Mother-to-be horrified when surgical pin pops out of her pregnancy bump
Mother believes needle was left inside her when she had her appendix out in 2009. It is something that should NEVER happen. Precautions against it are as old as the hlls. Only NHS-level negligence can explain it
A mother-to-be was horrified when a surgical pin popped out of her pregnant bump. Kelly Donegan, 26, who’s due to give birth in six weeks’ time, had experienced a needling sensation on the left side of her stomach but was assured there was nothing to worry about.
But one day she looked down to see the pin poking through her skin just inches away from her unborn baby. She realised it must have been left inside her three years ago during an operation.
Ms Donegan had noticed a tiny bump on top of the bigger baby bump and mentioned it to her doctor. ‘He said it was nothing to worry about’ she said. ‘It must have been inside me since 2009, when I had my appendix removed.
‘My stomach is getting bigger and bigger and all the pressure must have forced it out.’
Even though Kelly is in pain, doctors cannot remove the pin until she has given birth.
‘They can’t even do an X-ray to see how much of the thing is inside me because X-rays are dangerous for pregnant women,’ the mother of three said. [Rubbish!]
Ms Donegan, who lives in Milton Keynes, Bucks, has been assured the baby will not be harmed. However, Kelly will probably need another operation, complete with general anaesthetic, to remove the pin after she has given birth.
‘All they can do until then is trim the sharp end off it so it doesn’t catch on things. It’s horrible and it’s also quite sore. But there’s nothing I can do except wait,’ she said.
Seven-month-old girl found unconscious dies after being turned away from hospital because doctors said they were too busy
The NHS specialty again: Killing babies
A seven-month-old baby died after being refused access to a notorious hospital because the A&E department closed at night and the children’s ward was dealing with an emergency.
Holly Waters lived just two and-a-half miles from Stafford Hospital, but had to be driven 22 miles to a second hospital by paramedics.
Yesterday her devastated parents told how the infant died just two minutes before arriving at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent 49 minutes after paramedics had first reached her.
The family called 999 after Holly’s mother, Charlotte Waters, discovered her unconscious in her cot. Up to that point Holly had been a normal, healthy baby.
Stafford Hospital’s A&E has been shut between 10pm and 8am since December because of staff shortages. It was due to reopen in March, but the closure has been extended to October because Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust still needs to recruit additional staff.
Holly’s father Sean Birch said this – and an already full children’s ward – had led to up to a 20-minute delay in getting Holly to a hospital.
Mr Birch said: ‘We were actually told that she died two minutes away from North Staffordshire, but if she had gone to Stafford Hospital and they had managed to put a drip in and stabilise her, then send her to North Staffordshire, she would still be here today.’
News of the incident came just a day after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported the hospital was now ‘meeting all the essential standards of quality’. The watchdog’s findings came three years after a damning report by its predecessor, the Healthcare Commission, revealed ‘appalling standards of care’ and higher-than-expected death rates.
Last night, the BBC reported how Holly’s parents called 999 on the night of June 28, with a paramedic arriving just four minutes later at 22:46 BST.
According to the ambulance service, both the officer at the scene and ambulance control contacted Stafford’s A&E department but were told the unit could not accept Holly. Requests to take the baby to the children’s ward at Stafford were also refused, the ambulance service said. A hospital spokesman said the paediatric ward had been full and handling an emergency at the time.
It was at 23:37 BST that the baby reached the Stoke-on-Trent hospital.
Both West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Mid Staffordshire trust said it was impossible to say whether admitting Holly to Stafford Hospital would have made a difference.
Colin Ovington, director of nursing and midwifery at Stafford Hospital, told the BBC it would have been unsafe for the paediatric unit to have accepted Holly.
‘The staff were already treating a very seriously ill child who had been brought in as an emergency and they were also caring for a number of other emergency admissions and sick children,’ he said. ‘The staff correctly followed the joint protocol between the hospital and West Midlands Ambulance Service for these circumstances.’
In a statement, Mid Staffordshire trust said: ‘When contacted by the West Midlands ambulance crew, our paediatric ward told the crew that they were unable to accept the baby because they did not have the capacity in the ward and were already dealing with an emergency. ‘As per the agreed protocol, the ambulance crew were directed to take the baby to UHNS.
‘The ambulance crew also contacted our A&E department, who repeated the instruction that the baby should be taken to UHNS.’ He said an internal investigation had found ‘this was not reported as a serious incident’.
‘There was no reason to discipline or suspend any member of staff.’ A spokeswoman for NHS Midlands and East, the strategic health authority, said it had not been informed about the incident.
‘It is disappointing that this incident was not formally reported and we are now seeking assurances from the NHS organisations that this is being investigated, in order to fully understand what took place,’ she said.
An initial post-mortem examination was unable to find the cause of death and an inquest will be held in due course.
On Thursday, the CQC said it was lifting all of its concerns around Stafford Hospital following visits in June to review areas where it had ‘previously registered moderate and minor concerns’, the trust said.
Chief executive Lyn Hill-Tout said: ‘We have been confident for some time that we had made all the improvements which were needed. ‘We know that we still don’t get it right every time for every patient but this report is confirmation that we are definitely well on the way.’
The 2009 Healthcare Commission report revealed a catalogue of care failings could have cost up to 1,200 lives at the hospital.
A £10million public inquiry into standards at the hospital ended last November after 139 days. Its chairman, Robert Francis QC, is expected to publish his final report – which will contain recommendations to stop the failings at the trust being repeated elsewhere – in October.
The Precipitous Decline Of Christian England
A British hotel replaces the in-room Gideon Bibles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey (aka Mommy porn). A Christian organization is banned by the Advertising Standards Authority from announcing that God can heal sickness today. And a recent poll indicates that only 37% of people in England say they have always believed in God, as opposed to 81% of Americans. Christian England, what has become of you?
The hotel in question was the Damson Dene Hotel in Cumbria, Northwest England, and the idea to replace the Bibles with the racy novel came earlier this month from Wayne Bartholomew, general manager of the hotel and “reportedly a choir member at his local church.” (One wonders what kind of church Mr. Bartholomew attends.)
But that is just one hotel, and there was some outrage over the general manager’s decision. What happened to a Christian group in Bath England in February was far more telling. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned a ministry named Healing on the Streets Bath from announcing on its website and in leaflets that God can heal today, ruling that “this is a ‘misleading’ ad which could sow ‘false hope’ amongst sections of the public.” And the ASA made this decision despite the fact that the message of healing in Jesus’ name is as old as the Gospels while the group simply offered to pray for sick people without making any guarantees. (Saying “can” is different than saying “will.”)
Cutting-edge columnist Brendan O’Neill could not resist taking a swipe at the ASA’s ban, writing, “The ASA has been itching to ban the words ‘God heals’ for quite a while. Last June, it rapped the knuckles of a church in Nottingham for putting up a poster that said ‘God can heal you today!’ after the church was grassed up to the ASA by some snitch in Nottingham’s Secular Society. And now it has actually banned a Christian group from proselytising about God’s healing powers. What next? Should we ban groups from declaring that ‘Jesus loves you!’, considering that is probably also technically untrue and could promote ‘false hope’?”
Not to be outdone, in June, “Three church groups [were] suspended from preaching at a secondary school after a leaflet containing homophobic scripture was delivered to homes in Walthamstow.”
In other words, because the leaflets contained a Bible verse that spoke against homosexual practice (part of a list of ten sinful behaviors in the verse; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), they were suspended from using a public school for their meetings. (It should also be noted that the verse was one of several on the leaflet, and homosexual practice was absolutely not the focus of the leaflet.)
Remarkably, all three church groups denied distributing the leaflets, with one theory being that it was the work of a “rogue parishioner.” The spokesman for one of the church groups stated that, “It is ill advised to put that sort of thing on a leaflet and we would certainly never do it,” while a local atheist who received the leaflet said, “People who preach this sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a school.” Perhaps verses like this should just be cut out of the Bible to avoid all offense?
And then there was the case of Eunice and Owen Johns, a Christian couple in their 60’s who had cared for 15 foster children in the past. Last year, England’s High Court ruled that they could no longer take in children after a gay activist organization brought a complaint against them, concerned that kids in their care could be “infected” with Christianity.
As Eunice Johns explained, “All we wanted to do was to offer a loving home to a child in need. We have a good track record as foster parents, but because we are Christians with mainstream views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents.”
In May, the courts again ruled that the Johns’ could not provide care for a 16th child. As Eunice stated, “The judges have suggested that our views might harm children.” (She had previously told a social worker who pressed her about her faith that she would provide love and care for a child who identified as homosexual but would not tell the child that homosexuality was “okay.”) She continued, “We have been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that our moral views may ‘infect’ a child. We do not believe that this is so.”
Ironically, the initial court ruling against the Johns’ came down just weeks after magazine covers around the world breathlessly announced the news that Elton John and his partner David Furnish now had a baby boy, all of which leads me to ask: Christian England, home of men like John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis, home of cities named Christ Church and of once-Christian universities like Oxford and Cambridge, what has become of you?
Feminism betraying modern British middle-class women
The career devotees are finding that they have missed the boat. The old saying: “You must be young and beautiful if you want to be loved” (originally a 1920s advertising jingle, I think) is not the whole truth but women ignore it at their peril
I can’t afford to have sex at the moment,” says Lysette Peters, a 43-year-old part-time barrister, who recently broke up with her 54-year-old banker boyfriend. “He wanted a lifestyle I couldn’t keep up with financially, given the recession.”
Another woman I know, who at 39 still has curves that would have a bishop kicking through a stained-glass window, has been celibate for six months, because, as she told me bluntly: “Right now, it’s too expensive to run a lover. It’s not just the cost of maintaining your appearance, but men these days seem to expect you to pay half of everything.”
There was a time when shiny women south of 30 with independent means possessed the holy grail of a thousand magazine articles – a Prada handbag, an address in an agreeable part of the metropolis (forsaken for Italy in August and Les Arcs in January) and a lover who ornamented their lives, despite the concomitant outlay on lingerie and beauty salons. Now, however, austerity and unemployment are compelling an increasing number of middle-class women to choose between their lifestyles and the ars amatoria, and many are opting for what would once have been unthinkable: no sex and the city.
According to a recent study by the Cumbria Social Institute, the number of single women between the ages of 35 and 50 has increased by seven per cent in the past two years. And it would appear that a steady boyfriend, has, to many, become a luxury they can’t afford.
Dr Angela Hutton, who compiled the report, says: “One of the factors is undoubtedly financial. Women are having to prioritise, and the mortgage and the car – as well as taking care of dependants – are taking precedence over men, who are increasingly falling into the luxury category.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that women heavily outnumber men in the dating arena; and the male sex is taking financial advantage of the fact.
As the cost of living escalates, so it seems, has the cost of loving, at least for the more mature woman. While older men remain willing to prise open their chequebooks for a 25-year-old whose alabaster complexion would grace the yacht of any concupiscent billionaire, an increasing number are ignoring the traditional etiquette of courting when it comes to women over the age of 35.
Gallantry is in retreat, buckling under the forces of recession, spurious excuses of equality – and the assumption that such women are in no position to protest, if they want to find themselves in an agreeable position in the boudoir. Michael Glass, a 50-year-old Scottish hedge funder, confirms that Cupid’s arsenal of arrows has been subject to age-sensitive cuts.
“While I would happily spend money on a real babe, over whom other men are competing, I don’t feel the need to do the same with an older woman who is probably desperate,” he says. “Many of my friends feel the same. They’ll ask such a woman to pay her share.”
A recently married male friend who, at 49, has a small production company, made it clear while dating potential partners that women who were unable or unprepared to spend need not apply. “Part of my wife’s attraction was her executive salary and her willingness to foot the bill,” he says. “I earn, but in a recession I wasn’t prepared to throw my money about as I had on previous girlfriends.”
It seems that the economic downturn has left chivalry in tattered clothing. Dr Alfred Kinsey, the fabled American sex researcher, concluded in the first study of human sexual behaviour in 1948 that there was a correlation between inflation and sexual activity. High prices and low earnings, he concluded, led to “an increase in celibacy”.
Contemporary females, woefully, are finding this to be the case. “The last two men I went out with would have bankrupted me,” says Eliza Budsworth, a 42-year-old television researcher. “The first was a 50-year-old barrister who had extremely expensive tastes and in the end I couldn’t pay half the bill in all the five-star hotels we always stayed at.” She calculated that the cost of sustaining a relationship with him for a year would have been around £17,000.
Her second beau, a 46-year-old author, implied that she was lucky to have him, and: “He wasn’t going to spend money on me.”
The sexual see-saw has upended and a transference of power has occurred. While younger men, with the insecurities of youth, may still feel the need to wine and dine women in the traditional manner, the confident older man, providing he has the normal complement of limbs, feels himself to be an Alcibiades reborn, to whom women should pay financial as well as sexual homage. “It was increasingly impressed upon me,” says Lysette Peters, “that my bank balance was the strongest hold I had over men.”
In essence, many-splendoured romance has been replaced by something cold and glittering that is more akin to a business merger. And if you are a woman who can’t afford to splurge, any sort of merger is becoming increasingly unlikely. Dorothy Parker once wrote:
Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do
Ah no, it’s always just my
luck to get
One perfect rose
Today, many women would be lucky to receive even the rose without an invoice for half its cost tied to the stem.
Jane Morrow, a London psychiatrist, told me that many of her older female patients suffer from depression because “they feel that not only are men taking advantage financially, but in this competitive environment, with younger women a continuous threat, they worry they can’t afford to maintain that groomed and perfect look that is their one advantage.
“Three months ago one of my patients lost her job. Her chief concern seemed to be that her fiancée would drop her because she could no longer afford designer clothes and weekly trips to the beauty salon and hairdresser.”
Today, A-list men expect their female peers not only to pay as they date, but to look as pristine as a Clichy crystal. This involves a considerable outlay, rising as we grow older. Jennifer Ames, an accountant who was made redundant last November, was forced to give up her gym membership, her visits to Knightsbridge boutiques and her weekly pedicures and facials. “I’m only 39 and I’ve always taken care of myself, but then my boyfriend started to complain I was looking drab, and one week, when I couldn’t afford to have my legs waxed, he just went off me.”
She later found out that he had acquired a new girlfriend, aged 25. The sexual value of youth remains a recession-proof commodity. “To tell you the truth,” conceded a male friend of mine, “I’d be prepared to invest a lot of money on a woman under 30. There’s more mileage there and you feel good having her on your arm. Why would I spend money to have a 40-year-old middle-ranking executive on my arm instead? And if she is on my arm, she’d better pull her weight financially.”
Even though the average female salary in the UK is a third less than the average male salary, women are told that going Dutch is the logical outcome of feminism. One woman I know who protested when her date, who had done all the romantic running, asked her to pay her half of the bill at an expensive London restaurant, received the response: “Do you want to go back in time and be some submissive little housewife?” Another was told, under similar circumstances, that her attitude “lacked modernity”.
The celluloid sex symbol Lana Turner was once asked, apropos her financially draining hubby Bob Topping, “is the screwing you’re getting worth the screwing you’re getting?” Marie Harvard, a relationships counsellor, says: “These days, money as much as infidelity is causing discord between couples. Men are making financial demands on women that they weren’t 10 years ago. This is partly due to the economy, but friction arises when women can’t meet these demands or don’t want to.”
For an increasing number of women, the answer is no. Eliza Budsworth says: “I had the chance of a romantic weekend in Venice last month but the man who asked me wanted half the hotel bill up front, and so that was that. In any case, that sort of attitude doesn’t really sweep you off your feet. I know I’m not this year’s top model, but if men who aren’t exactly George Clooney are only willing to be generous with 23-year-old sexpots, they’re also the long-term losers.”
Yet nubile females are always unsafe bets for men with the passions of Romeo in the bodies of Sir Toby Belch. This is where the modern male is making his fatal mistake. Once, wining and dining grown-up members of my sex were willing to overlook men’s imperfections in search of a committed relationship. This gave men a certain sexual power, even if it came tinged with gratitude. No longer.
In a development that is ominous for both sexes, more and more women are shunning men who require them to look like Sarah Jessica Parker and meekly pony up half the bill. Sally Hughes, an attractive 41-year-old doctor, faced a choice this summer. “I could either go to France and chill with old friends, or spend money I haven’t got and go to Italy with a man who expects me to be super-groomed and financially independent. The first cost £800. The latter around £3,000.” She decided on old friends and celibacy.
For many women in her position, this choice is looking increasingly attractive. The cost of loving has become too high.
An Englishman’s love of animals surpasses all others
By Rachel Johnson (Rachel Johnson is editor-in-chief of ‘The Lady’ and sister of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London)
On Wednesday night we all trooped to Daunt’s in Marylebone High Street for the launch of my father’s new book. It’s called Where the Wild Things Were and is not, as he told the well-oiled crowd, a history of the Bullingdon Club, or even a tribute to the late Maurice Sendak. Not that anyone thought it was. The subtitle, “Travels of a Conservationist”, rather gives the game away – and this book is, to my mind, another compelling piece of evidence that when it comes to Englishmen and their supposedly repressed emotions, what chaps feel for their dogs or other dumb beasts (or, in my father’s case, pandas or the blue-footed booby) is the one love that truly dares to speak its name.
For his book is all about the threats to wild animals in wild places, and I feel uninhibited from mentioning that the paperback is available on Amazon, e-book, etc. I also see no reason not to allude to his speech, in the course of which he made jokes about missing planes, tigers, going to the loo on top of Kilimanjaro, and serially failing to be elected to Parliament. Despite the presence of three ex-Cabinet ministers in the crowd and his two politician sons, my father announced that the hidden upside of not being elected to Parliament was that “you don’t have to be an MP”.
Towards the end he said that growth has always come at the expense of nature, and that the need to generate income will always trump the urge to conserve, but he kept that bit very short. It wasn’t until after several bottles of Chianti at dinner that he decided to read out a passage from his own book. This was about an owl and a remote Brazilian tribe. The owl would hoot whenever a tribesman was going to die. “Give me the name,” hoots the owl, “and I will look after him for ever.” He laid the book down, profoundly moved.
Now, my father, unlike the relative lightweight Brigitte Bardot, is a blond who has devoted both halves of his life to animals, endangered species and the environment. Forgive me for banging on, but he is the chairman of the Gorilla Organisation, and is a UN ambassador for the Convention on Migratory Species. So it’s not all that surprising, his passion. As children, we used to ask him if he loved animals more than us. “Yes,” he would confirm.
But I have other examples to prove my point. My old tutor, the great historian Robin Lane Fox, gave a lecture at the British Museum last week called “War Horse”, on the fighting horse in art, literature and history, from Homer to Oliver Stone’s epic, Alexander. “I’ve waited all my life for this,” he told me before he took to the lectern. “This will blow your socks off.” And it did.
For RLF opened his address with an account of the divine horses of Achilles, Balius and Xanthus, who, when they saw Achilles’ beloved Patroclus dead, so brave, so strong, so young, began to weep, and refused to leave the battlefield.
It was quite hard for me to type those words, but it was almost impossible for Robin to speak them. I didn’t think he would manage to continue, so choked was he, describing how the horses’ fine heads hung with grief and their long manes trailed in the dust. To his eternal credit, Robin cried twice more in the course of his enthralling lecture, in between showing us slides of steeds that he had loved. “You care for horses much more than women,” I told him afterwards. “Of course I do!” he replied.
Dogs have an even more special place in the mad Englishman’s heart, of course. Nancy Mitford’s Uncle Matthew only ever read one book in his life, Jack London’s White Fang, written in the voice of a wolf-dog, which he said was so frightfully good he never bothered to read another.
I once went to a play about James Lees-Milne called Ancestral Voices. My husband and I sat impassively through the death of Alvilde, Lees-Milne’s wife, and several plangent scenes about old age and infirmity. But when Lees-Milne’s faithful dog and constant companion went to the happy hunting grounds, my husband burst into heaving sobs; and later, Jeremy Paxman admitted that his waters had broken at precisely the same point. Max Hastings, meanwhile, told me that the one piece he has written that caused the most reader reaction was not about the Second World War, or soldiering, or even the English weather. It was about whether to put down his Labrador.
So it’s wrong to say Englishmen never show emotion. As Anatole France said: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Many Englishmen (especially those separated from their mothers at an early age and shipped off to freezing prep schools, as I think were all the ones mentioned here) reserve their displays of deepest feeling for them.
Vale Alexander Cockburn — a powerful Global Warming critic
It’s mainly older people (including your present writer) who can afford to question the Warmist orthodoxy but unfortunately, older people are quite likely to die, as many valued critics have already done. It is sad to see another one go — JR
It has been announced that Alexander Cockburn, a columnist for The Nation and co-editor of CounterPunch, died yesterday. Although Cockburn reflected a leftist viewpoint (mandatory if you write for The Nation) he displayed a refreshing iconoclasm on one topic sacred to the left: global warming. Cockburn didn’t merely lightly criticize the global warming dogma worshipped by the left, he absolutely savaged it.
Cockburn’s “heresy” has been noted in the past here at NewsBusters by both Matthew Sheffield and Noel Sheppard. As a tribute to Cockburn’s willingness to smash certain idols of the left, here are some of his selected quotes on the topic of global warming. First up, Cockburn’s charge of fraud and dogmatism by the global warming alarmists:
I began this series of critiques of the greenhouse fearmongers with an evocation of the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages as precursors of the “carbon credits”-ready relief for carbon sinners, burdened, because all humans exhale carbon, with original sin. In the Middle Ages they burned heretics, and after reading through the hefty pile of abusive comments and supposed refutations of my initial article on global warming I’m fairly sure that the critics would be only to happy to cash in whatever carbon credits they have and torch me without further ado.
The greenhouse fearmongers explode at the first critical word, and have contrived a series of primitive rhetorical pandybats which they flourish in retaliation. Those who disagree with their claim that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of the small, measured increase in the average earth’s surface temperature, are stigmatized as “denialists,” a charge which scurrilously combines an acoustic intimation of nihilism with a suggested affinity to those who insist the Holocaust never took place.
Powerful stuff by Cockburn but, wait, there’s more:
Since I started writing essays challenging the global warming consensus, and seeking to put forward critical alternative arguments, I have felt almost witch-hunted. There has been an hysterical reaction. One individual, who was once on the board of the Sierra Club, has suggested I should be criminally prosecuted. I wrote a series of articles on climate change issues for the Nation, which elicited a level of hysterical outrage and affront that I found to be astounding – and I have a fairly thick skin, having been in the business of making unpopular arguments for many, many years.
There was a shocking intensity to their self-righteous fury, as if I had transgressed a moral as well as an intellectual boundary and committed blasphemy. I sometimes think to myself, ‘Boy, I’m glad I didn’t live in the 1450s’, because I would be out in the main square with a pile of wood around my ankles. I really feel that; it is remarkable how quickly the hysterical reaction takes hold and rains down upon those who question the consensus.
This experience has given me an understanding of what it must have been like in darker periods to be accused of being a blasphemer; of the summary and unpleasant consequences that can bring. There is a witch-hunting element in climate catastrophism. That is clear in the use of the word ‘denier’ to label those who question claims about anthropogenic climate change. ‘Climate change denier’ is, of course, meant to evoke the figure of the Holocaust denier. This was contrived to demonise sceptics. The past few years show clearly how mass moral panics and intellectual panics become engendered.
It turns out that global warming wasn’t the only dogma on which Cockburn sharply disagreed with most of the left. He also criticized their peak oil belief and advised the left to “Forget peak oil—America has a glut of the black stuff.”
So farewell to Alexander Cockburn. Your humble correspondent has disagreed with most of your opinions but hails your incredibly refreshing willingness to brave criticism and smash sacred idols of the left.
Why teachers should aspire to know something about the subject they teach — and maybe even have a devotion to it!
Too many educationalists today believe an intellectually informed curriculum is only suitable for the elites and not the masses
One of the central characters in Glee, the American musical comedy-drama series, is high-school Spanish teacher Mr Schue. In one episode, he is reported by a student of his for being a poor teacher. It turns out that he doesn’t speak Spanish and only took the job because no other teaching positions were available. Towards the end of the episode, Mr Schue resigns so that a genuine Spanish speaker can take over. We learn that he will now teach history, since there is an open position available in this subject. Presumably Mr Schue’s lack of expertise in history is not an obstacle to his teaching it.
Sadly, Mr Schue is not simply an invention of a TV show. Nor is the phenomenon of the unqualified secondary-school teacher confined to the United States. According to the UK Department of Education, tens of thousands of teachers have no qualification in the subject they teach. Is it any surprise that young people leaving school often lack basic knowledge of maths when more than a quarter of mathematics teachers have no qualification in their subject? More than 20 per cent of English teachers have no higher than an A-level in their subject and the situation is far worse in subjects like physics and geography. The teaching of languages is particularly affected by the absence of qualified teachers. The majority of Spanish teachers and a third of German teachers do not possess a relevant university degree.
Of course, it could be argued that you do not need a first-class degree in mathematics or history or French to be an effective and inspiring teacher of that subject. There are many teachers of physics and biology who, because of their intellectual interest in their subject, have become self-taught masters of their discipline. But a high-quality system of education depends on a cohort of teachers who have mastered their subject to the point that they can use their scholarship to guide their pupils through difficult intellectual terrain.
What the figures suggest is that far too many teachers in English schools lack the academic knowledge required to develop intellectually their pupils. This is not a minor problem. The act of learning and the very pursuit of knowledge require pupils to accept the authority of the subject through its representative in the classroom, namely, the teacher. When children go to school, they rely on their teachers to help them comprehend new forms of knowledge.
Not taking scholarship seriously
The trouble with England’s school system is not simply the relative absence of qualified teachers, but the fact that this is not seen as a problem by the education establishment. Sadly, the education establishment finds it difficult to believe in the power of ideas. Instead of encouraging teachers to gain a mastery of their subjects so that they can go on to inspire their students with the quality of their ideas, pedagogues prefer to put their faith in motivational techniques to manage classroom behaviour.
Most of the so-called reforms and educational innovations of the past three decades have side-stepped the question of how best to cultivate the intellectual development of young people. Instead they draw upon market and psychological research to devise schemes that promise to motivate students. Hope is invested in the capacity of this new psycho-pedagogy – learning styles, brain functioning, thinking skills, emotional intelligence or multiple intelligence – to engage students.
This pedagogy is fixated on learning styles but cares little for the knowledge to be learnt. The minor status assigned to knowledge by current pedagogy reflects its studied indifference towards the intellectual content of education. Worse still, schools are influenced by a pedagogy that has little faith in the potential of academic education to transform and develop children. That is why teaching without having demonstrated mastery of an academic subject is not seen as a big deal.
Education may serve a variety of different purposes, but unless a central role is assigned to the acquisition of subject-based knowledge, it is not really education. Only through the acquisition of such knowledge can children transcend the limits of their experience and gain the intellectual independence required to make their way in the world. It is regrettable that in the twenty-first century it is not always possible to assume that schools are prepared to uphold this sentiment. One reason why the central role of the acquisition of subject-based knowledge needs to be upheld is because so much of what goes by the name of ‘pedagogic innovation’ has been frequently designed to undermine pedagogy.
Most parents and non-specialists would be surprised to discover that many educationalists have a very low opinion of a subject-based curriculum devoted to the cultivation of children’s knowledge of history, literature, maths or science. These days, professional educators frequently refer to an academic curriculum as an irrelevant, elitist, nineteenth-century relic. They take the view that a subject-based curriculum belongs to the Victorian past. Since intellectual and scientific development occurred, and continues to occur, through distinct academic subjects, it is far from evident why a curriculum based on these disciplines should be outdated. The knowledge that children gain through the study of these subjects is no more outdated today than it was a 100 or 200 years ago.
The charge that an academic curriculum is outdated is rarely informed by a serious reflection on the content of subjects. The justification for this hostility to a subject-based curriculum is not that maths, science, history and literature have become less relevant to life today than in the nineteenth century. Rather such criticisms are usually justified on political or social-engineering grounds. More specifically, a subject-based curriculum is blamed for perpetuating an elitist culture of schooling. It is frequently asserted that a subject-led education discriminates against children from poor homes because they are likely to struggle with its intellectual content.
There is little doubt that children from poor homes are likely to face difficulties when they engage with a school culture informed by an ethos of scholarship. Indeed most children – including those from the middle classes – are likely to be stretched by an academic school culture. However, the role of educators is to establish an environment where children are helped to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of attaining a good academic education.
Decrying the value of such an education avoids confronting the challenge of how to provide quality education to everyone regardless of their social circumstances. It also significantly underestimates the human capacity for learning. Sadly, the currently fashionable pedagogy of limits distracts society’s energies from realising the formidable potential that education has in inspiring young people to develop their intellectual powers.
There was a time when radical educational reformers sought to provide working-class people with the opportunity to gain access to a curriculum with a high level of intellectual content. As the academic Harold Entwistle recalls, the issue for these reformers was ‘discovering ways of bringing to the socially and economically disadvantaged the benefits of the kind of education which has traditionally been reserved to the ruling class’ (1). This approach was forcefully argued by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who believed that the problem with the kind of education monopolised by the elites was that the rest of society was prevented from gaining access to it (2). In contrast to Gramsci’s valuation of the ‘great works of European culture’, today’s reformers assume that such a classical education is elitist and therefore not suitable for a national curriculum.
It is hardly surprising that in an age where education was the ‘property of the privileged, the subjects thought worthy of inclusion in a curriculum were intellectual’, states a report hostile to knowledge-led schooling. Instead of proposing that this kind of education ought to be available to everyone, the authors of the report acquiesce to the age-old prejudice that an academic education is not suitable for the mass of students. They insist that ‘the classical and elite model containing a narrow range of intellectual knowledge and skill is inappropriate for an age of universal education’ (3).
Typically, intellectual knowledge, which has a unique capacity to expand the mind and the imagination, is caricatured as narrow. But, paradoxically, this polemic against the classical model is based on assumptions that are surprisingly similar to those held by the elites that they criticise. For today’s anti-subjects crusaders implicitly agree with traditional hierarchical educators on one important point: an intellectually informed curriculum is only suitable for the elites and not for the education of the masses.
Criticism of the ‘knowledge model’ of education is often expressed through statements that explicitly question the authority of knowledge. One recurring argument used to contest the knowledge-led curriculum is that it is quickly outdated in an ever-changing world. It appears that since ‘what is known to be true changes by the hour’, the ‘rote learning of facts must give way to the nurturing through education of essential transferable skills’ (4).
Typically, ‘truth’ is represented as a momentary epiphenomenon and knowledge acquisition is caricatured as the ‘rote learning of facts’. The representation of truth and of knowledge as an unstable and transitory phenomenon has become an unstated, core assumption of opponents of an academically based school curriculum. A position statement by a teachers’ union asserts that ‘a twenty-first century curriculum cannot have the transfer of knowledge at its core for the simple reason that the selection of what is required has become problematic in an information-rich age’.
The claim that transmitting knowledge to children loses its relevance in an information-rich age fails to understand the distinction between knowledge and information. A society’s knowledge gives meaning to new information. It allows people to interpret new facts and helps society to understand what significance to attach to new information. Through the appropriation of new experience, knowledge itself develops. But the latest knowledge is organically linked to what preceded it.
Scepticism towards the authority of knowledge implicitly calls into question the meaning of education itself. Once the knowledge of the past is rendered obsolete, what can education mean? If ‘what is known to be true changes by the hour’, what is there left to teach? The alternative offered to the knowledge-based curriculum is an agenda that encourages students to acquire skills that allow them to adapt to a constantly changing environment. From this perspective, what’s important is not what students know but their ability to adapt to new circumstances.
And this is where we come back to Mr Schue. He is an adaptable classroom manager whose lack of knowledge does not inhibit him from teaching a language he does not understand. After all, from the perspective of current, throwaway pedagogy, what is there to teach in our information-rich environment?
But there is no point in blaming Mr Schue. The real problem lies not with unqualified teachers, but with an ethos that discourages them from aspiring to the status of scholars.
The current debates among policymakers regarding the examination system and the content of the curriculum need to shift focus on to the teacher. Restoring the intellectual authority of teachers, and encouraging them to gain academic depth in their subject, is the precondition for improving education. That requires an almighty challenge to the philistine attitude prevailing in the educational establishment today.
Drinking alcohol? That’s not normal!
Attempts by anti-drinking killjoys to ‘denormalise’ an everyday activity are getting ever more patronising
Yet more health recommendations have been issued by the self-appointed guardians of ‘public health’, this time in an attempt to stave off Britain’s supposedly toxic drinking culture. The new proposals hope to change people’s attitudes by ‘denormalising’ alcohol consumption, but they really just end up treating adults like children.
The killjoys at the UK Faculty of Public Health are suggesting that the government compels alcohol producers to label their products with ‘graphic’ warnings of the dangers linked to alcohol, such as cancer and violence. Meanwhile, NHS Cumbria has put forward proposals to force retailers to create separate tills for the sale of alcohol.
These proposals are a clear attempt to denormalise the widely enjoyed consumption of alcohol by ostracising drinkers. Through the segregation of alcohol from food, great irritation will be caused to the public, as well as making alcohol some kind of unique and separate product. This replicates the practice of forcing supermarkets to sell tobacco at a specific till. It is an attempt to stop alcohol being seen as a usual component of people’s general consumption habits, with the implication that drinking is a dirty habit.
The message would be: ‘Go queue for your booze over there, drunkard, this queue’s for us decent folk buying Vitamin Water and fruit.’ No longer would people be able to select which bottle of red wine to purchase alongside their other food stuffs, or pick up some Cobra beers for the curry they’re also buying, or include a case of Budweiser when planning a barbecue. Unless, of course, they wish to queue up twice. The implication is palpable: such drinking habits aren’t normal.
Including a graphic warning on alcohol bottles and cans is another means to denormalise alcohol, especially the warnings about alcohol causing violence. It is true that some people can get a bit aggressive after a drink, but the vast majority don’t. The attempt to label bottles of beer in such a way is to portray people that drink as prone to throwing their fists around. Thankfully, most people do like a drink and usually refrain from punch-ups, so the proposed demonisation campaign will be seen for the nonsense it is.
These proposals, and the anti-drinking campaign in general, take a rather dismal view of the public. By trying to separate alcohol purchases from food and soft drinks, supporters claim they are trying to stop drinkers ‘buying it on impulse’ and succumbing to temptation. This is a patronising view of people as impulsive children who are likely to see a bottle of wine and want it without thinking. It suggests consumers are as blissfully ignorant as Adam in the Garden of Eden, destined to be led astray by the snake-like ease of purchasing the forbidden fruit of alcohol. Luckily, the modern-day temperance movement, in the form of ‘public health’, will help him resist these temptations.
The plan to label alcohol bottles with health warnings also suggests that people don’t already know the potential risks associated with drinking. It’s common to hear people, after a few nights of heavy drinking, make references to their liver taking a hit, or that it ‘needs to recover’. Although people may not know the exact science behind alcohol and liver disease, they know that alcohol can cause you liver problems, but they just chose to drink anyway. Yet the guardians of public health can’t seem to grasp this basic fact that people know alcohol can cause health issues; they would rather take away the risks and enjoy themselves.
Through the guise of public health, these attempts at changing people’s alcohol consumption habits are an invasion of the private sphere. The consumption, or level of consumption, of a legal product should be no business of the state. People should be trusted to decide for themselves how much alcohol to consume. State legislation, outside of outright prohibition, cannot change people’s drinking habits, nor should it attempt to. The ‘correct’ amount for each person to drink is specific to each person. An impersonal army of bureaucrats can’t gauge how much is too much for every individual. If someone actually is drinking excessively, family and friends are best suited to identify this – and it’s a lot easier for them to help, too. Someone drinking themselves to death is more likely to listen to the appeals of those close to them, rather than some faceless public-health group or a hectoring health minister.
It is not surprising that the means by which the fun-free anti-drinking campaigners attempt to achieve their goals is patronising and treats people like children. That’s because the end to which they strive toward is equally patronising. Attempting to regulate people’s alcohol consumption is to treat adults like children. The government and the anti-drink campaigners view themselves in the same way as a parent, with the adult population being the not-quite-knowledgeable-enough teenager who needs decisions on their alcohol intake imposed by the wiser state-approved authority figure. Thanks, but we’re quite capable of making those judgements for ourselves.