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.

Comments Off on Ken Boston outsources, falls on sword…

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on London forces a liberal rethink

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.


…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:
Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Make no mistake: it could be here.

Image hosted by

But do not blame all of Islam.

Image hosted by
Read the rest of this entry »

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

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 »

Comments Off on Guardian daily comment: Our leaders must speak up

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »


All About Evil

All About Evil

In the light of London and so much else, I again turned to another of the best books of the past decade, along with Amin Maalouf’s On Identity, referred to in more depth in my English and ESL Blog recently. This other book is Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (Pimlico edition 2001). The head link here is to psychologist of the mind and language Steven Pinker, a review first published in the New York Times. Pinker wrote:
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on All About Evil

Posted by on July 13, 2005 in book reviews, British, current affairs, events, faith and philosophy, History, human rights, interfaith, London, terrorism, Top read, writers


Cultural diversity reflected in victims

I am glad the Sydney Morning Herald ran this story. It deserves even more prominence.

Terrorists and fanatics are the enemies of EVERY ONE OF US.
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Cultural diversity reflected in victims

Posted by on July 12, 2005 in events, interfaith, Islam, London, terrorism


Franchise terrorism: ‘Trying to hit al-Qa’ida is like trying to hit jelly’

From The Independent (London):
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Franchise terrorism: ‘Trying to hit al-Qa’ida is like trying to hit jelly’

Posted by on July 11, 2005 in British, current affairs, Islam, London, terrorism



Image hosted by
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on London

Posted by on July 8, 2005 in events, London, terrorism


Islam Online- London Blasts…What About British Muslims?

Last one today, and then I am definitely taking a blogging break for a day or two… But this is an important perspective.
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Islam Online- London Blasts…What About British Muslims?

Posted by on July 8, 2005 in British, current affairs, faith and philosophy, Islam, London, terrorism


Lernaean Hydra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhat does this remind you of?

The Hydra was said to be the sibling of the Nemean Lion, and thus seeking revenge for Heracles’ slaying of it. As such, it was said to have been chosen as a task for Heracles so that Heracles would likely die.

Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Heracles covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes and fired flaming arrows into its lair to draw it out. He then confronted it, but upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back…

See Asia Times Sep 11, 2004:
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Lernaean Hydra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted by on July 8, 2005 in current affairs, Islam, London, terrorism


BBC NEWS Multiple blasts paralyse London

O God of many names
Lover of all nations
We pray for peace
in our hearts
in our homes
in our nations
in our world
The peace of your will
The peace of our need.

— George Appleton, The Oxford Book of Prayer (Oxford University Press, 1985)

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHorrible, really horrible. I just saw Tony Blair give a speech in patent, unfeigned agony, as it is clear now that this is a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks. (I drafted this entry last night.)

It is an awful way to be reminded of many uncomfortable things, such as that those who do such demonic things, and that is what they are, are the sworn enemies of all peaceable men and women, whatever their religious beliefs or none. I do not think the perpetrators of such atrocities as those unfolding in London right now could possibly have a RELIGIOUS belief…

I am glad to have returned my own thought earlier today to Amin Maalouf:
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on BBC NEWS Multiple blasts paralyse London

Posted by on July 8, 2005 in British, current affairs, Islam, London, peace, terrorism