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mike
A random Toad piece of schooldays
Sat Sep 16, 2017 14:21
108.26.69.65




Good schools are those whose reputation is earned by the quality of the students they produce which is not necessarily a function of either their names recognition nor the amount they charge for tuition, although quality usually doesn't come cheap, which is an unfortunate fact affecting the majority of parents.

Nevertheless there are exceptions to the fiscal realities which exist thanks to generous benefactors and far sighted founders and the school that Toad was lucky enough to attend was one of the latter. All good schools choose their staff by virtue of their attainments although it must be noted that possession of a Masters degree does not necessarily signify a fitness for a teaching position since that requires much more than academic abilities.

Good teachers need the public speaking skills of an orator, the entertainment abilities of a good actor and a certain individuality of approach to their subject calculated to gain and hold the interest of a varied audience whose examination results are the yardstick by which the teaching is evaluated.

All of which ensures that staffroom discussions can often have a contentious atmosphere when ones colleagues differ in their opinions as to the value of what one is teaching and how it is being presented.

Which was the case here at Toads own school where that young mans essay had been read aloud to several of his colleagues by the English master to justify the low mark he intended to award it and to his surprise his evaluation had been vigorously challenged by the Arts and Crafts teacher (which came as no surprise) and surprisingly by the Mathematics and Science teachers who suggested the English masters bias had resulted in a grossly unfair dismissal of an excellent essay.

In the normal course of events a teachers marking is considered sacrosanct and above criticism as long as his case for awarding a grade is well supported by his methodology and other examples of similar grading using a yardstick of which his students have been previously made aware.

However in this instance it seemed pretty apparent to his critics and indeed the silent majority of others present that Toad had produced exactly what had been requested and done so with considerable elan and well supported research which he had also supplied although it was not required.

"I simply asked them for an essay on the subject of what they thought the future might be like in fifty years time. We'd read and discussed H.G.Wells 'Time Machine' and Jules Verne's 'Voyage from the Earth to the Moon' and a few of the usual pieces of speculative fiction.

So when young Hall presented this, after reading it, I suggested that he might like to rethink some of his ideas. He then returned it with the attached bibliographical references which I thought a bit of cheek considering that I'd gven him my opinion on his far fetched notions not to mention the opportunity to tone them down a bit." The English master expostulated.

"I note that you did not criticize his writing style or grammar, there were no errors from a literary point of view?" the Mathematics master pointed out politely. "Therefore one would have to say that you are criticizing him unfairly on the basis of his imagination."

"Not only that" the Science teacher added "I am aware of some of the references he appended and they are entirely in keeping with scientific advancements which have been theoretically validated and await only the development of appropriate technological means to be brought to fruition."

"Look old boy, you were the one that provided Wells and Verne's examples and they surely are much wilder and therefore set the stage so to speak?" the Arts and Crafts teacher suggested mildly.

It was common knowledge amongst the faculty that the English master held Wm.Shakepeare's works to represent the apogee of literary attainment and this was underscored by that worthy's indignant response to the last comment made.

"That's exactly the point! I did provide them with those examples of utterly impossible nay ludicrous tales and we discussed the difference between the far fetched and the impossible. I had thought by so doing to set the stage, as it were, to define the parameters by which their own essays would be evaluated and then Hall has the gall to flaunt this ...this flummery!"

"Flummery?" muttered one of the audience to his neighbour

"Shakespearean pudding, a form of blancmange also used to mean nonsense." came the reply

"Condemned out of his own mouth then?"

"Quite so. Poor chap should have been put out to pasture years ago."

"It seems to me" said the House Master reluctantly "that it might be best if you let me have a few words with Master Hall before you condemn him out of hand for his failure to appreciate the strength of your feelings on this matter."

Taking the offending document from the English master, he gave the older man a brief friendly pat on the shoulder as he exited the common room to go for the sanctuary of his own study where an easy chair, his pipe and perhaps a small malt would help him appreciate Hall's 'Master piece' as thought of it with a smile.

He read:- "It is the Year of our Lord 1910 and were I to describe it to a person from the 17th century, such as William Shakespeare for example..." (cheeky little blighter)..." he would recognize some of our traditional features and be able to comprehend much that is new such as the railways (1) but be amazed by our use of electricity for lighting and communications.

What has changed the most is the speed of progress, the rate at which these changes have and will occur. It is this which makes predicting the future both somewhat risky and yet exhilarating. We can look at something with which we are familiar and make an informed guess at its likely development but we cannot unerringly point to something completely new and confidently state that it must come into being sooner or later.

Jules Verne's story is a good example of the former although Newtonian physics should have been enough for him to realize that the acceleration of his giant projectile fired from a cannon would have made mincemeat of its occupants. Wells' tale is an example of the latter, there is no basis in science from which to postulate time travel except possibly the work of current physicists based on the behaviour of quanta (2)

In 1903, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky postulated the use of rockets (3) to launch a vehicle into orbit around the Earth and from this hypothesis I would suggest that by 1960 we may expect radio to be received and re-transmitted by satellites to allow world wide coverage of major sources of radio like the BBC.

Above all I believe that various means of rapid transport will be introduced causing enormous changes in society as more and more people are able to escape the confines of their immediate surroundings and seek out new lives elsewhere such as in America or Australia. One has only to note what personal freedom the bicycle has afforded individuals in England and the rapid development of motor vehicles because of mass production which lowers cost making them more available, to realize how much more will come about as a result.

Although it may seem improbable, I believe that enclosed passenger aircraft will eventually ply the skies replacing large steam passenger liners and making the Atlantic crossing in a few hours.

Motor vehicles of all kinds will usher in sweeping changes. For example petrol driven tractors are affordable enough for individual farmers to own making them independent of the hired steam traction powered chain ploughs. This in turn will lead to increased food production at lower cost which leads to population growth and a larger availability of labour for factories that in turn produce more goods.

An inevitable upward spiral of prosperity must result as a direct result of improved means of transport and the benefits of civilization are made known to a wider audience by communication systems. In previous times it was possible to keep ones population largely isolated and ill informed allowing despots to take advantage of the populace and it still is in some parts of the world such as Russia whose monarchy should have learned the harsh lesson of the French Revolution.

It would be possible for me to extol the virtues of numerous other modern inventions and from them hypothesize an implausible future fifty years hence. However I do not wish to do any more than establish my case for the picture I shall paint of our future which requires only communication and transport to cause all the changes that must logically follow as a result of them..."


The House Master continued to read the extrapolations promised by this introduction and despite a muttered comment or two at those passages he fancied might have been deliberately phrased to tweak the English masters archaic sensibilities, he found himself agreeing with his outspoken colleagues.

The boy had done as asked and done it well but he couldn't undermine another teachers grading however unfair it might seem. All he could hope to do would be to talk to Hall privately and hope to make him understand that sometimes one must accept one cannot make someone see the rightness of ones convictions. He hoped the boy would be sensible and not make a fuss.

(1) Some mines were using spoil cars that ran on guide ways even earlier than
the 1700's.
(2) Max Planck 1900 'Plancks Law' and Albert Einstein 1905 'Black body
radiation'
(3) Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1903) published Exploring Space Using Jet
Propulsion Devices

    • I like... - Sarge, Sun Sep 17 09:10
      ...the picture drawn, for one of the unique things about English schooling (and indeed the English psyche) has to be the last notion you mention, in this case one must accept one sometimes cannot... more
      • I'm afraid not - mike, Sun Sep 17 09:58
        I'd like to say yes of course that was a deliberate clanger but I must confess that it was not. I thought the Beeb was around that far back, I will have to do some research and make a correction.... more
        • Blimey! As late as THAT! - mike, Sun Sep 17 10:02
          first broadcast 1920 well you could knock me down with a feather! I'd best excise that completely. Son of a gun...need to do more research.
          • Oh, yeah - Sarge, Mon Sep 18 10:18
            Radio really was highly directional and of pretty horrid reproduction quality (so narrow an output frequency range that the beeps of Morse where about the limits of fidelity), pretty much station to... more
            • Re: Oh, yeah - roger, Tue Sep 19 08:34
              KDKA in Pittsburgh seems to be the first commercial radio station in the U.S. It was started in late 1920 by Westinghouse.
      • Re: I like... - roger, Sun Sep 17 09:36
        Mike and Sarge, Both interesting reads. If I might offer,Sarge, I'm not sure Americans can even accept winning in an appropriate manner. Look what happens when some athletic team wins a championship.
        • If I gave the impression... - sarge, Sun Sep 17 13:48
          ...they collectively accept winning appropriately, I certainly didn't intend it. Grin! Mike, I did notice that. The tempering and moulding of young Hall from gifted and impetuous to gifted and... more
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