grammar-school

july 22, 2017

some french notes I took a few days ago! i’m reviewing basic grammar concepts before school starts so that i don’t completely forget them, so my notes are pretty basic and sparse lmao. they looked rly bare so i added a few random doodles :)

🎵 new rules by dua lipa

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dressing room is literally a bedroom, albeit a very small one. The kinetic 28-year-old star and composer of In the Heights, the new pan-Latino pop opera that celebrates the Inwood-Washington Heights neighborhood Mr. Miranda grew up in, has outfitted his room at stage right like an 8-year-old boy’s, with items that speak to his own affinities, not his characters’. There are Transformers sheets for the bunk bed that’s above his dressing table, a television set and PlayStation 2, and a G.I. Joe Cobra Commander poster on the door. The stuffed monkey next to his pillow isn’t a transitional object, he said. It’s a prize from a claw machine in Times Square. “I’m only good at two things,” Mr. Miranda said, “writing music and the claw. And I’m unbelievably good at the claw.” He proffered his guest book, which has been signed by his parents, his grammar school music teacher and his director, Thomas Kail, who wrote, “You are all hype.”

Besides the bunk bed, the other notable feature of this closetlike room is its grass cloth walls, put there, as the bed was, for Joel Grey when he played Amos Hart in Chicago in 1996.

[Sources: Setting the Stage, Offstage on The New York Times; pic by Tony Cenicola, HQ version from LinMiranda.com]

Mike likes to watch Will sleep.

Sometimes he’s waiting for that little crease to appear on his brow, the twitch in his closed eyes, the slight tightening of his jaw. He waits until Will begins to squirm against him, fingers gripping onto the quilt or Mike’s clothes or his own arms, bony fingers staining hia pale skin purple or black. He waits until Will begins to whimper, ever so slightly, ever so quietly, pressing his face into the pillow, muffling the sounds that he makes, silencing himself.

When the pace of his breathing picks up, Mike wraps Will up in his arms, tucking his face into the smaller boy’s shoulder before he’s panicking enough to push Mike away. He rubs Will’s back, palms running up and down the length of Will’s spine, pressing gentle, soothing kisses against his collarbone. Sometimes it’s enough to stop Will from screaming, and he opens his eyes with just a shuddering gasp, eyes darting around the room until they land on Mike.

Sometimes it’s not, though, and Will will scramble out of Mike’s arms, tumbling onto the floor, crossing the carpet to press himself into the corner of the room. He’ll scream and he’ll sob, holding himself until he can bear the touch of someone else. Mike will always stay close, always within Will’s eyeline, because he never wants Will to feel alone, not ever.

Sometimes Will sleeps peacefully, sometimes only for a few hours, sometimes for the whole night. And Mike will just watch him until he’s tired enough to sleep himself. He’ll press soft kisses on Will’s cheeks, and he’ll run his fingers through his mop of soft hair, and he’ll whisper all the things he’s too embarrassed to say when Will’s awake. And maybe sometimes, Will’s only half asleep, and he listens to Mike’s mumble sentences, trying not to smile and give away his consciousness, not wanting Mike to stop.

youtube

William Shakespeare- the Bard of Avon, Legendary Wordsmith, was, in all probability, super queer. We’re going to look at the evidence, read some lovely poems, read some raunchy poems, and generally just talk Shakespeare.

Closed Captioning Available 

Transcript below

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Please fire me. Our student population is about 50% Hispanic and our ESL teacher does not speak a word of Spanish, so she calls me daily for help translating letters to parents and communicating with students. I teach Calculus.

ily: i love you

ilysm: i love you so much

wiwakismlfmgsabtftishwhohkhdistihab: when I was a kid, I saw Mona Lisa from my grammar school art book… the first time I saw her, with hands on her knee…. how do I say this… I had a boner…

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artworks by Kristian Wahlin, port I

Kristian Wahlin is a Swedish musician, graphic designer, and album cover artist for many bands in the extreme metal scene worldwide. He is often credited under his pseudonym, Necrolord.

Wåhlin’s interest in art began while attending Schillerska Grammar School, a secondary educational institution in central Gothenburg. He has referenced Romantic and Renaissance painters like Caspar David Friedrich, Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymus Bosch as early influences. This interest also coincided with the time in which he studied music.

Dissection, who shared practice quarters with At the Gates, would display illustrations by Wåhlin on the cover of The Somberlain and also Storm of the Light’s Bane; the latter featuring the infamous scene of the “grim reaper horseman” in the middle of a snow-covered forest tundra. In the Nightside Eclipse, the debut of seminal Norwegian black metal band Emperor, would also be graced with his work on the cover. Wåhlin would continue as an album artist for several other bands in the European death, black, doom, power and gothic metal collective throughout the 2000s.

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Another set of bookplates recently found while cataloging. Fun fact about the last one shown here:  Helen was born in Hannibal, Missouri, on July 25, 1873. She received her education in both public and private schools in Boston, MA. She married Rev. Minot Simons in Boston on December 18, 1894. The couple had one son, Langdon, and eventually settled down in Cleveland, Ohio, where Minot served as minister for a Unitarian church. Helen was an active member of the Woman Suffrage Party.

Jim McCartney’s disapproval of John meant Paul couldn’t see his friend at night. They had to be more shrewd.
Situated up the hill from the city centre, Liverpool College of Art happened to adjoin Liverpool Institute, Paul’s grammar school.
The two buildings had been one, so with a quick dash through their respective exits John and Paul arrived together on the same stretch of street at the same moment and were truants for the afternoon, sagging off.
—  The Beatles: All these years - extended special edition by Mark Lewisohn.

STEPHEN  KING’S  ‘THE  BODY’  SENTENCE  STARTERS.
↪  all  taken  from  the  1983  novella. feel  free  to  edit  them  as  you  see  fit,  &  enjoy !

  • “the most important things are the hardest things to say.”
  • “it happened a long time ago… although sometimes it doesn’t seem that long to me.”
  • “you four-eyed pile of shit!”
  • “drop dead in a shed, fred.”
  • “you guys want to go see a dead body?”
  • “my balls crawled up so high i thought they was trying to get back home.”
  • “there used to be a bridge, but there was a flood. a long time ago. now there’s just the train-tracks.”
  • “did you ever hear of such a fucked-up family?”
  • “he’s a real asshole, ain’t he?”
  • “man, you shoulda seen your face. oh man, that was priceless. that was really fine. my fucking-a.“
  • “you know that she thinks wearing glasses would spoil her pretty face.”
  • “besides, it’s spooky sleeping out at night in the woods.”
  • “a train-dodge, dig it? what’s trucks after a fuckin’ train-dodge?”
  • “'i’m gonna kill [him/her/them]. at least give [him/her/them] a fat lip.”
  • “Go anywhere you want, but don’t go here.”
  • “he won’t live to be twice the age he is now.”
  • “i dream about that every now and then.”
  • “don’t call me any of your mother’s pet names.”
  • “i don’t shut up, i grow up. and when i look at you i throw up.”
  • “are you some kinda smartass?”
  • “okay, that’s it. that’s it, that’s the end, i’m gonna kill you.”
  • “let’s get away from this asshole before i puke.”
  • “talk is cheap.”
  • “hey, if i spoiled your good time, i’m sorry.”
  • “jesus christ. what a fuckin’ bedtime story.”
  • “most town names are stupid. you just don’t think so because you’re used to ‘em.“
  • "when you don’t know what happens next, that’s the end.”
  • “no, man. don’t say that. don’t even think that.“
  • “what’s asshole about wanting to be with your friends?”
  • “i know about you and your folks. they don’t give a shit about you.“
  • “but kids lose everything unless somebody looks out for them.”
  • "if your folks are too fucked up to do it then maybe i ought to.”
  • “but kids lose everything unless somebody looks out for them and if your folks are too fucked up to do it then maybe i ought to.”
  • “'cause you’ll just be another wise-guy with shit for brains.”
  • “i know what people think of my family in this town. i know what they think of me and what they expect.”
  • “all they give a fuck about is whether you behaved yourself in grammar school and what the town thinks of your family.“
  • “but maybe I’ll try to work myself up. i don’t know if i could do it, but i might try.“
  • “i want to go someplace where nobody knows me and i don’t have any black marks against me before i start.“
  • “people drag you down.”
  • “i say i wanna go look for it, then i’m gonna go look for it! i wanna see it! i wanna see the ghost! i wanna see it.”
  • “it’s hard to make strangers care about the good things in your life.“
  • “i was thinking of something else, that’s all.”
  • “what am i doin’ here, anyway?”
  • “well what the fuck do you know about this?”
  • “i’ll give you one chance to just blow away. i don’t give a fuck where. Just make like a tree and leave.”
  • “kid, whatever your name is, get ready to reach down your fuckin’ throat the next time you need to pick your nose.”
  • “suck my fat one, you cheap dime-store hood.”
  • “i’m gonna break both [his/her/their] fuckin’ arms.”
  • “you’ll go to jayyy-ail.”
  • “where do you want it, [name]? arm or leg? i can’t pick. you pick for me.”
  • “but i know how you’re going to come out of this, motherfuck.”
  • “you dig me?”
  • “oh, why don’t you go home and fuck your mother some more?”
  • “stick with me, man.”
  • “i’m not going to forget it, if that’s what you’re thinking. this is big time, baby.”
  • “be seeing you.”
  • “maybe he knew this was gonna happen. what a fuckin’ creepshow, i’m sincere.”
  • “you lousy rubber chicken.”
  • “if people ask where we were, we’ll say we went campin’ up on [place name] and got lost.”
  • “well, seeya in school on wednesday. i think i’m gonna sleep until then.”
  • “i’m gonna toot home and see if mom’s got me on the ten most wanted list.”
  • “you bet they’ll tell. but not today or tomorrow, if that’s what you’re worried about. it’ll be a long time before they tell, i think. years, maybe.”
  • “i didn’t think of it just like that. you see through people, [name].”
  • “i’m never gonna get out of this town.”
  • “don’t let me see you around, dipshit.”
  • “do you think they will respect you? they will laugh and call you stupid-fool.”
  • “i didn’t know them. really.”
  • “i’m sorry i couldn’t stay with you, [name], but i had pies in the oven.”
  • “friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?”
  • “if you go out alone you’re a hero. take somebody else with you and you’re dogpiss.”
  • “fuck gerunds.”
  • “if he had drowned, that part of me would have drowned with him, i think.”
  • “i drove out of town, parked, and cried for [him/her/them]. cried for damn near half an hour, i guess.”
  • “a lot of the critics think what i write is shit.”
  • “my story sounds so much like a fairytale that it’s fucking absurd.”
  • “i wonder if there is really any point in what i’m doing.”

Do you have school-aged children?

I am a teacher. I’ve been a teacher for nearly twelve years. I’ve seen a huge number of education changes happen during this time, but I am worried about what is happening in education right now - and I am not sure that the general public are aware of the extent of the difficulties we face.

Let me start by saying that I am not concerned about my pay. I don’t want more money. I am not asking for your concern about my wages.

What I am concerned about are the cuts that the Conservative government are making to education - huge, life-changing cuts that are having a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of a massive number of children and young people.

This is going to be long, but if you have children, please bear with me and read to the end.

1. The new GCSE system

Michael Gove started his annihilation of the A*-G GCSE system back in 2010, and this year we see the first string of examinations take place. “More rigour” was the battle cry. However, did you know that the new GCSE English Literature exam - including the poetry exam, requiring study of an anthology of 15 poems - is closed-book? This means that no student will be given a copy of the text in their exam - not even SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students, many of which have recall and memory problems.

The GCSE English Language exam uses extracts from heritage texts that carry a reading age of approximately 17. The average reading age of a GCSE-level student is 14. So why are we asking our students to read and analyse texts that are aimed at someone with a reading age 3 years above their own? Some of my students have a reading age of 9. They cannot in any way access the papers. In addition to this, the papers are up to 2hrs and 15mins long, often with a high number of questions - the Edexcel GCSE English Language paper 2 is equivalent to a mark a minute. I am seeing students who want to succeed breaking down as they simply cannot fit it all in - to understand and then interpret a text in such a small amount of time is extremely difficult for some students, and so what we are seeing is an increasing number of students switching off from their education as they simply write themselves off as ‘stupid’. You can see the Edexcel GCSE papers for English language here: https://qualifications.pearson.com/content/dam/pdf/GCSE/English%20Language/2015/specification-and-sample-assesment/GCSE-English-Lang-SAMs.pdf

I can only speak for English as it is my subject, but what I know is in existence across the whole curriculum is this: the Conservative government and Ofqual have released a new 9-1 grading system - but have only just, one month before GCSE exams commence, launched any real model of what each grade looks like. For the last two years, teachers have been working to help students achieve grades without knowing what those grades look like. We were told that a 9 was an “A**”, reserved for the top 3% of the country, and we were told that a “good pass” would be a 5 and equivalent to a high C/low B, and that a 1 would be equivalent to a G, but that’s it. Last month, they even changed that - making the new “good pass” a 4 for students - but to add insult to injury, kept the “good pass” at a 5 for schools when being graded for league tables.

Confused yet? Imagine working in it.

We still don’t know how the new GCSEs are going to be graded. We probably won’t know for sure until after the exams. The Conservative government are talking about “rigour” whilst simultaneously asking us to teach a system that has such little “rigour” that nobody even knows what a student needs to do to achieve a 9 grade.

Schools are in disarray as they know one thing to be true - if their GCSE results are bad, Ofsted will swoop in, prepared to announce them as “requiring improvement”. This will happen despite the fact that even though we have repeatedly asked for clearer guidance and clarification on exactly what we can do to help students achieve the best they can, we have not been given anything. Nothing at all.

The goalposts are *still* moving, even now - and some of your children are sitting these exams in less than a month.

We are risking entering a time where the Key Stage 4 curriculum consists of teaching to the test and not much else. This goes against everything that most teachers stand for. Teaching to the test is boring. It doesn’t help students to love their subjects; it kills any enthusiasm they ever had. Last week, I had a 90-minute discussion with my GCSE English group about whether Hyde (from Stevenson’s story) was really a person. It ended with the students asserting that Hyde was never a person; he was not even a personality - Hyde was simply an excuse. These GCSE students - aged 15 - critically evaluated the novel and its interpretations, deciding that Jekyll and Hyde is actually a story about choice, rather than split personalities or hidden evil. It was incredible. I walked away worried that I’d wasted an hour and a half of exam practice. This should not be happening.

2. Excessive Testing at Ages 7 and 11

I am going to give my professional opinion on this, as someone who works at the chalkface: these exams are completely arbitrary and do not test the skills required for success at GCSE and in adult life.

This year, I had a cohort of Year 7 students arrive at my school having not written a proper story for over a year. They knew what a fronted adverbial was, and how to spot an internal clause, and even what a preposition was - but when I set them a task to write a story, they broke down and cried. They cried. I asked them to write a story - something that should be incredibly enjoyable and an adventure, regardless of your level of ability or need - and they couldn’t do it. They knew the nuts and bolts, sure - but had no idea how to put them together in any meaningful way. They had ideas, but no confidence.

My year 7 cohort had some of the highest SATs scores we could have hoped for - many of them with scaled scores of 115 and higher (scaled scores go from 80-120, with 100 as an 'average’), but their first creative writing piece was a huge failure, and I felt like a failure. We’ve since done a huge amount of work on story writing and creative motivation to develop their confidence and bring their marks up, but this has taken time from us that could have been used to develop their analytical skills, to develop their use of imagery and tone, to help them become more critical thinkers. I should not be teaching students how to piece a story together at secondary school.

I completely agree that students need to leave primary school 'secondary ready’. However, I do not think that testing students’ ability to identify grammatical items over their ability to compose a creative piece is the best way to do it. It only increases student anxieties when they arrive at secondary school only to find that they have no idea how to approach their secondary-level subjects.

I have a firm belief that testing students does not make them better learners. What should be happening is this: teachers should be being given the freedom to develop their students’ motivation, creativity, critical thinking, enthusiasm and, most of all, their passion. Students with passion always, always succeed.

This Conservative government seem to think that “rigour” means taking education decisions out of the hands of teachers. Michael Gove - a journalist - started this course of action. He criticised us when we told him it would not work, and pressed ahead regardless.

Multiple studies have shown that the mental health of children is suffering under this government. This has been known as far back as 2015: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/over-focus-on-exams-causing-mental-health-problems-and-self-harm-among-pupils-study-finds-10368815.html with 90% of teachers agreeing that SATs preparation is harming students’ mental health: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/nine-10-teachers-believe-sats-preparation-harms-childrens-mental

3. Grammar Schools

We do not need grammar schools. We don’t. If we increase funding to all state schools to a level reflective of needs, allow teachers to develop a ‘grammar curriculum’ (lots of extra-curricular, increase independence of teachers), give schools ‘grammar resources and invest in better pastoral care (decent behaviour interventions that selective grammars don’t need) then we won’t need grammar schools. Don’t let Theresa May fool you.

The Conservative government say that working class students need a decent chance to succeed, and so she wants to build grammar schools above investing in local state-run facilities? Riiiiight. It’s a clear fact that house prices in catchment areas are higher. It’s a clear fact that middle-class families usually spend on tutoring and so more middle-class children get into grammar schools.

Why do we need to build more schools when we can just give more money to existing ones?

It’s easy to improve a school. Stop cutting funding and invest in decent support services. Which leads me to…

4. Cuts to Funding

When I entered teaching in 2005, most classes had a learning support assistant (you may know them as a TA). These people were incredibly important - they worked with SEND students, BESD (behavioural, social and emotional difficulties) students, assisted with students who had been absent or were having trouble accessing the curriculum and they did this on minimal pay, with minimal complaint. I once taught a class where two girls, twins, had complex SEND needs, spoke no English, could speak Arabic and German but couldn’t read it, and had no social skills. My TA was incredible, and she developed a whole scheme of picture-based activities for them to help them become happy, capable members of society.

This government have cut spending on education to the point where these TAs are rare, or simply don’t exist.

Now, teachers are asked to develop the progress and achievement of these students alone. If your child is dyslexic, they no longer have the ‘luxury’ of a TAs attention or time – instead, it is their teacher’s job to accommodate them. Believe me, this is something we want to do. If we had the ability, we’d break off a little bit of ourselves and sit with them as much as we could. However, the average class size is 30, and this is impossible. We are told we are failing when our most vulnerable students do not achieve, but when you have 30 students, it’s not always easy to give every vulnerable student the time you wish to give. TAs allowed every student to progress and achieve as they allowed the class teacher time to develop clear schemes of work that could be worked on separately to the class, alongside the main learning. Now, dyslexic students are at the hands of often newly-qualified teachers who are still developing their differentiation skills and do not always have the time or resources to make good things happen. This is a direct result of funding cuts.

This isn’t just about SEND students, either. The excessive cuts to education mean that many schools are now in a situation where they are considering making cuts in the curriculum and getting rid of specific subjects, usually the arts: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/education-schools-struggling-financially-axing-gcse-a-level-courses-cutting-class-trips-headteachers-a7620931.html

Students today are being denied the opportunity to access the arts – the subjects that make them well-rounded thinkers, evaluative learners and creative, motivated individuals. I find it hard to stomach that due to excessive Conservative cuts, students are going to miss out on drama class, or art class, or music. That they may never know the joy of a school play, or what it feels like to be told to make their own song, or to find their groove when looking at characters in Shakespeare. Why the arts? Well, because they don’t add “rigour” – the new E-Bacc asks schools to focus on students getting English, maths, science, a language and a humanities subject – there is no requirement for arts. When you’re a cash-strapped school and you face a poor Ofsted report if your results are bad, why would you waste time and money on a qualification that, to the government, doesn’t count? These decisions are being made every damn day, because the government have headteachers over a barrel. You must succeed. You must get above average pass rates (which is in itself ridiculous; there will always be half below average). You must push out students with E-Baccs. If you don’t, we will academise you.

Are we here to provide exam factories that churn out identikit students? We’ve already seen a cut in vocational qualifications and a rise in mandatory GCSE resits in English and Maths. Therefore, if your daughter has her heart set on becoming a mechanic, she may not have the opportunity to even access a course until she is 18 – in the past, she could have done this at age 14, by choosing a vocational mechanic course as an ‘option’ – but hey-ho, these have been cut. Instead, she will have to do the same GCSEs as everyone else, and if she can’t get that “good pass” in English, well, then she’ll just have to resit. And if she doesn’t get the “good pass” the next time, well, she’ll just have to resit again. Until she is old enough to walk away. Why are we putting our students through this? Why aren’t we nurturing a child’s natural enthusiasm?

I taught a GCSE class back in 2009. It was a ‘bottom set’ class; they made my life hell but overall, were decent kids who just hated English, one of only two subjects they did at school as the rest of the time they were out doing vocational courses. They mainly got Ds in English, despite my best efforts. One own his own garage now. One runs her own hairdressing business. One builds motorbikes. One runs his own farm. Nowadays, these students wouldn’t stand a chance.

Cuts also affect the level of pastoral support that exists in schools. The best schools invest clearly in the wellbeing of their students by providing them with mentors, non-teaching year leaders, behaviour liaison officers and pastoral teams. Remember ‘Educating Essex’? Those ladies in the office who worked with the kids to get them back into class and enjoying education? Those are the important people. Those are the ones we are losing.

To end this massive rant, I want to point you towards the amazing-yet-horrifying website ‘School Cuts’ – www.schoolcuts.org.uk. It allows you to look at any school in the country and see the level of cuts, with a calculation of how many teachers it is equivalent to. I don’t think many people in the UK really understand what we are up against here. Here are a few figures that mean something to me:

Hove Park School, Brighton & Hove: -£940,335 in cuts – equivalent to 25 teachers or -£659 per pupil

The Burgess Hill Academy (formerly Oakmeeds Community College), Sussex: -£273,426 / 7 teachers / -£340 per pupil

Bridgemary Community School, Gosport: -£421,065 / 12 teachers / -£797 per pupil

Sir Thomas Boteler CofE High School, Warrington: -£132,685 / 4 teachers / -£211 per pupil

Durrington High School, Worthing: -£474,491 / 13 teachers / -£274 per pupil

This is horrifying. These cuts mean that your children are absolutely not getting the education they need or deserve – all thanks to apparently “unavoidable” cuts made by a government who have already cut corporation tax, can afford themselves an 11% pay rise, can reduce inheritance tax and make allowances for the very rich.

I know that you may not like the leaders of the other parties very much. I understand that Brexit plays a part. However, students are arriving to school hungry, and we no longer have the funds to provide for them. We are being forced by this government to pressure students through a horrific, class-led system that discriminates against anyone with educational needs and that none of us agree with - and changes to strike laws mean that we can’t even protest it the way we want to. Brexit is happening, for now. Don’t be blinded by May. She wants you to be blinkered and she wants you to ignore the massive demolition of education. Don’t give her what she wants.

A vote for the Conservative government is a vote that gives them a mandate to ruin the lives of young people today - unless Conservative voters work with us to stop these cuts. I urge you – please look at the schoolcuts website, please take in just how much is being cut from your local area and PLEASE look at the other parties’ policies on education. Challenge your Conservative MP. Ask them to fight for change too. This is an issue that does not need to be red or blue!

Teachers should control education. Not politicians.

If your school is striking this term, please understand that we never want to deprive anyone of education. Strikes are always a last resort and always happen when we are not being listened to. The media will try to spin it and tell you we are all selfish misers who want better pay. We don’t. We want an end to a broken and corrupt system that exploits children and benefits the rich - that is all. Support your local schools, help out where you can - and vote for a party who will bring the humanity back to education.

—  Okay, I know I haven’t posted in a while and this post is incredibly long. However for the last week I have been studying and preparing for my mock exams, around 5 hours each night. Want to know why I’m studying for so long for MOCKS because everything we need to learn is incredibly long, we have to learn a Shakespeare play plus a 19th century novella and everything else. I am a dyslexic student and the closed-book exams are ridiculous, ever heard the quote “you can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree” this is what they are doing. This status is making its way around Facebook after a teacher called Rebecca Bradley posted it highlighting what’s going on. It’s seriously messed up and needs to change not just the GCSE’s but budgeting.
Food (and class) in Harry Potter A (lengthy) guide for fans who aren’t British

After another user asked me some questions about British food as it appears in Harry Potter I decided to make a post about it, as no doubt other foreign readers have similar questions. I will talk about EVERYTHING so sorry if you have to scroll through loads of stuff you know to find what you want, but I have written it to be accessible to literally anyone and I don’t want to assume people know what something is just because I do.

Also, it was impossible to make the post without referencing class. The fact that it was impossible only goes to show how it’s probably impossible to understand the books in depth without an understanding of class in Britain. The whole texts are encoded with references to class which are so subtle (much like class itself) that even I, who grew up being encoded in the same way, had to analyse the texts to find them. At some point I’ll make a post about just class, but for now we’ll stick to the light-hearted topic of food!

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The trouble is that people who aren’t taught grammar very well in school fall for these statements from these pundits, delivered with vast authority from above. I’m fighting that. A very interesting case in point is using “they” as a singular. This offends the grammar bullies endlessly, it is wrong, wrong, wrong! Well it was right until the 18th century, when they invented the rule that He includes She. It didn’t exist in English before then. Shakespeare used “they” instead of “he” or “she"—we all do, we always have done, in speaking, in colloquial English. It took the women’s movement to bring it back to English literature. And it is important. Becuase it’s a crossroads between correctness bullying and the moral use of language. If "he” includes “she” but “she” doesn’t include "he,“ a big statement is being made, with huge social and moral implications. But we don’t have to use "he” that way—we’ve got “they.” Why not use it?
—  Ursula K. Le Guin, The Writer’s Chronicle, March/April 2017, A Conversation on Craft with Ursula K. Le Guin by David Naimon

Please fire me. I work as a full time childcare giver and my client thought it would be funny to refer to me as a girl and introduced me to everyone as a girl. Within that week, everyone in the park (other sitters, parents, and even children) thought that I was either gender confused, lesbian, or just a girl. It took three months to clear up the misunderstanding.

25 SAT vocabulary words (starting with the letter A)

1. Amplitude- Largeness.

2. Abstruse- Difficult to understand.

3. Anachronistic- In the wrong time period.

4. Amalgam- A combination of diverse elements.

5. Arbitrary- Determined by impulse or without reason.

6. Abhor- To hate.

7. Acuity- Sharp perception or vision.

8. Adulation- Excessive flattery.

9. Admonish- To gently criticize or warn.

10. Acrimony- Hostility.

11. Alacrity- enthusiasm, eagerness.

12. Amenable- Open to advice or suggestion.

13. Altruistic- Unselfishly concerned for the welfare of others.

14. Amorphous- Lacking definite form.

15. Anecdote- A short account of an interesting or humorous incident.

16. Augment- To make greater in size or quantity.

17. Avarice- Greed.

18. Austere- Strict or severe in discipline.

19. Amicable- Agreeable.

20. Adulation- High praise.

21. Arid- Extremely dry.

22. Assiduous- Hard working.

23. Adversity- Misfortune.

24. Aberration- A state or condition markedly different from the norm.

25. Abrogate- Revoke formally.

Harper Lee’s 2006 letter to Oprah Winfrey

May 7, 2006

Dear Oprah,

Do you remember when you learned to read, or like me, can you not even remember a time when you didn’t know how? I must have learned from having been read to by my family. My sisters and brother, much older, read aloud to keep me from pestering them; my mother read me a story every day, usually a children’s classic, and my father read from the four newspapers he got through every evening. Then, of course, it was Uncle Wiggily at bedtime.

So I arrived in the first grade, literate, with a curious cultural assimilation of American history, romance, the Rover Boys, Rapunzel, and The Mobile Press. Early signs of genius? Far from it. Reading was an accomplishment I shared with several local contemporaries. Why this endemic precocity? Because in my hometown, a remote village in the early 1930s, youngsters had little to do but read. A movie? Not often — movies weren’t for small children. A park for games? Not a hope. We’re talking unpaved streets here, and the Depression.

Books were scarce. There was nothing you could call a public library, we were a hundred miles away from a department store’s books section, so we children began to circulate reading material among ourselves until each child had read another’s entire stock. There were long dry spells broken by the new Christmas books, which started the rounds again.

As we grew older, we began to realize what our books were worth: Anne of Green Gables was worth two Bobbsey Twins; two Rover Boys were an even swap for two Tom Swifts. Aesthetic frissons ran a poor second to the thrills of acquisition. The goal, a full set of a series, was attained only once by an individual of exceptional greed — he swapped his sister’s doll buggy.

We were privileged. There were children, mostly from rural areas, who had never looked into a book until they went to school. They had to be taught to read in the first grade, and we were impatient with them for having to catch up. We ignored them.

And it wasn’t until we were grown, some of us, that we discovered what had befallen the children of our African-American servants. In some of their schools, pupils learned to read three-to-one — three children to one book, which was more than likely a cast-off primer from a white grammar school. We seldom saw them until, older, they came to work for us.

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.

The village of my childhood is gone, with it most of the book collectors, including the dodgy one who swapped his complete set of Seckatary Hawkinses for a shotgun and kept it until it was retrieved by an irate parent.

Now we are three in number and live hundreds of miles away from each other. We still keep in touch by telephone conversations of recurrent theme: “What is your name again?” followed by “What are you reading?” We don’t always remember.

Much love,

Harper

UK General Election 2017

Good Ending - Labour Party wins and inequality begins to decline, working families have more money in their pockets because of a higher minimum wage and investment in the economy stimulates growth. The need for food banks begins to decline. European environmental policy is not immediately scrapped as a result of Brexit and the tax on renewable energy sources is removed - there is no more fracking in the UK and wind farms start to pop up everywhere. This creates a demand for skilled workers and therefore jobs. The NHS begins to heal with the funding it needs, social and mental health care is also properly funded which removes much of the strain on the system, and Doctors and nurses stop quitting from chronic stress and exhaustion. We retain our access to the European single market (where 44.6% of our exports go, and 53.6% of our imports come from) and no citizen is afraid of deportation. The rail is renationalised and no one ever has to take a megabus again. Corbyn continues to make jam and things get better. Dennis Skinner sleeps with a smile on his face.

Bad Ending - The Conservatives increase their mandate giving them greater power to create a hard Brexit with no ties to the EU, while continuing to snuggle up with countries like Saudi Arabia, and Trump’s fascist America. EU environmental policy is scrapped and air pollution sky rockets, fracking and nuclear power become the default as the tax on renewables is maintained. The NHS is slowly dismantled over a long period where of the systematic underfunding of its services and overworking/underpaying of its staff makes it unfit for purpsoe, private healthcare is introduced. Higher education becomes more expensive, increasing the education divide between the rich and the poor. Lower education is also under-funded and grammar schools make a come back, further widening the gap. Scotland votes to leave the UK and the British people can’t blame them. Theresa May poses on the cover of the sun wearing the skin of dead cows, her eyes are gleaming. 

Mediocre (sort of good) Ending - Coalition between the ‘left’ parties, things get better but there is a lot of bickering and no consensus can be made about how to deal with Brexit. Working families are better off but corporations still aren’t made to pay their taxes. Everyone makes compromises and no one is really in charge, still better than the conservatives though.

True Ending - see Bad Ending 

Joke Ending - everyone votes Lib Dem!