Believing the lecturer (a rant)

listen and believe

So I had an interesting conversation with some of my classmates, wherein I talked about the contents of a previous lecture, in which the lecturer, attempting to explain the 50’s mystique, read from an article entitled “Only a Mad Woman would call the 50s a golden age”, which sort of implied that the nostalgic, rose-tinted view of the 50’s is a recent phenomenon attributable to the TV show Mad Men. That didn’t sound right at all. I know that’s bullshit, because I used to watch the 70’s sitcom Happy Days, a show that uncritically exonerates the 50’s is this golden decade in which nothing went wrong.

When I actually researched the article, I found out that this was lifted from The Daily Mail (I checked word for word, and it was the correct one), a tabloid newspaper with about as much credibility as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The article itself was written by Liz Hodgkinson, a noted feminist who writes for the Femail column (the UK equivalent of Jezebel that’s somehow part of a fervently right-wing paper).

In the same lecture, we were treated to the first episode of a 2002 BBC documentary entitled “Century of the Self”, which was made by Adam Curtis, a glorified conspiracy theorist who apparently has a reputation for manipulative film-making tactics designed to hand-hold you towards his conclusion. The central assertion is that modern consumer culture is essentially the product of Edward Bernays and the ideas of the Freud family. Even if it was largely factual, it was exquisite propaganda, and had the tendency to imply rather bold claims that could easily be debunked. For instance, one part of the film implied that Edward Bernays was responsible for getting women to smoke, which Curtis would be successful in having you believe if you’re a moron. A quick google search will yield several photos and/or illustrations that show women smoking (I found an image dating back to 1906).

Anyways, after I explained this (in greater detail, I just condensed it in this post so I could get to the point), one of my classmates apparently told me that I should just listen to whatever the lecturer has to say, with weak arguments such as “how many degrees do I have” or “how long have I been in art”. None of those questions were even fucking relevant. My argument is that you should take what a lecturer says with at least some scepticism. You should be critically analysing what you’ve been taught, but apparently he disagrees. He thought I should basically sponge up what the lecturer says without thinking about it. Effectively, he argued that I should accept academic dogma uncritically. Gee, where have I heard this before?

anita sarkeesian

There is a very good reason I don’t just sit there and accept what the lecturer has to say unless I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s factual. As I’ve written about several times on this site, you have crazy left-wing ideologues who constantly lie about sexism, racism, so-called Islamophobia, and they run rampant on the mainstream media. Such ideologues are also found in academia, in the form of far-left academics who preach Marxism and social justice as if it were gospel. As we have seen over the past few years, we know that Marxist lecturers have been using their position to indoctrinate young people into the cult of social justice, and if that’s true, how can I not be sceptical of what they’re saying?

Besides, people forget that this “listen and believe” attitude isn’t just limited to leftists. The conservative Christians also pulled this crap too when Bush Jr. was President, or did everyone forget? In fact, you get this mentality from any brand of authoritarian ideology. Given that you get at least some Marxism in every university, I have to be sceptical of what I’m taught. Failing to be sceptical would be a dereliction of every value I hold dear.

The other reason I can’t accept such a proposition is because if you apply that logic, it can become dangerous. If you just sponge up everything a lecturer says uncritically, then you can get tricked into believing outright falsehoods such as white privilege, the patriarchy, and so on. Besides, if you’re willing to just listen and believe in the case of lecturers, then why not apply this logic to priests, imams, newsmen and politicians? If you won’t, then you’re not being consistent in your values. If you do, then your naivety will be a con artist’s best friend. After all, a good old confidence trick can only work if you trust the con artist.

I’m not trying to say that all university lecturers are con artists. I’m sure most of them have standards, and I’m certainly not suspecting art teachers, but I’m saying that students should be sceptical of their lecturers, just as they should be sceptical of the media, the politicians, and organised religion. In that sense I’m applying my sceptical principles universally, and believe that everyone else should. Is that really such a bad thing?

Why we should abolish the Welsh Baccalaureate

welsh bac

Don’t let the poster fool you. It’s far worse than it seems.

As my time in Coleg Sir Gar will soon come to its natural end, I think it’s time that I addressed a subject that has bothered me for nearly three years, but have not been at much liberty to post about until now – the Welsh Baccalaureate. Since I’m sure most of the world outside Wales won’t know, the Welsh Baccalaureate (which we all just call the “Welsh Bac”) is a secondary qualification that supposedly “combines experiences and projects that help you to develop as an individual”, and claims to “equip you for your next steps for work, university and for life”. However, my experience has shown the opposite.

The Welsh Baccalaureate is perhaps the most reviled aspect of life in college. The main problem is that the government requires all further education students to take it along with the course they want to do. Unless you’re on a degree course, this means that you have a secondary qualification appended to your own course without your consent, but if you’re actually doing the Welsh Bac, that’s the least of your worries. Apparently they attach it to your course in such a way that failing the Welsh Bac means failing your existing course, which I always thought was totally unfair. Why should students have to fail a course they want to take because they failed at something most students don’t even want?

What you do in the Welsh Bac is often irrelevant to the course you plan on doing. Throughout the programme, you spend your time writing and doing exercises about social issues, typically from the left wing point of view, which brings me to another concern I have. It is claimed that the Welsh Bac helps students develop critical thinking, but from my experience, the course seemed to be a hotbed of mainstream left-wing idealism. The tutor I had was an optimistic leftist who never really questioned what she was showing us, and she was even willing to show the movie I Am – a idealistic, self-indulgent documentary from the director of Ace Ventura – and she took its shady and often pseudo-scientific arguments as facts. It doesn’t help that she also used her position as a teacher to advance the idea of “global citizenship”, a subject that was never debated even once in the course.

If you do the Welsh Bac, whether by choice or not, you ultimately find yourself saddled with the task of writing an “individual investigation”, an academic report wherein you’re supposed to talk about a serious topic, and you have to compare the way said issue is handled in both Wales and a country of your choice. On top of that, it has to be at least 3,000 words long, which isn’t impossible, but still very annoying when you’re trying to concentrate on the real coursework. Also, depending on what topic you chose, finding the right information could be a hellishly frustrating task, and what good does this individual investigation do? Other than showing you what it’s like to write a degree-style academic report, it doesn’t do much good, especially if you consider that I only wrote it because I had to. If I had any choice in the matter, I wouldn’t have done the Welsh Bac at all.

The Welsh Bacc also comes with a language module, which is supposedly aimed at helping you learn a new language. However, in all the times I’ve had to do the Welsh Bacc, you weren’t given a choice of what language you wanted to learn, and they used it as a way of forcing English-speaking teenagers to learn Welsh. In 2013, this became my chief complaint against the Welsh Bac, and the source of the worst meltdown I’ve had so far. I could have handled it better, but I’m not exactly wrong. In my current class, the popular consensus is that the Welsh Bac does nothing except adding unnecessary frustration. That’s why I personally feel that the Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything except giving students far more work to do than they actually need.

Of course, there are those who support the Welsh Bac (and I bet those same people are out of touch with the young people), and they would claim that the Welsh Bac offers a broader student experience than what you’d have with just A-levels. I should also mention that the chief benefit of passing the Welsh Bac is that it gives you additional UCAS points to support your application for university (at most, you can get 120 UCAS points from it), but while a lot of universities accept the Welsh Bac, some universities, such as Warwick and Cambridge, don’t value the Welsh Bac compared to a single A-level. Worse still, if for the sake of argument you’re unfortunate enough to be taking the Welsh Bac on top of three A-levels, the combined workload will put you under unnecessary stress, which may actually hinder your chances of successfully getting into university. So on top of it being a useless qualification you’ll only use once in your life, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress that could ruin your chance of getting a degree, which ultimately defeats the point of trying to get the 120 UCAS points in the first place.

So if you live outside Wales or didn’t know what the Welsh Bac is, I hope I’ve given you an idea on what it actually is, and why we should get rid of it. The Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything good for a student, and even if it did, what good is it if the student isn’t given any choice in the matter. A student’s education should be a matter of their choice, because it’s ultimately their future on the line. If the Welsh government really cared about the education of its students, then they should abolish the Welsh Bac, or at least put an end to it being required in further education college, because as long as it’s mandatory, it’s nothing more than another reason why it sucks to be a young person in Wales.

Looking to the future


Not representative of what’s actually coming.

Three years ago, I would have been utterly against the idea of going to university, believing that I was defiant in my refusal to go to university when everyone else was. Three years later, I’m not only optimistic about doing a three-year illustration course in Swansea, but I also now realize that everything I believed about going to university as a teenager was complete bunk.

I’ve been in college for nearly four years, and in that time, there are a lot of things I’ve had to think about, and at some point, I ran into a critical dilemma. This would be my final year in college, but I had no plan for what to do next. I had nothing but disdain for the video games industry, and while I had plenty of creative ideas for future projects (and I still do, with more to come), and didn’t exactly specify where I wanted to go with them. It wasn’t until September that I decided to finally discuss university as an option. By this point, nearly everyone I knew was at least considering it, even if some didn’t want to go to university the year before. Unlike previous years, however, I actually saw the reason why people were going to university, and sought out my own reasons for going as well. I also want through a lengthy decision process where I contemplated fine art, illustration, creative writing, and at one point even film studies, before eventually settling on the BA Illustation course at the Swansea College of Art.

Naturally, this decision came as a shock my mother, who had thought that I was jumping into a risky decision without giving it any thought. For the first month of the decision process, she was right, but after I did more reading, my excitement and understanding grew. Predictably enough, both my parents had issue with my firm decision to study away from home, and perhaps rightly so, since this would perhaps be the most radical change in my life in nearly a decade. They tried using every argument to convince me to change my mind, even going so far as to argue that I couldn’t live in halls because I had autism. That only made it impossible for me to take their concerns seriously, since they were all based on the overprotective paranoia of neurotypical parents.

When making this decision, I fully understood that I was taking a big risk. In fact, that element of risk made it even more attractive. However, what they didn’t see at the beginning (I hope they do now) was that I wasn’t taking this chance just to leave the nest as quickly as possible. The strong desire for independence was a key factor in my decision, but I want to go to university now because I have great concern for my future. I worried that I was doomed to walk my 20’s without any idea of what I want to do, all while I’d still be painfully single, living with my parents, and trapped with the notion that my autism is some kind of social barrier (an idea I have been fighting relentlessly against). I had to ask myself, “is this my future?”

All that aside, now that I’ve decided firmly where I want to go (even if UCAS has no idea as of yet), I still have one unresolved question – where do I from there? Since the beginnings of the creative renaissance I’ve experienced in the BTEC art course, I’ve been getting tons of ideas for various projects (with some ideas coming from the strangest places), and according to the university’s website, Swansea’s illustration course provides a good foundation for a career as a self-employed artist/designer, an illustrator for a major publishing company, a children’s book author/illustrator, or even a teacher, and perhaps there are other possibilities I don’t know of yet.

Thankfully, I have three more years to decide where I want to go after Swansea (I’ll probably be offered the chance to do a master’s degree, which I’ll respectfully decline), but in the mean time, I have a vague idea of where I’m going, it’s going to be fun. The main thing I’ll get out of this is a new experience, and a new outlook on life that I desperately need. Maybe I’ll find the one thing I’ve been longing for all this time.

Education is not a privilege

education cuts

Over the past five years, we’ve witnessed the Tory government and our Prime Minister David Cameron attacking everything that makes people’s lives easier just to keep their rich friends afloat. The government seems to have a particular hatred for education, as evidenced by a checklist of their past atrocities. They’ve been raising tuition fees, making cuts to post-16 and higher education, making cuts to the Disabled Student Allowance, and trying to drop 20th century American novels from the national syllabus. If you thought that our slimy Tory government could sink any lower, then look no further. Their burning hatred of education is extending to student maintenance grants, which they are attempting to scrap without holding any proper debate (probably because they know any real debate wouldn’t end the way they’d like it).

Naturally, the very idea of scrapping student maintenance grants for the poorest students has sparked outrage from students and politicians alike, mainly because only 18 MP’s talked about it, and without any proper debate whatsoever. It is perhaps the single most undemocratic decision our government is making so far, but then, what were we expecting when we nation collectively decided to pardon David Cameron in the last election? We all knew that Cameron was going to screw this country over yet again, and many of us didn’t even want to vote for him, but apparently there was an even greater amount of morons who bought Mr. Cameron’s bullshit at the last minute, and unless something is done, the next generation will pay the price.

I must wonder what our government assumes about us young people. They must assume that higher education is just as much a privilege for us as it must have been for David Cameron and his Eton chums. The reality is that the job market is still horrendously tight. For young people like myself, higher education offers a way of acquiring not just an attractive degree, but also crucial employability skills that are vital for anyone’s professional survival. Hence, for many young people, higher education is not just an attractive prospect, but also a necessity for attaining our various career aspirations. Our parents know this as well, so when they hear about the government’s plans to scrap the maintenance grants for the poorest students, they’ll inevitably worry that this will discourage young people from even considering higher education.

As a Coleg Sir Gar student (who often asks myself what I’m still doing there) hoping to make the big leap to university, I have every reason to worry about this, but what worries me more is that millions of young people could make the same mistake I did when I was 18. I worry that many young people will dismiss higher education purely because of the costs associated with university. If I could go back in time to the year 2012, I’d tell myself not to worry too much about the financial side, because there is help out there for those who need it (providing the government isn’t planning to cut that too).

Thankfully, there is some hope. There’s a petition going around and it already has enough supporters to merit a debate in parliament. The only question is will our voices be heard? Will the petition make impact on overturning an unjust and illogical plan, or will David Cameron’s government attempt to suppress our voice once again? Whatever the outcome, it is important to remember that any attack on higher education risks silencing young voices and crushing young talent, and if we have any hope of rescuing the country from its bleak situation, then the government must consider the importance of young talent, rather than depriving them of what I now accept to be perhaps the best pathway to a career they could hope for.

If you wish to sign the petition, the link is here:

The artists of the future need better teachers

art teachers

The art teacher shown here is most likely better than what I’ve seen in school.

On Tuesday morning, I did a somewhat improvised painting in a class session, but unfortunately, my particular style drew ire the art teacher that presided over that lecture. She argued that my style of painting was lazy, and she tried arguing with me about developing a saleable painting style by insulting my own unique style. After I continued making my point intellectually, the teacher, unable to come up with any intelligent counterargument thereafter, resorted to comparing my art to that of a five-year-old. Given that I have a five-year-old nephew, that was the most insulting thing I have ever heard from a teacher since my days in primary school.

Of course, I really should get over this, except that’s been on my mind all week for two reasons – (a) because the teachers general attitude has been a recurring problem for me and my classmates, and (b) because thinking it over allowed me to see that it was representative of a bigger problem that reminded me of my school days.

The art teacher in question was the kind who would belittle anyone’s art that didn’t conform to her preconceived notions of art. Specifically, she was having us all imitate the Cubist stylings of Pablo Picasso. Consequently, I worried that much of my artwork was going to be the same under that direction. In my mind, all the good artists, Picasso included, rebelled against the current of art to create their own unique stylings. By attempting to restrict our stylings, she is blaspheming against all that is wonderful about art, and slandering anyone who tries to deviate from that pattern only compounds this.

All that aside, I look back and wonder, if she acts so much like a grade school art teacher, then what kinds of art teacher are our kids getting? As my experience has taught me, a teacher can make a significant, life-changing impact on how children perceive their future, and indeed themselves. If art is to continue growing, then the next generation of artists need teachers who recognize the talent and the potential of young artists, and who will help to nurture that talent. At the moment, I don’t think that happens in school, and as for British colleges, this largely depends on the tutor. Then again, where I come from, college is not as different to school as we’d like to think.

I recently read something that Picasso once said that I believe is relevant to the subject in question. He once said that “all children are born as artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. In that regard, I think the art teacher has a role to play in that struggle. If the art teacher has no faith in his or her student, or teaches art the wrong way, then the student will not be enthusiastic about his or her own art. I remember not wanting to do art again because my A-level Art course was such a frustrating experience. It took until 2014 for my enthusiasm to return, and that’s a very bad sign. If that happened to all young artists, there’d be no new talent. Just more old artists anchoring the art world to old ideas, and that would cause the art world to stagnate horribly. The only way that stagnation is prevented is for young artists to contribute fresh ideas, and that cannot happen as long as the next generation has teachers who insist on anchoring them to outdated ideas.

What our schools are getting wrong


Years ago, I would hate going to school in Britain, mainly because I didn’t see the point of it, and my experience of how things were done in school served only to vindicate those feelings. To be fair, I was quite optimistic about going to school during my time in America, so it’s mainly British schools that I’m concerned with here, but I’ve heard about the way things work in American schools. In Britain and America, school is generally seen as a drag, and though the adults may say otherwise, the children are absolutely right to complain.

To understand why, let’s take a good look at how schools deliver education. In school, children are given homework, graded on their work, and they’re expected to remember information from books that they would rather not read. No matter how hard teachers will try to rationalize that, I cannot see how that is of any benefit to children. In fact, homework does nothing other than create unnecessary stress on children who are way too young to handle it. However bad that sort of stress is for children, it’s even worse on teenagers, who, as scientific research has proven, experience stress more profoundly than adults do. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, grades do nothing other than turn education into an obscene form of competition, and hold no link to a person’s intelligence whatsoever.

One of the major blunders of our education system is the very concept of homework, where a teacher asks you to do tasks that he or she couldn’t be bothered to get you to do in class, and punishes you for not doing it. We adults tend to make the assumption that homework betters students, when in actual fact, it is the educational equivalent of holding a kid at gunpoint and forcing him fill out otherwise meaningless pieces of paper. As my childhood experience has taught me, homework does nothing other than create a punishing regime that kills your enthusiasm for learning. No wonder there are so many morons in the world, because when you’re enthusiasm for learning gets killed during your childhood, you won’t have any interest in learning when you’re older, especially as your teenage years see you screaming for it all to end.

There’s something about school life I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, and that’s the outdated concept of starting the school day at 9am sharp. To this day, I have never heard anyone come up with an intelligent defence of a practice that so recklessly endangers the mental health of young children. Sometimes what makes a school day start badly is that the kids haven’t gotten enough sleep. If students were given more sleep, then that would give them more time to concentrate in class and plan their day before they arrive in class, and it would also give them more time to finish their homework if they didn’t finish it the night before. There are far more benefits to starting school an hour later than sticking to the old, outdated way of doing things, and once again, nobody I know has come up with an actual reason for showing up at 9am.

Oh, and another thing, art class in school is a joke. They act like they’re teaching kids how to draw, but more often than not, they’re teaching you how to draw the way they want you to.  We all know that kids are naturally creative and love to draw from an early age (Pablo Picasso once said that “all children are born as artists”), but to say that school encourages creativity would be extremely naive. In fact, from the start of primary school, children are punished for making mistakes, despite the fact that making mistakes is an essential part of learning. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, then you’ll never be able to conceive original ideas, and you have no hope of being an innovative thinker. Instead of encouraging creativity, we subject our children to a plethora of subjects that mean nothing to them. By the way, who thought it was a good idea to make kids learn algebra at an age when they’re too young to handle any other form of advanced maths? I remember doing algebra when I was 14-16, and after I stopped doing maths in the sixth form, I forgot everything I ever learned about algebra, and I’m still reasonably good with numbers. All that advanced maths was pointless to me then, and it’s pointless to me now.

The final thing I want to mention about our horribly dysfunctional education system is its obsession with testing and exams. Every year, children and teenagers end the school year with some form of exam that you have to remember a shedload of information to pass. Exams are perhaps the single worst part of our education system, since they force you to memorize a thick book full of facts (which you’d much rather learn from the internet), and you are primarily graded based on how well you do on an exam that you are almost never prepared for. When you finally get you’re grade, you’re never told what you did right and what you did wrong, so no learning actually took place in those pointless, stress-filled hours of cramming. By the time I finished school, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was the point of it all?

I always wondered why the education system is like this, and as it turns out, it doesn’t even have to be this way. Finland consistently beats out all the other countries in terms of its education system, and not only do they not use grades, they also don’t use standardized tests (or at least not in the way we’re familiar with), and they’re considering replacing traditional school subjects with a new concept of “teaching by topic” (which includes vocational topics such as “cafeteria services”). If that’s not enough, in Finland, children don’t have to go to school until they’re 7, while we typically send our kids off to school when they’re 3 or 5, at a time when they might not necessarily be ready. Also, there’s a new school in Espoo, Finland, which eschews the bland, depressing look of the traditional school with a light, airy, and open school building that seems more akin to an art museum than a school, in they’re replacing the traditional blackboard with laptops. That’s exactly the kind of radical thinking that we in Britain and America desperately need.

Anyone will tell you that education is important, because it’s how we prepare our children for life. Hence, and I rarely say this, we have a moral duty to get it right for our children. We’ve been getting it wrong for so long, and the consequences are all around us. Many people grow up with a very grim outlook on life, and often grow up misinformed, are more or less open to misinformation, and I believe that at the core of these problems is a broken, dysfunctional education system built on raising children as brainless labourers rather than learned, intelligent, and active participants in society. How do we sleep at night knowing that our education system has children in tears because they can’t keep up with the draconian standards of people who couldn’t give a damn about their feeling, their dreams, and their passions in life. How can we expect our children to grow up right if we don’t teach right to begin with? Our education system needs a serious overhaul, for as long as we have an education system that kills any enthusiasm for learning, then our schools will continue to produce generations of morons, and thus the cycle of stupidity choking our society is kept going for at least another year at a time.

How to improve sexual education

In a society with increasingly loosened attitude towards sex, it’s important that we have good sexual education to keep the next generation from going overboard with it. Sadly, I feel that this is where society is a bit lacking. Suffice it to say, I think sexual education in this country could be much better, mainly because, in its current state, it only teaches about the act of having sex, and not about the wider issues, and certainly not enough about STI’s.

When I was young, they only taught sexual education once, and they taught it by the time I was 15. The inherent problem is that we assume that we’re all ready for sex at the same age. If that were true, then everybody would be doing it at the same time. I think they might have been focusing too much the physical aspect of sex, and not enough on real, emotional love, without which, I feel, the act of sex would be meaningless.

In my view, sexual education should be used to teach an impressionable younger generation about the difference between sex as depicted in pornography and how to treat a real partner. In other words, I think it would be a step in the right direction if sex education included lessons on how to maintain a good relationship and treat your partner right. I say this because the younger generation is constantly bombarded by the wrong messages. The pop industry keeps objectifying women in every possible way, and a lot of people are somehow okay with that. There’s virtually nothing going against this trend, and even when people do question this, it’s as though their words have fallen on deaf ears.

I also think that sexual education should be used to teach people not to see sex as a normal part of life, so that they won’t act completely childish about sex, as so many sitcom characters and religious demagogues do. I think that we would collectively have a much better outlook on sex and relationships if we were more able to handle it in an adult manner without sugar-coating any of the details, and if we were able to feel normal about it.

Simply put it, I feel that the best way to improve sexual education is to use it to change the way people see sex and relationships, in order to reverse what decades of Hollywood stereotypes and Christian scaremongering have done to how we see it. Only then will we have cured modern society’s obsessive and unnaturally overblown fixation with sex, which was caused by several centuries of sexual repression.