Category Archives: Military
The British armed forces
Too often these days it seems that the devil has great success in finding work for idle hands. That said, I always find it heartening when something or someone proves that adage wrong. That is one of the reasons why I find the need to blog about two organisations near to my heart…
I have past (and present) connections with The Corps of Royal Engineers and, because of my love of the countryside and admiration for their much-needed voluntary work, I’m also an avid supporter of our Mountain Rescue Teams across England & Wales as well as those forming Mountain Rescue Scotland.
The Headquarters Squadron of 21 Engineer Regiment RE, currently deployed on operations in Afghanistan have produced a video parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style to raise money for a local charity. Over the past three months, during periods of downtime and after work, soldiers from 7 Headquarters and Support Squadron have produced the following video, which was launched this week.
Their aim of this video is to raise the profile for the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team (SMRT), a local charity with whom they have strong links. The video was filmed & produced by the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) in Afghanistan.
Please support their efforts by visiting www.justgiving.com/raise-the-fleet where (if you wish) you can donate online.
Thanks for your efforts, stay safe and have as good a Christmas as you can guys whilst you are away from your families and loved ones!
It’s hardly surprising that as many as ”one in six adults struggles to read”. Despite all the government rhetoric about the improving standards of education, I and many others continually question that claim. In fact, some even think that we’re actually getting thicker (see below)…
Previous visitors to my blog will have noticed how often I’ve commented about the poor state of our education system. Any claims suggesting a ’dumbing-down’ of that system are usually vehemently countered by our government.
Michael Gove MP may have argued recently that exam success makes children happy however; is all that ’happiness’ based upon falacy? A false sense of achievement delivered without any real substance or foundation to back it up? One “apolitical retired teacher of the old school” summed up the news well.
…what is really needed in this country is for education to be taken out of the political sphere completely…(see here)
Obviously education is an emotive subject to all those impacted by it; students, parents, employers and politicians alike continually toss the education hot potato about. Consequently, it also follows that the subject of education is usually the source of good copy for our media machinery. Another commentator to the news, this time from Sweden pointed out;
PISA, the international inspectorate showed UK’s poor standards were caused by excessive state intervention, obsession with targets, exams. In successful countries politicians accept they’re amateurs, and let professionals, not tabloids, run education…(see here)
Irrespective of all the political and media wranglings; when you consider that students are buying essays online, many teachers have admitted “fiddling” exam grades and the latest GCSE results are likely to spark a Judicial Review, surly you have to start wondering, what the hell do we do to resolve it all? It ain’t getting any better…
Thousands of UK teenagers cannot read well enough to understand their GCSE exam papers, a large-scale analysis of pupils’ reading ability suggests…(bbc.co.uk)
Something that kind of supports my arguments surrounding certification of academic ability, that and seemingly endless love affair with educating to the lowest level of ability. Simply ensuring that all are awarded for their efforts, irrespective of actual ability or considering realistic standards of quality (see here).
What are GCSE results supposed to say about a pupil? – We have to decide whether GCSE grades represent a concrete indication of knowledge, or where a student lies in that year’s league table..(guardian.co.uk)
All that said, and irrespective of (anticipated) improvements resulting from the proposed EBacc; it amazes me that in these days of so-called education for all, there are still so many people that simply can’t read or write by the time they leave school. The fact educationalists can’t agree on the best way to teach our children to read (see here) is probably a compounding issue however; as a society we should still hang our bloody heads in shame!
Recently The Reading Agency launched their Six Book Challenge in an attempt to help those who have been failed by our education system. It’s aim is to improve the life of people who find reading difficult, by building their reading confidence and motivation. Because, as they say and most would agree, “everything changes when we read.”
It’s right, reading can change your life; the award-winning author Andy McNab is happy to attest to that fact. Andy is also happy to admit that he could hardly read when he joined the infantry as a boy soldier in 1976.
I’m a perfect example of how reading became so important in my life and really changed my life because when I was 17 I’d never read a book…(Andy McNab)
McNab subsequently joined 22 SAS Regiment and after his highly decorated and exemplary military service, he left the army and began a very succesful writing career. He has now written several best-selling and award-winning books about his experiences.
Despite reading being of benefit educationally, the debacle surrounding the quality of our education system (or the lack of it) will continue to rumble on. Perhaps now there is actually a scientific argument to justify some (if not all) of that decline?
The controversial hypothesis of a leading geneticist suggests that, despite the immense capacity of the human brain to learn new tricks, it is under attack from an array of genetic mutations. Ones that have accumulated since people started living in cities a few thousand years ago…
Human intelligence peaked thousands of years ago: Is the human species doomed to intellectual decline? Will our intelligence ebb away in centuries to come leaving our descendants incapable of using the technology their ancestors invented? In short: will Homo be left without his sapiens? (independent.co.uk)
Gerald Crabtree, Professor of Developmental Biology at Stanford University‘s School of Medicne in California, has put forward the iconoclastic idea that rather than getting cleverer, human intelligence peaked several thousand years ago. Our levels of intelligence are actually in decline.
THE DESCENT OF MAN
- Hunter-gatherer man: The human brain and its immense capacity for knowledge evolved during this long period of prehistory when we battled against the elements
- Athenian man: The invention of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago and the subsequent rise of cities such as Athens relaxed the intensive natural selection of our “intelligence genes”.
- Couch-potato man: As genetic mutations increase over future generations, are we doomed to watching soap-opera repeats without knowing how to use the TV remote control?
- iPad man: The fruits of science and technology enabled humans to rise above the constraints of nature and cushioned our fragile intellect from genetic mutations.
Whatever your personal views on education and intelligence, reading is always a very good starting point if you’re trying to improve your academic ability. It’s also enlightening and can often be fun too. If you’re thinking about improving your reading, would like to read more or even volunteer to help others with their reading, then perhaps the Six Book Challenge is a good option for you!
- The descent of man (independent.co.uk)
- Civilisation is making humanity less intelligent, study claims (telegraph.co.uk)
- GCSE scandal has damaged my students’ views of education (guardian.co.uk)
- What is the EBacc all about? (schoolsimprovement.net)
Last night I watched the annual Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall. And this morning, as the UK’s wartime fallen were remembered at the Cenotaph (see here), the usual two-minute silence evoked mixed emotions in me.
The air was cold and clear, the sky a cobalt blue and Whitehall with the Cenotaph at its heart was lined with the ranks of those who serve and those who once served…(Angus Crawford – BBC News)
At the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month each year, we remember our servicemen and women who have died during conflicts past and present. British forces across the world – including 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan – also stood silent to remember this morning. But what are we actually remembering?
Rememberance Today: Poppies, Grief and Heroism is a book by Dr Ted Harrison, a former BBC religious affairs correspondent. In it the author asks a similar question. Harrison also went further by saying that “celebrity endorsement of the Poppy Appeal risks dumbing down the reality of war.” Is he right?
I think the greatest honour one can actually pay those who have died in the past, and the greatest comfort to those who are living in grief, is to ensure that future generations themselves are not called upon to die heroically or otherwise in battle…(Dr. Ted Harrison)
In his book Harrison poses several questions which actually need to be answered, if we really want to fully understand the true meanings of remembrance. What does it really mean to be heroic? What, in the context of military service, does glory mean? But most fundamental of all – what is the purpose of Remembrance?
If Remembrance does not serve as a warning against conflict, and if it is not a reminder to Peoples to rededicate themselves to peace, then Remembrance is futile…(huffingtonpost.co.uk)
Harrison suggests that; “the stark reality of war could be made much more real if every poppy was given a corresponding number from 1 to 1000. These numbers could then be matched up with the life story of real soldier. The poppy wearer could then go to a website or booklet and find the story behind that poppy.”
In a way he is right and in my opinion it’s not such a bad idea. Many people today, irrespective of their thoughts and actions on this day, have very little cognisance of what it’s all about. Those amongst us who are old enough to remember the impacts of either of the two world wars (or subsequent conflict), have differing views to younger members of our society. Many of them base their perception of war, death and destruction upon film and/or video game portrayal. A virtual reality where nobody actually gets hurt, physically or emotionally, at least not in the short-term.
Those who have served since then, or are connected to someone who has (in some way) will by experience, hold widely differing views. Then there are those who have absolutely no first hand knowledge of the impacts of armed conflict, let alone any experience of personal injury death and/or personal loss.
But like Harrison, I have no desire to detract from any of the real and genuine feelings or emotions displayed by different individuals on this day. I am simply examining and commenting upon the issues that are presented as a result of such an event.
That said, far too many people fail to recognise a simple fact; if it wasn’t for the sacrifices made by others in the past, it’s highly unlikely that any of us would actually be enjoying the freedoms that we do today! In addition to this, and as Harrison points out; politicians also have a tendency to glorify war and we the public, our tendency is to over create heroes.
The government or politicians don’t by and large want people to know too much about the horrors of war. It’s not for recruitment. If politicians want to flex their muscles and go to war at some stage, then to have a whole nation that knows too much about what war’s like is not favourable…(Dr Ted Harrison)
This poignant day means different things to different people. Each person will have varying levels of emotions and thoughts, each of which are based upon their own individual life experiences. The thing that always has a tendency to raise my blood pressure is; those people who have little or no respect for the emotions and feelings of others, let alone any genuine interest in or empathy for, the personal sacrifice that others have made in the past.
To all those who think it is their God given right to do and say as they please, irrespective of the impacts of their actions and words upon others, remember those who earned you that freedom!
Lest we forget…
- Queen leads Remembrance Day tributes (telegraph.co.uk)
- Remembrance Day: Queen leads Britain’s mourning of its war dead (guardian.co.uk)
- The Queen leads Remembrance services (thetimes.co.uk)