Unhappy boy

Fronted Adverbials

9.00 am Meet with new Minister, Damian Hinds. He's really impressed with our campaign against primary school kids and teachers. I show him specimen questions:

  1. Begin your sentence with a fronted adverbial.
  2. Use modifying nouns and adjectives to create expanded noun phrases.
  3. Add an embedded relative clause beginning with who, which, that or whose.
  4. Add a subordinating conjunction to give extra detail about the situation.

'What the fuck does any of that mean?' he laughs.

'God only knows, Boss,' I reply, 'but it's guaranteed to cause misery and suffering for huge numbers of little kids, will put them off learning for life. And it has the added bonus of dramatically increasing teacher stress. As well as coping with distraught kids, they'll have to try and work out what it all means too.'

'Brilliant. I had no idea you chaps were so successful in weaponising grammar. That'll show the little bastards who they're dealing with'. He laughs again and claps his hands in delight. 'Any complaints from parents?'

'No, Boss. They've no idea what we're doing to their kids, and by the time they do catch on, it'll be too late.

So refreshing to be dealing with a Minister who actually recognises that education is war and is totally committed to our side winning, by whatever means necessary. Greening was just too bloody liberal. Too much soul-searching. When she was in charge, it always felt like we were caning the kids and teachers with one arm tied behind our backs.

'Another thing, Boss. We've got a request to open a new free school from someone who's joked about getting aroused on images of sick and starving children. No question of giving him permission, but some of the chaps think we should we hand his name to the police to be put on the sex offenders register. He's certainly not normal.'

'No, no, no', he replies. 'It's only Toby. He's OK. One of us. Good friend of the Johnsons. He can have as many free schools as he wants. I mean if we barred wankers from opening free schools, there wouldn't be any. Mind you, don't let him anywhere near Higher Education though.' We both laugh.

Which brings us to the drive to privatise as much of Higher Education as possible. We've great hopes the Office for Students will spearhead this. Plan is to carry it out covertly, pretend to be bringing fees down so as to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Must admit I'm amazed we can still get away with such a transparent ploy. I mean, as if anyone in this government actually gives a toss about the poor unless it's finding ways to make their lives harder. We're putting a lot of faith in Michael Barber to head this up. He's a McKinsey man through and through ('If it moves, privatise it. If it doesn't move, still privatise it'). The idea's to cut fees so universities begin to go broke, then privatise them. Carl Lygo has a key role here. The way he sold his private university, BPP, to a US Private Equity company - that's the model we want to bring to the state sector. And no one will even realise what we're doing, not until it's too late. Result! Putting a car into space, Musk's great achievement, has really excited ministers and we're hoping to persuade him to open a Space Academy. No-one has ever spent so much money on something so pointlessly obscene before. Boris was particularly impressed. He wants to establish space habitats and a colony on Mars, ready for when environmental disaster makes the Earth uninhabitable and the super-rich have to move on. He should be a push-over really - after all he's a total publicity-seeking egomaniac. Seems to me that lots of these multi-billionaires have read too much dystopian sci-fi and decided to use their fabulous wealth to try and realise the nightmare. He'd get on like a house of fire with Grayling. Apparently, lots of them are obsessed with living forever. Full blood transfusions seem to be one current favourite, or vampirism as we used to call it. Think Musk sees himself as being computerised, inhabiting the web like an all-powerful spider and running the world forever that way. Could be wrong though.

I've got copies of Loomis's book, Elon Musk: This book is about Rockets, aimed at primary kids and Vance's Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future: Young Readers Edition in front of me. He certainly hopes to influence the young.

Meeting goes OK, although we have to listen to Asslick praising his Master for nearly an hour. 'He's one of the greatest men who have ever lived, much more important than Bill Gates even.' 'He's a truly a Renaissance man, up there with Da Vinci.' 'He'd make a much better President than Trump.' It's a bit like being stuck in a lift with Piers Morgan. What we do for Education.

There are still a few problems to iron out. The Musk Space Academy has to be the largest school in the world, big enough to be visible from outer space. All teaching has to be by artificial intelligence. All students have to have brain implants (which solves any discipline problems). And they'll all have to make weekly blood donations. Wrong about the vampirism then. One other concession they want is that the government OK the sale of Musk flame throwers which are apparently 'great fun for all the family.' They've been on sale in the States for only a few months but already thousands have been sold. 'School shootings are so old hat,' Asslick tells me. 'Wait till we have the first school barbecue. Sales will go through the roof. USA! USA!'

Will pass this one up to Boss Hinds. Way beyond my pay grade.

12.30 pm Ceremony to unveil the Departmental portrait of Michael Judas Gove. Got very fond memories of his time in charge. Boy did we fuck up Education in those days. Only human being (or near enough as to make no difference) I've ever seen who could pluck a fly out of the air with his tongue. Once the ceremony's over, the portrait is carried up into the Departmental attic where it can age and corrupt, while he remains forever half human, half toad with that peculiar rictus grin fixed firmly in place. They're not going to bother with a portrait of Greening apparently. Just going to ask Tracy Emin to bash out a rough sketch of her to stick up in the toilets.

2.00 pm Visit the Divine Revelation School, a fee-paying primary, where all lessons are based on the Old Testament. Some complaints from parents. Arrive just after a pupil has been stoned for talking in class. The Head (he prefers to be known as the Prophet Elijah) is outraged. 'Some of these philistines want the children taught 'evolution' he spits. 'It took the Good Lord seven days, not seven billion years. And anyone saying different had best remember that you don't meet many philistines nowadays. And where are Sodom and Gomorrah? It wasn't Doctor Beeching but the Good Lord who closed them down.'

I ask whether the kids could be taught any History other than Bible stories. 'You want us to teach all that made up stuff rather than the revealed word of Our Lord? Moses it is and Moses it stays.' Tell him I'm not sure that reading out a list of who 'begat' who in the Bible is adequate sex education, but he doesn't really seem to know what sex actually involves. See what Boss Damian thinks of this one: although his first name has obvious Satanic connotations, he's actually a God-botherer, a paid-up Catholic. Will his determination to put even more of schooling into religious hands extend to the likes of the Prophet Elijah?

3.30 pm Junior minister Nick Gibb is appearing on the telly to explain the compulsory rote learning and testing of multiplication tables. He's bound to be asked trick questions, like 'what are six sixes?' Being a politician, his first instinct will be to lie. ('35 million a week for the NHS' was his first answer to that one), but even if he can overcome this disability, it's extremely unlikely that he'll get the answer right, at least not without some intensive coaching. I am putting him through his paces. 'What are eight eights, Minister?' 'Eighty eighty', he replies. Obviously we still have a long way to go and his first interview is a six o'clock.

5.00 pm 'What's six times ten, Minister?' 'Er, six hundred!'. 'Nearly right but you've put one nought too many on the end.' 'Look here', he tells me, 'I was a top chartered accountant for years and we always put at least one extra nought on the end, usually more.'
5.30 pm 'What's eight times nine, Minister?'

'Seventy four.'

'Not quite.'
'Oh sod it, it's bloody close enough. That'll have to do.' He is getting quite angry and there's nothing more scary than an angry chartered accountant.
I see disaster looming.

6.10 pm Gibb is sitting in the studio in front of the cameras looking most uncomfortable. 'Surely, Minister, making children learn their tables by rote is so old-fashioned, a return to the Victorian era and totally out of keeping with the modern world?'

'It's all part of our commitment to helping the less well off in society. It's a vital part of our plans to improve social mobility. We've put millions of pounds into improving adding up, multiplication and long division,' he parrots. 'And, of course, a successful Brexit will require a lot of multiplication.'

'Well in that case, can I ask you what eight times nine is?'

'No you fucking well can't, you BBC Commie bastard.'

That went well.


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