. We have the freedom of movement throughout Europe. We have the freedom to vote who we wish to vote for. The list is extensive.

So I would like to argue – no. We are not losing ourselves in ‘The Other’. This may sound preach-y, but I fear sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture and the global perspective is overshadowed by Daily Mail-esque scaremongering. We are instead growing, learning and adapting to live together. We are tolerant and respectful of individual rights. What we reject, is the loss of this freedom and plurality; not ‘foreign’ beliefs. Instead of rejecting ‘The Other’, we should encourage the understanding and tolerance that this country has begun to develop, since decolonising in the 1950-60s onwards. There obviously is still an awful lot more to be done; the West in general needs to enhance its understanding of other cultures, and that West isn’t Best. But in terms of the UK?

We can’t militantly argue that we are losing our Britishness, when really, it is a collective identity, formed by international movement and heritage. What is our own, and what should be defended, however, is our freedom and tolerance; we should be proud to be a place of asylum for those suffering elsewhere. We should embrace it and we should protect those who come to be safe. We are made up of ‘The Other’. There is no longer a binary argument surrounding this. Our overarching and sweeping culture is liberating and understanding.

We are not losing ourselves; we are gaining.

Stars, Stripes, and Student Unions

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(Source: Flickr, user: houseofstone)

I am lucky enough to currently be in the States, visiting an old friend for a fortnight. I am residing in his apartment (flat) in Washington, D.C., along with his three roomies (flatmates), all of whom are college (uni) students.

D.C. is a hub for students aiming to forge their career on or through Capitol Hill. Politics is what this city thrives upon, and you can only walk a couple of blocks before you are reminded of that with banners, signs in peoples’ yards (gardens) or approached by Party members. However, what has really struck me is the difference in the politics of education.

Chatting to my friend (who does not attend college, but is a budding, and already pretty successful, entrepreneurial type – good job! Awesome!) and his housemates, it seems there are vastly different cultures and expectations surrounding attaining that ever-promising, sometimes-assumptive, degree.

Here in the States, college is not something one can just decide to partake in. Americans save from birth in order to send their child to college. College can cost anything in excess of $40,000, and the living costs are barely supported by student loans. Admittedly, this is similar to British students’ financial predicaments, however, this is heightened by the upfront costs tuition fees present here. The divide between the rich and the poor cannot be healed, unless education is made more accessible. Figures show that only 34% of families who are earning less than $35,000 can afford to save any money towards sending their children to college. This is juxtaposed against over 75% of families earning over $100,000 who have a savings fund. On top of this, college costs are continuing to rise, and vary greatly dependent on the ranking of the college in question. This is foundation enough to make the claim that the cycle is not easily broken. In the UK, however, it is much easier, (though admittedly not overly common) considering the tuition fees are not required up front. There is also a multiplicity of grants and bursaries available for people from less well off, or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Moreover, there is a greater focus upon employability and prospects. Of the students I have gotten to know in D.C., they all have internships and they are ones which provide worthwhile experience and hours. There is little in the way of photocopying and making coffee. My friends here go to work in their suits, commute to Capitol Hill, and come home having reviewed existing policies and researched new ones. The government website describes being a part of an internship as an opportunity to “experience the thrill and rewards” of their programmes. This is a stark contrast against my meeting with government recruitment staff at my university’s careers fair, who told me “apply, but it’s unlikely you’ll even hear back… a lot of people apply to these roles…”. True British encouragement, saturated with the characteristic pessimism that is to be expected… but not what you want to hear from a careers advisor.

Is this student employability heightened in America by the fact that they know these kids are coming out of “well-to-do” families? There are none of these disadvantaged kids running into roles at Capitol Hill, that could be coming into work at the House of Commons internship roles, purely because of the inaccessibility of the colleges here stops the ‘scallywags’ from breaking ranks. I know House of Cards is highly dramatised, but the mention of a “dead disadvantaged kid” being in the pocket of Frank Underwood just depicts the way that the poor in America are used as political tools – not as cogs in the machine.

Yeah, I know there is the No Child Left Behind programme in place, set up by good ole’ George W. Bush; it has however been argued that after 7 years of working on it, it has failed and should have the “plug pulled” on it. Plus, the programme is an educational based one – not a financial aid. Money is what makes America what it is today; however, owing to this, there are a lot of big holes in the net for people to slip through. The rejection of anything which can be construed as “Communist”, reminiscent of the Cold War fears in USA, is where America fails to help the needy. Obamacare was a potential breakthrough, but it was strongly battled against and was never absorbed into society like , for example, the NHS is and was. However, the difference is, the NHS was formed out of an era which demanded such a plan to be put in place after the suffering of the Second World War. Obamacare was forced into a society which strongly advocates each man for himself.

So, education in America is only really an available option to those whose bank balances can stretch to it. In the Land of the Free, you’re only really as free as Capitalism allows you to be. So, whilst there are benefits to being at an American college, such as the potential to get a decent internship which could actually lead into your career, your parents have to have made the money first, and in the case of Harvard and Yale, for example, made a fair few donations too, to butter up the admissions officers. An intelligent child from the back end of nowhere really has only got community college to fall back onto. The British university system has greatly reduced this from being an issue; student loans and bursaries are available, and there is a much greater acceptance in society of taxes going towards funds such as these. Equality of opportunity is a reality; or at least a developing one, anyway.

So, is the Land of Opportunity really all it sells itself to be?

Hopping Across The Pond…

Considering our nation has a ‘special relationship’, I think a blog concerning the recent election results in the US of A is vital. Mitt Romney, the foul man that he is, was in with quite the fighting chance against the now-re-elected President, Barack Obama. This was of deep concern to me, as I felt that Romney had huge potential to create terrible rifts between countries and further tensions that were apparent. Although Obama is not necessarily, an outstanding president, with outstanding policies or execution plans for said policies, but I think it is fair to say he is much preferred to a homophobic Republican, who would likely attack Iran as soon as he could get the power to do so.

I am so glad that Romney did not have the chance to take office. George W Bush springs to mind, when I think of Mitt Romney’s potential to have become president. To put a man as one of the largest leaders of the free world, who has been quoted to say “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.” in May this year doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement.

Why do I care so much, as a British teenager, you may ask? Well, a gentle reminder is this: we are, as cliche as it is, the next generation. As a 19 year old, in four years time, I will (for the mathematically challenged) be 23, and as scary as it seems, that in my books is an adult. I will be affected by issues that our friends across the pond are affected by; if another cold war situation began, it would affect me. As a history student, as well as a politics student, I often think about the eras I am studying, and how frightening they must have been. The Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the scariest situations I can think of, and the risk of nuclear war actually ties my stomach in knots. To have a Republican fellow, who to me, seems like he has it in him to be a non-isolationist war monger (bearing in mind isolationism runs deep in the veins of American history) and I don’t know what it is, but my heart is telling me that the next war will be a bad one. World War Three – nuclear, obviously, but I think that should we put someone in place who could get trigger happy, a little war or invasion (or “intervention” as it’s sometimes put – hm, another blog maybe…) could turn horrendous, and drag many other nations into it. Maybe I am being ridiculous – I probably am. I feel like an over-zealous Mayan right now; it could just be down to my ridiculous levels of relief.

The healthcare reforms that Obama is trying to put into place are good. There’s a common phrase used concerning America, saying that they often can’t afford to get sick, and they can’t afford to die. Call me a pessimist (I’m not, I’m a realist), but those two are the most certain areas of life every human being can count on happening. The NHS helps people over here who maybe couldn’t afford to pay their doctors fees and it also prevents people from avoiding their GP’s surgery, therefore catching illnesses early. Americans often are (a generalisation here, forgive me) completely blinded by their love of Capitalism, and fear of Communism. The Cold War shook things up over the pond, and whilst us Brits are slightly sympathetic of the left-wing, the Americans have never quite let their ‘Reds under the Beds’ fear go. Right-wingers called Obama a Socialist for trying to implement healthcare reforms, which would lead to people having their health care paid through taxation. People who were against this often asked, why should I help pay for everyone else? Admittedly, the NHS was implemented at a time of great crisis, socially, and economically, and whilst the country was recovering from a horrible war. Maybe this changed people’s priorities for a temporary period – I don’t know. However, put yourselves in this position, Americans. Your mother is sick, very sick. You can’t afford to pay for the operation she needs. Would you want Obamacare then? Answer: yes, most likely. Obamacare is for moments of need like that; when people are at their most desperate, the government can swoop in and save the day! Hooray for the government! Or is that the case? Potentially, could the medical healthcare plans be taken advantage of by people from other nations, like the NHS is? Yes, almost certainly, people will find loopholes. But – importantly, in that time of need, will you pray for any kind of help? Of course. And thats the kind of help Obama offers. Romney only offers help to the mass middle class, a class which often doesn’t require such support as the poorer people do.

Basically, this was all just a giant sigh of relief. Obama – the lesser of two evils, is back in the White House. We have avoided another George W Bush period in office, and maybe Obama could prove to do a bit better in a second term, and achieve slightly more from his policies. Let’s see!

Image

For some pretty funny stuff, have a look at this:

http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/mittromney/a/Mitt-Romney-Quotes.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-treadway/mitt-romney-speech_b_2087019.html

and my personal favourite:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mitt+romney+small+face&hl=en&prmd=imvnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=OKKaUIWuA6jM0AWi24DoAw&ved=0CCcQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=620

Burglar Bashing: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…

On the 9th of October, the Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling, announced the proposal to change law which stops homeowners being able to attack burglars, or those breaking and entering into their home. In 1999, the farmer, Tony Martin, was prosecuted for shooting a burglar dead who was aiming to intrude Martin’s home. The Conservative cabinet reshuffle has brought Grayling into a promoted position to Minister of Justice, replacing Kenneth Clarke; Grayling is said to be bringing a harder stance into the role than Clarke, but how tough is too tough?

“Grossly disproportionate”. That is the phrase Grayling is throwing around, saying that a homeowner can only use force to remove an intruder as long as it is not to a “grossly disproportionate” level, which to my mind already sets off alarm bells. Should this law come into place, and this term be used as a part of enforcing said law, what is seen as “grossly disproportionate” to one person may well be changeable for another. If the judge who is ruling the case has been burgled him or herself, then this could lead to subtle cues being subconsciously fed into the judge’s decision making. They could press in favour of the homeowner more so than the burglar than, say, a judge who has never first hand experienced an intruder in their home. The risk for me, in this situation, is that there is far too much room for interpretation within this phrase, and whether the burglar has rounded up the family and held them at knife-point (as in the Minir Hussain case, 2009) or has simply broken in and nicked a camera, could change the decision as to what degree the burglar was intruding. Isn’t intrusion intrusion; black and white, illegal, end of story? Or is the mindless torture that an elderly woman with boiling water and brute force worse than someone smashing a window, and stealing something to sell on? This is where the line becomes blurred.

Let me say now: I am never in favour of harming another human being. I am against death penalty; I am against corporal punishment; I even was offended by people celebrating the death of another human being, even if it was Saddam Hussain. However, I am in favour of family’s being able to protect their homes, individuals being able to look after their belongings and loved ones, and private property remaining a safe, and enclosed area where someone can feel safe. I think the notion of ‘home’ should never be undermined, and as seen in the latest burglar alarm advert (I’m a sucker for marketing) – it’s not always what is taken, but what is left behind. Intrusion can cause huge amounts of psychological damage upon the victim, and I do not believe that anybody should be subjected to that kind of fear in their own home.

Let’s look at it another way: when a pedestrian runs out in front of an approaching car, even when the red man is shown, the driver is automatically prosecuted for dangerous driving if they are even a smidge over the speed limit. The pedestrian acting foolishly is automatically not to blame, and it is seen as should the driver have been driving at the limit, the collision may not or would not have happened. So, why should a homeowner be prosecuted for chasing a burglar out of their house with the use of force when the intruder was the one who initially broke the law? When the burglar walked into the house, they were aware of the risk of the homeowner being there to force them out physically/the driver was aware when speeding that they were putting others on the road at risk. The dilemma stands as this: a homeowner is protecting their home from an intruder, but they are prosecuted for attacking the law-breaking burglar. “No! That is unfair! They are keeping a criminal out of their home!” some may argue. However, does the law turning a blind eye to violence mean that the government is saying one wrong cancels out a consequential wrong-doing? Doesn’t this mean that, actually, beating another human being is okay, as long as they’re a burglar? Hm. Something doesn’t fit here for me.

This potential law is far too swamped in Gray(ling) (sorry) area for my mind. Yes, batter somebody who comes into your house. Does it mean it’s okay to end somebody’s life, or harm them through force just because they’ve entered your house illegally? That person has a family, friends, maybe a spouse and children; maybe money is so tough that crime is what they’ve been pushed to, or they’ve ended up in a bad group, turned to gang crimes, and have been coerced into breaking and entering. But then again, maybe they’re just thoughtless yobs, pinching stuff from your grandmother’s dresser. Yes – protect your house and family. What I really feel is, by this law coming into place however, is that a whole new gateway will be opened in which people will say that their actions in “the heat of the moment” need to be lawfully protected as well, and a floodgate will open, and unprecedented issues will arise. Human rights will be invoked, and homeowners will maybe begin to argue harassment is the same level of intrusion in terms of psychological harm to their family.

I am sooo not pro-burglar. I think that they should have all their stuff taken, or their house trashed, and see how they feel. However, I do not know still, how I feel about the legalisation of so-called ‘burglar bashing’, especially with such a loosely phrased T&C attached. My head is saying it’s fine, but my heart is saying, doesn’t this mean that the homeowner could be just as bad as the burglar? I could just be overly brain-washed by my slightly eccentric father, or I could be a child of the ‘Politically Correct’ Age. Or a total Leftie?

Maybe I need to invest in a guard dog to do my dirty work for me…

Britain: A-pathetic level of political interest

As a self-proclaimed nerd,  follower of current affairs, and newspaper trawler, I like to think I have a high level of interest in the world around me and the politics that comes with that. I definitely couldn’t name all the ministers in the paper, like one girl could in my A-Level politics class – she knew Alex Salmond’s birthday even. I’m not that keen, although I probably should be with my degree. I simply like to understand why things are the way they are, and then in turn, I feel I can moan about them without feeling like a moron, making blind statements like “I think the BNP should be the Prime Minister because of them Polish people getting our jobs”. Okay – a slight overstretch of the extent of apathy. Or is it?

I attended a family party a few weeks ago, and my cousin brought his girlfriend along for us all to meet (and my overly protective grandmother to judge – I digress). She asked me what degree I was taking, and my cousin then jumped at this chance to highlight how little his girlfriend knew of British politics. “Go on, who’s the PM?”, he smugly asked her. “Err.. Labour?”, she asked me, bemused. “See! She knows nothing!” he gloated gleefully. This led me to feel extremely disheartened that our future governments would be voted in by people who don’t know the difference between a Party and a Prime Minister; it also upset me that my cousin found it not distressing, but amusing, that his girlfriend was so blissfully ignorant, and unashamedly clueless about how this country is run.

You’d be surprised at how little people tend to know about the British government. Often, people who state regularly “don’t like them politicians, I hate them, I don’t trust none of ’em” could tell you no more than David Cameron’s name, and not actually name a policy that caused such distrust.

Worryingly, I found out that whilst at Sixth Form, the level of political awareness rose when people were let down by the government. Nick Clegg’s terrible mistake re:university fees made all of us much more aware of what the Coalition were planning, and not achieving. My school pushed for a mock election throughout all the year groups to try and get people interested in what each of the three parties could offer voters; people bunked from any assembly to do it, and even the politics students who were running for this campaign dreaded doing it because it was so difficult to stir up any enthusiasm from anyone. The problem was brought to my attention more so, however, when everyone seemed to jump at the opportunity to attend the protests organised by NUS when our headmaster permitted everyone the day off to attend. Nobody seemed interested in the positives beforehand, or even the prospect of free education at university; the real interest grew when that wretched fellow in the Lib Dems had lied to us!!

The general consensus is that all the Parties are the same. When my age group got our first vote, we mostly opted for the Green Party, because they’re the only ones who seemed to stand out and you can’t bash ’em for wanting to save the planet, really, can ya?! Maybe what needs to be done is not a lame promotion attempt by the government, of ‘DJ Dave and Nick the Nuttah’ rapping their policies and slating ‘that Ed Ball(sack) LOL!’ in an awful attempt to get today’s youth onside with the use of hoodies and talk from the ‘hood. No. What is needed is a genuine appeal from the MPs to not only the younger generation, but people who maybe find politics dull and overwhelming, to create bitesize nuggets of information, digestible by the masses. Question and Answer sessions where politicians don’t claim to listen to views, but instead actually listen, and then take these suggestions through to the Commons where people can see evidence that their voice is heard – an adjusted Question Time even!

Enough rambling and avoiding of questions – people hate you more than parking attendants when you’re a politician. Get to the point, accept that actually, sometimes, the masses (or ‘plebs’ – no names mentioned) can actually have some ideas worth listening to. Politicians are representatives – not paternal carers for the nation as a whole. Yes, they’re elected because they are more in the know than most about the workings of government. However, they are there to put across the wants of the people: henceforth, low and behold, democracy (another issue in itself… maybe another time).

Maybe apathy could be avoided, if the Government and Opposition approached the people more readily; doing a meet’n’greet in Asda in New Malden isn’t enough nowadays. People shine to Boris Johnson because, despite his Oxbridge background, he seems accessible and a ‘great guy’. No lofty, unapproachable air about him – just him, his mop of hair, and a zipwire. Conclusively, I reach the point that British interest in politics is waning, and in a big way. Let’s just stick Boris Johnson into Downing Street, and maybe we will recapture a little interest. Either that, or actually get Mr You-Can-Call-Me-Dave and his spineless henchman, Clegg, to re-think how the people should be listened to, and how their mishaps tarnish all other politicians reputations, putting them out of, to use a Ben Stiller related concept, ‘The Circle of Trust’. Actually, maybe we should just forget Stiller, and link it to De Niro.

The Shadow of the Gallows

Following the tragic events in Manchester this week, where two young female police officers were murdered after a hoax call lured them into an ambush, Conservatives are now speaking of re-introducing the death penalty for the murder of police officers. The former chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Tebbit, and Nick de Bois, who is a member of the Commons Justice Select Committee, are two prominent Torys who are pushing this suggestion forward.

This matter is not something to be taken lightly; it opens up the risk of the death sentence being wrongly given to innocent people, and the moral issue of whether a life for a life really is acceptable. Surely, most would argue (including myself until wavering recently) that to kill somebody for killing another person makes the justice completely out of balance, therefore making the sentence just as cold-blooded as the crime. After watching the Channel 4 programme, ‘Lifers‘, I really don’t think the death penalty is the right way to handle a homicide. There was one man on the show who really struck a chord with me, who had murdered his wife in the heat of passion, fuelled by jealousy, and repeatedly stated that he didn’t know why he’d done it, and how it felt as though someone else had done it. Even his daughters had forgiven him, as they knew it was so out of their placid, timid father’s nature. In spite of this, pre-meditated murder seems to raise separate debate, and warrant different punishments.

To push for the death penalty as a way of preventing crime is telling of society today. You see documentaries where young men who have already been behind bars casually talk of their time ‘inside’, and it has almost become a status symbol – “yeah, been inside on and off for the last four years” – brilliant. I am a strong believer in the suggestion that drugs have entry level and then those gateway drugs, like weed, lead people to experiment further to harder drugs as their confidence with drugs builds. In my opinion, this is also applicable to crime. I think petty crime leads gradually up to more violent or serious crimes. I’m not the biggest fan of the Lib Dems, especially after their betrayal to us students(!), but I think their ideological belief in rehabilitation is really very important in preventing the build-up to serious crimes. I think petty criminals should be rehabilitated, or relocated to help to stop them offending in the future. I know that this is a very loose solution, and is extremely utopian – ‘where is the money going to come from!?’ I hear you cry! ‘From us innocent tax payers?!’… Well, yes. Yes it is. A worthy cause when you see how terrible the crimes such as those in Manchester are, and if they can be prevented then so be it!

If you’ve managed to wade through my waffle so far, you deserve a medal. Unfortunately, I am going to continue on about my original point. Death penalty – how often would it actually be applied? This is a question I often ponder over. Maybe just the threat would be enough, but so often, rule-breakers are aware of the emptiness of threats. This is even visible at school, when people bunked off, knowing they could talk their way out of losing their free periods. Nowadays, surely talking their way out of the death penalty could easily be done should people pull in their oh-so-sudden extensive knowledge of their human rights. Conveniently, that knowledge obviously wasn’t available to them whilst they murdered another human being with those very same rights. Right…

Anyway – be it the threat is enough to shadow over people, or that some poor soul is used as an example (leading to two deaths conclusively) to scare the living daylights out of these thugs who go around killing, the death penalty simply cannot be used as a blanket punishment to all those who end another’s life. Spouses murdering their long-term abusive partner cannot be roped into the same pool of criminals as those who planned that hoax call, and ended the lives of two of Manchester’s police force with an ambush.

The final largest point of debate that I feel is vital when considering this question, is whether or not the death penalty should be applied for the murder of police officers. Surely this just adds a value to one life over another, purely for their choice of occupation. I am supportive of the police, and will never be one of those types to scrawl “fuk da police” on a tunnel wall. They make me feel safe, and I believe it is a highly respected job to have. However, this then could open up the argument maybe that, if a police officer is protecting the nation, teachers are educating the next generation, so should their occupation be less worthy of taking their murderer’s lives as punishment, should (touch wood) a teacher be murdered? Another issue that requires much thought. 1959 saw the last murderer of the police force sentenced to the death penalty – has society changed too much since then for it to be brought back into force? Red tape enforcers and human rights activists are a real stickler for this kind of thing, so maybe that ship has well and truly sailed.

This is an issue that requires a lot more debate, and I think that Clegg needs to pipe up and put in his two pennies worth to Mr You-Can-Call-Me-Dave, and the Liberal belief in rehabilitation over punishment should seriously be considered; that or isolation for prisoners to prevent the ‘cool’ status that prison gives people – two conflicting solutions, I know. I’m not saying that this idea of rehab is going to work for everyone; I am simply saying that a preventative beats a cure. I know I’d rather have the nation avoid more murders like that in Manchester this week, than lose more lives whilst the Government yet again flounders around installing stupid examination processes into schools.

Let me know what you think.

Ebacc-k off, Gove..!

Taking note from a typical Conservative ideological notion of not fixing it if it ain’t broken, it seems obvious that it shouldn’t be GCSEs which are attacked by further Tory adjustments. The shambolic Coalition which is balancing in place as I type seems adamant that skirting around true issues is the best way to go. Gove’s insistence that the GCSEs need to be scrapped are a fine example of this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely it should be the teaching and the curriculum which should be changed rather than the way in which measuring a school’s success; that is, the examination process.

When initially speaking of the benefits of the Ebacc, Gove said they would “dramatically strengthen the position of core academic subjects in our schools, and stop the shift to less challenging courses driven by the current perverse accountability system”. This in itself raises the question, I am sure the Lib Dems should be asking themselves, as to whether the government has any place pushing academic choices rather forcefully out of the private sphere of a pupil’s life, and into the public sphere, being tampered with through the skewering of the measure of academic success. However, that is whole other kettle of fish, which I am sure I’ll end up rambling about at a later date. The true issue that lies with the change to a purely exam-based style with the Ebacc from GCSE, which currently operate using both examination and coursework, is the positive spin the Government is placing on the art of ‘cramming’.

As a student at university, and a previous, self-confessed fair-weather A-Leveller, I am no stranger to cramming. It really is an art form. One loads their bags full of energy drinks/caffeinated products/alcoholic beverages according to their work style, and spends around forty-eight hours minimum with match sticks propping their eyelids open, camped up in the library. However, this work style is not beneficial if the skills necessary for the exam which is being crammed for are also necessary for further education. If a pupil has taken their GCSEs in accordance to the A-Levels or Degree they wish to study later on, an Ebacc only encourages short-term study techniques, in that, it’ll float around their brains until the minute the exam invigilator says those immortal words: “Pens down, the exam is over”. As soon as they toddle out of the exam hall, nattering about the exam questions they “just didn’t get”, that is it! The knowledge has seeped out their pores and is left behind with only the evidence on their exam paper.

My point boils down to this: the only ones who are going to suffer are the pupils who are at a true disadvantage. This is what has rattled my cage. The Conservative shepherds have led astray (once again!) the Lib Dem flock, and there really is seemingly no concern for those at the Labour set-up Academy schools, or at schools near the bottom of the league table. The only pupils and schools which will flourish from the introduction of the Ebacc, are the private schools, where intensive tuition to prepare for examinations is provided, and pupils are hot-housed into getting consistent A* and A results with little, or no knowledge outside of what they need for passing the exam.

Henceforth, finally, we arrive back at my initial point. Apologies for the waffle in between. Basically, what I am getting at is that it should not be the measuring technique that changes. That’s like making a cake, and saying “I don’t have 4oz of butter, but I DO have 4g… Perfect!”. You’ll have the right numbers but the cake will be shite. What Michael Gove is missing (of many things) is the understanding that GCSEs aren’t the issue – the teaching standards and the curriculum are, and if the Government keeps the measurement of success consistent, then we, the masses, will be able to see improvements gradually, and the teachers will be working with what they already know. The cake will be a progressively better cake, and maybe, just maybe, one day, we can hope for a better Secretary of State for Education; wouldn’t that just be the icing on the overmentioned, metaphorical cake!?