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Showing posts from August, 2008

French government interference

The French government is about to impose on private schools ('ECOLES HORS CONTRAT') a new set of terms and conditions for employment of staff. The main issues concerning us here are:
1. The right of staff to express their own opinions on religious and moral matters etc, a right which they may well already have had, but which we were never obliged to include in contracts; and 2. A scale of remuneration which obliges us to pay high salaries, commensurate with qualifications and experience, even if we cannot afford them and the teachers don't want them.

Let us look at a hard case. I am hypothetically faced with a teacher of history, religion or biology who denies the existence of God and the creation. Both facts, I know with unshakeable certainty, are truths known by natural reason. As such, these facts are an intrinsic part of all three of those disciplines. I suspect that on the teaching of religion we would find a way around the problems. But for history and biology, the Sta…

Someone has been reading my blog ...

It appears that some people have been reading my blog, because I recently received comments from three different readers. The counter had not been moving very quickly so I had imagined that all my visitors were in fact no more than google robots.

Just to keep you, and the robots, posted then, about what I am thinking about: I had an interesting conversation today with an American academic about a number of things. One thing that sticks with me is what he said about the corpus colossum and communication between left and right brain.

What I know on the subject is a kind of hotch-potch of information from my PGCE (right brain, left brain, 'brain gym', etc) and magazine articles about how men and women are different.

Today, however, we were speculating about whether there are fewer people (and specifically men) around these days who can exploit the full potential of both sides of their brains; or rather whether they can think effectively with both sides at once ... It struck me that …

Educating Catholic heroes

Here are some snippets from the 12-minute first section of a talk, which, as an experiment, I am uploading as a recording (see below) - I'd welcome comments from anyone who finds this helpful, (or unhelpful). ...

When one looks at the world today, with all its many problems and challenges, and worst of all its lack of hope about solving these problems, one can be tempted to despair, or one can be – which is no doubt better – tempted to rush around madly trying to fix our broken culture.

We are in a sandstorm at this time in history. Massive winds of cultural change have made the landscape unrecognisable, and shifting the sand around to try and put things back the way they were, or the way we think they were, is just too difficult for us. We won't fix things that way, by political and social schemes.

But we can plant solid young trees every few hundred yards, with miraculously deep roots. Once they are established, with God's grace they might help things settle down, becaus…

Rare pillow fight at Chavagnes ...

This doesn't happen very often at Chavagnes ... thank goodness.

Change at the Chalkface: some reflections

A leading labour politician (Ed Balls) was recently quoted as saying that teachers “should not teach subjects, but children”. This was in the context of a debate about the content of the curriculum in our schools, and whether it ought to be adapted to contain material more interesting to modern, urban children. The suggestion was that if children were failing to succeed in the study of traditional academic subjects, then we should simply teach them something else. The aim of education, it is suggested, should be to open the children’s minds, to teach them thinking skills, to teach them how to learn; but not necessarily to teach them any specific and important data.

One of the reasons why I took the trouble to begin my own school was that I profoundly disagree with this approach to education. It seems to me that education exists to hand on a tradition, and to initiate the young into their intellectual and cultural heritage. It is an inherently conservative activity because it conserves …

An old speech I found while tidying up my files ...

Mr McDermott’s End-of-Year Speech: June 2004

This year has been almost biblical in its epic sweep.

The plagues of Chavagnes have been legion. Plagues of serpents. Well, we thought it was a viper, but Mr Baudouin managed to identify it as an ‘orvet’a legless lizard. It had teeth but no venom. And it fell under the thud of my sledge hammer; although I admit to quaking in my boots as I struck.

Plagues of bats; well, many of you had fun hunting them in the dorms, with your towels. The Chavagnes bat hunt might yet become an ancient institution.

Plagues of spiders: they are very picturesque, those spider bites, aren’t they? I’ve never seen anything like it in England. We asked Doctor Chyl what to do about all of your coming out in bumps from the blighters. With typically dry wit, she prescribed a vacuum cleaner. So, next year, we must be careful to hoover more carefully: even the corners of the ceiling and the gaps between the floorboards.

Plagues of mosquitoes: well, they are still with us, and…