We Don’t Need No Education

(I assure you that we do)

So today was GCSE results day, meaning the media was full of pretty 16 year old girls jumping for joy clutching A4 sheets of paper. It also means that it’s been 11 years since I reluctantly collected my envelope from Bournemouth School for Girls, to find that I had achieved at least one of every grade, A to F, including a fail!

Looking back, it’s actually quite funny how irrelevant these grades are to me now. My two best marks, the A and B, were in French and German, and nowadays I can just about manage a brief shopping transaction in French, while my German allows me to sing along to Rammstein when I feel like it (although Mr Brien never covered quite the same topics of conversation as Mr Lindemann does!).

The F was for Religious Studies, which was because I wasn’t particularly interested in knowing the “what” (reciting the five pillars of Islam or the Lord’s Prayer is dull) I wanted to know about the “why”, and that wasn’t on the curriculum. Knowing the ins and outs of the Abrahamic religions is pointless if you don’t follow them, but knowing why someone would choose to believe these tenets makes for a much more engaging session. But alas.

The fail was for Textiles, a subject I was forced to take as I couldn’t do art, and my cooking skills were dangerous. I protested by handing in my final project (two dress-shaped pieces of sparkly material with a couple of stitches holding them together) and renacting a famous Red Dwarf skit during the written exam. Well now, not only do I make and modify my own clothes, but I also own a sewing machine AND a dress form, so they can take their “ungradeable project” and shove it!

I got a C for double Science, because the teachers seemed less interested in the subjects than the students. Physics was taught at a minimal level, with the bare curriculum being transmitted to the students, with no room for enthusiasm from either party. Since leaving school I have developed a pure, unadulterated love for the sciences, physics especially, so much so that I have a carbon atom permanently inked onto my skin as a symbol of my desire for evidence and the scientific method. I’m also about to start the third year of my BSc, something I would never have imagined ten years ago.

But I think the most telling grade was for Information Technology. My grade for this subject was influenced by two factors, the first being that it was a short course, not even a full GCSE, and it wasn’t even *really* IT, it was “typing”. A half GCSE in “how to be a good secretary” wasn’t something I considered worth my time, especially as by this point I was already building my own PCs, fixing other peoples’, and messing around with DOS code in my own time.

The second factor which influenced my IT half GCSE result was the decision my mother made to take me to the Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge the night before my exam.

Stonehenge had been completely closed off to the public for 15 years, meaning that those wishing to celebrate the solstice there had to do so in the car park or by the side of the A303 instead of being amongst the stones. But for the first time in a decade and a half the ban was lifted and the solstice of June 2000 was to be enjoyed properly by druids and hippies alike. Neither myself, my mother, nor her friend Vicky were hippies and we certainly weren’t druids, but we were up for a laugh so on the evening of the 20th of June we hopped in the Land Rover and headed off to Wiltshire.

The reason why English Heritage had closed off access to the stones was because the revellers began partying a bit too hard, causing damage to the stones, and generally being dicks. As far as I can gather, this is pretty much how the solstice is “celebrated” these days, with disrespectful idiots clambering all over the stones and blaring dance music until sunrise, using it as an excuse to get off their tits in the name of an ancient pagan tradition. The following quote comes from this excellent article in the Independent:

“…I am against vandalism and drunken rowdiness as it is detrimental to everyone. The stones are of great cultural and spiritual significance, just like Westminster Abbey. It is right for people to have access to these places. But then, people don’t go to Westminster Abbey to take drugs or commit drunken violence, do they?”

This video was made about the year 2000 Solstice celebrations which demonstrates the atmosphere at the time quite well, and I even spotted myself in there at least once. My favourite bit is when the female druid beats a drunken idiot with her staff for climbing on the stones. Photos from recent celebrations seem to be dominated by such morons in wooly hats standing on the stones and demonstrating a complete disregard for a site of immense archaeological, astronomical, and spiritual interest. (I’m not a member of any particular God Squad, but I’m also not inclined to go piss in a cathedral…)

Soooo anyway, we went along, we danced, we tried to keep warm, and we passively inhaled a fair amount of airborne narcotics. We watched the sun rise above the stones, gazed in equal amounts of wonder and lethargy, and then we trundled home, singing Carpenters songs and generally making merry.

Then, about an hour later I hopped on my moped and went to school to sit my IT exam. I got a D by the way, but I then went on to implement and maintain a corporate computer network and provided IT support for nearly 7 years so it’s all pretty irrelevant really.

I guess what I wanted to say was, even if you think you’re not going to achieve much, there’s always a chance to turn things around. It’s never too late.

</fluffy feelgood blogpost>

I expect the next one will be an angry rant, don’t worry.

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