Friday, 15 December 2017

Szmerry Christmas 2017

You can enjoy your holiday this year, safe in the knowledge that wherever you are, a certain smug      twat is smiling complacently, misguidedly believing that for yet another year, he has fooled us all.

What Christmas Cheer?

Christmas is an offering thrown to to the cultural black hole at the center of British society. What black hole? What center? What society? Fraulein Narrator, we are lost.

Fear not, dear reader: we would not subject you to the horror of new ideas (as if we have any). We go back to the old. If, as Margaret Thatcher said "There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families", then the world must essentially feature a black hole. The effects of the black hole are seen in the disintegration of communal spirits, and the subsequent replacement of the visible manifestations of collective culture with solipsitically formulated replicants. If we see X Factor (or Pop Idol, or Britain's Got Talent) and Inside Out as being related, then we see that in a way, the basic configuration of "Talent" shows is to turn our mental processes inside out, in a larger-than-life-format. Our mental judgments could only gain such great power as to cause roaring cheers at every moment of approval, and loud buzzing, a glowing red cross, at our disapproval, within our minds. Unless, of course, we begin to see the proclamations of a who's-who panel of celebrities as the products of our own minds. X Factor is a capitulation to the black hole.

The replacement for community itself is the anonymous crowd. Although phones are often singled out as isolating us from each other and engendering narcissism, little discussed is how the various locations and systems we interact with actively prevent the formation of collective mindsets. While it is true that many people who share an environment (e.g. a workplace or a school) will end up having similar attitudes and approaches to a number of things, the largest part of this apparently collective mindset will be the result of external impositions, rather than the conscious decisions of individuals. This is because in so many environments, the individuals who form the anonymous crowd (be it a crowd of workers, students, cinema-goers, shoppers, etc.) are denied the power to alter their environment, and even more fundamentally the power to act within it. Having a power to act means no longer being fully bound to the dynamic between a consumer-object passing through a set of mechanisms and those who control the mechanisms. Symbolic concessions are the only thing that the anonymous crowd that gathers around a place are given. Those in control of the mechanisms are willing to introduce "change", so long as it does not challenge their authority to control the mechanisms. What is important about symbolic concessions is that the mechanism retains the functions it had before whatever "change" supposedly occurred. The ultimate supremacy of the mechanisms that make up an environment  over the people who are subject to it is asserted. In such structures, the community cannot even decide what it is, or determine the sense in which it is a community. Because it has little to no active presence in the environment, it is open to being fractured at the will of management, and represents no empowerment for the individuals that comprise it.

The concept of community has to be sold back to the people. This is again a sign of the black hole's effects. Gradually, cultural entities are replaced with simulations. "This is what hard work looks like", "This is what talent looks like", or in the case of the Army, "This is belonging". Culture is being liquidated. As it is liquidated, we are increasingly left stranded. Soon what will disappear are not only traditions and cultures, but the very possibility of them existing at all. As the symbols that we exchange to form a culture decay, become less valuable, have fewer connections to anything beyond the narrow circles of our own lives, we are forced to retreat, as the smothering fog of a second, virtual Industrial Revolution descends upon us. More and more, we are enveloped in the darkness of this fog, unable to really depend on anything or anyone, and suffer the stupefying effects it has on our minds.  Culture becomes another name for a cycle of pointless offerings, pseudo-practices and countless layers of self-delusion.

Monday, 4 December 2017

It says here you're a Vegetarian...

As part of the transition to the the new school building in late 2016, Hampstead's Canteen transitioned to a cashless biometric payment system. Recently, there have a number of reports of students being denied certain items of food, or in some cases all of the items available, because they are incorrectly listed on the system as being unable to eat them.

Generally, students have been told to have their parents write to the school to rectify any mistakenly recorded dietary preferences. It is difficult to ascertain the exact frequency of such events, but if it turns out that dietary preferences will continue to be erroneously recorded in the future, it seems incumbent upon the school to undertake further steps to prevent it, and to the greatest extent possible, minimize its effects.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Edexcel Introduce Maths Listening Exam

As part of a scheme to screw absolutely everyone over reforms to the GCSE specification, Edexcel is to introduce a Maths listening exam.

We caught up with Edexcel representative Mark S. Kheem to get to grips with the new qualification.
According to an official release, the maths listening exam will be comprised of sixteen questions, each read out sequentially. After every question has been read out, the entire set is read out once more. Exclusive to The Trash, here's a sample you can expect to see (hear) in your summer examinations:

"Jack has a number of numbers. Aisha also has a number of numbers, each of these being the number of numbers that everyone else who has a number of numbers has. If Jack has more numbers than Aisha, can we be sure that Jack has more numbers than anyone else? Explain your answer."

"If a parent picks the most obtuse way humanely possible to distribute food, how likely is it that all of their children will simultaneously throw a tantrum? Hence show that 3n²-4=8.

"Picture a pentagon formed by placing an equilateral triangle with the same side length as a square on top of such a square. Then picture two squares of side length a third the side length of the square placed vertically a third of the way into the square, horizontally a quarter of the way in from each side of the larger square respectively. Now picture a rectangle placed at the bottom of the pentagon. You should see something a bit like a cartoon house. Can you picture yourself inside it? Using Pythagoras' Theorem, explain your answer."

Although many have praised the "rigorously rigorous rigor" of the new specification, others have raised concerns that a maths listening exam is "probably the worst thing that anyone has ever come up with". We put this point to Mark S. Kheem, who said: "logically speaking, the rational thing to do is to undertake a considered course of action supported by scientifically gathered empirical evidence, and let me tell you, I've seen the figures". Although its unclear what "the figures" are, we appreciate access to Mark S. Kheem, and welcome any and all moves towards transparency and openness.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a spoof.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Restricted Access to A-Levels

It is all very well to talk in abstracts, but perhaps a closer, more concrete take on the issues at hand is needed. Although The Trash has often spoken of Hampstead's obsession with league tables and results, the excesses of this obsession are multiple and varied; so much so that it is often difficult to know where to begin.

Regardless, we must begin somewhere. Beneath the surface of "amazing results" and a "commitment to progression", Hampstead kicked out almost 40 students between Years 12 and 13. Although it is made fairly clear that students must "re-enroll" for the second year, the situation is not as simple as a contractual agreement between two participants (the students and the school). To absolve themselves of responsibility, a first claim the school might make is that "students are responsible for their results, and Sixth Formers should behave more like adults than children". In spite of what truth it might contain, accepting this view wholesale and in isolation leaves us with an incomplete perspective, and ultimately relies on the masses and masses of unspoken rhetoric about "the real world", "toughness" and "facing up to reality" to make any sense at all. For one, the vast majority of Sixth Formers at Hampstead were also at Hampstead throughout secondary school; it ought to be asked where exactly they acquired whatever traits are supposedly responsible for their poor performance at A Level. Equally, where does Hampstead somehow cease being actively involved in the life of one of its students? "You have been here for 6 years, but now, I am afraid, we must throw you to the wind."

We are told that there is a magic line separating GCSEs and A Levels. No such thing truly exists. It is plainly true that a lot of things (must) change as one transitions, but (in Hampstead at least) many things do not. With their strictly enforced codes on uniform and tucked in shirts, their constant watching presence, “planners out all lesson”, and other assertions of power for the sake of it throughout lower secondary, the Management refuses to allow independence, and leaves even the possibility of independence foreclosed. To do well at GCSE, students are largely better off mindlessly swallowing all the mark schemes and factoids they are ceaselessly fed than they are trying to understand, let alone develop a genuine interest in, a subject. Five years of this treatment hardly work wonders for "personal development" or "flourishing", or any of the vapid euphemisms that serve to conceal the fact that those subjected to such a destructive system actually have to live with it. So without independence or interest, students start their A Levels. But if they fall short, it is seen as their fault for lacking the very things of which they have been systematically deprived; a chance to be independent, and a wide space to pursue and develop interests.

When it comes to shoving tens of students out, perhaps a case for the ruthlessness of bureaucratic management is not so clear.