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Category Archives: London

Ken Boston outsources, falls on sword…

I will give Ken Boston some marks for integrity, to judge from Australian steps down as Britain’s exams chief after marking debacle. Ken Boston is a familiar name to any of us who were teaching here in NSW in the 80s and 90s. As the article explains: “Dr Boston, 65, was instrumental in delivering many reforms to the NSW education system during the early 1990s under Dr Terry Metherell. He has headed the British authority since 2002.” Here is what happened, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

ONE of Britain’s most highly paid and powerful public servants, the former NSW education chief Ken Boston, has resigned his £328,000 ($873,000)-a-year post after a chaotic round of national curriculum tests.

Dr Boston, who began his career as a teacher in Victoria and was in his sixth year at the helm of the British schools testing watchdog, announced that he believed in public officials "taking responsibility when things go wrong".

Thousands of British children aged 11 and 14 received late – or incorrect – Standard Assessment Test results this year after the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority outsourced their administration to an American company, ETS, which signed a £156 million contract for the job. The British Government sacked the company in August.

Known as SATs, the tests are given at the end of years 2, 6 and 9 and are designed to measure children’s progress in comparison with peers born in the same month. The mess led the Government to drop the tests for 14-year-olds and there has been debate about scrapping the tests for 11-year-olds.

An inquiry by Lord Sutherland was launched into the disastrous round of SATs three months ago and is widely predicted to contain serious criticisms of the authority. The report is due to be handed down in London tomorrow…

He said at the weekend that the performance of ETS had been "quite unacceptable" and repeated an apology issued to the 1.2 million students who took the tests and their teachers at the end of the summer term in Britain.

Criticism of Dr Boston has been tough since the disastrous results and he has come under pressure about his salary package, which includes the use of a £1 million apartment in London’s fashionable Chelsea district as well as six business-class flights a year back to Australia. London newspapers have also made an issue of his ownership of a yacht in Sydney…

Our measurement fetish – and theirs in the UK, and ditto in the USA — really needs to be looked at in the light of these events, not to mention the perils of outsourcing to private concerns. The same mob did our Adult Literacy Survey under Howard in 2006: Australian Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2 (with comments by Jim Belshaw).

I wrote more on the Educational Testing Service a year ago on English/ESL: Email about the Educational Testing Service.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2008 in Australia, awful warnings, Brendan Nelson, curriculum, education, exams and assessment, future schooling, Jim Belshaw, John Howard, literacy, London

 

Al-Qaeda a virtual network

Zawahiri is not saying much that is new. The only real difference with what has gone before is the explicit focus on Britain. This does not indicate any direct link with the London bombs.

Whenever there has been an attack there has been a knee-jerk search for overseas links or for some kind of overall mastermind. No investigations into the London bombs have revealed any such connections.

Instead, we need to face up to the simple truth that bin Laden, Zawahiri et al do not need to organise attacks directly. They merely wait for the message they have spread around the world to inspire others. Al-Qaeda is now an idea, not an organisation. We now have a situation where autonomous cells carry out attacks on targets and at times of their own choosing, which are then applauded by al-Qaeda leaders of global infamy but limited practical ability to execute or organise strikes. This is exactly as Zawahiri and bin Laden had hoped. This is a virtual terrorist network, not a real one.

There may have been no mass uprising in the Islamic world, perhaps due to the sense and humanity of most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims rather than any counter-terrorist strategy pursued by the West, but an increasing number of angry people have answered the call.

Zawahiri portrayed himself as a warrior and a statesman in the video broadcast on Thursday. He did not need any props to demonstrate his extraordinary gift for media manipulation.

This seems to me a very sensible article. Read the rest of this entry »

 

London forces a liberal rethink

I dealt with this typical Akerman contribution to the destruction of harmony in our society last week in my more public mode. So I won’t bother with his substandard logic and ersatz patriotism this time.

It is disturbing to reflect, though, that my genocidal friend yesterday admits his opinions derive from The Daily Telegraph and talk-back radio. By driving the debate in this polarised fashion, by blurring distinctions that must be made if any sane discourse on the current world situation is to be even possible, and by even more reprehensibly doing this for the sake of “ratings” rather than truth, is more than irresponsible. It is actually HELPING the cause of terrorism. Fomenting hate in such a broad-brush manner to include all of a group, such as all Muslims, or at least so the vulnerable and uncritical readers and listeners take it whatever the hired mouth might really think, is in fact to give ammunition to those who say: see, they hate you, they don’t accept you, they are at war with you.

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Posted by on July 25, 2005 in America, Australia and Australian, culture wars, fundamentalism and extremism, Islam, London, media watch, Multicultural, personal, right wing politics, Salt Mine, terrorism

 

Boy, 4, saw girl’s rape, police say — and such stories.

Link.

…In a separate development, the NSW Government will consider changing court rules to stop people distorting the trial process following the antics of four brothers convicted of gang rape.

The Premier, Bob Carr, said he accepted comments by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, that measures to ensure a fair trial had been “pushed to their limits” and may have been abused.

The eldest of the brothers feigned mental illness, sacked various lawyers, threatened the victims’ relatives and revealed prior rape convictions. All four claimed they were victims of an anti-Muslim conspiracy.

But then these guys, assuming the allegations are all true, are simply debased scum, and whatever they may have claimed about being “victims” is a pathetic attempt to hide under the skirts of Mummy Islam, not a proper reflection on the majority of good people of that faith.

And we should not buy their pathetic excuses for a moment. As Geraldine Doogue’s first guest, Dr Anas Altikriti, Iraqi-born president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said this morning, murder, rape, terrorism, and so on are essentially godless and should not ever be prefaced with words like Muslim, Islamic, Christian, or whatever.

He also argued that a little consistency would be nice. We should remember that people blown up in Iraq, for example, whether by the current crop of extremist insurgents, or by US and Coalition forces operating, a couple of years ago, from a distance and from a great height, are as much people blown up as all those of many faiths and backgrounds were in London. Except by some weird moral calculus where “our” deaths somehow matter more than “their” deaths, it’s all the same.

As he wrote in The Guardian a year ago:
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Posted by on July 23, 2005 in Australia and Australian, British, Crime and/or crime fiction, culture wars, current affairs, Islam, London, media watch, Multicultural, NSW politics, terrorism

 

BBC NEWS | Have Your Say | London one week on: Your thoughts

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Make no mistake: it could be here.

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But do not blame all of Islam.

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Posted by on July 15, 2005 in British, Islam, London, terrorism

 

Guardian daily comment: Our leaders must speak up

Also worth reading. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2005 in British, Islam, London, terrorism

 

The Atlantic Online | June 2003 | The Logic of Suicide Terrorism | Bruce Hoffman

This is well worth reading.

…The terrorists are lethally flexible and inventive. A person wearing a bomb is far more dangerous and far more difficult to defend against than a timed device left to explode in a marketplace. This human weapons system can effect last-minute changes based on the ease of approach, the paucity or density of people, and the security measures in evidence. On a Thursday afternoon in March of last year a reportedly smiling, self-satisfied bomber strolled down King George Street, in the heart of Jerusalem, looking for just the right target. He found it in a crowd of shoppers gathered in front of the trendy Aroma Café, near the corner of Agrippas Street. In a fusillade of nails and other bits of metal two victims were killed and fifty-six wounded. Similarly, in April of last year a female suicide bomber tried to enter the Mahane Yehuda open-air market—the fourth woman to make such an attempt in four months—but was deterred by a strong police presence. So she simply walked up to a bus stop packed with shoppers hurrying home before the Sabbath and detonated her explosives, killing six and wounding seventy-three.

Suicide bombing initially seemed the desperate act of lone individuals, but it is not undertaken alone. Invariably, a terrorist organization such as Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has recruited the bomber, conducted reconnaissance, prepared the explosive device, and identified a target—explaining that if it turns out to be guarded or protected, any crowded place nearby will do. “We hardly ever find that the suicide bomber came by himself,” a police officer explained to me. “There is always a handler.” In fact, in some cases a handler has used a cell phone or other device to trigger the blast from a distance. A policeman told me, “There was one event where a suicide bomber had been told all he had to do was to carry the bomb and plant explosives in a certain place. But the bomb was remote-control detonated.”

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