Education

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Starmer’s Approval Rating Down to 6 Per Cent – Is Anyone Surprised?

The noxious Alex Belfield also put up a video last week in which he gleefully told his viewing public how badly Labour leader Keir Starmer was doing in the polls. According to him, YouGov or some other polling company had found that only 6 per cent of Brits think that he’s doing a good job. Actually, there might be some confusion over this, as the clip Belfield showed to back up his claim actually recorded that only 6 per cent of Brits thought Starmer was doing a ‘very good job’. It’s a minor difference, but it could mean that Starmer’s overall approval rating is actually higher, as these questionnaires commonly ask people if they think someone is doing a very good job, good job, all right and so on. Many more people could believe that Starmer was doing a good job, in addition to the 6 per cent who thought he was doing a very good job. But even so, Starmer’s popularity is low. Hardly able to contain his delight, Belfield speculated that he’d be out by Christmas. Labour was finished, especially if it elected Diane Abbott as leader.

Oh, ho, ho, ho. (Sarcasm).

But actually, if Starmer’s popularity has plummeted that far down, then there should be no surprise. Starmer has violated the cardinal raison d’etre of the parliamentary opposition – to oppose. He has simply announced that he cautiously supports the government, and wishes to give them friendly advice. When he does criticise them, it’s all with 20/20 hindsight, as Johnson has mockingly pointed out in parliament. He has no vision, no clear policies, with the exception that he’s waging war on the left in the Labour party, and so absolutely nothing to offer the great British public. And they know it.

And it shows splendidly how bankrupt Starmer’s own political strategy is. He’s a Blairite, which means that he fully supports the destruction of the welfare state and privatisation, including that of the NHS. Blair’s own election strategy consisted of finding out what would appeal to Tories or middle class swing voters and then make it Labour policy. This meant copying the Tories, or reviving failed and discarded Tory policies, like the academy schools, while at the same time telling everyone that Labour would do it better. This gained him the support of the Tory press with the exception of the Daily Heil, and Tory donors. At the same time he centralised authority in the party around himself and his clique. Party membership dropped as the views of ordinary Labour voters and supporters were ignored. But Blair was quite happy with this, so long as he had the support of the rich and the Murdoch media. As for the working class, he blithely expected them to keep voting Labour as they’d have nowhere else to go.

This failed spectacularly, as a sizable section of the British working class either stopped voting, or turned to Brexit and UKIP to articulate their alienation from contemporary parties. Starmer’s continuation of Blair’s policies, and his consequent rejection of Corbyn’s, which were genuinely popular and his determination to purge Labour of genuine socialists under the pretext of rooting out anti-Semitism are losing him working class and left wing support. He’s also losing the support of Black and ethnic minority Labour supporters through his cavalier attitude to Black Lives Matter and his studied inaction against the bullies, who racially abused Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and party activists, as well as the islamophobes.

A number of the speakers at yesterday’s Arise virtual meeting about resisting the Tories and standing for socialism in the Labour party made the point that all the talk about how ‘we’re all in it together’ during this pandemic is an utter lie. We’re not all in it together. The Tories have used the crisis, following Churchill’s dictum that you should never let a crisis go to waste, to cut services and push through policies that are making working people poorer, all with the goal of making the rich even more obscenely wealthy. The left knows this, and so aren’t backing Starmer because they recognise that he doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

At the same time, Starmer isn’t picking up Tory votes as he doesn’t really have anything to offer them either. No vision, no policies and no clear positions either. Mike’s put up several pieces about how Starmer will adopt a policy and then discard it the moment it seems unpopular. Like he was all for sending children back to school until Johnson decided he wasn’t going to send them.

I’m therefor not remotely surprised that some polls are putting Starmer’s approval rating that low. And I’d like him to be out by Christmas, but I doubt that will happen. The Blairites are determined to hang on to power anyway they can, and David Evans, the party secretary, is arrogating to himself powers to veto any Labour candidate he doesn’t think is suitable. Which means, as the good left-wing peeps pointed out yesterday, means that he has the power to stop local constituency parties choosing left-wing candidates. The various coups plotted against Corbyn and the deliberate sabotage of Labour’s election campaigning by the Blairites show that they are perfectly willing to destroy the party just to stop the left gaining power. I don’t think Starmer and his supporters will go without a very destructive, bloody fight.

As for Diane Abbott leading the party, I have my own problems with her, but I’d rather have her as leader standing to be the next PM than Starmer. She really does have the welfare of Britain’s working people at heart. But I’m enough of a realist to recognise that the press and media would have a field day reviling her, just as they’ve been doing for the entirety of her career. This would have an effect. A large number of people wouldn’t vote for her, because the Scum tells them not to. We’d need someone more acceptable to the British public, but Abbott should definitely be part of that person’s team, whoever they are.

Starmer’s popularity is waning, and this incompetent leader, who has no real policies except to advance his own faction in the Labour party, should go as soon as possible. He must be replaced by someone from the real centre of the Labour party, someone who believes in its historic policies of a welfare state, publicly owned public utilities, a genuinely nationalised NHS, decent wages and strong trade unions.

That won’t happen without a fight. But if Starmer’s popularity gets any lower, the party may not have a choice whatever the Blairites mouth to contrary.

Using Twitter for Teaching, Learning, and Socializing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 12:00am in

Twitter is a communication tool that allows for open collaboration to aid in teaching, learning, and socializing online.

Get Started

To get started with Twitter, first, get an account. All you need is an email address and an idea for your Twitter handle (username). Choose something that relates to your interests, passion, superpower, or just your name. 

Complete your profile. Your bio on your profile should indicate who you are, and what you are hoping to get out of your Twitter account. Share some insight into who you are or who you want to be. Share some insight into the groups, affiliations, and credentials you have.

For my social media accounts, I write a six-word memoir each year to identify who I am, or who I would like to be. These words guide how I identify myself on my social media accounts.

Check out the profile for Kevin Hodgson on Twitter. You should definitely follow him.

Follow & Build a PLN

As you look online for others, follow me or others that will follow you back. You can follow a lot of the discussions on Twitter without an account, or without following people. But, your interactions will be much more worthwhile if you connect with others.

Not everyone agrees with this idea of following others. I believe this helps create community and connect with others. When I’m trying to learn a new topic or expose myself to new viewpoints, I’ll follow others in those areas.

If you find that someone doesn’t align with your interests or your purpose for being on Twitter you can unfollow them. I regularly follow and unfollow individuals and groups as I learn, grow, and connect. You can also unfollow people that are distasteful, inappropriate, or who harass you or others.

The goal is to develop your professional learning network (PLN). You’ll want to develop a group of people that you learn from over the years.

According to Wikipedia, a PLN is an “informal learning network” in which a person makes a “connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.” The idea is that learners within this network will collaborate and learn from different members of the community at different periods of time. Some of these “nodes” or connections will be strong, some will have different roles or informal responsibilities.

My PLN has been an invaluable resource for me personally and professionally.

What elements are involved in a tweet?

After you create your account, you’ll need to make sense of the individual tweets and the chats or discussions.

Twitter is a communication tool that allows participants to provide updates in 280 characters or less. 10,000s of educators from across the world use Twitter. The benefit of Twitter is that it is an open and global conversation.

There are several elements of a tweet that you need to understand as you read and write on Twitter.

anatomy-of-a-tweet

How to discuss on Twitter?

Every week discussions occur in real-time on a variety of topics. Users follow the discussions using hashtags. A hashtag is identified by the “#” sign.

There are numerous hashtags and chats that may interest you. To view a full list of discussions please click here. Here are just a few:

  • #edchat – A weekly discussion (2x on Tuesday) on a participant chosen topic
  • #edtech – A hashtag used by educational technology enthusiasts
  • #EduIT – A hashtag for Educational IT specialists
  • #BlackEdu – A weekly conversation about serving the underrepresented and overcoming the opportunity gap
  • #STEM – A hashtag used by educators discussing issues in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education

Use an app to make sense of Twitter

Twitter is a powerful social network that can be used to connect, share, and explore multiple topics. There are several services out there that can help you synthesize the “firehose” of information

On an Android device, I use the official Twitter app on Android and iPad/iPhone.

On my computer, I use the Tweetdeck, or HootSuite app for Chrome. The reason for focusing on these is the use of columns.

You can watch how I negotiate these columns in this video screencast from one of my classes.

Use a service to help synthesize the “firehose” of information available

It can often become overwhelming to review the wealth of information available on Twitter. To help search and sift through all of this information, there are several options to help you curate.

To keep it simple, services like Paper.li and Scoop.it will take the links that your friends share on Twitter and/or Facebook and provide you with a daily “newspaper” of the most important things you need to know from that day.

If you want to get a little more online content to consume, apps on your Android device, iPhone, and iPad like NuzzelFeedly, or Flipboard will take the links from Twitter, Facebook, and other social feeds to create a visually stunning magazine that you can review and “read” what you may have missed during the day. I use Feedly and Nuzzel daily.

These web apps and platforms allow you to review links and information shared on Twitter, and research how it all interconnects to other online informational sources.

Photo by Chris J. Davis on Unsplash

The post Using Twitter for Teaching, Learning, and Socializing first appeared on W. Ian O'Byrne.

Public schools are as good as private schools

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 5:58am in

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Education

The widely held myth that private schools deliver better results than public schools has taken another blow. A new study of NAPLAN results shows that public schools do as well as private schools despite the large resource advantage of private schools.


Credit – Unsplash

After taking account of the socio-economic background of students, the report found that private schools do not have higher average student achievement in standardized literacy and numeracy tests than public schools in any grade tested. Nor do private schools provide greater progress in reading and numeracy from Grade 3 through Grade 9. The study concludes:

“The results support and extend on previous studies using large-scale samples and similar methodology which indicate that school sector differences are largely explained by differences in the background characteristics of students who select into different school sectors.” [p.22]

It said that the results raise serious questions about the worth of private school education, especially one heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.

“These results lend additional support to the argument that the high investment in private schooling in Australia does not necessarily lead to better achievement outcomes for students attending those schools.” [p. 24]

Moreover:

“In terms of equity, our results support analysis from the OECD in indicating that a large independent school sector, underpinned by market values of competition and choice, and supported by high levels of government funding are not optimal features of an equitable education system.” [p. 28]

The study looked at a sample of 2,762 Australian students in grades 3, 5, 7 and 9 who completed NAPLAN between 2008 and 2018. It examined whether differences in literacy and numeracy achievement were related to attendance at public or private schools. It examined whether school sector differences were evident in NAPLAN achievement both at points of time and whether there were differences over time in the progression of students from Grade 3 to Grade 9.

Private school students marginally outperformed their public school counterparts in grades 7 and 9 in the raw scores, but the small differences disappeared after socio-economic status and prior achievement were included as covariates. No advantage of attendance at private schools was evident in grades 3 and 5.

The longitudinal analysis compared growth trajectories of NAPLAN results for different groups of students: those remaining in the public sector from grades 3 through 9, compared with those who remain in the private sector across this period, or shift to the private sector as they start secondary school. Despite the differences in student background, the study found that students in both school sectors had similar growth trajectories in reading and numeracy from grade 3 through 9.

As the study noted, this provides evidence that private schools do not add value relative to public schools. The higher achievement of students in private schools in raw scores is dependent on the characteristics of the students who select into the schools, rather than any advantageous feature of the school sector learning environment.

The study further notes that the results highlight old questions about the utility of persistently high levels of taxpayer funding of private schools in Australia.

“If private schools do not “value add” in terms of improving achievement in basic skills testing and tend to increase segregation based on student background and family socioeconomic status, some serious policy questions need to be asked about school funding structures.” [p.28]

The study also concluded that prior achievement is by far the largest predictor of student results in public and private schools, even more than socioeconomic background. Inclusion of prior achievement in NAPLAN is intended as a measure of student ability.

However, as a recent study has shown, this approach to analysing student and school results is fundamentally flawed. Prior achievement of students is also affected by student and school background characteristics and other factors such as school resources, parental involvement and teaching practices. Inclusion of prior achievement as a variable dilutes or removes the effects of such factors.

This is demonstrated clearly by comparing the results of two analyses conducted by the new study. The analysis discussed above shows a significant effect of student background on NAPLAN results. However, when prior achievement is included in the analysis, the influence of student background is much reduced.

The study also adds weight to the large volume of evidence from overseas and Australian studies demonstrating that public schools do as well as, or better than, private schools. For example, the OECD report on the 2018 PISA tests found that student achievement in public schools in OECD countries was higher than in private schools [p. 158].

The Australian PISA 2018 report found no difference in student results in reading and science between public, Catholic and Independent schools after taking account of differences in student and school socioeconomic background [pp. 55, 198]. Public school students achieved higher results in mathematics than Catholic school students [p. 135].

Thus, public schools in Australia do as well as private schools despite having far fewer human and material resources than private schools and being disadvantaged by government funding policies that have heavily favoured private schools. It all suggests that private schools are less efficient than public schools in using their resources.

The Mindfulness of a Dog: Learning to Smell the Roses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 1:30am in

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Education

Part II of III: What I learned from my dog, Freya.

Beeb Documentary Next Week on American Evangelical Christian Support for Israel

Also on TV next Wednesday, 19th January 2021, at 9.00 pm in the evening, is a programme on BBC 4 on the support for Israel amongst American Evangelical Christians and their influence on Donald Trump’s administration, ‘Til Kingdom Come: Trump, Faith and Money. The blurb for this on page 89 of the Radio Times runs

Documentary exploring the relationship between American evangelicals and Israel’s foremost philanthropic institution, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and its influence on both nations’ foreign policies.

There’s an additional few paragraphs about the programme by Jack Searle on page 87, which states

This seems at first to be telling a small, local story: we’re in woodland in Kentucky, where a man loading an assault rifle in preparation for some target practice explains how Donald Trump, he feels, spoke up for ordinary folk like him. But he isn’t just a regular Republican voter. He’s an evangelical pastor whose calling in life is to raise money for Israel.

Maya Zinshtein’s film explores the global significance of US Christians, who believe Israel is the key to the Second Coming, and ow that partly explains Trump’s highly controversial relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. It forms a spiky fable about what happens when politics and rigid religious dogma interact.

Apocalypticism and the desire to hasten Christ’s return has been a very important strand in Christian Zionism since the 19th century. Historians and activists critical of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians, like Ilan Pappe and Tony Greenstein, have pointed out that Zionism first emerged amongst Christians in the 19th century. They wished to see the Jews return to Israel in order to fulfil, as they saw it, the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Support for Israel in America is now strongest amongst Christian evangelicals. The largest Zionist organisation in America by sheer numbers of members is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Jewish support for Israel is waning, especially among the young. American Jews were like their European coreligionists before the rise of the Nazis. They wished to stay in the countries in which they were born, and this attitude continued at least up to 1969. One of the Jewish magazines ran an article that year lamenting the lack of interest in Israel among Jewish Americans. The Neo-Conservative movement, founded by William Krystol, had its origins as an attempt to raise support for Israel amongst Americans. Young Jewish Americans are increasingly losing interest in Israel or actually becoming opposed to it, because of its treatment of its indigenous Arab population. The numbers of school leavers taking up the heritage tours of the country, sponsored by the Israel state as a way of gaining their support, is falling. Many Jewish young people have joined the BDS movement against goods produced in the occupied territories. As a result, Israel is shifting its efforts to muster support to American Christians.

I do wonder how many of those evangelical Christians would still be vocal in their support for Israel, if they knew that Israel pulls down monasteries and churches as well as mosques and that some of the extreme right-wing rabbis in Netanyahu’s coalition have said that they’d like to see every church in Israel pulled down as a place of idolatry. Or that the European founders of Israel really didn’t want Arabic Jews, the Mizrahim, settling in the country, and only accepted them because they needed their labour while also heavily discriminating against them. Possibly some might find this troublesome, but I’ve no doubt others would find some way to justify it and their continued support for the country.

BLM Activist Calls for Dictionary to Redefine Racism

Here’s something far more controversial after some of the posts I’ve put up recently. A few days ago, the writer and Youtuber Simon Webb put up on his channel, History Debunked, a piece about a worrying attempt by a young Black American woman, Kennedy Mitchum to change the definition of racism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Webb states that most people would say that racism means racial prejudice, or that there are more profound differences between racial groups than their skin colour and physical appearance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary currently defines racism as

  1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  2. A doctrine or political programme based on racism and designed to execute its policies.
  3. Racial prejudice or discrimination.

This wasn’t good enough for Mitchum. Three days after the death of George Floyd, with riots breaking out across America, she emailed the publisher calling for the definition to be changed in accordance with Critical Race Theory. This holds that racism is due to the imbalance of power in society, and implemented by the dominant racial group. Instead of telling Mitchum where to stick her suggestion, as Webb himself would have done, the publishers responded to her, telling her that this issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later and that a revision would be made. Peter Sokolofsky, one of the dictionary’s editors, stated that the second definition would be expanded to be even more explicit in its next edition, and would include systemic oppression as well as sample sentence, and would be formulated in consultation with academics in Black Studies.

Webb points out that if this is done, then it would redefine racism as something that only Whites do, and absolve people of colour of any responsibility for it on their part, or indeed see them as being racist at all, because Whites are the dominant race in Britain and America. This is, he claims, the attitude of many liberals and leftists, who believe that all White people are racist. It would also mean that Blacks, who hated Jews or Indians, would not be viewed as racist. He has personally seen such racism in the Caribbean street robbers of Hackney. They hated Orthodox Jews and used to go to Stamford Bridge to prey on the Jewish community there. He ends the video by stating that such a redefinition of racism would mean that all Whites in Britain and America are defined as racist but no other ethnic groups.

Changing the dictionary definition of racism – YouTube

There certainly is an attitude amongst some anti-racist activists that only White people can be racist and are never the victims. Way back in October 2019 Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, put up a post commenting on a report in the Guardian about complaints about an EHRC investigation into racism at Britain’s universities by a group of Black and Asian academics and students. The group, which included Heidi Mirza, the visiting professor of race, faith and culture and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fope Olaleye, the NUS’ Black students’ officer, Gargi Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology at the University of East London, and Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the racial equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, were outraged at the Commission because it dared to include anti-White, anti-English racism. This, they seemed to believe, detracted from the Commission’s true purpose, which was to combat White racism against Blacks and Asians.

Students of Colour Furious that Anti-White Prejudice is Considered to be Racism – YouTube

I’ve posted a number of pieces criticising the lack of attention and action against anti-White racism. At the moment the attitude that racism is something that only Whites are guilty of racism seems extremely prevalent. In fact, the situation regarding racial prejudice, abuse and violence is far more complex. About 20 years ago, before 9/11 and the subsequent massive rise in Islamophobia, Whites briefly formed the largest number of victims of racial abuse and violence. There are also tensions and conflict between different non-White minorities. In the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Birmingham, not between Blacks and Whites, but between Blacks and Asians. I’ve also heard that in one of the schools in Bristol in one of the very racially mixed areas, most of the playground fights were between different groups of Asians. Some people were aware that different ethnic groups also had their racial prejudices. Boy George mentioned it when he appeared on Max Headroom’s chat show on British TV in the 1980s, for which he was praised for his brave outspokenness by the world’s first computer generated video jockey.

There is, however, a real reluctance to tackle ethnic minority racism. A couple of years ago an Asian man told Diane Abbott that there should be more action on the racism members of ethnic minorities experienced at the hands of other non-Whites. Abbott told him she wasn’t going to do anything about it, because the Tories would use it to divide and rule. Like Kennedy Mitchum and the Critical Race Theorists, as well as the critics of the EHRC, she was solely focussed on tackling White racism.

That focus, in my opinion, explains why the Black comedian and anti-racist activist, Sophie Duker, felt she could get away with a joke about killing Whitey on Frankie Boyle’s podcast. Boyle had assembled a panel of mainly Black and Asian activists, to discuss the topic of how ethnic minorities were coming together to kill Whitey. Duker had made comments about racism being the product of an ideology of Whiteness, which was harming Blacks and Whites. She then said that they didn’t want to kill Whitey, before adding ‘we do really’. She was clearly joking, but her comment resulted in the corporation receiving 200 complaints. According to right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber, Alex Belfield, the Beeb is now being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police for what is described as a ‘hate incident’. His attitude is that while Duker’s comment was a joke, it should be unacceptable, just as making jokes about killing Blacks is unacceptable. See, for example, his piece ‘Reply BBC ‘Whitey’ Joker STAGGERING From Unapologetic Hate Lady Comedian’, which he put up on Youtube on the 8th January 2021. No, I’m not going to link to it. Even I have standards! I think one of the reasons she felt she could make the joke is because she and the other activists concentrate exclusively on White racism. Anti-White racism simply isn’t an issue with them. But anti-White racism, abuse and violence does occur, hence the angry complaints.

We really do need a study of anti-White racism and racism amongst ethnic minorities. Sir Alan Burns, a British colonial civil servant and former governor of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, discusses Black prejudice against Whites and other racial groups in his book, Colour Prejudice, published in 1948. Nigel Barley also discusses the blind spot Cameroonians had towards their own racism, as well as that of a Black American ethnologist in his The Innocent Anthropologist. The Black American was very racially aware. An idealist, he was inspired by notions of Black brotherhood and wished to live and be treated by the local people the same as one of them. He was shocked when they continued to regard him as they would White westerners, and failed to see how the Fulani traders rigged the local markets to exclude those from other tribes. As for the Camerounians generally, they commonly believed that only Whites were racist. Barley describes how they excused the massacre of French nuns in the Congo by the claim that the nuns were themselves racists. But they refused to recognise that their own hatred and contempt of the people he was studying, the Dowayo, was also racist.

Some Asian nations also have a reputation for racism. Back in the 1990s I found a book on Chinese xenophobia on sale in Waterstones in Bath. I’ve also read various books on Japan, which have also described how racist Japanese society is. I don’t know if it is still true, but one could only qualify as a Japanese citizen if both parents were Japanese. This meant that there was a sizable Korean community, who had lived in the country for generations, which had no civil rights under the law. In schools there was a strong suspicion of outsiders, so it has been claimed, which resulted in foreign students being segregated in separate classes. This is on the grounds that their Japanese language skills may not be good enough for inclusion with the rest of the pupils, but it is applied even to children who are fluent in the language. Outside Japan, expatriate or visiting Japanese will stick almost exclusively to themselves. Back in the 1990s there was a controversy in Australia, I believe, over the construction of a luxury resort there by the Japanese, because it was exclusively for Japanese and no-one else. I don’t mean by this to claim that all Japanese are racist. I’ve met people, who lived in Japan, who admire them and who told me that in their experience they were a very kind people. The travel writer and historian William Dalrymple also describes the anti-Black racism he encountered in India in his book, In Xanadu. Arriving at a railway station with a friend, a Black American soldier, he approached a group of Indian porters, only to see them turn away, sneering at the Black American simply for being Black. Again, I don’t wish to imply that all Indians are racist either.

Racism and racial prejudice exists amongst all peoples and ethnic groups to a greater or lesser degree, even in this country. It is about time that there were proper academic studies of it amongst non-White ethnic groups and anti-White racism in this country. At the moment there is a feeling amongst Whites that only White on Black racism is taken seriously, and that prejudice against Whites is not only acceptable, but being fostered by supposed anti-racist activists.

If the authorities are serious about tackling racism, and all forms of it, that needs to change.

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 5:26am in

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

Most viewed posts 2020: Private Schools: Blessed are the rich (Oct 14, 2020)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 5:00am in

Last year Shore’s income was $87.54 million. It is a rich school for kids of rich parents. It is also a charity. Yes, just like Habitat Australia, in Mount Street, North Sydney, just down the road from the school, Shore is a registered charity.

Credit – Unsplash

The Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore School) is in the news at the moment.  Some Year 12 brats have added spitting on homeless people to their must do list for their muck up day. That’s about as much attention they are going to get from me. I am more interested in the school they go to.

Last year Shore’s income was $87.54 million. It is a rich school for kids of rich parents. It is also a charity.  As such it gets perks such as income tax exemptions, goods and services tax concessions and deductible gift recipient status.

Try as I might, I cannot see why these super rich schools have any entitlements here. Take Wesley College in Victoria. The college had an income of $128.64 million in 2019. It has been involved in a colossal renovation program that includes $21 million for a music school, $16 million for a boarding facility, and $2.5 million to refurbish its boathouse.

Just down the road, Caulfield Grammar, another registered charity, with income in excess of $100 million, has been involved in constructing a new aquatic centre that will have an Olympic-sized swimming pool, with moveable floors and walls and so-called “wellbeing spaces” for dance, pilates, meditation and yoga.

Along with Haileybury College, Victoria and Knox Grammar School in New South Wales, these four schools are Australia’s richest schools and, together, spent more on new facilities and renovations than the poorest 1,800 schools combined. Wesley College, Haileybury College and Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne, together with Knox Grammar in Sydney, spent $402 million. They teach fewer than 13,000 students. The poorest 1,800 schools spent less than $370 million. They teach 107,000 students. Did someone just mention inequality?

Tired of hanging around wellbeing spaces and $21 million music schools? Come with me as we visit one of Australia’s poorest schools, Sheidow Park Primary School in South Australia. Let us tag along with principal Jennie-Marie Gorman, as she does her annual walk around the school with the finance officer and the grounds person. They pass windows held together by safety screens; they inspect the playgrounds built 20 years ago; they note the walls that haven’t been painted in 15 years; and they look again at the patch of exposed concrete in the front office, where the finance officer’s swivel chair has worn a hole in the carpet. That hole will be fixed in about five years if all goes to schedule. “We have a plan to carpet two to three classrooms a year, based on need, so the ones with the biggest holes in them or the biggest rips get replaced first”, Ms Gorman tells us. “We also need new carpet in the office, but we look at what the children need first and we put ourselves at the end of the line — which is just normal teacher stuff. That’s just how we operate”.

The conclusion here is obvious. The charity concession to non-government schools is propping up a massive two-class education system. On this evidence how can we use the word “egalitarianism” in a sentence now and keep a straight face?

It is not just the elite schools which have this charity status. The largest charity in Australia, the University of Melbourne, has grown fat on charity tax concessions. The last time I looked, the University had revenue in excess of $2.35 billion.

These tax concessions to registered charities reduce the revenue that would otherwise be available for government welfare projects. These concessions take over $1.3 billion off the government’s books each year.

The problem is in the definition. In 2013, the Commonwealth Parliament recognised a legislative clarification was needed to respond to the exponential growth of charities in Australia caused by governments retracting their historical welfare obligations. It was not so much a “legislative clarification” as it was the government opening up unprecedented access to the tax concession trough.

As long as your organisation is set up without a profit motive and comes together for a “charitable purpose” then, well, welcome to the trough. What is a charitable purpose? This is a definition that can stretch across an airfield and is applied recklessly. The Queensland Sugar Ltd (QSL) describes itself as “a not-for-profit, service organisation owned by Queensland cane growers and sugar millers, which is dedicated to serving their interests for the long-term prosperity of the Queensland sugar industry”. A strictly commercial operation, with no donors and no charity programs is recognised as a charity by the ACNC, in fact recognised as the fifth biggest charity in Australia!

Yes, hard to believe. Even harder is to understand Queensland Sugar’s deformed logic in justifying why it self-nominated to be on the charity register. In its Activity Information Statement to the charity regulator, QSL said, in response to the regulator’s question: “what charitable work did you do in 2018”? QSL replied (paraphrased), “Continued to promote the development of the Australian sugar industry through providing services to all of Queensland’s growers and Millers (sic). So there you have it! Every time you sit down for a cuppa and put sugar in your tea or coffee, QSL is right behind you nodding approvingly that it has just performed another charitable act. With millions of cups of tea and coffee consumed daily in Australia maybe it’s right that QSL is Australia’s fifth largest charity.

We have gone too far. After we abolish the world’s worst charity regulator, the Australian Charities & Not-for-profit Commission, we should stop all tax advantages for charities and philanthropic trusts, pending a complete review of the flawed Commonwealth Charities Act 2013. This review should cut away most existing charitable purposes and return the definition of charity back to its Samaritan roots.

History Debunked Calls for More Black Blood and Organ Donors to Show Black Lives Really Matter

This is another, really short video from History Debunked. It’s creator, Simon Webb, is an author, and has published several history books. He’s very definitely a man of the right, and many of his videos tackle and refute some of the myths and false history being promoted as part of the Black history movement. In this video he expresses his incredulity at the rioting and destruction of statues that broke out earlier this year with the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement. He finds it difficult to understand how defacing a statue of Winston Churchill or setting fire to the Union flag shows that Black lives matter. Black deaths at the hands of the cops are widely publicised, but they probably occur at the rate of less than one a year. There hasn’t been one for over a year now, and they may well only happen once every 2 to 3 years.

A far greater killer of Black lives is Sickle Cell Anaemia. This can result in episodes, known as Sickle Cell crises, that can produce blindness, disability and death. They can be treated with transfusions. There are differences in the blood of different races, so that Black people are better treated with blood from other Black people, Whites with White blood. But there is a terrible, pressing shortage of Black blood and organ donors. The NHS in London and Birmingham is currently seeking 5,000 Black blood donors so that they can treat the Black victims of this disease. Whites are twice as likely to donate blood and the organs of dead relatives as Blacks, which means, for example, that Blacks on average wait twice as long as Whites on dialysis for a kidney transplant. He therefore feels that the people, who protest against a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University, instead of demonstrating against injustices that may have occurred centuries ago, should donate blood in order to show that they really believe Black Lives Matter.

Saving black lives; a way forward for the Black Lives Matter Movement – YouTube

This is obviously a controversial view of BLM. The demonstrations and riots against the statues occurred because the historic western slave trade is seen as being inextricably linked to the terrible, underprivileged conditions of many western Blacks. Institutional racism in the police has been a particularly obvious cause of anger and resentment amongst the Black community. It could be said that it doesn’t matter how low the actual numbers of Black people killed by the cops are, it’s still too many. In fact, it’s questionable how disproportionate the number of Blacks killed by the cops compared to Whites actually is. Sargon of Gasbag, the Sage of Swindon, went through the official statistics in one of his videos and concluded that Whites were in far more danger of being killed by the police than Blacks. This certainly runs counter to the allegations made by BLM. Sargon is, however, extremely right-wing. Too right-wing for UKIP, as when he joined, more socially liberal members left. I don’t agree with Sargon’s views about Trump, capitalism or how British political theory begins and ends with John Locke, but he did present a very good case on this issue.

And it is true that Sickle Cell Anaemia is killing Black people. Black people are more prone to it thanks to an adaptation in their blood cells which makes them far less palatable to mosquitoes, and hence vulnerable to the malaria they carry, than Whites. And it is true that there is a terrible shortage of Black blood and organ donors. Various Black ‘slebs have appeared on The One Show to urge Black people to consider donating blood.

Years ago I read in the book Black Pioneers of Science and Invention, that the use of blood plasma to save lives in blood transfusions was the invention of a Black American doctor, who successfully used it on Brit injured in the Blitz. It would undoubtedly be great if more Black people followed in his footsteps by donating their blood to save other Black lives.

University degrees are not as valuable as they once were with the million dollar cheating industry.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 6:15am in

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Education

For the last decade it seems,  employers, most unknowingly, have not been able to take for granted that a degree, even from the most highly ranked universities, ensures that the holder of that degree actually studied and passed the courses indicated by the degree.

When a university graduate is employed, an employer should reasonably expect that the graduate will be able to evidence and exercise the attributes of the degree attained.

Whilst forgeries of testamurs and having other people sit examinations are century old problems, the advent of online learning including the electronic submission of assignments now seen at most traditional campuses, has created a multi-million-dollar cheating industry.

Higher education regulators around the world are aware of this threat. This is a threat not only to institutions and potential employers of graduates, but to the very essence of education. This is not a problem unique to Universities, we see these transgressions across all levels of academia be it, schools, colleges or professional organisations, most of which use online examinations and/or electronic assignment submissions.

If one can buy a degree or qualification by using proxies to undertake assignments and examinations, the true value of educational qualifications is eroded as well as the integrity of the institution awarding the degree.

Do we want engineers of our bridges and buildings, our medical professionals, our pilots, our technicians, etc. to have someone else undertake their assignments and exams?

Online cheating sites allow students to purchase and then submit original assignments, often written by academics or graduate students to earn additional income.

For those unaware of the thousands of sites available one only needs to Google “assignment writing services” to see the many sites available. Some governments, including Australia, have passed legislation banning the use of these sites; however, some with com.au addresses still exist in spite of the legislation.

Many of these sites are very sophisticated, including services which include money back guarantees when a pass mark is not achieved. Some cheating sites also offer distinctions and high distinctions for a higher payment. PhD theses are also available for the cost of some USD 35,000.

Universities worldwide have and continue to expend significant resources to assure academic integrity aimed at stopping contract cheating and examination fraud. However, without any fool proof solutions the results are questionable.

The move to more online education activities because of the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. On the positive side over the past decade software has significantly helped curtail plagiarism and, henceforth, promote a deeper understanding of academic integrity amongst students and faculty.

It is difficult to estimate the number of students who use contract cheating services but based on reports from across the globe the number would be at least 10 per cent. The scant evidence to hand shows that domestic students are as likely to use cheating services as foreign students. If these 10 per cent of students were expelled for cheating the already precarious financial position of some institutions would become untenable.

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