Sunday, 18 February 2018

Teachers With Guns.

Teachers With Guns

On February 14th there was another tragic school shooting in America, this time at Stoneman Douglas High School and seventeen people were killed. In the USA in 2018 there have, so far, been eight school shootings that have resulted in death or injury and we are only seven weeks into the year. In the UK by comparison, there have been zero school shootings since the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Shortly after Dunblane, the ownership of handguns was banned in the UK and you would have to be pretty determined to not see the link between the two. 

People have posted lots of opinions about how we can stop school shootings from happening. The most common opinion I've seen is that there needs to be tighter gun control laws in the USA. Other common opinions include increased security in schools, more help for young people with mental health problems and more research into the drugs being prescribed to young people with mental health problems. However, another stranger solution I've seen a few people put forward is that of arming teachers with guns themselves; this grabbed my attention as I am currently a school teacher. 

The vast majority of teachers I know, regardless of personality, want the children in their class/classes to be safe and protected because why would you not? Also, I do think the majority of teachers would go above and beyond to protect the children in their school because you do feel a profound responsibility for their safety. You only have to look at the heroic actions of some of the teachers on February 14th to know that. However, I can't help but feel that people who genuinely think giving all teachers guns is a sensible solution probably look at this as reality:

That is Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop', where the most sensible solution to protecting an at risk child is to send an undercover police detective to work as his teacher whilst waiting for his violent, criminal father to arrive. Yes, it's a brilliantly awful film ("Who is your daddy and what does he do?") but it definitely wouldn't be a good idea in the real world. Here are just a few reasons why: 

  • Most teachers are ordinary, peaceful people and, even with training, would not perform as well as Arnie in an armed fight. 
  • Most classes I've worked in have around 30 children in one fairly small room. No matter how many precautions you take, having that many children so close to a firearm is an accident waiting to happen.
  • You are completely normalising children to being around weapons.
  • A child might decide they want to get get hold of the weapon.
  • You are trusting teachers, who are constantly distracted by the needs of 30 separate children, to always be completely responsible with the firearm. 
  • Many teachers could easily be overpowered by another adult (or even child in some cases) trying to get the gun.
  • Having weapons in a school might make it easier to sneak in more weapons.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on. I love the thought of being a hero and saving a class of children from some scumbag who wants to hurt them but the dangers of teachers having guns themselves are far too obvious and plentiful to ever make it a sensible option. Despite this, we should still remember the heroic actions of teachers and children when tragedies like this occur. On February 14th you had: Aaron Feis who died shielding students from gunfire; Scott Beigel who was killed whilst locking a door to prevent the gunman from getting to his students; Peter Wang who, despite only being fifteen, spent his last moments holding a door open for others to get to safety as well as many others. We need more people like this, not more guns.   

Thursday, 4 January 2018

How NOT To Raise Mental Health Awareness.

How NOT To Raise Mental Health Awareness

According to 'Mind', 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. If, like me, you've been part of that statistic at some point in your life you will know that some people still have awful attitudes towards mental health problems. I should say that I think attitudes are vastly improving and, in my experience, most people won't give a negative response if you talk about mental health. However, many of us will still have experienced ignorance from people on the subject. It could be anything from the self confessed 'expert' who over diagnoses themselves to the person who says depressed people just need to 'cheer up'. 

I remember being in a university seminar where mental health problems were being discussed and one woman loudly mocked the issue. I know her words and tone will have affected people in that room who had personal experiences on the subject. Therefore, I can only imagine how the family of a suicide victim must have felt when they saw that Youtuber, Logan Paul, had made an incredibly insensitive video about their newly deceased family member. 

In the video, Logan Paul visits the Aokigahara forest in Japan which is known for being a place where unusual amounts of people commit suicide. For what should obviously be a sensitive video, Logan sets his tone straight away by choosing to wear this,

Yep, a hat with one of the Aliens from 'Toy Story' and a Gucci jacket which he proudly tells the camera, "If I'm gonna get haunted by a ghost I'm gonna do it in my fucking Gucci jacket, I wanna look good". Keep in mind, this is literally as he is about to enter a forest where he knows people regularly take their own life. Still, you shouldn't judge someone on their clothes, I'm sure his behaviour will show more consideration and maturity...right? Not at all. He is laughing and joking the whole way, including when discovering and standing near the body of a recently deceased suicide victim. There are the odd moments of seriousness thrown in but they lose all credibility when alongside all the footage of him being completely inconsiderate. 

The mainstream media have largely focused on a moment when he approaches the body and says, "What, you never stand next to a dead guy?" before laughing. However, there are so many other moments such as when someone politely tells him it's a restricted area and he responds with, "You told us a little too late bro, we've seen a little too much already." whilst laughing. One part I found particularly disturbing was when he says to a little girl, "Don't go over there." with a grin on his face whilst pointing to the location of the dead body. The little girl he says this to is of a similar age to large parts of his fan base. I know this because I'm a year six teacher and many of the kids in my class regularly talk about him, quote him and ask if we can watch his videos. Yeah, I know.  

After receiving a huge amount of backlash from the mainstream media, other YouTubers and large numbers of the internet community, Logan Paul did what many others have done before and released an apology video. This can be risky because if you come across as insincere or say the wrong thing, you can just make it worse. For me, the response video that I most agreed with was this one by YouTuber, True Geordie. He puts it much better than I ever could.     

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Stories To Finish 2017.

Happy Stories To Finish 2017

I recently watched this brilliant video from comedian Russell Howard where he explains why 2017 has actually been an amazing year despite horrors such as Trump, Brexit and other negatives that have started or continued this year. It made me realise that I have actually seen/read a lot of uplifting stories this December which have helped to finish the year on a high and make 2017 seem like maybe it has been a good year after all. An uplifting story can often be a difficult thing to pull off well. For example, it's popular for Youtubers to record and release videos of them feeding homeless people. Sometimes this comes across as genuine and kind. Other times, it doesn't work out quite as well, such as when popular Youtuber Vitaly released a video of him feeding the homeless that included him shouting at groups of homeless people for not lining up properly as he handed out sandwiches. Some of these examples were brilliantly lampooned by Youtubers H3H3Productions in this video. Here are four of my favourite uplifting stories I have seen/read this month.

#4 - Couple open their shop on Christmas day for lonely people.

This article tells the story of Shasi and Pallu Patel who open their newsagents on Christmas day, play carols and hand out free mince pies to anyone who drops by. They have actually been doing this for a number of years ever since one of their elderly customers told them she had been robbed near Christmas time and they noticed there was an outpouring of support from the local community to help provide the victim with presents to give her a good Christmas. They've been doing their bit ever since. They even look as kind as you would expect them to. 

 #3 - Scottish island takes in Syrian refugees who give back in return.

Bute is a small Scottish island of just 6,500 people who, two years ago, took in 24 families of Syrian refugees who were fleeing the threat of death and persecution. There was initially some skepticism from some of the locals over the news but the refugees have now brought many positives to the island including opening shops and businesses in an area where the opposite was happening beforehand. Also, some of the Syrians are now helping a local food bank to deliver parcels of food to those who need it in the local area during the festive period. You can read more about it here

#2 - American football coach takes in one of his players. 

Sam Greiner was an American football coach who realised whilst dropping one of his players (Braheam Murphy) off that he didn't actually have a fixed abode. Upon finding this out he decided to actually take Braheam to live with him and his family in his own home. The article tells us that Braheam now gets straight A's at school and has a scholarship. We can only assume that this is probably largely due to somebody having the kindness to offer him some security and consistency at a time when he had neither. 

#1 - Teenager buys his classmate a WWE belt. 

Not much to say about this one other than it was one of those viral videos that definitely seemed worth a share. 

What videos/stories of people being bros have you enjoyed this winter?

Also, I'm volunteering for a brilliant, local charity this Christmas who give homeless people in Leicester a bed, a roof over their head, a meal and some company over the difficult winter period. You can donate to them here.   


Sunday, 15 October 2017

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Taken Off Reading List.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Taken Off Reading List

'To Kill a Mockingbird' has recently been taken off a reading list in a Mississippi school district due to some of the language making people feel uncomfortable. I think one of the reasons this story has gone somewhat viral (think front page of Reddit) is due to the ridiculousness anyone thinking that a novel about racism in 1930's America SHOULDN'T make people feel uncomfortable. To say children  shouldn't read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is to say they shouldn't read a Pulitzer prize winning novel that is one of the (if not the) foremost literary commentary on racial, gender and class inequality. Also, to say that children shouldn't read anything that makes them feel uncomfortable is to stop them from ever being challenged by literature.  

You only have to go back to this news article from July 2017 to read about a black teenager being made the first black valedictorian in her Mississippi schools history, only to receive a slew of racist messages in response. This shows that racism still exists in the states schools and makes it even more important that they are providing their schoolchildren with books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' that tackle the same issues still being faced today. The vice-president of the school board did say 'we can teach the same lesson with other books'. I would argue that if these 'other books' are tackling such serious issues without making anyone feel uncomfortable then they aren't doing it as honestly, powerfully or realistically as Harper Lee. 

Hiding parts of our history, literary or otherwise, because they make people uncomfortable takes away our chance to learn from them. A much more effective way to address it is to teach why these things make us uncomfortable to hopefully help prevent history from repeating itself. 

Voted number one by librarians ahead of The Bible as the book 'every adult should read before they die'. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Revisiting Overplayed 'Kerrang' Videos From My Teens.

Revisiting Overplayed Kerrang Videos From My Teens

When I was a teenager I spent HOURS (as many others did) just obsessively watching music videos. My channel of choice was 'Kerrang' because, as I have mentioned previously, I only wore clothes that looked liked this: 

When thinking back to these times, there were certain videos that I remember getting a ridiculous amount of airtime. They seemed to get played a few times a day for literally years on end. Here's my thoughts on a few I remember.

#1 - By The Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

The video mostly consists of Anthony Kiedis being stuck in a taxi driven by a crazy fan. It is a good example of the light-hearted humour you used to see in their music videos. The taxi driver reminds me of many other quirky/goofy characters of the era (think officer Doofy in Scary Movie).

Nostalgia moment: the strange dance in the tunnel.

My rating now: 6/10.

#2 - Girl All The Bad Guys Want - Bowling For Soup.

This actually holds up very well. The video is mostly a spoof of other rock music videos of the time that took themselves a bit too seriously. A generous amount of time is spent taking the piss out of Staind who were of the 'we're tough but tender' brand of rock stars. 

Nostalgia moment: the picture of a fluffy dog.

My rating now: 8/10

#3 - Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus. 

It seems as if it is another spoof, this time of the classic high school movie where the nerdy guy wins over the beautiful girl. However, Wikipedia tells me that the music video is mostly made of up of an actual movie called 'Loser'. This is okay though because it fits the song pretty much perfectly.

Nostalgia moment: the guy with the shakers.

My rating now: 7/10.

#4 - Chop Suey! - System Of A Down. 

The only non-comedy video on this list. It's about as typical as a rock music video can be; sweaty, bearded men playing rock music to an audience of pale people who are occasionally topless. Still, the rammed in crowd, huge drum kit and harsh lighting fit the intensity of the song well. 

Nostalgia moment: when he literally eats chop suey. 

My rating now: 6/10. 

#5 - Tribute - Tenacious D.

When you talk about overplayed 'Kerrang' videos, this has to have been the most overplayed when I was watching. Literally multiple times everyday for years. It's actually a great video but watching it so many times as a teen was equivalent to the millionth time 'Little Britain' showed you David Walliams screeching "I'm a lady" or Catherine Tate quipped "Am I bothered though?" and still expected you to find it funny. But yeah, great video anyway. 

Nostalgia moment: when Dave Grohl oinks. 

My rating now: 9/10. 

There are many more overplayed music videos I remember, which ones did I miss out?     

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Awesome Series (You May Not Have Seen).

Awesome Series (You May Not Have Seen)

Having recently got up to date with Game of Thrones, I am still a fully fledged member of the masses of people who are a bit obsessed with it. In fact, my two favourite series of all time are probably Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad which are the two least surprising and most obvious choices for someone my age. I can't help it, they're awesome. However, it did make me think, what are series I have loved but haven't really heard many other people talk about? Here's what I came up with: 

#5 - Nathan for You.

Nathan for you is a comedy series about a person who 'helps' struggling businesses by coming up with marketing schemes for them. The ideas are ludicrous and (I think) that not everyone else is in on the joke. It is hilarious watching people awkwardly agree to try these ideas, driven by Nathan's apparent sincerity. The reactions remind me a bit of those from 'Da Ali G Show' from years before and are just as funny. 

#4 - Roots (2016 remake).

Probably the most well known series on this list. Roots was an epic, beautifully shot and perfectly acted remake that I didn't hear that many people talking about. The scope of it is huge as it follows generations of the same family, telling their personal history as well as the historical events surrounding their fight against such extreme inequality. Possibly suffered by only being on BBC Four but well worth a watch. 

#3 - On Death Row.

After watching 'Making a Murderer' I went through a brief phase of being a bit obsessed over programs about the American justice system. The best of which was a film called 'Dear Zachary' which everybody should watch. However, I also really enjoyed 'On Death Row' which was made by the incredible Werner Herzog. The thing I really liked about it was Herzog's interview technique which I feel gets very interesting results from the people he speaks to. 

#2 - The Incredible Human Journey. 

This is probably my favourite documentary series of all time. Largely because when I first watched it, it taught me so much I didn't know about the early history of mankind. It explains the theory that humans started in Africa before eventually spreading out over the rest of the world. However, that description doesn't do it justice as it actually teaches so much more than that. I know that it helped to open up my own mind about how I view our connection to each other as humans and I am sure it could do the same for others. 

#1 - The Street.

The Street is an incredible series by Jimmy McGovern. Simply put, it tells the individual stories of people living on a street. Each episode tells a different story and, therefore, can be watched and enjoyed in any order. My personal favourite is episode 5 of series 3 which tells the story of a man finding out he is the father to a 16-year-old son. Each episode is superbly made and tells an interesting and completely believable story. Not one that I hear people talk about very often but well worth giving some time to. 

I'm sure you will have watched some of these but hopefully it gives at least one new series you could give a go. What hidden gem of a series would you recommend? 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Conservative Party And The Working Class.

The Conservative party and the working class

When you think of your 'typical' Conservative voter you might think of a rich, chubby, white guy with too much money and a disregard for the working classes. Well, if only rich people voted for them then they wouldn't keep winning elections. Of course, lots of people who vote Conservative are normal, working class people like you and me. They aren't absurdly rich; they work hard, have money worries and want life to be a bit easier for hard working people like them. 

I have seen/heard some people express the view that a party like Labour only want to reward people who are unemployed, live here illegally or have thirteen children, don't work and drive Porches, drink Champagne for breakfast and enjoy twice-yearly holidays ON OUR MONEY (said angrily by a bald, white bloke who spits when he talks). They believe that the Conservative party is a party who want to stop money going to these 'undeserving scroungers' and instead give it to good, honest, hard working people like themselves.

Well, here are a few ways that Conservative leadership has affected ordinary, working class people in this country.

#1 - Fall in value of real wages.

UK wages have dropped 10% which is literally worse than anywhere else in Europe apart from Greece. Numbers from the OECD's (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showed that only three countries have seen wage declines since the financial crisis and those are Portugal, Greece and the UK. It is the longest and steepest decline in real wages since 1830.

#2 - Austerity hasn't helped working people.

If you Google austerity it says 'difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure'. This is what happened after the financial crisis. The Conservatives pointed at what happened in Greece and said that we needed to make severe cuts in order to protect the economy so the same thing doesn't happen to ordinary people here that happened to ordinary people there. So, how have these harsh austerity measures benefited ordinary, working class people like you and me? They haven't. Research has actually shown that more austere countries have a lower rate of GDP growth!

#3 - Cuts to important job sectors.

Most sane people can probably agree that nurses and firefighters are ordinary people who work hard, aren't generally super rich and provide an invaluable service to our country. How have they fared under a conservative leadership that rewards hard working people? Well, the number of mental health nurses has been cut by 15% and the number of firefighters has been cut by 6,700. 

#4 - Benefit cuts have cost workers money.

A common argument for support of a party such as the Conservatives is that they will cut benefits to save taxpayers money. However, the National Audit Office have said that fining claimants for failing to meet certain conditions has actually cost the government almost twice what it gained. The Department of Work and Pensions said that £30-50 million a year was spent applying sanctions and £200 million monitoring the new terms but in 2015 had saved just £132 million. That means that even even if think all those benefit cuts are fair and justified, they have actually cost you more money than they have saved!

In conclusion, don't just believe Conservative politicians when they tell you they want to punish 'lazy' people and reward hard working people like yourself. Look at the facts and figures and see whether ordinary, working class people like you and me have actually benefited from living under a Conservative government. 

"How can you trust Jeremy Corbyn? I mean, he looks so scruffy!"