22 January 2012

How to stay alive longer

Elderly should be encouraged to downsize ...

[Housing Minister Grant Shapps] said that authorities should encourage elderly homeowners to move to more suitable accommodation by helping them rent their old homes to families. He pointed to the example of a pilot scheme in east London where Redbridge council has helped elderly people move without having to sell their homes in a bid to tackle the housing crisis. They also get to keep rental income from their property, so they can fund any care costs they have to face. ...

There was outrage after a report by a think tank linked to Labour suggested last year that older people should be taxed out of their homes to free up space for younger generations. The Intergenerational Foundation argued that ‘empty nesters’ in their 60s should be encouraged to downsize by a new ‘land tax’. (Daily Mail, 17 January 2012)

Pensioners to be ‘helped’ by councils to ‘downsize’ so that any spare rooms can be used by families. Population with an above-average IQ to be squeezed tighter still, for the benefit of expanding population with average IQ certainly not above average for population as a whole, and quite possibly below it.

But maybe some of the pensioners do not want to downsize. Perhaps some of them, like me, had a ruined education and are still trying to make up for it by expanding their incipient independent academic establishment to a tolerable size for even a minimum of productivity to begin. When it does begin, that will be the start of my adult academic career, so far as I am concerned, even if I am having to start at an age that is past what the oppressive society around me likes to regard as retirement age.

What any pensioner with a house of his own could do (and from some points of view should do) would be to sell his house and buy one in Cuddesdon, perhaps not with so many spare rooms as his former house but with as many as possible, do some voluntary work for my struggling and squeezed independent university, and cooperate in some of the business operations which can be set up to make the best use of the abilities of associate workers who may have restrictions on their physical mobility, and of the abilities of those who do not.

My institute is desperately in need of storage and office space and could probably pay them rent for their spare rooms to supplement their incomes. Then the rooms would be being used to reduce the disadvantages of a population with above average IQs, instead of used to provide advantages to the expanding low-IQ population.

Now the pensioner, living in the house which he owns, and which now has too many vacant rooms, may of course have no plans of his own to get started on his long-delayed business ventures or academic research; nevertheless, if he is persuaded to leave his familiar environment for an unfamiliar prison cell, and knowing that it is the end of his life and that he is now expected by everyone to go into a decline, this can easily undermine him psychologically so that he does go into a decline very soon after. I know of several cases of people who have died soon after selling their houses to go into retirement.

Therefore it would be a good idea if people were to move to Cuddesdon, or nearby, well in advance of retirement age, do some voluntary work for us and perhaps join in on some of the smaller business projects, in anticipation of more full-scale involvement at a later stage.

19 January 2012

Professorship in Education

Below is the text of a letter of application to Oxford University recently sent with regard to a professorship in Education.

Dear ...

I am applying for the Professorship of Education being offered by the Department of Sociology in association with Green Templeton College, as advertised in the University Gazette, and attach my CV, which includes the contact details of three referees, together with notes on my CV and a testimonial from the late Professor H J Eysenck.

As my position is an anomalous one, I would be grateful if you could read the enclosed notes on my CV, as they give information about how I came to be in this position. As you will see, my CV is one that was prepared to go with an application for an appointment in philosophy, rather than education. I cannot in fact comply with all the criteria listed in the requirements for the post. However, I can comply with some of them.

I have decades of administrative and fund-raising experience as the Director of the Institute for Psychophysical Research. I also have completely original insights into what is called the educational process, due to the unique and extreme circumstances of my early life and education. The introduction to my book Advice to Clever Children provides some background on how I have been exposed to the inner machinery of the educational system, from being observed by educational experts as a case study at the ages of 4 and 11, to experiencing the contrasting approaches and outlooks of private and state schooling. The latter provided me with knowledge of the underlying motivations of those that chose to teach; having teachers for both of my parents doubtless also contributed.

I am in fact capable of carrying out research, teaching, and administration in areas in which I do not have paper qualifications, owing to my own ability to learn new topics very fast and very thoroughly in any situation in which I need to learn them.

For realistic information about my life, abilities, and situation, please see the Preface ‘How this Book came to be Written’ to my book The Lost Cause, a copy of which is available at http://celiagreen.com/thelostcause-preface.pdf. I apologise for the anomalies in my application, which arise from the extreme social misplacement which has resulted from my ruined education. There is no recognition of the predicament of the exiled academic.

I am making this application in spite of being above the normal age for a Professorship because the process of recovering from a ruined education is extremely slow, in fact there is no provision for it to be possible at all. There was a time lag of decades before the work which I had done in exile from an academic career led to my being offered testimonials from senior academics who were willing to act as my referees. After still further delay, one of the areas of pioneering work which I had initiated (lucid dreaming) came to be recognised as a suitable topic for doctorates, yet this still did not lead to my reinstatement in a normal academic career.

The enclosed notes can give little impression of what I would have achieved by now if I had had a normal life, i.e. one that was normal for a person like me. As it is, they are a statement of how efficiently the expression of my abilities has been prevented by the society in which I have been living. Academics advising me have often said, ‘Don’t say anything about your ability, only about what you have done’, and ‘Don’t mention your unofficial teaching and research.’ But society can prevent one from doing anything officially, i.e. within a normal academic position, and is what one does outside its auspices in an attempt to regain reinstatement, automatically to be regarded as disqualified from consideration?

Apart from the fact that getting me back into a normal position as a senior academic would be remedying an extreme anomaly and injustice, there are strong reasons for supposing that the field of Education would be benefitted by a Professor who is prepared to take into account factors other than those which have supposedly been considered by those who have done research in this field over the preceding decades. Clearly their insights into the situation have not created any solution to the current situation, and in practice the results of the current educational system are deteriorating rather than the reverse.

So the academic world should consider there is a need for work to be done under the auspices of someone who does not have a vested interest in the rationalisations which are currently fashionable. Those who were successful in entering normal academic careers to which, no doubt, they felt they were suited, did have such a vested interest.

The attitude to the outcast of the socially approved academic system should, in itself, be the subject of research. When one is outcast, destitute, and socially disgraced, one is described, amazingly, as being ‘free to follow one’s interests’, it being supposed that a university appointment would be a restriction on one’s freedom.

It should not be held against me that I have published fewer papers than other applicants. The exiled academic, struggling to build up an institutional environment from scratch without an income, and with no eligibility for income support when not receiving a salary, lives in circumstances which negate the possibility of carrying out research of any kind, even leaving out of account that if one did manage to produce publishable research it would have little chance of acceptance by academic journals, on account of one’s lack of an academic appointment.

I give the referees I do, as best I can, because it should be regarded as amazing, and highly creditable, that I am able to give any at all. However I expect that my referees will observe the usual conventions that (a) one’s case is not to be considered highly anomalous and in need of redress, that (b) only work done by the holders of official academic positions counts as academic, and that (c) there is supposed to be no such thing as ability which is transferable from one field of intellectual activity to another. Therefore they can do no more than damn me with faint praise for the few pieces of work which I have been able to do within the restrictive parameters of what is regarded as ‘relevant’.

Finally, I should like to make a statement. It may be that you reject this application out of hand, on the basis that it does not meet the ‘essential requirements’, or that I otherwise fail to fit the University’s idea of what an education professor ought to be like. However, it is my belief that if the University really wanted to contribute to the advancement of education, rather than merely occupy a prestigious role in what has developed under the label of ‘academic educational theory’, it would take this application very seriously indeed.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Celia Green

02 January 2012

No escape from state education

The basic moral principle is that one should avoid imposing on other people one’s own interpretation of the existential situation, and overriding their reaction to it. This principle is weakly, and occasionally, recognised in human societies, and best protected, more or less unintentionally, in capitalist societies in which you can only get other people to do anything for you if you are willing to pay for it. This does not mean that they will necessarily provide you with what you really want, but at least it avoids the socialist situation in which, in many important areas, such as health and education, you can only get what other people want to provide you with; in fact you may be forced to surrender your liberty entirely and submit to what they want to impose upon you.

At present it is possible, although very difficult, to opt out of the state educational system and let your child work at home, although you must still in many ways comply with state prescriptions about what will count as acceptable.

This, however, is coming to be regarded as unnecessarily permissive. Within recent years I have seen the view expressed that this loophole is no longer necessary, as the present state educational system is tolerant of all religious beliefs (this, apparently, is the only grounds on which objection to the state system could be considered acceptably valid). From this point of view, people can now have no justifiable reason for preferring any variant to the system provided by the state, and so it should be a legal obligation to ensure that one’s children are forced to attend the child-prisons, as required.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, debating this issue, argued that home schooling ‘could be a cover for child abuse.’ (Daily Mail, 20 January 2009)

This dubious logic may be generalised to any area in which the individual is free to do anything other than comply with the requirements prescribed by the state. He might take the opportunity to commit any crime or depravity that occurs to him. ‘Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do’, as the 18th century hymn-writer said.

If people are not fully occupied with the necessities of staying alive, they may (it is feared) use their freedom to do something unacceptable, including finding out important things in science, especially if they are rich enough to be able to afford to do this independently of having a university appointment. So, better that there should be no freedom at all.

Of course, one may mention that state-provided incarceration may also be a cover for child abuse, which obviously includes any sort of programme of psychological warfare and undermining devised by teachers.

While ‘home schooling’ is considered an option that provides unnecessary freedom for the individual, it should be noted that it scarcely exists at present in the UK. While it is possible to claim that your child reading books at home constitutes ‘education’, as soon as you consider him ready to take an exam, you must invoke the approval of the education ‘authority’.

Personally I did not think of taking an exam as separate from the process of preparing for it, so someone like me would have tripped over the landmine straight away (even if my parents had home-schooled me).

It is very dangerous to have anything to do with an education ‘authority’. In fact, if you are forced into the clutches of one as soon as you want to take an exam, you cannot really be said to be opting out of the education system at all. Being allowed to spend less time in a school doing purposeless things which are not directly aimed at exam-taking does you little good if the time saved from demoralising purposelessness at school must be spent in demoralising purposelessness at home. As soon as you want to do anything for real, you have to fight it out with the local authority. But that is precisely what you may wish primarily to avoid in ‘opting out’ of the state educational system.

I conclude that although at present there is a nominal possibility of ‘opting out’ of state education, this is only a euphemism, and there is no real possibility of keeping clear of the dangers of contact with education authorities.

There should be a real possibility, but that would involve quite different arrangements to be made. Far from considering how the deadly clutch of the education authorities on the lives of their victims could be loosened, there is a drive to eliminate even the ambiguous possibility which exists at present.

01 January 2012

The Welfare State and the exponential function

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. (Professor Albert Bartlett)
I do not know that I would agree that unawareness of the exponential function is the greatest shortcoming of the human race, but certainly this unawareness (real or apparent) facilitates legislation which is designed to reduce the advantages of one section of the population while increasing those of another. This may be represented as ‘fair’, but it should not be overlooked that it may produce drastic shifts in the balance of the population quite rapidly.
If an initial quantity A increases by n%, and the result is again increased by n%, and so on, the resulting growth is shown by the graph of
y = A(1 + n/100)x.
To illustrate how this may apply to groups in the population which are increasing continuously, here are the charts of a hypothetical population group which numbered one million in 1945 (at the onset of the Welfare State) and increased by 1%, 2%, 3% and 4% respectively until the present day, i.e. 66 years later.
Characteristically, the exponential graph remains close to the lower axis at first, but the gradient gradually increases until it is more vertical than horizontal and tends asymptotically to infinity (i.e. it approaches infinity ever more closely and rapidly, but without ever reaching it).
On the timescale being considered, the increase in the population supposed to increase by 4% per annum is already acquiring the characteristically exponential appearance, aiming upwards rather than merely along the lower axis.
The unsophisticated are unlikely to imagine how great the changes may be which ultimately result from relatively small percentage changes in taxation or benefits, which may be applied, initially, only to small populations.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.