Little Missy Morgan: The Impossible Girl

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When we last met Sir Humphrey Appleby and Malcolm Tucker, Tucker had just got the part of Dr Who and had gone back in time to ensure Michael Gove never became Education Secretary in the first place. However Sir Humphrey had his concerns about the alternative post holder. We catch up with them 15 months later (in Earth Years).

Sir Humphrey: Ah Doctor, it’s been a long time. How are things?

Doctor Who: Well it’s been a very short time for me of course, and it’s jolly tiring travelling through time and space all the time I can tell you. You wouldn’t believe the jet-lag. And of course I never get to sleep or eat anything. What’s more I’m really busy at present trying to decide whether I’m good or bad.

It’s so strange to hear you talking without swearing all the time.

Yes, I had to go through this regeneration thing to make me more suitable for prime-time family audiences. Anyway, how are you getting on?

Oh dear, well, things seem to be going from bad to worse really. After you got rid of that dreadful Gove chappie we got this Morgan woman who seems to think she can say what she likes. She’s supposed to be Teacher’s Friend to raise morale amongst the profession, but quite frankly she hasn’t a clue. I’m starting to suspect she thinks she’s The Master in disguise. Whatever, she’s a quite impossible girl to deal with – and definitely a suitable case for treatment.

I mean to say, last week she was speaking at a launch of a campaign to promote STEM subjects and she said that a decade ago young people were told arts or humanities were useful for all kinds of jobs but that: ‘Of course, now we know that couldn’t be further from the truth’, thus implying that taking arts subjects now limits their career choices.

You wouldn’t believe the fuss and curfuffle that caused because all the teachers of the arts seemed to think she was saying that children who chose to study their subjects at GCSE would be ‘held back for the rest of their lives’, when what she actually said was: ‘figures show us that too many young people are making choices aged 15, which will hold them back for the rest of their life’, which of course is something entirely different.

We immediately got a spokesperson to explain that Ms Morgan “had not meant to advocate one over the other, but wanted to stress the importance of STEM”, but naturally no one believed us.

Meanwhile the real problem is that she thinks that all we need to do is recruit more students to take Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths courses and Britain will be Great again, but until we find a way of moving from teaching each subject separately and adopting an unappealing academic, theoretical approach all we are going to do is get more students dropping out. And of course what we really need is for everyone to study a balance of Arts and STEM subjects.

Hmm. Well here’s a thought. I have some experience with impossible women. Perhaps I should take her on as my new travelling companion? I could show her some real schools – just like the one where I pretended to be the caretaker. I thought I was rather good at that, and of course as a result I know everything there is to know about teaching and learning.

Ah, yes, that sounds like an excellent idea. Hmm. While you’re at it, she’ll need some sort of whimpering, male side-kick won’t she? Perhaps you could take Nick Glibb along as well? He’s no better than she is. Just as we were beginning to appease the more progressive teachers, along he comes and says traditional ‘chalk and talk’ is the best method, because that’s how they do it in China. He’s completely lost the plot – all he seems interested in is securing the votes of Daily Mail readers.

Minister tells schools to copy China – and ditch trendy teaching for ‘chalk and talk’: Teachers speaking in front of a class ‘much more effective than independent learning’

And look, he’s at it again here:

Get textbooks back in class, schools are told: Minister says teachers must end reliance on worksheets and the internet during lessons

Obviously he’s not bothered to read Now this is what I call a textbook, otherwise he’d understand a bit more about the educational publishing business and that schools just can’t afford to buy class sets anymore. Maybe you could take him back to the 1950’s where he’d see that things weren’t better in the past? And preferably leave him there.

But if Morgan and Glibb still don’t get it after they’ve spent some time with you, perhaps you know of some alien race that could, err, exterminate them both?

 

A beginning, a muddle and an end?*

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The doctor who doesn’t seem to care about the narrative

Now All Change Please! is not exactly stupid. It even has a number of your actual original, authentic Gold Standard O levels and A levels, taken in the days before they were supposedly dumbed down and made so easy that a child of five could pass them. Not to mention a proper degree from a time long ago when there were real lectures and weekly tutorials to attend, even if you didn’t.

But despite all this, it still has problems making any sense at all of the plot of Doctor Who, which has itself been recently (and fairly enough) dumbed down to make it more of an adventure story for younger viewers. Except for the stories to work it throws in references to some highly sophisticated and completely unexplained notions of time and space, and of the nature of artificial intelligence and self-consciousness.

Take last week’s episode (Series 7, Part 5). The TARDIS (which apparently, like the rest of us, seems to have some serious reservations about the Doctor’s new companion) somehow gets dragged on board a passing space ship and is seriously damaged. A mysterious pair of legs are identified sticking out from under some debris, but are never referred to again. In an attempt to repair the TARDIS, despite lengthy and emotional protestations from the Doctor, some essential parts of its workings are stolen, but after a while this plot line simply disappears. Next, a character who ‘believed’ he was a robot discovers he is actually a real person, and yet seems to have no problem walking round a few minutes later having had his left entire arm amputated. Finally after meeting themselves from the future the Doctor throws a mysterious gizmo with a message on it through a rift in time back to himself at the start of the episode, somehow enabling him to prevent everything happening in the first place. Maybe there’s a 5 year-old out there somewhere who could kindly explain it all to me?

But of course it’s not just Dr Who where such liberties are taken. These days it’s all special FX and dynamic quick-cut editing that seems to count the most. It really doesn’t seem to matter whose shooting Who provided it’s visually dramatic enough. Meanwhile car chases have become sequences random incoherent and shots vehicles colliding of speeding seemingly of, or to put it the old-fashioned way, incoherent sequences of shots of seemingly random speeding and colliding vehicles. And, when the dialogue is actually audible, it’s usually not worth listening to.

Now All Change Please! hates to be a fuddy-duddy old killjoy of a Gove-sounding supporter who thinks we should get back to making movies and TV drama the way they did in the 1950s, but nonetheless it has to admit, in this respect at least, it is. It thinks children – and their parents – deserve better than this. Whether the stories are told backwards, forwards or inside out, all it wants is a half-decent plot where all the clues, red-herrings and loose ends are neatly tied up, with everything reasonably explained and edited together in a coherent richly-worded narrative that represents something more than just a beginning, a muddle and an end. With perhaps even the odd unexpected plot-twist or a ‘Or did they?’ thrown after the essential ‘They all lived happily ever after…’ finale.

While new interactive and personalised digital narratives will undoubtedly change the nature of storytelling in the future, it is important that new media companies continue to provide quality content. And more than ever before, teaching and learning media literacy is needed, yet it remains conspicuously absent from the National Curriculum. Somewhere along the lines the government seems to have lost the plot too. Perhaps someone should call for the Doctor?

Or maybe not?

*Possibly attributed to C E Lombard

Image credit: BowBelle51