The Education Department is unwell

Hmm, happening again, isn’t it? My failure to achieve a blog a week, I mean.

It is hardly for lack of material. To be honest, it was more because I wanted to think about anything except http://www.iomtoday.co.im/article.cfm?id=33383, having been involved since the first complaint to a politician. Eventually, I am unable to tear myself away or to cure my compulsion to go and punch a wall in sheer frustration at the idiocy of our Education Department.

I get particularly angry at the ministerial statement that; “Scripture Union delivers Lovelife but with no religion in it”. Even for those Christians who can believe in transubstantiation this would be a bit of a stretch.

I refer any interested readers to the main Scripture Union website in the UK, which has boasted for several years that switching from visiting schools to offer specifically religious services (such as leading worship at assemblies) to pitching to provide secular educational curriculum items has led to increased opportunities to evangelise in schools.

In the time I have had personal reasons to worry about such matters, SUMT(Scripture Union Ministries Trust) has been employed by the Manx Education Department to deliver three such programs. In addition to Lovelife, these were a joint living history experience with Manx Heritage to recreate the lives of mediaeval monks at Rushen Abbey and a transition program for children moving up from junior to high schools.

No objective observer of any of the three who has spoken to me considered them as even barely adequate. The transition program, in particular, has been a disaster, the full scale of which will only be known to the Samaritans, Childline, a few dedicated teachers and youth workers and the island’s mental health services (if the last named can be said to exist either).

It is also irritating that this increased evangelising is at taxpayer expense and not, as before, voluntary activity ultimately paid for by Christians who happen to believe it desirable.

It is even more irritating that SUMT are providing tuition in topics of which they have no more specialist knowledge than any passing member of the public. Indeed, a major part of the problem which such education was supposed to address in the first place is the blinkered views of evangelical Christians.

What part of this is the Education Department having trouble with? Can I suggest they set it as an English comprehension test in schools, in which case hundreds of local kids could help them to the right answer?

We may have moved on from a situation where, in 1999, the island demonstrably provided the worst RE tuition in the British Isles to one where children have a reasonable chance of learning something of major world religions. But this mostly happened because non-Christians were finally able to play some part in RE and curriculum planning – despite an education act which is hardly more fit for purpose now than it was when superficial changes to RE provision were introduced.

While we still have a ludicrous situation where the chair of the Education Department’s REAC (Religious Education Advisory Council) is appointed by a church in another country rather than the Manx government, and children are legally required to attend the odd act of communal Christian worship which is of no relevance to almost all, even I would be prepared to admit some improvement.

The most useful one might have been that evangelicals who used to regard it as their right to enter schools freely and harangue children have found it harder to do so. Sad, then, that at a stroke all the advances of the last 15 years have been reversed.

But then the Minister quoted is no MENSA hopeful. He actually entered government after failing as a postman, and his first act upon being given a government post in another department was to try and close the island’s two main post offices, sell them off to developers and, in the process, put former colleagues close to retirement out of a job and rob them of their government pensions.

Oddly enough, the previous Education Minister was also a failed postie, and now I think of it I cannot recall any Manx Education Minister with a university degree.

But back to the main story….

In the business world, people who do not deliver a service do not get paid. In the case of the Education Department parents pay upfront for a service that is not delivered, then the Education Department compounds the error by paying outside agents who also do not deliver.

It seems we now have to deal with this by teaching our children to be patient and polite when trapped in a classroom with people whose understanding of the world is so obviously limited. In this case, as the only benefit seems to be to the alleged teacher (who for all I know might get some therapeutic value) I would have thought there is a reasonable case for the pupils being paid to sit through them, rather than the current arrangement, which certainly brings no benefit to any pupil, and may well do further harm to the troubled ones.

But two questions still remain.

(1) When is the Education Department going to provide the sex education classes which have become vital because of the pig-ignorance of the type of swivel-eyed loon now being employed to teach them?

(2) If they are not, when are they planning to refund parents for a service not delivered?

Corpse-kicking for Jesus

A Scottish friend drew my attention to a recent letter in the Oban Times by one Donald Morrison, who comes across as a major league retard, even by the notoriously low standards of Scottish Calvinism.

Morrison took the hump because someone had the audacity to organise a humanist funeral in Inverness, so spent about a page ranting in the local press about it. He claimed people who attended thought it the worst funeral they’d been to. He presents as a compulsive fabulist, so I assume he’s lying about that, and is using any weak excuse to (effectively) attack a dead person, their family and friends at a sad time.

Even for a god-bothering small town throwback this fool is offensive. He spends whole paragraphs whingeing because his god, sin, heaven and hell weren’t mentioned once, neither was his favoured collection of fairy tales, and nobody prayed. Shock horror.

He then rants on for another couple of paragraphs because the funeral celebrated the deceased’s life instead of dwelling on death and salivating about it. Finally he attributes a fictitious book to Nietzsche before saying that a popular joke (”God is dead: Nietzsche/ Nietzsche is dead: God”) appeared as graffiti days after Nietzsche died, when any fool knows it was little more than an icebreaker used by teachers in the 1960s to introduce fourth formers to some basic philosophy.

In a town where everyone must have known about the funeral, one feels for the friends and relatives of the deceased this boor insulted. The island suffers from thoughtless, fundamentalist cretins, but even they would not stoop to this.

Idiots like Morrison should stick to things they actually know about – like molesting sheep. I’m the last one for censorship, and generally love it when such religiots put their wellies in their mouths and give us all a good laugh. But in my days as a journo for small local papers even I would have thought twice before allowing them to denigrate the recently dead.

Manx education – a contradiction in terms

A couple of days ago, when two teachers took seriously my daughter’s concerns about a mouthy homophobe in her class, had a quiet word with the lad and caused him to apologise, I was almost ready to rethink my long-term opinion of the Manx education system. And as a parent, there are days when you worry about it. And then there are days, like today, when you more than worry. On those, you just go ballistic at the sheer cretinism of those running it.

Because today my daughter came home from school with the news that the town’s most notorious sexist, homophobic throwback is going to be giving sex education lessons. Apparently this will be OK because not only is he a clergyman, but also a prison chaplain. Though if we want to be quite accurate, he is neither of those things either.

He has no training in theology (no surprise as he can barely read or write), and only inherited the job of pastor at the town’s batshit-crazy Pentecostal outfit when his predecessor was finally put away for sex with underage girls.

Officially, he isn’t a prison chaplain either. His denomination is not one of the three with a right in law to appoint one, and has made no case to the prison service to do so. Instead, he slipped in on the back of another evangelical outfit’s “prison rehabilitation” scheme as an unofficial prison visitor. I say unofficial because there is a government scheme whereby about half a dozen prison visitors are appointed by a committee, and they haven’t interviewed or approved him either.

But it gets worse.

Firstly, this freak was one of the church elders who helped in the cover-up of his predecessor’s behaviour. Their actions included going round to the families of victims to tell them that if they ever testified in court not only would they be thrown out of the church, but unable to work on the island or live without harassment in any island community.

Secondly, when one of his star pupils got a girl pregnant and she wouldn’t marry him, the pastor went into her workplace (a local chip shop) to denounce her in front of the Friday night queue, and had to be thrown off the premises. Imagine that – a man of the cloth who has to be barred from a chip shop for anti-social behaviour.

Thirdly, when the Manx government held a public consultation on the advisability of allowing same sex marriage a couple of years back, his was one of the most virulent, repulsive responses – even amongst the collection of knuckle-dragging neanderthals who run a variety of breakaway cults attracting no more than two men and a dog , having been deemed too weird for any of the major denominations.

He is, in short, someone too dangerous and stupid ever to be allowed into the same room as children or vulnerable adults. Yet, because both the prison service and education department are riddled with incompetence and ignorance, not only is he allowed to do both, but getting paid from public funds.

If I thought the Education Minister could read and write I’d complain. But I can’t remember a literate one in almost three decades. So what would be the point?

Looking on the bright side, at least this piece of human effluent will serve one useful function. As they do whenever an evangelical is sent to the school, my daughter and her friends are going to have enough material to keep them in hysterics for weeks.

Though I still wish the head teacher – or whoever chooses such chumps – had enough common sense to find at least one rational adult who might actually be capable of educating, informing or inspiring young people for a change.

Return to sender

I’m sick of Brexit and need to move on to happier things, so this will be my last comment on it. Honestly.

I spotted this (see http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2016/06/britain-after-referendum ) on the Economist website. The picture of the UK return to 1970’s mayhem was uncannily similar to my own recent thoughts on the subject – in my case more reflections on a number of BBC 3 films about the background to punk than any “serious” political analysis.

I should also add that events in the Isle of Man, and the local reaction to Brexit, are linked. The thing is, from the late 1980’s onward we attracted UK white flighters thanks to an odd – and from government papers I saw in 1990 I believe deliberate – government policy which “coincidentally” put off people of colour (even skilled, financially solvent ones) while encouraging any paler face, however undesirable.

In addition, I also know that a number of undesirables were “resettled” here, mostly as the pay-off in secretive “supergrass” arrangements with the police or security services, but sometimes with help from extreme evangelical groups, who saw criminals recruited in prisons and put through nominal bible college courses as a cheap source of clergy for the movement they hoped to plant here in order to supplement dwindling state subsidy in Northern Ireland.

In both cases, they took advantage of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which allows the perpetrators of all but a few crimes not to declare criminal convictions older than a decade on job applications.

Before all that, this was a sleepy place. While not too used to dealing with the obviously different, with the odd exception it managed it with the good manners and common decency you come to expect in quiet rural places where people just have to get by and get on.

Since then, it has got worse, to the extent that, while a resident of over 30 years myself, after Brexit my family feels less safe because of racism stirred up by recent UK “come-overs”. Their ignorance adds nothing to the island mix. They should be the ones considering moving away, not us.

There’s a larger island just across the Irish Sea which seems determined to revive the worst aspects of the early 1970’s. Maybe they would feel more at home there, claiming benefits or sitting around in the lobbies of crumbling, under-resourced NHS facilities waiting for an appointment.

We have suffered them far too long. Time that they, and not our productive immigrants, were encouraged to be a burden on the country that dumped them on us. Considering the UK government is fast retreating to the ugly, anti-democratic attitudes of those times, surely such bigots would feel right at home.

“Hate won’t win”

I’ve been in Peel Cathedral once in recent years for the funeral of a close friend, because I owed him that. It was an awful funeral and I’ve never been able to set foot in the place since. When showing some guests around the island and they wanted to take a look in there I actually had to stand outside, because I felt physically sick.

The sad thing is that there are increasing efforts to create a myth of the Cathedral as a place which celebrates diversity, cares about human rights. An excuse for more public subsidy, more like.

Actually, that is not a cheap crack. In fact the joke is a very expensive one, considering the public money that is being poured into a vacuous scheme to turn a cold faith-barn into some sort of educational resource where local school-kids can go to learn about, say, the Holocaust or more recent atrocities.

Given, for example, the Manx church’s direct involvement in the oppression of gays and lesbians for years, this suggests that Manx civil servants – especially in the Education Department – must get through the day on very powerful medication.

And to add to the hilarity, tomorrow there is to be a vigil for the Orlando victims in the Cathedral (see http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/79516/vigil-reaches-out-to-lgbti-community ). Not only that, but this week in the Cathedral gardens you could actually see the rainbow flag at half-mast for a day. No, seriously, you could.

Out of curiosity, when Manx Rainbow Association forwarded the image from the Cathedral’s Facebook page, I asked the Cathedral what happens the next day. Is it back to “business as usual” for the other 364?

Anyone familiar with the Manx church’s usual stance on gay issues would get the joke immediately. And anyone who read their way through the appalling “contributions” by local churches to a 2014 government consultation on equal marriage would be far too angry.

The Cathedral did not get the joke. A spokesperson just replied to say all were welcome at the vigil. I doubt it, and am not about to go in order to check. I would strongly recommend others also boycott this cheap stunt.

The event looks set to be a smaller scale version of the annual Holocaust Memorial Service which, while initiated and organised entirely by Jewish volunteers, must take place in a church and be overseen by the bishop and his staff in order for senior politicians to grace it with their presence.

For the last two years, in an effort to help my long-suffering Jewish friends on the committee turn it into something genuinely open to participation by those of all faiths and none, I’ve attended as a speaker, and even that is a struggle. The attitude is so oppressive that I am usually the first out of the door.

Tea and stickies with hatemongering hypocrites who are only there because they can claim expenses? No thanks. In fact I am seriously thinking of asking if someone else will represent the human rights group I speak for. The whole event really does upset me so much.

Like the Holocaust, Orlando was an atrocity entirely caused by religious hatred, so for the same bigots to monopolise “official” efforts to grieve or show sympathy is ridiculous.

But as I finish this, an e-mail pinged in from Southern Poverty Law Center noting that today is the anniversary of the killing of nine black people in a Charleston church by a white supremacist. SPLC quote the brave words spoken by one woman to the killer of her grandfather, “Hate won’t win”.

We cannot let it, just as we cannot let the haters dominate our attempts to remember their victims.

Strange fruit

Last week I heard a story which demonstrates, yet again, why evangelicals should never be allowed near the vulnerable and churches never allowed to take over social services which should, in anything approaching a civilised society, be done by qualified public sector professionals.

A volunteer at a church-run free lunch project for the needy brought in some fruit, bought reduced from a supermarket clearance, and invited the diners to not only eat some but take the rest with them. The church minister (who only ever turns up at the scheme after the cooking, serving and washing up are done, and who up until that point was happily stuffing his face with cake also baked by volunteers) then intervened, saying it was church policy not to let clients take food away because it encourages dependency.

These ‘clients’, by the way, are usually fed on a diet of out-of-date tinned stuff, and the project kitchen is stacked to the ceiling with such rubbish. The fruit cost the volunteer the grand sum of £2 and was the nearest to fresh or wholesome food that had been seen in the kitchen in months.

I would like to speak well of religiously motivated social work. Unfortunately, those who do it keep opening their mouths and revealing why no sane or humane person should let them.