superschool

Was over at Ross’s place this morning. Their new house is lovely. Its huge too. It’s completely flat – there’s no step over the threshold, so I could just roll in. I had a fairly good chat with rods and his parents, during which I found out something most interesting indeed: Hebden green is shutting.

My old school is shutting and a new, inclusive school will be made from the 5 or so schools in winsford. According to Ross’s dad, this new hyper-school will be made which will accommodate every shade of pupil. Funnily, I’m not sure how to react: suppressive though it was, Hebden and I go back a long time. The mosaic is there. This is not to say I don’t support the new idea but….

I was struck by a fear. This school will accommodate every ‘type’ of student: A.b, P.D. L.D and also BED. I’ve admitted before on here that I have very little experience with Bed, but I was struck by the thought: what if some kid with behavioural difficulties, say, hits a kid like Ross? Such a thing would be terrible – Ross is tiny, and unable to defend himself. I am not doubting my belief in inclusion, but I really hope the right safeguards will be in place.

any input on this will be most welcome

the landscape

It looks like October outside. A cold, wet November afternoon with nothing to do, and nothing n the box. You wouldn’t believe it’s late august, would you? I just watched the first ten minutes of Johnny English, decided it was an embarrassment to art, and turned my TV off. Last night, in contrast, I watched rear window – now that’s a film! No, scratch that: its more than a film – it is an essay in scoppophilia. It is entirely about films, how we watch them, how we construct stories. I noticed that the james stewart character was, in effect, acting as a viewer, constructing stories. I’m gonna definitely have to watch that again. Here, I should thank my brother Mark for the Hitchcock box set he gave me for graduation.

For many years, university seemed like a destination. Now, having got there, having got to the top of the hill, do I see the path goes further – through hills and valleys more beautiful than I ever thought. There’s so much more to learn, not just in my own subject of film but everything. Academia is immense, ranging from the study of Arthurian legend, to Zoology. Even though I have only a cursory knowledge of either, I am both captivated by the tales off the Knights of the round table and accounts of natural history, especially that pertaining to evolution. Film captivates me the most, however. While I love reading and being read to, film brings such things to life – only in film can those knights say Ni, and only in film can you actually see a tyrannosaurus become a bird. Thus it is how information is presented, both in terms of fiction and non-fiction, which interests me, not so much the information in itself. It goes without saying that I believe that academia should concern itself with both. How can you ever know the truth without examining both art and science? While one deals with the natural state of external things, from strings to stars, the other deals with the internal things. As much as my brothers like to dismiss the arts, I believe the generation and study of art has as much claim to the truth as any of the sciences. This is why both are studied on campuses, and any wider model of philosophy should take both into account.

That is the landscape I see before me now. A world with so much to learn, to study, to read and write about. One full of cool little philosophical debates, which, in the end, always turned my head to mush, but that doesn’t stop me liking them. The thing is, unlike climbing real hills, I don’t feel tired, but, on the contrary, want to go further. I must admit to being egged on in pursuit of mark. University is a place I found extraordinarily welcoming – I loved every day there, both due to the work, the atmosphere of mental stimulation, and my friends. In climbing the hill, one acquires a taste for mountaineering, but one can only know that once one takes the first step. Only once you get to uni that you feel the thrill, the love of learning, the enjoyment you get from being around like-minded people.

This is part of inclusion too. So many kids – not just those with disabilities – a told they can’t. I think people need to be shown how broad and beautiful that landscape can be. I hope that others follow me into that land, and that it enthrals them as much as it enthrals me.

our voices are our power

Gad to see this is finally posted on youtube. It’s the music video we made at 1voice. Well, I say ‘we’ – the young people made it. I didn’t do too much. Nevertheless, I am proud of it. They all worked damn hard to make it, but I think they all had fun too.

One of the recurrent themes in the song is Beth’s enunciation: my voice is my power. I’ve been mulling over this principal quite a bit recently. I agree – to have power, to have the ability to control what goes on, one must have the ability to communicate.. the problem is that society demands we must communicate through certain means in certain, often limited means. I am communicating to you now. I can do this only because I have two things: first, I have literacy skills enough to access the words. Second, I have an expanded keyboard, so that, despite my cp, I can type up my thoughts. Only with these two things can I communicate to you. Only with these two things can I tell you that its currently raining here, or that dad’s taken apart the rooter, or that I miss my university friends, Katie, my brothers and everyone very much. The same applies to natural voices and vocas – it’s interesting how often overlook and undervalue the ability to communicate. It, in actuality, is everything. Our voices are our power.

Ghandi is on later today. Its interesting that he freed India, not through violence, but through words. His voice truly was powerful. This is why his speeches, like those of dr. King, live on through time. The ability to communicate is greater than any other ability I can think of.

tory tax cuts

The Tories have today announced a proposal to cut inheritance tax were they to become the next government. I greet this news with a sigh. Its abundantly clear that, despite wanting to appear centrist, this proposal appeals predominantly to the rich, and thus reveals the rightist substructure of the Tory party. I say again: beneath this veneer of friendliness lies the same bunch of moronic pseudo-fascists we had in the 80s. mind you, it is ironic that this cut will now appeal to more people due to the benefits of a labour government. More people are above the lower threshold for this tax due to the fact that we are, for the most part, considerably more wealthy than we were before 97. in effect, the Tories are riding on Labour’s successes. Are these the actions of a nice trustworthy party or a bunch of liars and sneakthiefs?

stuff

its beeb aa bit of a dull day. well, dull for me: the a-level results are at their highest, and, apparently, we’re heading for a resession or depresion. summit like that. if I had my way, we’d do away with economics – the stock market is a load of men in suits feeling more important than they actually are. I mean, its just a form of gambling.

thinking of something to write about is hard sometimes. Now, I know I said no more crap from youtube but this is better crap than most. youtube has produced a rather cool democratisation of film, dnt you thinkk?

I’m the tip of the iceberg

I keep going in circles with research. Mind you, I haven’t been doing enough of that; summer always makes me lazy. I sit down to read, and read for perhaps 30 to 60 minutes, then my mind wanders. Its interesting stuff – I like the boardwellian/formalist approach, but how do you unite that detailed close textual analysis and grammatical analysis with ideas of scoppophilia? Its not enough to detail the on screen structures. I wanna know why they work, almost. I guess I should read more, but, as I say, my mind wonders.

My shortening attention span aside, I still love learning. I love examining stuff, arguing a point. I guess this is, in part, why I keep a blog. I think I have my family to blame for this, especially my parents. They have been very supportive. They’re a pair of bibliophiles, really. Incidentally, dad finished reading to mum and myself Deathly Hallows last night, but I’ll refrain from saying anything about it for fear of spoiling it for anyone yet to finish. My family is thus an academic one, and it is largely (but not solely) the environment which I grew up in that ensured my success.

There were other forces in play, of course: the fact that I love learning helped, as well as the fact that I saw college, university, and to a certain extent school as positive environments. These factors came together, and what had once seemed impossible was proved possible. The barriers to my entrance to uni fell quite easily all that was needed was my lightwriter, wheelchairs, electric door-opener, Pas and so on – physical things to overcome physical problems.

That, however, is what I’m now becoming concerned about. Before now, I’ve seen inclusively as mostly a physical problem, and I’m becoming aware this is too simplistic. Inclusion, for the likes of me, is relatively easily achieved, but it must not stop at me. I was talking to an old friend of mine last night; he used to be my LSA at Mac. He still works there, and he told me how he works with kids with ‘behavioural difficulties’ and so forth. During our conversation, over msn, I realised how little I know about that side of inclusion, and this struck me as a problem. Of course, I speak on my blog from a personal perspective (that of a white, middle class suburban man). If I truly care about inclusion beyond my own, and if I believe education must be for all, I should not ignore such issues. To a certain extent, the inclusion of kids with purely physical disabilities is just the tip of the iceberg. I must admit, too, that it kind of fascinates me.

My friend and I decided to hook up. According to him, these kids had low self esteem, which is a major cause of their problems. He suggested it could help if I went in to meet these kids; naturally, I’d be honoured – perhaps these kids just need some role models, or someone to show them how bril life in academia is, both mentally and socially. I also think such a scheme would also further my knowledge of the inclusion debate. However, now I have yet more research to do.

graduation dvd

The DVD recording of my graduation ceremony came today. That was a very emotional day – undoubtedly one of the happiest days of my life – and I am glad we got the DVD to commemorate it. Such things serve as anchors, fixing us to the past. I look at the photos and remember, with great fondness, what has been; yet they also make me wonder what is yet to come. Not just for me, but for those like me.

University, as I have said before, was the greatest experience of my life, and with luck it will continue into my masters. Yet I was lucky. If my parents had left it to school, I would never have done GCSEs, let alone A-levels. Well, to qualify that, they would have put me in for the foundation GCSE, where the top grade is a D. they would have described me as incapable of doing anything higher. My parents, of course, thought otherwise, and the DVD downstairs, as well as the photographs of me in my cap and gown, are testimony to their confidence and bloody mindedness.

I hope dad doesn’t mind me writing this, but I think it fair to say that my father did not like my headmaster. As I wasn’t at all the meetings, I cannot relay all the details, but the discussions over my future apparently got quite heated. Neither of my parents liked school, and always maintained that I wasn’t being pushed enough. Indeed, my brothers referred to Hebden as ‘day-care’. As much as I protested at the time, I see now that mark and Luke were just about right. Schools like that virtually are day-care: holding places for disabled children. Staff were caring enough, but they didn’t push kids. They did not foster any kind of motivation to learn quite the opposite, in fact. We were just allowed to play.

It was all bullshit. Kids were pushed into doing these so-called vocational, ‘ASDAN’ qualifications at post-16. according to the aimhigher website, ‘It is the principal vehicle in the ASDAN Aimhigher HEFC national project for raising attainment, developing more independent and autonomous learners, and widening participation amongst the national priority target groups….The certificate has been calibrated by DFES as an equivalent to a Grade ‘B’ GCSE at level 2 achievement (46 points), as an equivalent to a Grade ‘E/F’ GCSE at level 1(25 points),and as an AS level equivalent at level 3. This means it can contribute to raising schools’ average points scores.’ (source) now, in itself this appears to be okay – ordinary schools might use such qualifications to supplement more mainstream qualifications. I see no problem with this. however, it was all Hebden was using. Such certificates, in my experience, are totally lacking in academic rigour. In terms of such rigour, it is often seen that the A-level is closer to bachelor than GCSE level; qualifications like ASDAN are the opposite. Indeed, the way school ran them, they were simply an exercise in copying and pasting, seeing how little work staff could make the kids do. In fact, I do not recall any student on that course having to do an extended piece of prose. Thus, while I was going to Woodford lodge, trying to do my English lit A-Level (and making a hash of it I must add for the sake of fairness) the guys in my class as well as the one above us were doing this asdan bull and drinking coffee.

The guys with md were doing GNVQ art, mind, which is a bit better, but it was still taught in the same half-assed way, lacking in both passion and rigour. In the bungalow, lessons were squeezed between coffee breaks. I think that is why I struggled at macc college: when I finally got into a proper educational establishment, where students were expected to work, I didn’t cope well. I was also completely unaccustomed to the academic mindset, with argument and counter argument. I liked cold, hard facts rather than models and hypotheses. Hebden had not prepared me at all for that.

Special schools foster neither a thirst for knowledge, nor ambition. You are simply supposed to accept one’s place in life, and let staff delude you that they’re giving you a good education when they aren’t. I’ll have to go into the reasons for this at some other time, for they are complex and manifold, but nowI have a DVD to watch, again.

through the same door

I know I said on Friday that I wasn’t going to post any more random stuff from youtube, but this, of course, isn’t random. It’s the first part of a documentary about a guy with ‘cognitive impairment’ going to university in the states. My initial reaction is a mixture of curiosity and ‘why the fuck not’? why shouldn’t all mean all? Anyway, go watch.

hbd mark

Oh what fun we had this weekend. I’m too tired (make that knackered) to write a full account now, as we had quite an adventure. One high point was getting a flat tire on my way to my brother’s on Friday night, and having to drive at 50mph for about 200 miles. I decided the best way to get through that was to fall asleep. However, special mention must be made of George, the keeper of the guest house at Bowburn, who was extremely concerned and caring; he’s a top guy, and not only that – he makes excellent breakfasts!

Other than the flat tire, the weekend went without a hitch. My brother is, of course, worrying himself silly about moving to Paris, but is otherwise fine. It was good to see him. Had some excellent food, a good beer or two. Now, though, I just want to rest.

the cripple, the bfug, and the sheep

Every time I go away, even for two or three days, I come back to find the world and his wife are after me. I had 15 messages in my inbox just now *- I don’t usually get that many over that period. It’s a conspiracy! We’re going up to Durham this weekend for my brothers birthday – I wonder how my emails will be waiting or me when I get back on Sunday/

Although it was unfortunate that I missed the invitation for a trip to Tatton with the joneses, and I regret not being able to meet Chris, charlottes cousin with cp, I have spent a most excellent three days in Wales. I went with dad – we both go stir crazy sitting around the house. We share a mutual passion for just moving, either walking, wheeling or driving. It gives you time to think, talk, or listen to the radio. I must say I got quite engrossed in a serial drama on woman’s hour about a guy in India on a version of ‘who wants to be a millionaire’. I had great fun with the gps too.

Most of all, though, I love the countryside. I love to see things I haven’t seen before. Wales is quite beautiful, often astonishing in its ruggedness. The only way to see a place is to drive all over it, and this we did, setting off on Wednesday morning, going south, heading to Cardiff, thence west. Evening on Wednesday found us at the Beggars Reach inn, near Milford haven. There’s a pub near there, the jolly sailor, overlooking the harbour. It was quite quite beautiful.

The following morning, after a hearty breakfast, we drove north along the western coast of Wales, then up into the hills. I kept looking at the map, which gave me a better idea of the geography. We stopped at Aberystwyth, then drove further north to Anglesey, then back onto the mainland, finally stopping last night at an old coaching house on the A5.

It didn’t really feel as if we were going far, and yet we covered a hell of a distance in the last few days. I didn’t feel as if we were spending much time in the car, but we were. It was just fun. It gave me a chance to decide on a few things: firstly, I think I need to read more film theory, particularly that relating to psychoanalysis. In short, I too need to return to Freud. Secondly, after discussing it with dad, I’ll now be more focussed in my blog entries; writing about my day to day activities is good as it hopefully gives readers an idea of what life is like for a disabled person. Yet, at the same time, surely reading of the activities of some post adolescent cripple with a taste for frocks, parties and real ale gets dull after a while, so I intend to focus more on doing something more akin to editorial journalism from now on. Actually commenting on disability life, culture and politics. Mind you, there will still be room for the odd ‘what I got up to last night’ entry, but from now on you will have to find your own crap on youtube.

We got back, after taking the long way home, just before midday. Right. Time to repack for Durham.