A furious kindness (NSFW- swearing) 

So, yesterday I posted a couple of things on social media along the lines of “in the face of maddening cruelty, practice a furious kindness.” 

I’ve been asked if I’m quoting anyone, and I’m certainly not consciously directly quoting anyone. The phrase was inspired by Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson’s “Furiously Happy”. It’s a life philosophy that, in the face of chronic illness, anxiety and depression, aims to be deliberately, aggressively happy. 

So that’s what I was thinking of yesterday. In the face of not only a fanatic suicide bomber, but the vengeful blind reaction of some, I aim to be deliberately, aggressively kind, and my rage at the killing of children will not make me hate anyone else blindly. 

When disgraced, failed fleet Street editor and failed chat show hosts immediately points  the finger at a whole community, FUCK YOU, that community stepped up first and strongest when Piers first reaction was hate. 

When pound shop fascists demand that we choose between Britain and Islam, FUCK YOU, that’s the choice that the bomber believed he had to make (presumably), and it’s BULLSHIT. Millions choose both every day. It works. 

When an old friend reacts with “kindness doesn’t stop psychopaths”… For fucks sake, who said it would? But I’m sure as shit that cruelty, and blind anger won’t either. I’d nitpick that this wasn’t the act of a psychopath, anyway, but a fanatic. A person driven by rage and anger against a whole group that he has been told hates him. And this bullshit rage and anger leads him to kill kids, parents and himself. 

So, yes, future atrocities, if they can be prevented, will be prevented by a cool intelligence, but that intelligence cannot operate with a furious hatred, or it will be misled. 

But there is undeniably fury, and anger, and that’s natural, that’s the right, healthy response to a deliberate, indiscriminate murder of families. 

And when that anger and fury leads to people, in the face of an act planned to cow and divide one of the most integrated cities in Britain, to turn around and say FUCK YOU, you don’t get to win today. We will work together, we will reunite families, we will give blood, we will shout down fascists and fanatics of all tribes, we will defiantly become better people to beat the bastards, FUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOUUUUUUU! 

Care as an act of defiance in the face of cruelty. 

Love practiced as revenge against hatred. 

And that’s a furious kindness



People keep thinking we’re Jewish.

I mean, I’ve had this for a very long time. I’m broad, dark, bald, bearded. I semi-regularly pepper my speech with yiddish.

My nephew asked recently “Who’s that guy in the magazine that looks like a mixture of all three of my uncles?” That would be David Baddiel.

My sister was asked to help out with the lessons about Hannukah in the school that she’s a TA at because, you know…

Thing is… not Jewish.

Very Jewy.

Not remotely Jewish.

It’s something I could prove in seconds on a NSFW site.


My mother grew up on an estate in Hackney that was predominantly Jewish, just after the war. Many of the families there had fled the continent ahead of the holocaust. I think not one of the Jewish families were untouched by it. These were my mother’s first playmates, some of them children with odd accents being raised by aunts, uncles, more distant relatives whose parents sent them ahead.

So on holocaust memorial day, there’s a lot of people who think I’m more affected by it than I am… but I’m certainly not unaffected. It shaped my mother’s childhood, which shaped mine.

I’m white, but my family is multi-racial. I’m pretty straight, but my family contains manifold sexualities and genders. We’ve got disabilites mental and physical enough to keep a legion of doctors busy. Even if we’re not Jewish, we’re pretty Jewy.

Collectively, we’re a good representation of what the holocaust was meant to get rid of.

We’re here, despite historical and even current efforts to make it otherwise.

Let’s all remember that the threat of the holocaust is not over.

But let us not forget that it has thus far failed.

“Sick of winning”

Buckle up, kids, Uncle Rubbish is going to ramble a bit.

So I’ve been excercised recently over the behaviour of a significant number of Brexitteers and Trumpistas. I’m sure you’ve seen the reports, the abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in particular, the particular tone of not just hostility, but a desperation to establish dominance.

And at first I thought it was like that quote from “Dusk till Dawn” ; “Are you such a loser that you don’t recognise when you win?” They’re so used to feeling impotent and mocked by experts that they’re lashing out with a new feeling of licence…

But that’s not quite it, it doesn’t capture the neediness at the heart of the behaviour, the desperation to prove dominance in each situation.

Then I remembered a book called “When Prophecy Fails,” about what happened in a millennial ufo cult when, despite waiting in the right place, on the right night, wearing the right robes and saying the right words, the space brothers didn’t land and take them away. And some left the cult feeling betrayed, and some stayed struggling with the contradiction of their situation, believers who have been shown their faith as empty.

And those guys could get awfully testy if that was brought up. The book is where the phrase cognitive dissonance comes from.

But what if… What if the space brothers came? And they were beautiful, and magnificent, and wise… And then they just left? Or they thanked the cult, and decided to take the wisest unbelievers instead? What if, bluntly, the cult were right, but it didn’t change anything? If they had to face going back to everyone who thought them fools, and knowing they were right, but it would profit them nothing?

What if enough people voted for a Brexit that could never succeed?

What if enough people voted for a wall that could never be built?

What if you are on the winning side, but you’re still not taken seriously, if people still don’t like you, if the people you beat won’t just shut up, shut up, shut up, what if you want winning a vote to mean winning the argument, what if you said the right words and wore the right robes and stood in the right place on the right night, and nothing changed?

What if you won a vote and the world didn’t change?

Even worse, what if the space brothers turned out to be Nyarlathotep and the Cthulhu crew and you’d been told so?

And there’s the anger. There’s the will to dominance, to get the “losers” to shut up, to go away, to just not BE.

To stop them reminding the winners that you can win… And still be wrong.

Why my daughter is awesome. Again.

So, driving back from her judo lesson last night, I was talking my my daughter. Specifically, we were talking about a recent thing on tumblr from this blog by the always excellent Laurie Penny.

And, being brilliant, my daughter made some great points.

Mostly, was that she really doesn’t care what people think about her looks. She’s already had to deal, at age 12, with people saying she looks / dresses “weird”, and she’s doing really well with that. So I asked her what she thought about being judged on how she looks and dresses, and what sort of things does she like being complemented on.

And she completely hit me sideways when she said “Well, when I’m in a comic shop or at a games day and people say they’re glad that there’s a girl there who’s there because she’s into that stuff. You know, when people recognise that I’m kinda of a geek and they like me for that.”

And that’s the geek dream, isn’t it? To be accepted and lauded for exhibiting your enthusiasm. Not for your looks or having the right clothes or looking down on another part of culture.

She also said “You know, I know there’s some girls who wear clothes with geek stuff on just because they like the look of it. And that’s great! But I wear it because it’s about stuff I like as well, and I love it when people talk to me about it because I’m wearing it.”

So yeah, my daughter. Super-awesome nerd fighter. Brilliant. And, incidentally, beautiful. But I’m biased about all that.

PS: Goddamn it, and this is why my daughter being proud of being a geek is also a source of anxiety to me: http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/this-right-here-is-the-problem/

The parable of the farmers, or vanity publishing explained.

Once upon a time there were three wheat farmers. Each had produced a bumper crop of grain.

The first farmer showed his grain to a merchant[1], who was so impressed with the grain that he bought the rights from the farmer to winnow, mill and bake the grain into bread and then sold the bread to shops, in return for a small amount of the sale of each loaf. The merchant made more money than the farmer, but had risked a great deal of his own money paying for winnowing, milling, baking and promoting the bread, while the farmers job essentially stopped after harvest[2]
The second farmer, who had heard that merchants and grain  agents were very picky about grain these days, really just wanted people to eat his wheat. He sometimes paid others to winnow mill or bake the grain into bread, sometimes did it himself, and negotiated himself with the shop owners. While he spent a lot of his own money and time, he kept all the money that the shopkeepers gave him, and all the money from the bread he sold himself. One year, his grain made fantastic bread which was so popular a merchant approached him for rights to his grain (see first farmer).[3]
The third farmer was approached by a man who called himself a merchant, who praised his grain to the skies. He said it was just the grain he was looking for, and would be happy to pay the farmer for the rights to his grain. Only, wasn’t it fair that the farmer should contribute to the costs of winnowing, milling, baking and selling to the shops? The farmer, somewhat impressed that anyone would want to buy his grain in the depressed bread market, paid the merchant (who had many stories of how successful people had been making their own grain into bread). The merchant then promised the farmer that he would get a substantial proportion of the sales of the bread, and an even bigger proportion of the money he made from any he sold himself.
And when the other farmers heard about this they said “Dude, seriously, you’ve already paid them to winnow, mill and bake the bread that you’re selling yourself, why give them one red cent extra?”
The third farmer then found that the winnowing, milling and baking wasn’t much good. And, to be honest, his loaves were just plumped onto the shelves of big bread stores without any promotion, getting lost in the proliferation of loaves. In fact, if he tried selling any of that grain by himself, the merchant would tell him he couldn’t, he could only sell grain through the merchant (who was beginning to look a lot like Robert Carlyle in Once Upon a Time).
His “merchant” wasn’t bothered, as he’d already been paid, and actually made most of his money from charging farmers for processing their own grain.
And there were always more farmers desperate to get their grain made into bread.

[1] Actually, he first showed it to a grain agent, who was so impressed he agreed to negotiate the contract with the merchant for a consideration of the revenue, but that’s by the by.

[2] The merchant also paid for options on next years crop, and first refusal on any oats, barley, etc the farmer may produce, but that’s by the by
[3] He also paid for the rights to make and sell bread from previous years grain harvests. YOU SEE, THIS IS ALL A METAPHOR.

Yet Another Consultation Response

Consultation response by Peter Darby, Home educating parent, former Welsh Correspondent of Action on Home Education, Drama Group Facilitator, Welsh resident.

Executive Summary:  The compulsory licensing proposals are unnecessary, expensive, detrimental to the relationship between Local Authorities and home educators, and predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of the statutory duties of LA’s.

  1. The entire basis of the proposals is that in order to discharge their duties under Section 436a of the Education Act (1996), Local authorities must register and monitor the education of children electively home educated. However, the All Wales Attendance Framework of 2011 makes it explicit that Section 436a duties do not apply to children who are being educated at home.
Put simply, with regards to Section 436a of the Education act, Local Authorities have NO special duties towards home educated children.
The intent of Section 436a was to confirm that Local Authorities have responsibilities to ensure that children not attending school but not being electively home educated are receiving a suitable education from the Local Authority, under Education Other Than At School provision (EOTAS).
If legislation is passed on this basis, it will seriously extend the duties of the LA’s into a realm previously covered by parental responsibility, far beyond that intended by Section 436a.
  1. The proposals are not for a registration programme, but a licensing program. Properly formed, a register is the recording of information, and as such does not require permission or approval.
By restricting the ability to be entered onto a register of home educated children to make it by the approval of the Local Authority, this makes the register a licensing scheme, far beyond the intent of a simple register of information.
This is an unnecessary and extreme intrusion of arbitrary authority into parental responsibility.
Furthermore, the suggestion that license to home educate be restricted on the judgement of an education officer that there are welfare concerns confuses education and welfare issues. Educational and general welfare issues are separate issues, and should be addressed by separate LA officers with appropriate training in each.
The introduction of such language into educational legislation seems to hint that the intent is that only the “right sort of people” will be “permitted” to educate their children outside of the school system, a class based assumption that is countered by research showing that it is the most “deprived” families that benefit most from education outside of school.
  1. While there is some debate in the Home Education community about the conduct of the Bridgend pilot scheme, the participants, both Local Authority and Home Educator, seemed to agree that where the relationship was based on respect, trust and integrity, LA’s were better able to discharge their (actual) statutory duties and also engage positively with the home educating community.
Where LA’s are demanding, forceful, and inflexible, the relationship suffers, as home educators exercise their right to withdraw co-operation from an LA they perceive as acting in an adversarial role.
Compulsory registration and licensing by LA fiat forces LA’s into an adversarial role. Already I’ve had feedback from LA workers that the proposed legislation will damage what can be a fragile relationship with families who have often felt let down and stigmatised by the education system.
  1. In informal talks about the proposed legislation, it has been expressed that compulsory registration will decrease the number of home educating families that are not known to the authorities.
I would ask how.
Proclaiming that “registration is now compulsory” will not automatically make people register. How will the authorities find families that have decided not to register? Will they further make it an offence not to inform the authorities of a known home educating family? Are we to be set as informers on each other?
Would it not be true that the adversarial nature of stating that, if we find you have not registered, we will force your children into school and possibly prosecute you, will make families less likely to engage with the local authority? What have they to lose by staying hidden? What have they to gain by coming forward and saying “yes, been home educating without registration for ten years now, please send my children to school until you’ve come to a decision as to whether I’m fit to teach my own.”
Compulsory registration with legal consequences is not a “find home educators” spell. It’s an invite to go into hiding.
  1. Not consulted upon are the intractable problems of implementation.
What are the penalties for non-registration going to be? Fines? Imprisonment? Making something a legal requirement means that legal consequences must be brought to bear for infringement. What would be proportionate for an offence which is only an offence because non-compliance makes the LA’s job more difficult?
Where is the money coming from? Do education departments have inspectors standing idle at the moment? At a time when those very departments are struggling to fulfil their current, actual duties, inventing new ones, with commensurate increased demands on scant resources, seems perverse.
As stated above, how are the LA’s going to find families that have not registered? If they think they can find them, why do they need compulsory registration? If not, how will making registration compulsory help them?
Will families be “permitted” to home educate during the six (or possibly twelve, it varies in the documents) weeks it takes to prepare the report? If they are refused permission after twelve weeks, will they be subject to the legal consequences of home educating without license during those weeks?
  1. The introduction of a licensing system fundamentally alters the balance of education law. It makes the responsibility of the parent to provide an education to their children subject to the approval of the local authority. This means that the LA assumes ultimate responsibility for the education of the child, which is a thought that should stop any LA legal representative in their tracks.
Currently, the buck for inadequate education stops with parents. By licensing home educators, that buck gets passed to the LA’s, and in principle this applies to all parents in Wales, including those with children in state schools. The shift from the current “we will step in if there are demonstrable, serious concerns” to “we will permit you to educate if we choose to” is a vast one, and should only be taken if the WAG believes that there is a problem serious enough to expose itself to the greatest increase in state educational liability in British history.
  1. It is perhaps unfortunate that this consultation period ends in the week when the minister has suggested that responsibility for schools could be taken out of Local Authority control. Two LA’s in Wales are already under special measures, with perhaps more to follow. It would not be unfair to say that state provision of education in Wales is in crisis, has been for some years, and is unlikely to resolve that crisis any time soon, whatever the best wishes and efforts from the LA’s, the WAG, the teachers and their unions, etc.
But it does lead one to ask: If the education departments cannot oversee schools to a standard which is acceptable to either Estyn, the Minister or the people of Wales, why are they expected to license the education of those children who have chosen not to participate in their failing system?
  1. I have not answered the prepared consultation questions, as they are almost entirely framed by the assumption that compulsory licensing will go ahead and it is only the minor details of where the assessments are to be made and how long home educators will have to wait for the license to be debated. The fact that the whole thing is based on a faulty reading of the education act renders the questions posed as virtually meaningless.

What the I don’t even

From a job description:

The UK has progressed a sector based policy approach over the last decade with a view to improving its’ skills position. The Sector Priorities Fund Pilot Programme (herein referred to as the SPFP Programme) is designed to take forward strategic sector project activity led by Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) in order to realise the sector related policy recommendations outlined in “Skills that Work for Wales: A Skills and Employment Strategy and Action Plan. This policy promotes a sector based response to identifying and addressing skills and employment needs within sectors of the Welsh economy.
Skills That Work for Wales outlined the need for a Sector Priorities Fund from 2011 in Wales to align provision to the needs of key sectors of the economy. SPFP is aimed at piloting sector based solutions activity which has been identified by SSCs and evidenced as a need through their employer engagement strategies and backed by robust labour market intelligence. There is also an underlying aim to build the capacity in the skills system by brokering relationships between SSCs, FE and HE Institutions.
This will enable sector solutions to be delivered with strong partnership arrangements with providers and strategic sector bodies (SSCs) who act as the voice of employers in identifying skills gaps and shortages, as well as reforming qualifications to ensure they meet the needs of industry. The overarching aim of the SPFP Programme is to provide the evidence base on which to inform and influence policy and delivery systems in Wales to enable mainstream training programmes supported by the Welsh Assembly Government to become more demand-responsive. That is, policy and delivery systems are more reflective of the training and skills needs articulated by employers across sectors of the Welsh economy. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) will be at the core to directing and managing project activity and submit project proposals to be supported via the SPFP Programme funding. SSC strategic projects will be underpinned by evidence of employer-demand gained primarily through their Sector Skills Agreements (SSAs) and Sector Qualifications Strategies (SQSs), and will pilot activity aimed at feeding intelligence to inform the Sector Priorities Fund identified in “Skills that Work for Wales”.