Apr. 29th, 2017

mtbc: maze E (black-cyan)
My children attend high school here in Scotland. Unlike the typical American four-year high school, this extends a couple more years into younger children, thus lasting six in all, though students may leave after four. My children often seem annoyed by others disrupting classes. We initially chose the school (hence our abode) based in part on relatively good inspection reports. However, my children are often bringing home anecdotes about all manner of misbehavior: students standing up and answering back to teachers, skipping class, occupying other rooms in which others' classes are being held; many of the teachers appear to have little control over the students. Occasionally my children overhear teachers muttering about how they would rather be teaching elsewhere. The anecdotes are sometimes partially corroborated by articles in a local newspaper about difficulties at the school.

It is difficult for me to know what to expect. My secondary education was now a good couple of decades ago, in an English public school, public in the UK sense of being an established private school, state instead being the term for the normal government-funded system, and that before corporal punishment was outlawed in private schools. Discipline was such that on a hot day we were to remove our blazer only if the headmaster had issued the appropriate order and we also rolled up our shirt sleeves, one mayn't do one without the other; boys were sent home for infractions like overly long hair. When I became a prefect as a student I had the authority to issue some mild punishments and to recommend others such as detentions. Being private, the school had freedom to expel pupils with little more impact than the loss of their fees.

But, that was then. In a modern, state-funded school, what ought I to expect? I do not have enough primary evidence to publicly judge my children's high school and I certainly do not know enough to have confidence in my impression that among teachers their school is not one of the desired posts. Further, I have little to suggest in terms of remediation: what can schools do to improve student discipline? My Latin teacher used to tweak our ears and even that didn't keep our class wholly in line. I do not know what classroom management techniques are taught in teacher training but I wonder if teachers are relatively powerless, whether for technical, procedural reasons or political ones. Furthermore, I wonder if my children's school may number among the better, if these issues are quite typical in the modern state school system.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
I was shepherding a child to Dundee's Central Library so, while there anyway, I asked an librarian about a book. I was amused to find that she checked Amazon before their own catalog but I guess it makes sense if she was not sure that the library's system would even know of the book at all. I also made the mistake of glancing at the science fiction: I came away with Baxter & Reynolds' The Medusa Chronicles and Bester's The Demolished Man before noticing that if I'd gotten barely past the B's and already grabbed two novels then I had better stop there.

On wandering along Murraygate there were predating I-think-Mormons. When I am taking things easy I may stop to chat with them a little, not sure if that is a rare relief for them, but it also seems a bit of a waste of their time if I am unlikely to be converted. Still, I got to wondering about some of my friends who have directly experienced God and become Christians. One thing I noted is that it has been a while since I prayed and invited God to change my mind too. Another is that I wondered if these revelations to friends have generally been a vaguer inspiration, perhaps involving Jesus' love and using the power of God to have the strength to help others and whatnot, or if there has been any detail specific enough, doctrinally or otherwise, in these divine communications to assist choice of church or denomination.

As I walked in the pedestrianized retail area I found a selection of socialists and communists and whatnot under the banner of Dundee's Trades Union Congress. They seemed to be wrapping up so I did not get to hear what they had been feeling exercised about lately. I have doubted that it makes much sense for me to join a union given that I am salaried and not interacting with students: my contract is that I am to work whatever it takes to get the job done so if I go on strike then I am just inconveniencing myself. However, today it occurred to me that I suppose I would be indirectly supporting other strikers if my union subscriptions were somehow making it more possible for them to strike, e.g., with hardship payments.

I noticed a couple of what seemed like Mexican fast food places: there was somebody advertising a local Mexican Grill and on Nethergate I noticed a new-to-me Wee Mexico. As Nisa is now closed I stopped in at Tesco Extra to buy some whole milk and in interacting with the self-checkout machine I repeatedly failed to properly place the milk. If anybody becomes aware of a store whose machines do not care one jot what items are placed where around the bagging area, or that at least give me an extra shelf on which to put my hat and whatnot, then I would gladly preferentially shop there even more strongly than I avoid those who routinely give discounts to loyalty card holders so for privacy I have to keep swapping the cards with others.

Then, my mother telephoned, so after putting the milk in the trunk of the car I continued to chat to her for a while, sitting on a bench at the university. I have a campus parking permit so on visits to Dundee it makes sense to use it. My mother mentioned that The Red Flag, which I suppose we now associate with Jeremy Corbyn's wing of the Labour Party, is sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

September 2017

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