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When I was at school, teachers could still hit kids on the raised palm of their hands with a leather strap. I think the maximum dose was six strokes. I don’t think it did me any harm; but it didn’t do me any good either. I think perhaps it is a shame that something has been removed from the teachers’ toolbox when it comes to stopping classrooms descending into anarchy. I have to say that I lost a lot of respect for teachers who had to resort to the tawse. I remember one teacher whom I’d liked strapping a classmate for next to no reason. Something inoffensive, to normal people, that the pupil said. I was strapped at least once in primary school. For something harmless like talking in line when we were queuing up in the playground to get back into school after playtime. Whatever, hardly inciting a slave riot. Another time was at high school when a technical department teacher took the tawse to the whole class. Some idiot wrote something on the blackboard when the teacher was out of the classroom and no-one would say who did it. I think the lesson learned was a confirmation that the technical department included more than its share of sadists and sociopaths. In a school which numbered at least one murderer among the phantom chalker’s pals, no sane person was fingering him.

 

 

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Regular readers are probably aware that I believe the Public School system does major harm to the British economy and the well-being of the country. If the rich and powerful have no stake in the education of the majority of the population, they are not going to do much about it. You can bet that if their own children went to school with yours, then your kid would probably be getting a better education than they are. People with private educations are also over-represented in many jobs and it’s not because they are that smart. So, here’s something we could try. The rich will eventually get around it, but it may put a spoke in the wheels of perpetuation of privilege for a year or two. Why don’t we say that if the State is not good enough to educate a child then it is not good enough to employ them either. Think of all the civil service jobs, including military officers, which would no longer offer a cosy living for the products of private schools. And let’s not go into the question of boarding schools, the point of which seems to be to produce ruthless emotionally warped sociopaths who can be trusted with power over us. I know, because I’ve worked for two of them and both were vicious nasty pieces of work promoted well well beyond their ability.

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I was jarred recently when I heard the BBC World Service refer to "the France side of the Channel Tunnel". I can remember when it was the French side of the tunnel. I can't help wondering if the lack of old fashioned national descriptors is down to ignorance. How many so-called journalists nowadays know that things pertaining to Norway are Norwegian? Or the Netherlands, Dutch? Of course, what used to be described as Our Scottish Correspondent seldom was. It remains usually an Englishman parachuted in. While many BBC correspondents now to seem to be natives of the country they are reporting on, Scots are still not trusted to tell the truth about their own homeland. Talk about The Last Colony. But Scotland Correspondent just sounds ignorant. How about Scottish Affairs Correspondent?

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Here's something scary: your airplane carry-on vanishes from the overhead storage and you don't find out until the plane lands. It happened to me on an Air Canada flight from Edmonton to Toronto. When I was finally allowed to board, being in the cheap seats, the overhead bins in my section were all full of oversized carry-on. Clue - If You Need Wheels On Your Bag; It's Not Carry On. Actually, it was paying attention to the staged boarding that was my mistake. Several other cheap seaters were already well ensconced in my section. I saw their tickets with seat numbers in the departure area and know they were allowed through the gate before they should have been. Anyway, I found a space in an overhead bin further down the plane. So, I didn't see someone subsequently take my bag, because the bin was behind me. I was horrified to find the bag wasn't there when I went to fetch it at the end of the flight; in its place was little white backpack. My bag finally turned out to be in a bin several rows up and on the other side of plane. I reckon I know who made the switch. I think the vacant spot in the bin was due to someone taking the white backpack down briefly to get something out of it. They could have said at the time that there was no space in the bin. Or they could have told me where my carry-on was when they saw my panicked look on arrival at Toronto. They just had to say they'd seen someone move it and tell me where it now was. I mean, there were 300 suspects if the bag was stolen. Strangely, Air Canada didn't seem keen on searching each passenger as they left the plane.

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I think writers have to be very careful when they describe something as "the last", or even "the first". I was just reading a book, by Tory Kwasi Kwarteng, which stated the last British cavalry charge took place at Omdurman in 1898. I can think of several subsequent British cavalry charges after that, including several during the First World War. I'm not even sure that qualifying the claim by saying "full regimental" cavalry charge will cover it. Whole cavalry divisions were sweeping around Palestine towards the end of the First World War. Perhaps the only safe thing to say is the 1898 charge by the 21st Lancers was the last, and I think only, one in which Tory Winston Churchill took part. Kwarteng is far from the only person to assert the last cavalry charge claim. His expensive education, which included Eton, may have been wasted. On the other hand is being an Old Etonian not almost an essential qualification for Cabinet office? Am I alone in wondering if one secondary school really does have such a monopoly on producing exceptionally talented people?

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