Still a Questioning New Year’s Eve Poem

New Year’s Eve

“I have finished another year,” said God,
“In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down.”

“And what’s the good of it?” I said.
“What reasons made you call
From formless void this earth we tread,
When nine-and-ninety can be read
Why nought should be at all?

“Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, ‘who in
This tabernacle groan’—
If ever a joy be found herein,
Such joy no man had wished to win
If he had never known!”

Then he: “My labours—logicless—
You may explain; not I:
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess
That I evolved a Consciousness
To ask for reasons why.

“Strange that ephemeral creatures who
By my own ordering are,
Should see the shortness of my view,
Use ethic tests I never knew,
Or made provision for!”

He sank to raptness as of yore,
And opening New Year’s Day
Wove it by rote as theretofore,
And went on working evermore
In his unweeting way.

Thomas Hardy

LoL – Though Not Really

Is the choice of the best we can say for Education Secretary Damien Hinds that he is either

[i] half full of well-intentioned if naïve ideas, or

[ii] half empty of well-intentioned if naïve ideas?

Or is it worse than this: half full of naivety/half empty of naivety?

Perhaps the appropriation of the half full/half empty dichotomy doesn’t really work either semantically with this expression [sans ‘glass’] or when there isn’t even with Hinds a suggestion of positivity?

Am I guilty of a negative tilt in finishing the year by mentioning Hinds again?

Probably, but that is because his most recent recommendation for bettering the experiences and lives of young people is so woefully, well, naïve, by suggesting the limiting of young people’s access to ‘smartphones’ along with ‘parents’ [*] also setting an example by limiting their own, and in this he is promoting a fantasy as a remedy.

His post-Activities Passport [AP] panacea for addressing whatever the ‘problems’ are, is, as reported in this TES, worryingly promoted as plausible. Like that AP, the idea is rooted somewhere in a reflection on What We Might All Consider Doing To Some Degree Wherever And Whenever Possible To Maybe Help Young People In A Complex World. And I mean as amorphous as this.

I understand that my being simply sarcastic is not enough as a riposte, so I return and refer to what I see as a fundamental disconnect between such pie-in-the-sky suggestions from Hinds and the curricula over which as Education Secretary he presides.

In another TES article about Hinds’ AP, he is quoted as observing,

“When I first became education secretary, almost a year ago, I went around asking everyone I met what they wanted for their children.

“The instinctive answer that came back was never about the curriculum or qualifications, vital as these are – what they wanted first and foremost was for their child to be happy and healthy.”

This sounds sensitive and sensible enough to be expressed by those concerned about their children/young people for whom they care and for an Education Secretary to endorse, as he claims he does, but he doesn’t!

How do I conclude this? In the first instance, as also stated in the TES article about Hinds’ AP,

The activities are intended to support parents and schools in introducing children to a variety of experiences and fulfilling activities.

However, the Department for Education told Tes that schools will not be given any additional funding to help pupils achieve these goals. 

Well, to use an element of popular culture communication Hinds would severely limit: LoL!

In the second, the irony is that according to Hinds and already quoted, ‘everyone I met’ didn’t refer to ‘the curriculum or qualifications’, but he knows full well this is the driving force of how young people [at primary and later secondary school level] experience directly that over which he presides. If at primary level students are adversely effected by the teaching and testing of SATs – as is consistently and widely reported, and which in English seems to me undoubtedly the case – then no amount of essentially unattainable for most [excuse paradox] extra-curricular activities and/or limited use of smartphones is going to counter. If at secondary level students are adversely affected by the GCSE curriculum – as is widely and generally reported re. increased stress and mental health issues, and by professionals on how the GCSE focus encroaches into year 9 as well as diminishing areas of the curriculum which are creative and exploratory [the ostensible purpose of the AP] – then no amount of…

 I have written enough on this blog with which people can agree or not about how I would scrap SATs and also address the dirge of a GCSE curriculum without repeating this now, though these opinions have to be my actual considered riposte to Damien Hinds’ recent thoughts on improving young people’s well-being. He needs to focus on that which he can change, if he had an actual will to do so. For him to indulge in ‘remedying’ aspects of cultural and socio-economic factors that do dominate the lives of all, but especially young people, is his right as a person and a politician, but seems to me misplaced as well as offensive for its naivety when coming via his role as our Education Secretary.

 [*] he doesn’t mention carers/others – as reported – in his Daily Telegraph article



Damien Hinds’ Roman Banquet and Hill Rolling

Hind's Act 2

One could [perhaps] for a nanosecond [if that] consider Education Secretary Damien Hinds’ ‘activities passport’ [*] as a well-meaning gesture if it wasn’t so ridiculous.

And if it was a fully-funded curriculum initiative for replacing SATs…

It isn’t ridiculous in the general ideology that young people of primary school age should play and explore and create, but it is when Hinds presides over a curriculum that at primary and secondary levels places the barren acquisition of knowledge above all else, and especially at the expense of playing, exploration and creativity.

That such a curriculum has been knocked together with the remnants and thus many missing parts of some Education Golden-Age lego-bricks’ set by Gove & Gibb explains the further nonsense of Hinds’ most recent intervention in ministerial non-performance [but anything, no matter how desperate, to try and deflect from Brexit…]. Wait – was there an activity suggestion ‘Write Malvolio’s defense of the Brexit Deal’ or did I dream that?

And the ‘activities passport’ itself reflects a different kind of illusory golden-age of childhood development, steeped in Scouting and Guiding and other uniformed molding. It is ironic in that its design to turn students from their ‘gadgets’ – this sweeping manifestation of technological modernity – is so antiquated that it seems to crave a complete transformation of young people’s experience of growing up today rather than seeking to build on and make positive sense of a 21st century world they cannot, and should not, try to escape completely.

There are many ‘activities’ which are not of themselves ludicrous or unattainable or in any way unacceptable. There were bound to be a few sensible ones: law of averages and so on. But the somewhat comic range of Take part in a Roman banquet to Roll down a hill? Presumably this wasn’t devised by a Think-Tank [though on second thoughts…] but rather a morning assignment when a small group of DfE minions were locked in a store cupboard and tasked to produce a list before that day’s coffee break.

And a significant observation which I’m not going to waste my time explaining, it is also a list that is middle-class and rural/rustic.

The opening found poem for this posting is just that, a random word-generated response to Hinds’ ‘activities passport’ which will follow this paragraph. Having thus randomised Hinds’ list, I crafted/created new ideas from it. Indeed, why not try one yourself, or better still if an English teacher, use the list as a cut-up writing exercise [1] with young people who do, yes, need and crave the kind of activity that frees them from the knowledge-gadgetry of their compulsory school curricula.

[*] Schools Week report   [1] Complete as a proper scissors and paper cut-up.

Hinds’ Activities Passport List

Visit a farm
Paint a self portrait
Plant some bulbs and watch them grow
Go on an autumn walk
Make leaf rubbings
Make a sandwich
Taste a new fruit
Visit a place of worship
Fly a kite
Make a paper boat and see if it floats
Perform a song
Re-tell a story to an audience
Post a letter
Meet a friend’s pet
Search for butterflies outdoors
Take a photograph
Make a treasure map
Dress up like a pirate
Look up where you live on a map
Have a teddy bears picnic
Record different sounds and ask others to guess what they are
Make some biscuits
Make and taste chapattis
Make a puppet
Put on a shadow puppet show
Borrow a book from a library
Discover what is in a pond
Create a piece of art for an exhibition
Look up at the stars on a clear night
Perform a dance
Go on a hunt for some insects or small creatures
Make a home for an insect or small creature
Create a class collage
Create a comic strip
Take part in a play day
Roll down a hill
Make a daisy chain
Join an extra-curricular club
Build a den
Perform in front of your class
Plan a party
Play a board game
Learn a poem off by heart
Take a trip to the seaside or walk alongside a river
Bake a cake
Buy something and check your change
Write a weather report for your class
Build a bridge and test its strength
Become a nature detective
Dress up as a superhero
Make a film
Start a vegetable patch
Pick blackberries
Get soaking wet in the rain
Go bird watching
Learn a French song
Walk barefoot on the sand or on a nature trail
Start a collection and share it with your class
Walk to a local landmark
Make a mask
Compose a piece of music
Take part in a Roman banquet
Eat something you’ve not tried before
Create a mosaic
Design and make a board game
Climb a tree
Create a soundtrack for a piece of film
Make a pinhole camera
Make a musical instrument
Light a candle
Learn a new game
Make something out of wood
Cook outdoors
Learn to play a game of cards
Tell your class about your favourite character from a book
Produce rubbings of fossils
Try yoga
Eat something you have grown
Visit an art gallery
Stay away from home for a night
Make chocolate
Create a display for show and tell
Write and perform a poem
Perform in a play
Watch a play or a dance production
Use a camera to document a performance
Choreograph a dance
Make a sculpture
Create a sculpture trail
Explore inside a cave
Walk through a forest
Learn about a new religion and visit a new place of worship
Make up your own game and teach it to someone
Visit a museum
Skim stones
Visit a castle
Swim outside
Learn to sew on a button
Go hiking
Take part in a treasure hunt
Take part in a debate
Learn something new about your local area
Learn to moon walk
Make and launch an air powered rocket
Use an OS map
Go orienteering
Do a blind folded taste test
Write a story for the Reception class
Make a large scale model
Visit a science laboratory
Write a play
Experience a Victorian school room
Put on a performance
Make papier mache planets
Climb something that is taller than you
Walk to the top of a hill
Write in hieroglyphics
Pick litter in your local area
Plan and cook a meal
Design and make an electric model
Keep a diary for a week
Take a trip on a train
Send an email
Learn to knit
Write a speech
Vote in a school election
Plan a tour around your local area
Interview someone
Visit a local charity and find out how you can support them
Learn how to access the news
Design a product or business idea and pitch it to ‘investors’
Choose objects to put in a time capsule
Write and record/broadcast a radio play
Sleep under canvas
Make a dessert
Organise tea for parents and carers
See the sun set
See the sun rise
Go on a picnic
Visit a new city


Christmas Mashage, 2018

Found in yesterday’s Christmas messages from the Queen and Danny Dyer:

I don’t know of
peace on earth
or nothin’ –

it’s just dog’s spewed
palaver, smashing the gaffe
to pieces.

On earth?

Even the power of faith
is getting all mardy,
memorials to tribalism
and wars,

the British of them
being told the birth of a child
is why loved ones died.

Perhaps, goodwill to all is never to turn up
at the tribalism of memorials
marked Christmas Day?

It ain’t known
if we did not love
in needs of the times in
the first such meetings

when in reality
baffling paradoxes
of a capacity for evil
and a huge propensity
for good

are comfort and reassurance:
a Christmas pretty full on.

I believe messages
are theoretical explanations
for the puzzles
of getting all mardy

and now billions
follow celebrations.

It makes me want to
whack the birthday of the Prince of ages ago.