Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Frustrations With The Irish Secondary School Education System

This topic is one of my most rage worthy topics. The moment I entered the Irish education system I wanted a quick exit. Going to secondary school in Ireland after having been to Steiner School in England was such a let down, I can't express how much I hated it, but I'll give you some of the reasons why.


I always try to be kind and courteous to teachers. I understand that they have to deal with a bunch of hormonal teenagers all day and I let a lot of crap slide. Most teachers get on well with me, I remember one teacher telling me that I was one of the students whom teachers sung their praises of in the staffroom. However, some teachers could not teach my butt to poop.

The Condescending Teacher: 

I hate when people condescend to me. Especially if they're shorter than me. In the words of George Carlin; 'I don't have pet peeves-I have major psychotic fucking hatreds' and that is most definitely one of them. I hate it because I'm quite smart and when I have to ask a question I usually start it with an apology. Throughout my secondary school education I was surrounded by condescending teachers, most of which had no right to be condescending at all after demonstrating how ill educated they were.
A condescending attitude distances the student-teacher relationship and leads to a lack of respect in retaliation. By being condescending you are putting your head on the chopping block because students now have no reason to respect you.

The Dead Fish Teacher:

This type of teacher is cold, quiet and really stopped being a teacher a long time ago. The only reason they are here is because they have become part of the furniture of the school, the same way the crew in Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest become part of the ship. They just sit there with work written on the board and expect silent reading. They'll even let you correct eachother's tests.

The Lazy-And-They-Know-It Teacher:

This type of teacher is another teacher who doesn't want to do any work, but unlike the dead fish teacher they aren't even going to pretend. They'll sit there with a coffee and look up porn on their laptop while chaos ensues in the classroom. Everything is fair until somebody dies or something breaks. I had a severe case of this in transition year, I saved up and paid an extra 140EUR for what I thought would be all the driver theory classes I would ever need. The reality was that we watched one DVD (a freebie from the Irish times to add insult to injury) at the start of the year and for the rest of the year... NOTHING. The teacher was a car collector and let everyone do what they liked, most people did their homework in this class while the boys looked up cars on the school computer. I complained numerous times, but I think my notes were fed to the schools invisible billy goat.

The Teach Yourself Teacher

This teacher again doesn't want to do anything, but they're damn self righteous about it! Some key phrases you'll here frequently from this teacher are:
  • It's not my fault you're a slow learner!
  • You don't work hard enough in class.
  • You need to try harder!
  • If you don't understand it means you weren't listening.
  • Just read the chapter again and you'll get it.
And so much more. This type of teacher usually means you have to buy grinds to learn what they were too busy making excuses for not teaching you. The worst part are these are the ones who get really indignified if you pull them up.

The Not-Quite-There Teacher

This is the one who clearly does not understand the ways of the world. Whether it be their unrealistic expectations or their extreme naivety or sometimes just plain stupidity, these guys are some of the worst of the worst. These are the most frequently seen types of a bad teacher. For two years running I had a biology teacher who gave us extreme amounts of homework, in fact the homework we got from her was twice the amount of the total homework we would get in a day! She then would give us a test every week and if anyone failed hold them in for lunch. I tried to subtly hint to her (before I downright told her) by doing a science project on the 'negative effects of excessive homework' a well written (of course) piece with hours of research... Which she refused to even read. She said I was biased because I was a student and would not let me enter it in the science contest. She simply wasn't intelligent enough to realise that 5 sets of exam paper questions on a chapter we hadn't done was too much. The naivety thing is also a big problem with teachers. I was hatefully bullied for being English in school, my bags would be slashed, my books thrown in the toilet or sink, chewing gum projectiles fired at me during class and heinous things. Ignorant and naive teachers did not make it easy! Casual racist comments added to the curse for me and everyone would take it on board. Sometimes it was just downright stupidity. I remember my health teacher once asked the class if they had ever seen anything they thought to be inappropriate on the internet.

The Content Of The Course

On the rare occasions that the teachers were fully functional we then had to deal with the severe lacking of the course itself.

The Rote-Learning System: For Good Little Parrots

The junior cert and the leaving cert have so little to do with learning it is scary. As an A-B student I am very confident when I say as long as you can memorize everything word for word you needn't learn a thing beyond how to write and add up. In fact, actual learning is pretty much discouraged in class because...

If It's Not On The Exam It's Not Important

That includes knowing what basic vocabulary like 'pyroclastic cloud' when referring to volcanoes or why shrews have to eat continuously. So many times I have asked questions in class but rather than receiving an answer all I have gotten is 'It won't be on the exam so don't worry about it'. I'm sorry but what does that have to do with anything? If a student asks something out of genuine interest then please answer the child THEY WANT TO LEARN.

Let's Not Forget Those Book Rentals You Paid 300 Euro To Use A Few Pages Of

The huge prices associated with the tattered, handed down and out of date books that don't have all the right content in anyway is awful. Money spent on exam papers that can easily be photocopied or looked up online at home is extortionate. Also, if they change one chapter in these books the old ones are thrown out and replaced with the same book with a few words different. If you don't believe me look at the different editions of 'New Geo' I think you'll find they are mostly the same. The same 30Eur book you are forced to buy again and again. 

Marking Schemes

Now the actual exam has so many faults that I can't even get into but here is the big three.

It's All About Points; Doesn't Matter Where

The main goal of the leaving certificate is, like a game of tetris, to get as many points as possible. There are various subjects, but they'll be marked the same unless you are doing Higher Level Maths. Now the reason I hate this is I did physics among other things. I didn't really realize when picking my subjects that they were irrelevant and if I had picked easy subjects like Art, Home economics and Woodwork I could have walked in and out of the exam laughing! Students should be told honestly that they might as well pick the easiest subjects possible because it doesn't really matter unless you need one for a particular course. Then you have subjects like LCVP which require no thought for free points!

Casual Tampering With Results

If too few people get A's in a subject than everyone is marked up so they appear to have done better. Need I say more about how wrong this practice is? My biology teacher confided in the class when she told us that, when correcting last year's exams she had to give an A to a student who thought the correct way to collect animal cells was to use a scalpel on the inside of his mouth. This practice waters down the significance of the Leaving Certificate and should be discontinued. It is this practice that allows for a build up of useless teachers like plaque  on unbrushed teeth!

One Test To Rule Them All

Think about it. The leaving cert is one big exam you've trained for your entire secondary school life... The anxiety that keeps you up the night before hurts your performance. The stress, the expectations freezing up with fear. The best students don't always get the grade they deserve. We need continuous assessment in schools, we need written assignments that get sent off and corrected and added to you're overall percentage.

Compulsory Irish

The biggest mistake Ireland ever made was making Irish a requirement for jobs in teaching. This, above all else has crippled this countries education system... possibly beyond repair. Why? Irish is a dead language. I am very sorry that us English folk killed it, but it. is. dead. DEAD. D. E. A. D! By making this dead language, which is only spoken on one small island and isn't as useful as Latin or Greek, compulsory you have discouraged so many from becoming teachers. Imagine, without this ridiculous requirement we could have real French Teachers, or real German or Japanese or Spanish teachers. We could have people from places with a good education system like Switzerland! But no, we can't have all these fabulous things, and why? Because no sane person is going to learn a dead language to teach teenagers their abc's in a country famous for being green and drunk.

Maybe there is still hope...

A new system is being put into practice where junior certificate students will have continuous assessment to contribute to their overall grade. I urge you to support this and help improve it and don't let this opportunity slip through your fingers. We can transform education from the ugly creature of malicious intent it has become, back into a way to help children learn. I gingerly encourage you to read the article I wrote in transition year on junior certificate reform here I got to meet the Taoiseach because of it so I guess it was pretty good.

Open Education

I absolutely love Open Education. The whole idea thrills me so much! I love to learn which is something that seems almost frowned upon sometimes.

A Little History Of Me: In School (super abridged)

I always hated the Irish secondary school education system. Barely anyone I knew actually had a taste for learning, in fact now that I think about it, most absolutely hated the idea. I originally went to a Steiner school in Greenwich before having to move to the emerald isle and the difference... well it was dramatic. For the first three years I didn't really have to learn much since I had covered it all in the Steiner school. When I was in Steiner school I had always thought that I wasn't the smartest kid by a long shot, but when I came to Ireland and heard little Jimmy in the back of the class asking how to spell melon I realized I was pretty good.

A Little History Of Me: Open Education

Open Education provided me with a place to learn. Not just that but learn what I was interested in. Devouring Udacity and Udemy and Coursera courses were my favorite activity (and if I tell the truth, it's only dropped down to second in recent years because I enjoy blogging so much). I never need to get a certificate to feel validation, just doing the courses felt great! Not only that but doing college level courses gave (and still does) such a rush, sure I had to sacrifice some valuable MMOG time, but I think it was worth it.

Why I Think Open Education Is The Bee's Knees

It's Free: This has to be a big factor for most. Having access to all this gorgeous content for free is enough to make me believe in a god! The fact that it's free is relaxing and you don't feel so stressed about it but it still retains enough pressure to keep you at it.

You Control Your Learning: Rather than having knowledge dictated to you by a sour faced teacher who mentally retired years ago, You control your learning. This can be frightening to some but once you drive yourself to keep up with a course you will be elated upon completion. The feeling of accomplishment when completing a mooc is so very satisfying. There are very few things that I could compare that feeling to.

It's Your Interests: Unlike in secondary school where you had to go to maths, English, urk Irish and some other language you picked when you were a junior and have long since come to hate... This time you have the power to do a course in Understanding Video Games or Modern contemporary poets.

You Can Try New Things Without Consequence: If you think you love video games than why not try a MOOC in computer game science or the like? I definitely recommend trying a MOOC before enrolling yourself in a proper college course. That way you can see if you are going to like the content covered in that course easily and stress free rather than being locked in to a five year course that drains your money, time and energy.

All From The Comfort Of Your Sofa: Or your twirly desk chair or your android device. Face it, that's too convenient not to give a try!

The only question now is...
What course will you pick?
I personally have to recommend coursera because it is simply my absolute favorite!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Dumb Things People Say About Homosexuality & Gay Marriage

To me homosexualality is not an issue, I have a number of homosexual friends and I would never think any less of them because of it. However, to some people homosexuality is thought of as something dirty and rotten.

What's The Big Deal?

What is the big deal about people being homosexual? If you are straight how is this ever going to hurt you? Homosexuality is between two people who are in love, it doesn't matter what their gender is.

The 'Homosexuality Is A Perversion' Argument

I would argue that religion is a gross filthy perversion as well as marmite. Homosexuality is something that appears in nature. Notice how religion doesn't, I don't see bunnies hopping burrow to burrow to preach the good word of the Easter Bunny, do you? People always say that being gay is unnatural but in my humble opinion that is the biggest load of horse crap I will ever hear. If you are born and feel an innate attraction to the same gender then it is natural, you were born with that instinct. Your homosexuality is not damaging anything and only self absorbed bigots think that way. If you aren't hurting anyone then you know you are making the right choices.

Further more, arguing that homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural (apart from being untrue) is stupid. Think of all the unnatural things we do every single day. We use artificial sweetners and colours in our food, we take steriods, have sex changes, tattoos, brest implants. We have monogamous relationships, wars over religion, we build sky scrapers, use computers, go on the internet, draw pictures and so on and on and on. Unless you are willing to get rid of everything that is unnatural in your life just so you can hate homosexuals then please stfu. We do unnatural things everyday-get over it.

The 'Homosexuality Is Against God' Argument

I think the real 'abomination' is using the bible to hurt people
I'm rolling my eyes right now because if you think so almighty omnipotent creator is concerned deeply with your sex life you are an arrogant idiot. You are seriously going to treat another human like a dog because someone you have never met or even know exists' stalkers wrote it in a book? Call me back when you stop eating bacon and wearing clothes with two different materials.

I'm sure any sort of god that was worth worshipping would be more concerned with humans treating each other well rather than being cruel to someone because of their sexual orientation. Really, I know that they say all sins are the same and blah but homosexuality has got to be on the eating bacon and planting two different types of seed in your garden end of the scale rather than thou shall not kill etc.

If You Are A Homosexual You Are No Longer My Son/Daughter

Anyone who would cast their child out on to the street or otherwise make them feel unwanted because of their sexual orientation does not deserve to be a parent. Even if you felt that homosexuality was a choice that still does not mean you can throw your child away like trash because of it. As a parent it is your job to look after your child until it can fend for itself and raise it correctly, if you are one of the incredibly closed minded people who thinks that homosexuality is a failure in your parenting then you should realize abandoning your child says far worse things about you than raising a gay one. The only people who are going to approve of that are a small group of ignorant, closeminded individuals. The fact that your child, who you have taught to trust you, has opened up to you and you have broken your promise of trust to that child and thrown them away means you are indeed an unrighteous person. 

Homosexuals Cannot Have Children Therefore They Are Wrong

There are plenty of people in the world who cannot have children or who do not even want children. People can be born with defects that make them sterile or even become sterile over time. If a straight couple are unable to have children should they not be allowed to have sexual intercourse or get married? Should sterile men an women be stoned? No, saying something is wrong because it is different is primitive and ignorant behavior.

If We Let 'Gay' Become Normal Everyone Will Do It Then The Human Race Will Die Out

This argument is the one that makes me put my head in the pillow and scream for thirty seconds.
  1. There will not be more homosexuals because it's considered normal, there will be the same amount and maybe it will seem like more because people won't be as afraid to express themselves. I do not deny that some people will claim to be homosexual as a fashion statement but please realize that this happens with every group from bronies to twitards. The only difference is homosexuality is not a choice and if they are not homosexual then they can only pretend (not to say that they won't but by giving them the attention they crave you are only making it worse).
  2. If you are so sexually insecure that you think gay marriage/acceptance will turn everyone gay then you need to seriously ask yourself if you are straight. Homosexuality is comparitively smaller than heterosexuality, people don't magically turn gay even if some of them turn fabulous.
  3. Even if everyone somehow turned gay (idk someone drops a gay bomb) the human race will still thrive. There are many ways to have a baby and just because someone is homosexual doesn't mean they won't want kids. Sure there would be a dip in the population but that would be because there would be no unwanted pregnancies. Also if everyone were gay there would be no abortions, no need to buy condoms and everyone would have style (joke joke i know that homosexuality =/= fashionable but it's fun to say). 

Only A Man And A Woman Can Give A Child The Proper Balanced Upbringing It Needs

So apart from being a huge middle finger to all single parents out there, this statement is entirely false. Someones gender does not dictate their behavior, people assume a mother will be carrying for her child but this isn't always the case. A mother does not always have that maternal spark and as a woman myself I'll be the first to say that women can be vicious. If you go to a playground and observe bullying you will see two very distinct differences between how men a women bully eachother. Boys are more straight forward when it comes to bullying but girls are sneaky and devisive. We aren't as strong as men and I think we naturally make up for it with cruelty. Though of course that is a huge blanket statement but I just want to throw the stereotype of women being loving and tender and defenseless out the window.
I'm not denying that family mechanics usually have one dominant partner who is in charge of discipline but I stand firm that it does not have to be the man of the relationship. This being the case I believe same sex couples can do just as well and if not a better job of caring for children than heterosexual couples.
I would also like to add that we are talking about adoption here and a large percentage of children are never adopted. Surely two fathers or two mothers are better than no fathers or no mothers.

Homosexuals Have No Reason To Want To Get Married

this is such a stupid ignorant thing to say but people say it anyway. Let's look at the reasons people get married and see which ones apply to homosexuals also
  • Having Children: this one does not apply but not all married couples have children anyway
  • Symbol of committment: goes for both
  • In the event of the partners death the wealth is transferred: goes for both
  • If there is an accident sometimes only 'family' is allowed to see the patient
  • joint parent rights: goes for both with adoption
  • The right to make funeral arrangements for your partner
  • Tax, benefits, charges, bills etc
And so much more. Out of all of these the only one that is not shared is having children and even in a straight relationship this isn't always possible. So it is very clear to see that gays have as much reason to want to get married as straight couples.