Ursula K. Le Guin, Unsurpassed

Reading the Earthsea Quartet is like tuning into a frequency of awareness just underneath conscious thought. It is easy to become immersed in Le Guin’s world of wizards, sodden barren landscapes and dark ancient cults. Because her characters – even the wizards – are totally human. And their experiences are realised in such detail that, sometimes, I forget I am not them. After reading Le … Continue reading Ursula K. Le Guin, Unsurpassed

Some thoughts from Solzhenitsyn

Writing between 1958 and 1968 about his own, and others, experiences of Stalin’s gulags, Solzhenitsyn reflected that – unlike Germany – Russia was unwilling to admit any crimes committed by Stalin. (And still being committed under Khrushchev.) It is worth asking if such a reckoning ever took place. I don’t know whether the full history of Stalin’s regime -as chronicled by Solzhenitsyn – is, or … Continue reading Some thoughts from Solzhenitsyn

Eyeball Computer – Read the opening chapters…

Take a look at my new article – Why Dystopia? On Kate Vane’s website…   This has been on my site before, but for anyone who missed it, here’s the opening of my novel, now available to buy on Amazon…  Eyeball Computer   “They are so confident that they will run on forever. But they won’t run on.” Fahrenheit 451   Prologue   ‘WE ARE … Continue reading Eyeball Computer – Read the opening chapters…

Book Review – ‘We’: Yevgeny Zamyatin

My blog will now include reviews of books relevant to the endeavour of thinking for yourself and teaching children to do the same. The place to start is Yevgeny Zamyatin’s sparkling, terrifying, portrait of a society committed to “mathematically infallible happiness”; preparing to launch a rocket towards “alien planets” – to either deliver this happiness, or “force them to be happy”. The author was arrested, … Continue reading Book Review – ‘We’: Yevgeny Zamyatin

‘I didn’t get where I am today by telling the truth.’

Have you ever noticed a person disappear while they are talking to you? You enter the school office in the morning; your child has a massive splinter. Ask the ladies behind the desk for tweezers. You expect them to try to get the splinter out before the register; give the lamb some sympathy. But you haven’t read the risk assessment for splinters. The lady behind … Continue reading ‘I didn’t get where I am today by telling the truth.’

‘Only machines make no mistakes’

‘The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment.’ Yevgeny Zamyatin Part of the reason I finally decided to abandon teaching was the awfulness of A-level preparation. The same moment that stacks of great books were at long last … Continue reading ‘Only machines make no mistakes’

‘Long-famous glories, immemorial shames’

‘Mama, what colour paper should I use to draw The World War?’ ‘Green?’ ‘I’m going to use purple because of the darkness and the gas.’ And I’m thinking, ‘who told her about the gas? She might have a nightmare.’ Tiny bits of information leave powerful and lasting impressions in children’s minds: the few facts they learn at school might become all they know about a … Continue reading ‘Long-famous glories, immemorial shames’

‘I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn’t know is there’

It’s hard to wake up after half term. My daughter is tired; she gurns, claims to ‘hate school’, ‘hate porridge’ and ‘hate babies’ (a dig at her brother). I lose my temper before we leave the house. Alas we don’t live in a utopia where all adults are kind and reasonable, all children go to bed early and school is fascinating. Any parent knows that … Continue reading ‘I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn’t know is there’

‘At best, he learns how to avoid punishment.’

While reading about Octopus behaviour, I was reminded of my daughter. Peter Godfrey-Smith relates ‘famous octopus anecdotes…of escape and thievery’ (Other Minds, 2016, p. 55). For instance, a certain octopus, when fed with thawed-out squid (‘second-rate food’), waited for the scientist who had fed it to walk back past the tank: “It had not eaten it’s squid, but instead was holding it conspicuously…the octopus made … Continue reading ‘At best, he learns how to avoid punishment.’

‘I am dealing with people and not with things.’

My daughter’s teacher had a quiet word after school about how she gets upset and declares, ‘I can’t do’ Maths. As we walked away, my daughter covered her ears, shut her eyes and half shouted, ‘I know what you were talking about!’ Her teacher only wants to help. It is especially important just now as they head for the SATS at the end of Year … Continue reading ‘I am dealing with people and not with things.’