Focus on exams gets in the way of caring for children
As a retired teacher it was a shock to see mugshots of some former students of mine blasted over the press following two sexual abuse trials in Bristol.
I was sickened to think of the suffering that the girls and young women had experienced.
I also wondered why the young men had abused them and whether the school could have done more to address the issue of how women and girls are treated in society.
We live in a world where popular culture often reflects violence and misogyny back to a society that often promotes the same ideas.
I was only a teacher for a few years. But in my experience, opportunities to address “pastoral” needs of students and discuss issues outside the curriculum, such as women’s oppression, gang culture or racism, got narrower each year.
Pressure from the government and the media forced schools to concentrate on academic targets.
The school day and staff meetings increasingly focused on results.
I have to ask whether the management of the school could and should have done more to encourage students to think more about their place in the world.
Instead they stressed the need to get grades up to the exclusion of almost everything else.
There was widespread opposition in Bristol to the media reporting of the case.
“Somali Gang groomed and raped schoolgirls” was one headline.
“Victims were told it was Somali tradition to share girls for sex” was another.
I spoke to a couple of students, Omar and Mohamed.
They pointed out that the colour, culture and religion of suspects or convicted criminals were nearly always highlighted in reporting crimes by people from minority populations.
Phil Jones, Bristol
Unite to build new left party
I agree with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) that there needs to be a new “left of Labour” Party. It should be born from the original principles of the Labour Party that it has moved away from.
Working class people need support, not wealthy millionaires. Real people make this country work—they are the biggest asset it has.
Yet current politics barely takes note of them, never mind supports them.
As a former Labour Party member, I am disgusted at how very far removed the party has become in a very short space of time from real people.
People who voted for Labour at the last election now feel betrayed.
Many people in Leicester are sick and tired of what Labour has done in the city.
They say they’ll never vote for the party again.
It was difficult initially to make the change as I had been a Labour supporter most of my life. From the age of ten I had posted leaflets supporting Labour councillors and MPs.
Now I want to see something new. I believe the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) creates an opportunity to restart the socialist movement.
I hope all socialist and left groups will unite under TUSC and build a new party for the people by the people.Hardworking people deserve better—real people will fight for better!
Councillor Wayne Naylor, Leicester
Read the SWP statement at tinyurl.com/kx8ps4h
Fear shouldn’t stop us Muslims speaking out
I was leafletting for a Stop the War meeting on the University of East London campus last week.
One young Muslim man was quite aggressive towards me. He said that I shouldn’t be saying things about Iraq, Syria and Palestine.
Many friends and family members say similar things.
They are scared of surveillance. They say I shouldn’t discuss politics on the phone, as they think our phones are bugged.
They tell me to stop posting political views from a US imam I follow.
I am a Muslim, I am an African and I am British, that’s just who I am. These things don’t define me, I’m just a human being. I have a right to say how I feel.
But so many Muslims are too scared to, especially those who go to mosque.
I think it is important that Muslims, like others, stand up for what they believe is right, against the war and on other issues.
Halima Hassan, East London
Artificial intelligence can help us progress
John Parrington missed some salient features of the artificial intelligence (AI) sciences (Socialist Worker, 29 November).
It is common to compare how advanced or partly developed electronic silicon brains are compared to human carbon-based ones.
But artificial intelligences do already outsmart the best human ones in specific areas.
Look particularly at computers’ arithmetic and logical capabilities. Could we tot up a monthly finances calculation using arithmetic expressions as well as a computer?
We can build artificial neural networks that are capable of learning and recalling all sorts of functions and problems.
“Fuzzy logic” is used in washing machines and lifts—another AI benefit.
And expert systems, a particularly successful line of AI development, abound in places of high expertise.
Just so the public don’t get frightened—this is capitalism we exist under.
A socialist world would never hook up machines to weapons of any size—from cop-style to nuclear.
AI promises real progress to a future socialist society.
Dave Holes, Luton