Friday, 29 January 2010

Poor Education

Seen the latest offering from Apple?

It will never take off – far too large for a mobile phone.

Got trapped for 30 minutes in a virtual automated call-centre system yesterday. I was trying to speak to a human at the UK DVLA (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency), but none of the options applicable resulted in termination of the call to an operator. I kept pressing buttons on my phone as instructed and went into a permanent feedback loop. Emergent system behaviour instigated by the unexpected – a wish to speak to a homo sapiens.

One thing I discovered was that the manual intervention option is usually left till the very end, meaning you have to have the patience of Job and listen to all the blurb and marketing spiel before you can pass go and collect £200. This is because the object of the exercise is to prevent you from speaking to an expensive resource.

Talking of customer service, I had a customer meeting yesterday which necessitated me having to wear a suit. I don’t have many meetings, preferring instead to do business over the phone, and thus when I do wear a suit it now feels somewhat strange; so strange in fact that I forgot to do up my fly before leaving the caravan. Additionally I’ve been growing my beard since Xmas and it’s just at that explosion-in-a-hay-loft stage. The end result was the head of a tramp superimposed on a cool cut-out suit. I looked like a dosser who had just been given a smart suit by a well-off charity donor.

The poor! Apparently 30% more students from poor homes are now going to university than five years ago. I’d like to know what the government is going to do about this lamentable state of affairs! We can’t have potential DVLA operatives, road sweepers and shop assistants getting above their station and obtaining degrees. The consequence of this is that we’re going to have to import yet more disreputable Johnny Foreigners from Poland to do the menial jobs.

Dumbing down the education system to the extent such that nothing more academically arduous that simple attendance guarantees you a degree in some crappy subject having as much value to society as a bog brush is not the way to increase social mobility. In fact it brings education into disrepute and devalues the currency for all. The upshot is that a degree is no longer a guarantor to escaping poverty – it now has the same value in the eyes of employers as the old City & Guilds qualification.

When I was young a degree guaranteed you a well paid job. These days some 10% of UK university graduates will still have no job after 6 months. I didn’t choose to follow the university path, which I occasionally regret; however, I can’t complain about the life I did lead as it gave me other skills which have stood me in good stead – skills I would not have learned in a university environment, such as leadership, bartering, dealing with petty officialdom, how to bribe effectively, negotiating with prostitutes, juggling multiple girlfriends in multiple ports, etc.


  1. I really, really want an iPad - the only thing that puts me off is that I have to have a phone account with it!

    Richard x x x

    PS - Chairman - it's my birthday soon???????

  2. Perhaps one of the problems with the devaluation of the degree is that you no longer have to have a knowledge of Greek or Latin - by themselves not important but it did mean that anyone going to university was serious and scholarly - with the present devaluation of the university system that is no longer true.

    On another note you are still young to me! (But then the Pope is starting to look young too!)

    Richard x x x

  3. Richard: Love the comment about popes starting to look younger. I may use that - which reminds me of Whistler's comment when Wild said he wished he'd used one of Whistler's witty comments - "You will, Oscar, you will."

  4. Education, education, education (I am currently watching him on Sky, squirming before the panel), but I prefer to deal with the street-wise barrow boy. No matter how devious he is there is an inherent 'honesty' about him - even when he is being dishonest!

    The bookish bloke, no matter how intelligent (or perhaps BECAUSE he is highly intelligent) often just doesn't get it.

    After 50(ish) years out of formal education I can still recite huge chunks of Shakespeare, or look at a quadratic and mentally arrive at the answer. But those are only party tricks; they haven't helped me in real life. The 'skills' you acquired are also the ones I sought, and I am glad to say I also managed to pick up some of them along the way.

    They've always stood me in good stead, and I've also picked up a few barrow boy tricks, including learning how to be as crooked as a dog's hind leg ...