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Edifying spectacle of the day

Read a selection of grumpy middle-aged Tories and Libertoonians slate 18-year-old kids for being pompously grumpy about getting a stupid question in their History A-level.

CHILD PSYCHOLOGY NEWSFLASH: bright kids are often pompously grumpy, and are usually far too worried about exams.

…however, the concept of right-wing bloggers being upset by grumpy pomposity is leaning towards ‘white males are the most oppressed group’ levels of un-self-aware lunacy… oh, wait, most right-wing bloggers believe that too.

At least the kids will mostly grow out of it.

  1. Neil
    June 29, 2009 at 3:10 am | #1

    Well I've learned something new today: I followed the link to 'Blognor Regis' and discovered DAB – that is, digital radio – is inherently fascist.

    An' there was me thinking it was just a slightly shit and already-outmoded way of receiving dozens more nearly-identical shit commercial radio stations.

  2. June 29, 2009 at 8:28 am | #2

    I used to think that wingnuttery was a specific political standpoint with at least a semi-coherent ideological framework underlying it.

    Stuff like that just shows conclusively that it's a weak excuse to be as cuntish as possible about absolutely everything.

  3. June 29, 2009 at 8:47 pm | #3

    I am led to believe that at 18 they are no longer 'kids' but adults. Setting that to one side, anyone of that age who does not understand the phrase "despotic tyranny" is either ill-educated or a moron. It is not required that one be "grumpy", "middle-aged" or a "Tory" to come to that rather obvious conclusion. Finally, 'kids' tend *not* to grow out of being ill-educated, they simply remain what they are.

  4. Matthew
    June 29, 2009 at 9:38 pm | #4

    I feel a bit sorry for them and don't necessarily think being confused by the term makes one a moron, although I haven't seen the source text which contained the phrase or the exact question, so it's hard to know.

  5. June 29, 2009 at 9:45 pm | #5

    (despite appearances to the contrary, Duff's piece was posted *after* rather than *before* FlyingRodent's…)

  6. ajay
    June 29, 2009 at 10:24 pm | #6

    The problem here is that they just didn't know what "despotic tyranny" meant, right? Because that is a bit depressing.

  7. Neil
    June 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm | #7

    ajay – I betcha most of the complainants knew *exactly* what it meant, and this is "My Dog Died This Morning" re-mixed for the Facebook generation.

  8. June 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm | #8

    They didn't know what "despotic tyranny" meant *as opposed to "tyranny", "very bad place", etc… just as 90%+ of the people criticising them would struggle to come up with a precise, academic description of the difference between 'despot' and 'tyrant'.

  9. Falco
    June 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm | #9

    There is no particular difference between "tyranny" and "despotic tyranny" so there is a reasonable argument that adding despotic was unnecessary.

    However, for an A-level student's vocabulary to be so poor that they were confused as to the meaning is very depressing. "What do they teach them in schools these days?"*

    *Bonus points for identifying the source for the quote.

  10. Neil
    June 30, 2009 at 12:13 am | #10

    I find it depressing that people are credulous enough to believe every piece of crap that comes their way via tittle-tattle on social networking websites, non-story hungry newswires and cash-strapped papers.

    By hey ho, it was all better in my day.

  11. June 30, 2009 at 2:46 am | #11

    Or even "comes their way via" not-so-smart Alec blogs.

  12. Neil
    June 30, 2009 at 3:58 am | #12

    What has Laban done to deserve that appellation?

  13. EP
    June 30, 2009 at 5:21 am | #13

    I would say that, having looked at the facebook group in question a lot of the people complaining seemed to have problems with even the common usage definition of despotic (ie. as a synonym for an undemocratic, authoritarian form of government) with a lot of comments along the lines of 'I thought it meant chaotic'. That demonstrates a worrying weakness in the students vocabulary, and I lack sympathy.

    On the other hand, the question itself is not easy, applying the more detailed definition of despotic (an authoritarian regime which concentrates power into the hands of one despot) would require a bit of thought.

    If I'm honest, had I been sitting the exam I reckon I would have initially been a bit stumped because the two terms are often used interchangeably, despot/tyrant, and the question thus looks a bit tautological.

    However, taking a step back I hope I would have thought for a second and realised that it was asking about 'despotic' tyranny, as opposed to some other kind of tyranny (the tyranny of the majority). Although, that's assuming I wasn't so thrown by the question that I panicked and started writing utter crap (which has happened). Given the choice I probably would have skipped it.

    So, difficult/poorly worded question still doesn't excuse the fact that a lot of the students didn't have a clue what despotic meant.

  14. June 30, 2009 at 6:07 am | #14

    'First let's go for the teachers,
    Then let's go for the educationalists,
    Then let's go for the ministers of education,
    And then let's go for the smart Alec's who think there is nothing wrong in 18-year-olds not understanding plain English!
    And if we do, I won't say a word!'

  15. June 30, 2009 at 6:34 am | #15

    Has teaching pupils the meaning of the word "despot" ever explicitly featured on any syllabus ever? If not – and I doubt it has – then all we're talking about is that some people are more widely read and pick up larger vocabularies than others. Nothing necessarily to do with either intelligence or education standards, I'd have thought.

  16. June 30, 2009 at 6:39 am | #16

    While I'm afraid I have to agree slightly with Duff here in that if you don't know what a despotic tyranny is then you shouldn't be doing A-level History (and if they didn't, then their teachers are as much to blame as they are), that question as a whole seems awful. Can't remember what my last A-Level History exam question was, but pretty sure it wasn't as broad as that; we focused for a long time on the idea that his rule was one of "controlled chaos", although whether that come up or not I can't recall.

    More worthy of complaint was a question on a General Studies exam we did which included the idea of the "nuclear family". Most quite reasonably, especially as you don't specifically study for general studies, had no idea what a nuclear family is or was and so ended up writing about nuclear power instead.

  17. June 30, 2009 at 7:55 am | #17

    It’s worth noting that the ambiguous question may be due to the “new” (2008) Edexcel GCE.

    I found it difficult to navigate the EDEXCEL website, but you can read the new exam spec here: http://www.edexcel.com/migrationdocuments/GCE%20N
    [I skim read it, and didn’t see the word “despot”]

    From the student’s comments on the Facebook page, there were two responses to the paper:
    (a) Students who simply didn’t know what “despotic” meant; one thought it meant “chaotic”, a reading he felt was supported by the sources, and he reports the most of rest of his class did so too;
    Students who thought that “despotic” and “tyrannical” were synonyms, and were confused by the apparent tautology.

    I have quite a lot of sympathy for (b); my reading of the question would be to discuss in what ways Hitler’s Germany was a despotic as opposed to a non-despotic tyranny, which is highly non-trivial. [I should also note that my highest qualification in History is a “B” at GCSE, so this may very well be complete nonsense].

    What none of the students has mentioned, of course, is -assuming that the question is from Unit 3, Topic D2, Section B (the sources question on Hitler’s Germany) – is that candidates are to answer “one question in section B out of a choice of two” [page 9 of the specification].
    What was the other question?

  18. June 30, 2009 at 9:17 am | #18

    It were all fields round here when I were a lad, and young people had respect.

    We should bring back national service to police the non-existent British Empire, and I'll tell you what else – young people had proper respect in my day, and old twats who will never face another examination in their lives, other than the theoretical one at the Pearly Gates, know far more than people who actually have to get a job in modern reality. Thanks.

    The possibility that I'm just an aged, useless arsehole whose opinion is no longer relevant to the world we live in has not yet entered my mind. Cheers.*

    *Maybe I should've posted this in Laban's thread, but frankly, I can't face speaking to Laban. It ages me by about ten years every time.

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