Category Archives: Politics

Haud yer weesht bairns

By Calum Liddle and Myles Edwards 

Burns: The National Bard

Burns: The National Bard

 

Children are being penalised for using Scots words and language in the classroom as teachers are mistaking it as bad English, according to leading academics.

Scotland’s experts have called for compulsory in-service training to be provided to tackle the “reluctance” of many English teachers at secondary level.

The EIS, Scotland’s Teaching Union, have previously opposed teaching Scots in secondary schools on the grounds that “not all school children are Scottish”.

Derick McClure,  professor of Scots at Aberdeen University said: “I know that some teachers still make the distinction –  wrongly interpreted and applied – between what they call ‘good Scots’… and what they call ‘bad English’.

McClure said “there is no co-ordination on the frontline of secondary teaching” for Scots.

He added: “I can understand the reluctance of some teachers [to teach Scots]. However, many simply do not know where to go for official information. The government should supply in-service training to teachers for the use and place of Scots in education.”

Duncan Jones of the Association of Scottish Literary Studies – an educational charity that aims to promote the study, teaching and writing of Scottish literature and the languages of Scotland – conceded that Scots was rarely ever taught at secondary level.

“We have run CPD (Continuous Progress Development) courses since the 1980s for teachers on Scots literature, specifically the Scots language. The teachers are a self-selecting group – obviously those who view Scots as a ‘bad’ language don’t show. However the courses can be very popular.”

Itchy Coo – a partnership between authors James Robertson and Mathew Fitt with Black and White Publishing in Edinburgh – provides resources for classroom education. Mathew Fitt has run workshops, classes and made presentations to over 500 schools and libraries and delivered over 150 in-house professional training sessions in 18 local authorities.

Mr Robertson said: “You are disadvantaging children educationally if you don’t enable them access to Scots material. Children need access to their own culture. Too often children in Scotland grow up believing all Scots is, is just bad English. That’s a fallacy.”

Robertson, author of The Smoky Smirr O Rain: A Scots Anthology continued: “Unless there’s a commitment in terms of actually some kind of compulsory element, it will continue to be squeezed purely because of Higher English.”

Many secondary schools have no teaching of Scots, amid accusations teachers prefer reading American literature and Shakespearean texts.

Derek Douglas of the Scottish Qualification Association (SQA) said: “From Standard Grade to Higher and all levels in between there are no authors or texts prescribed by the SQA. Each school or college decides which literature to study.”

McClure added the ‘Begbie’ image of Scots had to be addressed, in light of Scots being seen as an “under-class form of communicating”.

“We need teachers, children and young adults to grasp the difference between good Scots and bad Scots, old Scots and new Scots. Just as is done for English.”

SNP MSP Rob Gibson, who is fighting for Scots language equality in schools, defended the government’s progress.

“Scots is undergoing a resurgence backed by Government action. From the Audit and subsequent conferences which galvanised speakers and activists, to the liberation of teachers (in the curriculum for excellence) to use much more Scots in class. All are key factors in the normalising of Scots.”

Mr Gibson added: “What parity means is there’s naethin wrang wi spikin your ain leid’.”

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Barack Obama – The first black American President?

By Myles Edwards                  16 May 2007

obama

Barack Obama

“There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America”, the words of a Mr Barack Obama.

Is it any wonder why Barack Obama is drawing such widespread multi-cultural support from all across America?

Barack Obama first came to public attention at the Democratic Convention in 2004 where he made one of the most famous speeches in recent American history.  His aim was ‘A United America’, an America which treated each individual citizen with equality.

It is ironic that at the time of his memorable speech, John Kerry was running for President of the US, yet, the then, non-elected Obama’s words were met with a far greater cheer and produced a tidal wave of emotions from the vast audience.

Obama was a breath of fresh air to many American’s who found John Kerry’s “reporting for duty” Presidential campaign based purely on his heroics in Vietnam, rather than inspiring aims of equality and eradication of discrimination, which Obama believes should, and can, become reality.

Having been on the Illinois Senate for 8 years, following his sensational speech in 2004, Barack Obama gained 70 percent of the vote to be elected to the U.S. senate.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, 1961.  His Kenyan father left two years later and Barack’s white American mother moved the family to Jakarta, Indonesia.  Barack was educated at a predominantly Muslim school.  At the age of ten the family returned to the U.S.A. – a choice which could possibly change the outlook of America forever.

It is no coincidence that Time magazine chose Barack Obama in their top 100 most influential people in the world list in 2005. 

However, he does not produce the same emotion as he did in 2004.  He now takes on a more relaxed approach.  His explanation for this modification within himself is that he does not want to be seen as “excitable”.  He’d rather be recognised as “exciting”.  He wants to continue proving himself to the US public as unique and not a prototype of previous, easily-excitable black Presidential candidates such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.  Everyone knows he can deliver an inspiring speech but he wants to put his ‘thought process on display’.

The United States of America is dominated by race.  However, does Barack Obama represent hope that race does not matter, that an American can be measured purely upon their achievements and not their ethnicity?

Despite a high level of popularity with African-Americans, there is a growing feeling that Obama is “not black enough”. This is because his ancestors did not experience slavery or segregation. 

 This notion does not reflect what Obama is attempting to achieve, in a ‘United America’ of the future.  These whispers suggest that the approaches adopted by Jackson and Sharpton are more effective in gaining the African-American vote.  Obama is likely to view this only as a challenge.

Nevertheless, certain polls suggest that this ‘United America’ is only just around the corner.  In 1968, 53 percent of voters said they would not vote for a black candidate.  This figure dropped dramatically, to 6 percent in 2003.  Race is becoming so much less of an issue that Obama’s smoking habit is more likely to put Americans off voting for him.

With Hillary Clinton posing tough opposition to Obama’s charge for Presidency, it can be said that the Democrats are pushing the barriers of race, and also gender, which have previously haunted the US so significantly.  Both have a realistic chance of winning the Presidential elections, and a breaking free from the America of past.

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