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Friday 28 August 2009
Letters: 'Easy' exams
Sorry, but we didn't ask for 'easy' exams
If I had a pound for every time I have opened a paper this week to find yet another article running down the academic achievements of my generation, I'd have nearly have enough to pay back my student loan. Well, half maybe.
Most graduates over 30 will have had university education for free. Those same adults promised their children education, education, education and then gave us top-up fees. They sold us the dream that university would lead to a good job, then left us with crippling debt in a financial crisis. Whoever's fault it is, it wasn't ours. We were at school.
I'm not suggesting we've got cleverer, or that exams haven't changed – clearly they have – but students weren't the ones to do it. We didn't choose the current system, but it seems we're blamed for succeeding within it. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between someone attacking the system and attacking the pupils, whose only crime has been to do everything that was asked of them, only to be told their achievements are worthless.
New Malden, Surrey
Two letters on current A-levels (26 August) highlight a curious but perhaps inevitable blind spot which the sidelining of "traditional subjects" in favour of the more league-table-friendly media studies, psychology, sport science etc has helped to foster over the last 20 years or so.
The "standard and depth of media studies" has indeed been raised across the Channel during this period in the shape of Régis Debray's "mediology", whose francophone house journal Cahiers de Médiologie (renamed Médium in 2004) and website have been regularly articulating a dubious "media conception" of history, the social and pure sciences, the liberal arts and just about everything else under the sun.
The 33,822 candidates who passed A-level this year in Media, Film and TV Studies would appear to have done so in perfect innocence of these mediologists and of all things mediological.
My crime spotted by CCTV camera
Mark Hughes's article about the general ineffectiveness of CCTV cameras in fighting crime (25 August) was most enlightening. As a British expatriate who has lived overseas for over 30 years, I am constantly struck by the number of cameras one encounters on visits to London.
I have seen no evidence of any decrease in crime or loutish behaviour. If the cameras are not reducing crime and hooliganism, what then is their purpose? Is it to control the civil population, to discourage insurrection? Or as a substitute for effective policing? Or perhaps as a stimulus measure for the CCTV industry – Britain appears to lead the world in this area.
I think I may have one answer. The cameras do indeed fight crime – but in a category that Mr Hughes appears to have missed in his otherwise excellent article.
On a recent visit to the UK, while driving in Wimbledon early on a Bank Holiday Monday, I was incautious enough to allow one wheel of my car to encroach briefly into a bus-lane. In the deserted streets, my crime was easy to identify on Merton council's CCTV cameras, and within a few days I received a demand that I pay a £70 fine.
The council was kind enough to make the video of my one-wheel incursion on to the prohibited red section of roadway available to me, so that I could see the error of my ways. They did not offer to reduce the penalty, despite the clear evidence of the innocence of my other three wheels.
While hoodies and hooligans may roam the streets unhindered by cameras, Britain can take heart that hapless visitors will be hounded without mercy from the bus-lanes of Britain.
Broadmeadows, Victoria, Australia
People are right to question the use and cost of CCTV, and as a local authority this is something we constantly review. But we cannot allow the publication of an internal report on one police force's use of CCTV to skew the whole debate.
We understand there's no point in having the latest technology if you don't have the right people, training and systems in place to use it effectively, which is why our 160 cameras are manned by highly trained operators 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all our work is intelligence-led.
We have strict criteria to meet if we wish to install or move a camera and CCTV is always one of a range of measures we implement. We never put up a camera in isolation. CCTV also helps us tackle nuisance behaviour such as graffiti and dumped waste, and many of our residents tell us they find the cameras a reassuring presence.
It is impossible to have police and council officers on every street every day, and CCTV can fill some of the gaps. It is not a panacea, but a well-managed CCTV network in busy areas such as the West End of London, which has 200 million visitors a year, is vital in both deterring crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as directing the police and our own officers to problems quickly.
Finally, if we didn't have any CCTV cameras in the West End or other busy areas there would be a public outcry at the lack of security. Let's not forget that cameras, including our own, have previously provided vital intelligence for police investigations into terrorist attacks.
Cllr Daniel Astaire
Cabinet member for community safety, Westminster City Council.
Papua's place in Indonesia
Your article "Bows, arrows and a dream of liberation" (14 August), about Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) is short on facts. Former President Soeharto did not die in 1998, but he resigned that year, and died only last year. But in 1998 the period of reformation started, which democratised the whole of Indonesia, including Papua where, as a result of the 2001 autonomy laws, all major positions are in the hands of native Papuans, including the two governorships of the provinces of Papua and West Papua.
There has never been a country or former Dutch colony of "West Papua", but the western part of the island of New Guinea was part of the former colony of the Dutch East Indies and ruled as such from Batavia, now Jakarta, and the capital of the Republic of Indonesia. The Dutch delayed from 1949 to 1963 the orderly transfer of the western half of New Guinea for their own reasons, but never granted it independence in 1961. The format of the 1969 consultation was agreed between the UN and the Indonesian and Dutch governments.
Your main photograph shows tribesmen in traditional dress armed with bows and arrows for hunting and protection against neighbouring tribes; one can see such groups all over Papua. A smaller photograph shows men armed with assault rifles,. Whatever the source of these weapons, they have been used in sporadic attacks on police and other security personnel on Papua, but also on unarmed civilians.
Counsellor for Information Indonesian embassy, London W1
Left out of plans for high-speed rail
Once again, proposals for a new high-speed rail link completely ignore the needs of the North-East, its people and our business communities. The proposed route will run from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. You couldn't build a rail line farther away from the North-East region if you tried, unless you ran it up the middle of the Irish Sea.
The only way that this proposed route would be acceptable to the people of the North-East would be to either upgrade the east coast main line as a high-speed rail link, before or in tandem with this new route, or build a direct high-speed spur to the North-East at the same time, not as a later addition, thus giving our businesses the same opportunities as those in the Midlands and western regions.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher says: "High-speed rail can transform Britain. It can promote economic growth, regeneration and social inclusion." But, not it seems for us in the North-East.
To ignore the North-East's needs for the next 20 years could undermine all the hard work that local councils and the regional regeneration organisations have done, and seriously damage our economy.
Racism that shames football
It is interesting that it is Carlton Cole who leads the condemnation of the violence which marred Millwall's visit to West Ham in the Carling Cup ("Cole leads condemnation of game's night of shame", 27 August).
Racism has no place in society, never mind football specifically, but it is frustrating that Cole, like most of the media in the past two days, appears to have missed the racist chanting directed at Millwall's Jason Price from West Ham sections of the crowd.
There is no club in the country which has worked harder to address the problem of racism than Millwall, and journalism which lays the blame disproportionately at our feet will not help eradicate the problem. I sincerely hope that the FA and relevant authorities look past the minority of bigots who associate themselves with Millwall, and find and prosecute those from both sides who are guilty of racist chanting.
In the wake of the violence related to Tuesday's cup tie, has anyone considered the contributory role of films such as Green Street? This odious film, given credibility by a Hollywood budget and Elijah Wood in the leading role, glamorised football violence and used a cup clash between East London's hooligan "firms" as its centrepiece. It pandered to a mentality which considers the events of Tuesday as the latest in a "noble tradition".
Reality TV isn't the same as reality
Amy Jenkins (27 August) says that Big Brother makes us think deeply about our behaviour and our relationships. It might surprise her that some of us manage to do that without watching Big Brother. We find real life much more interesting.
But defenders of Big Brother seem to think that observation of others and self-analysis are only worthwhile when these things are validated by television. I concede that if Big Brother has taught its fans to look inwards it might have a shred of purpose. But I hope they are now asking themselves why they need to watch a bunch of narcissists in a TV studio to enhance their understanding of humanity.
Don't forget that in the Big Brother house everything is said and done with one eye on the camera. Reality TV is a contradiction in terms. I am interested in relationships between people, not people and television cameras.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Not Scotland's war
Now that FBI director Robert Mueller, commenting on the Megrahi case, has scandalously accused Scotland of being pro-terrorist, should we not stop from going to Afghanistan the 1,000 Scottish soldiers due to be posted there next year in support of US troops? Let the Americans fight their own wars.
Donald J MacLeod
Drama of cricket
David Lister (26 August) cannot think of any feature films on cricket. If my memory serves, in the early 1950s, there was The Final Test, starring Jack Warner, a hugely popular radio, cinema and soon-to-be television actor. The film also featured several England team players in supporting roles, including the nation's most illustrious opening batsmen, Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook. Warner played the part of a great but ageing cricketer at the end of his career.
Petts Wood, Kent
Don't believe it
Stephen Glover (Media, 24 August) drew attention to the overuse, particularly in the financial pages, of the term "eye-watering". I worry that soon, in speech, opinion articles and in almost any other communication, we will have in use only one adjective and one adverb – "incredible" and "incredibly".
So Hamish McRae (26 August) thinks we are wasting our "downtime" (such as when waiting for the train) and should be using it "more effectively" by continuing to work: blackberrying or emailing. After a hard day at the office does he never look forward to reading a newspaper or a magazine or a novel? Or just relaxing and thinking about things other than work? What does he make of the lines "What is this life if, full of care/We have no time to stand and stare"?
So Philip Green hired a ream of musicians to play at his son's bar mitzvah did he ("Let's spend the wedding night together", 24 August)? The rich are different, aren't they? I could only afford a quire for mine.
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