During the last five minutes, I’ve suffered a double air-head whammy. I was tuned to B(ritish)BC Radio 4, where the voice of Donald Trump was heard, and I switched to B(ritish) BC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster, where the voice of Stephen Nolan was to be heard. Now I know what John Keats was talking about when he said ‘My heart aches, and drowsy numbness pains/ My senses’.
Trump was talking about how nasty Kamala Harris is. She’s been selected as Joe Biden’s running mate in the US presidential election, and Trump says she’s really nasty. “Even nastier than Pocahontas (that’s Elizabeth Warren to most others) and totally lacking in respect, now she’s running mate with Sleepy Joe Biden”. So Trump thinks Kamala Harris should be respectful and in the same breath mocks Senator Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, and declares that Harris is “nasty”.
Hoping for better, I turned over to Raidio Uladh /Radio Ulster, and there was a chorus of women singing a song about how Stephen Nolan’s Show was bigger than any other show “in the country.” This morning Stephen is up in arms about A Level marks here and is quite cross with the Education minister, for not being available to the Nolan Show so he can kick him (verbally).
Just as there was inch-thick irony in Trump’s insults, there’s irony in Nolan casting himself as the people’s champion, and the need for the Education minister to get in touch so he can explain himself to the authoritative Mr Nolan.
Stephen is out of his depth in a number of areas, but he’s half-drowning when it comes to education. The row over Scotland’s Highers (their equivalent of A Level) comes down to one thing: can teachers’ estimate of a pupil’s ability be fair, or does it need propping up and assistance from such things as the school’s make-up and history in exams, the student’s past performance and several other factors?
There’s only one word for it: it’s a clusterfuck. So can teachers be relied on to give fair and accurate grades to pupils? In the great majority of cases yes – but there are cases where teachers can, for reasons of animosity, mark a pupil down and cases where teachers can, for lack of understanding in their subject area, award a pupil an unfairly low grade. And yes, Virginia, I can think of examples. One, where an outstanding student was given a lower grade because he had dared to show in class that the teacher had got something wrong ; and one where a teacher who simply didn’t understand the area she was teaching awarded a C grade when an A was glaringly obvious.
Beyond all this talk of fair and foul grades, of course, is the madness that is public exams. You don’t get the best out of most people by putting them in a hall for a couple of hours on a given day and insisting they put in writing their views on particular aspects of an educational field. I remember someone condemning Teddy Kennedy’s reaction to the Chappaquiddick car accident, only for someone else to ask how many people make their best judgements in the immediate aftermath of being trapped in a car under several feet of water. We desperately want to find out how good young people are in a subject area, yet we put them in a nerve-shredding position where it’s very difficult for many of them to think straight, let alone give of their best. Future generations will scratch their heads and wonder were we right in the head.
Final thought: is it just me, or are there similarities between Donald Trump and Stephen Nolan? Yes I know the hair is different, Virginia, but…