Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I didn't fight cancer, I've survived it (so far)

I was disappointed to read today,
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed its sorrow at the death of Lord (Andrew) McIntosh of Haringey, following a long fight with cancer.
I wasn't disappointed over Lord McIntosh's death - he seems a perfectly decent chap, but I had no idea who he was until I read he'd died - but I was disappointed that whoever wrote his obituary for the BHA resorted to that old cliché about a "fight" with cancer. People don't fight cancer, or do battle with it. Some (like me) survive it, and others don't. And if you don't, it's not because you lost a battle or didn't try hard enough.

You read the same clichés in the press almost every time someone of note dies, and it really pisses me off. Independent columnist Christina Patterson, also a cancer survivor, wrote about cancer metaphors,
It was Susan Sontag, writing 25 years before she herself died of cancer, who warned of the dangers of "illness as metaphor". "Theories that diseases are caused by mental states," she wrote, "and can be cured by willpower are always an index of how much is not understood about the physical terrain of a disease."
Lord McIntosh was ill for a long time, apparently, but if he had any sense he didn't waste any precious energy fighting or battling cancer, which would have been exhausting and utterly pointless. If he was as sensible as we're led to believe, he'll have taken care of himself, got plenty of rest, and made the most of the time he had, in case he didn't have much more of it.

Oh, and the BHA's report is headed, "BHA mourns the death of Andrew McIntosh..." I know I'm being picky, but the BHA is an organisation, not an individual. It can't "mourn" anyone. Only those who knew and cared about someone who's died can mourn him or her, as I'm sure Lord McIntosh's family and friends do.
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PS: Was reminded by a Twitter friend that John Diamond said, "Cowards get cancer too."

PS, February 2016: Jon Land in The Independent - "The four phrases we need to stop using about cancer - and the one we should use more often."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

British education - what a mess!

Here's another reason why I didn't vote Labour over the last few years: specialist schools and academies. Whose barmy idea was it for schools to specialise in the arts, business, science or IT, among other things? Ed Balls was education minister, wasn't he? Well, I wouldn't have voted for him. Children need a broad general education. How can a child who starts to develop an aptitude for science be given the help he or she needs if he or she attends a school that specialises in the arts? Or a budding musician do well in a business school? Most children don't know what they want to be or do until they're past the basics, and what if they find they're in the wrong school then?

Of course, many schools apply for specialist status so they can gain the extra funding that goes with it. I've heard that a school might go for IT status, then when they've got all the PCs they need, switch to another specialisation so that they might get, oh, I don't know, sports equipment? As for academies run by religious organisations, they should never happen.

The result of all this specialisation is that kids may end up with the wrong exam results for the courses they'd really like to do, finding out when it's too late. I bet that happens often. The problem with some faith schools (particularly Muslim ones) is that some kids give more weight to religious teachings than to academic ones. An increasing number of science faculties are finding that some undergraduates reject the theory of evolution, yet expect to study biology or medicine. Crazy!

Watching Dateline London today, I was interested to hear Agnès Poirier talking about the French Baccalauréat. They were discussing the usual media reports about A level results, and whether they've got too easy, or whatever, and the competition for university places. Agnès said that French kids don't get to choose which subjects to take, as British students do. No opting for A levels in your strongest subjects. You do them all, including two foreign languages. They all study philosophy - if only they did that here! Because France is strongly secular country, there's no RE. Not surprising that a small number of British schools are teaching the International Baccalaureate, which the universities like.

Meanwhile, what's the Government doing? Leaving education policy in the hands of politicians with pet projects, such as "free" schools. It's much too important to leave it to them. Ed Balls or Michael Gove - they're as bad as each other. They're both failures.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Reposts to follow

By request, I shall restore some of the stuff I deleted, but it'll take a while.

The wrong sort of people

There's a hoo-ha in New York over the objections to a "mosque" being built on "Ground Zero" - the site of the 9/11 disaster. The fact that it isn't a mosque, nor is it to be built on Ground Zero but several streets away, and that there were Muslim victims of 9/11, seems to have been overlooked by the grim-faced, placard-waving bigots who are making a fuss, claiming that the area is "hallowed ground". You'll find a gentlemen's club, burger joints, betting shops, and all the usual inner-city rubbish on this "hallowed ground", so why not a mosque?

After I'd posted several of these links on my Facebook page and Twitter, a friend sent me a link to this page: The 9/11 holocaust and the ground zero mosque.
If Americans were polled today and asked which city they associate with “ground zero,” would any answer “Hiroshima” or “Nagasaki”? Most likely, very few — even though the anniversary of the nuclear bombings has only just passed.
Paul Woodward makes a lot of sense. He doesn't mention the murderous regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia or the orgy of killing in Rwanda just a few years ago. There are many other examples. It's interesting how some episodes have been claimed by one political or religious group or another to further their agendas of vengeance, conveniently ignoring all the untidy evidence that might have clouded the picture of victimhood, such as America's support for Israel and its aggression in the Middle East, which has turned countless young Muslim men into potential martyrs for Islam. What all of it demonstrates is that humankind is the most dangerous species on the planet, not just because it's over-breeding and making the planet uninhabitable - some areas faster than others - but because it has always been willing to kill the wrong sort of people. As far as I'm concerned, the wrong sort of people are the stupid, prejudiced and ignorant ones, because they're dangerous, but I'm not about to kill anyone.