Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Monthly Roundup

Time to round-up the month. Stories that caught my eye or imagination or both included: Myleen in go-cart accident; American dream for brave Tomlinson; IBM staff could turn into teachers; Orwell named Hepburn as Soviet supporter; and, Losing Charlie.

"Losing Charlie" reminded us that the tragedy of Charlotte Thompson and her friend, Olivia Bazlington at the railway crossing in Essex was a very human one. The scandal that is the responsibility of Network Rail has not gone away and the public are still at risk. The Sunday Times in printing the diary of Charlotte's father as he tries to come to grips with the loss of his daughter has done a real service to the community. By keeping this tragedy in the news, there is more chance that something, eventually, will be done to ensure that no more innocents are killed simply crossing platforms at stations to get the correct train.

The author of 1984, George Orwell, even though he was an Old Etonian, was a committed socialist. Warning of what he saw as the corruption of the socialist ideal by the communists in Russia in Animal Farm, he went on, in the last years of his life, to write the definitive inditement of totalitarianism, 1984. By the way, now-a-days children think that this is just a popular (and inane) television programme. It was, then, somewhat disturbing to find that he sent a blacklist of crypto-communists and fellow-travellers to the Foreign Office. Perhaps in the very few months left to him - he died shortly after he sent the list - Orwell came to regret his actions. I hope so.

The news that the government might be seeking to experiment with the educational system (now there's a shocker!) by offering to increase the pensions of IBM employees who would go into classrooms to ease the shortage of maths and science teachers beggars the imagination. An expert on teacher recruitment assures the Sunday Times that there is a shortage of about 3,000 qualified maths teachers in our schools. So, what's new. There has been a shortage of maths teachers for as long as anyone can remember. Whilst I'm sure there are a number of "extra fine" people currently employed by IBM who would make excellent teachers, I'm also sure that the number is very small. The nonsensical idea that a life time spent in industry dealing with real problems requiring mathematical understanding is adequate preparation for teaching a class of 13 year olds is just too silly to comment on!

Perennial cancer sufferer Jane Tomlinson is off to cycle across America. For anyone not in the know, Jane was given six months to live six years ago and has spent most of the time in between raising money for cancer research. She must be commended for this. But, I am at a loss to explain her ability to overcome a serious disease and run marathons, enter "iron-man" competitions, cycle all over Europe and many other physically strenuous activities. And, why aren't her doctors more interested in finding out how this woman can survive years after their terminal diagnosis? This we are never told. She starts her Ride Across America on June 29. I wish her well, but I wonder how many cancer sufferers have been debilitated by their inability to match her seemingly endless physical feats?

Finally, the month would not be complete without a Myleen moment. This time she crashed a go-cart whilst engaged in a celebrity go-cart race. This is news?? Myleen's only claim to fame is that she was once "a bit famous" as a member of a pop group. Owing to the sycophantic nature of our local press (please Archant, don't cancel my blog!), every week of so we are treated to a photo of Myleen, an article about Myleen or, if we're really lucky, an interview with Myleen. Why is this? Simple. Myleen is a local girl. Thankfully Myleen's publicist assured the readers that she didn't break her leg - only pulled a muscle. Thank God for small mercies!! Personally, if I never read another Myleen article (non-article really) I will consider myself lucky.

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