Mr Bigg's Blog A blog about politics, theology, education and the rest…

5May/112

Reflections on standing outside a polling station

Posted by Mike

This evening I stood for an hour or so outside my local polling station with a Yes to AV sign and a few fliers. The local campaign had asked me to do this to offer any unsure voters the chance to ask any questions still unresolved for them. The response I got was unexpected...

Whenever I caught someone's eye on their way into the polling station I smiled and politely asked if they still had any unresolved questions about the AV referendum. The majority of voters said, "No, thanks! I've already decided." Fine. A few added a cheeky, "Don't worry, I'll be voting Yes." A few added that they'd already decided to vote No. All fair enough.

However, a significant minority got a little huffy as if I'd said, "I hope you're voting Yes" or "Which way are you planning to vote?" One woman came out after voting and approached me. She said she'd voted Yes and was passionate about it, but was worried that the campaign was using Nazi-like tactics to hassle voters (yes, she used the N-word).

I guess I've learned today that people are extremely protective about their vote. They hold their right to vote dear. The Yes campaign needed to persuade people that AV will not diminish their vote but enhance it. We won't get another chance at this in my lifetime to make this change. I hope they have done enough.

3May/112

The influence of the Septuagint on the New Testament

Posted by Mike

I spent quite a while today trying to find a copy of my MPhil Thesis today and luckily I found it in and old sent folder. The upshot is that I thought I'd post a copy here so I don't lose it again.

It's a study of Romans 9-11 and how the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) influences Paul's theology in this passage. It is intended to show that biblical translation strategy can influence the very writing of the Bible and is therefore a call to be careful in how we interpret the Bible ourselves.

If anyone wants to read it feel free: The Influence of the Septuagint on Paul: A Study of Romans 9-11 (1983)

Any comments would be gratefully recieved! It was a year's worth of work so if you use it please credit me!

3May/111

The shame and misinformation of the No to AV campaign

Posted by Mike

I was dismayed to come home today and find that the No to AV campaign have written to my house again. They've written to everyone in the house except me (what do they know about me and how?!)

Their flier was full of outrageous misinformation and poor argument so I thought I'd rebut some of it (again).

"Vote NO to the Altervative Vote on Thursday because..."

...it will produce more coalitions. Under the AV system, we would have coalitions most of the time, with Nick Clegg deciding who would be Prime Minister by cutting a deal behind closed doors after the election

Where to start with this? Firstly, there is little evidence that AV will produce more coalitions. We simply don't know how people would have allocated their second/third/fourth preferences had AV been in force in previous years so it's difficult to project backwards. My guess would be that Tony Blair's landslide in 1997 would still have happened under AV but we simply don't know. Anyway, are coalition governments by definition a bad thing? I don't think so.

The other major problem is the ad hominem argument against Nick Clegg. The campaign to change the voting system is NOT about the results of the next election, or the one after that. We are talking about a change that could last hundreds of years. It is simply not acceptable to argue against AV because we don't like Nick Clegg (just as the Yes to AV argument isn't made any stronger by saying "The BNP are voting against AV so we should vote for it"). The question is about how we can deliver an electoral system that most fairly and democratically represents the will of the people. The issue of which system will be most beneficial to the party one happens to like is neither here nor there.

...it is only used by three other countries in the world - Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea - and Australia want to get rid of it.

Oh, good Lord! Firstly, I am not aware of ANY other country in the world that uses our bizarre form of FPTP. The argument that hardly anyone uses the system is not a good one in favour of FPTP. Besides, what's wrong with doing things differently? We were one of the first countries to legislate against the slave trade. I'm sure plenty of people said, "No-one else is doing it so we shouldn't either". Does that make the slave trade a good thing? No.

Secondly, the No to AV campaign have greatly exaggerated the claim that the Australians want to get rid of AV. Antony Green, an Australian, despairs at this misinformation.

...it allows the second or third placed candidates to win. We could end up with third-best candidates becoming MPs.

Well, this really depends on your definition of "winning". If winning is a matter of rallying your core support in order to get to Westminster on 30-40% of your constituent's votes then FPTP is for you. If, on the other hand, you consider winning to mean reaching out to at least 50% of the voters in order to be an MP then AV your system. I'm not the only one who thinks the second definition of winning is preferable!

In reality, the only times in which the "third best" candidate could win is if there was a close three-way split between three candidates and the third candidate happened to garner significant support from those who put the fourth/fifth/sixth placed candidates first. If the top three candidates got 30%/29%/28% respectively and the third candidate then had significant numbers of votes from the remaining 13% of the electorate after redistribution then I'm not sure (s)he'd be considered "third best".

...it will cost the country £250 million, at a time when money is tight

How much longer will this lie go on? No-one is planning to buy voting machines. The only extra expense will be the extra pencil lead it takes to write "1, 2, 3" rather than a cross. The only technology required is a pencil and paper.

Sure, it'll take a little longer to count, but it will be worthwhile.

...it means that someone else's 5th preference is worth the same as your 1st

Nonsense! I've written about this here.

...it will mean that supporters of the BNP and other fringe parties would decide who wins... that will encourage candidates to pander to the likes of the BNP

Yes, it is true that (God willing) BNP candidates will be knocked out at an early stage and their votes will be redistributed. However, to suggest that this means that candidates are likely to pander to the BNP for votes in ludicrous. Do they seriously think that candidates will start saying: "I'm planning to kick out all the foreigners and withdraw from the EU" in order to attract far-right votes? As everyone knows this would lose candidates more votes than it would gain them. It does, however, mean that green issues might be taken more seriously when the minority of Green votes is to be redistributed.

No candidate is going to become schizophrenic because of AV. Candidates will still have to have clear policies upon which they hope to be elected. Any candidate that says one thing to one voter and something else to another will soon find themselves with no votes at all, and rightly so.

Conclusion

Is there anyone to whom I can complain? Points 2 and 4 in particular contain downright lies. I will be appalled if this referendum is voted down because of this shameful campaign.

Yes to AV!

3May/110

Job application clangers

Posted by Mike

Recently I had the privilege of looking over job applications to shortlist applicants for interview. I don't get to do this very often so it was interesting to see how it's done. With almost 30 applications for the job I thought it would take ages to whittle it down to 4 or 5. However, I was surprised that it took well less than an hour and often it was simple mistakes that put serious question marks over otherwise reasonable applications. In a competitive market you need to make sure an application will get through the initial "sift" so it is more likely to be read fully.

Therefore, I thought I'd make a note of a few common "clangers" that put an application closer to the bottom of the pile. None of the things listed below would instantly lead to the dismissal of an application but the moment alarm bells are rung it becomes less likely that an application will be shortlisted. I hope these may be helpful for anyone applying for a teaching job in future!

Your covering letter is a letter!

Many of us email job applications these days. However, even if you email an application your covering letter is still a "letter". Therefore it should have your address in the top right hand corner with the date. It should end with "Yours Sincerely" and your name. This is a basic bit of ettiquette which, if not adhered to, can make you look less professional.

Get the form of address right...

Following on from the last point it's important that your letter is addressed properly. You'll almost certainly know to whom the letter is to be directed. Unless the advert explicitly says to write to someone else you'll be writing to the head teacher. If you don't know the head teacher's name then look it up on the school's website or phone to find out! Your letter should then start "Dear Mr(s) [or even Dr/Revd - try to get this right]..."

Applications I read were addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam" (lazy), "Dear Mr(s) " (slapdash), "Dear colleague" (you're not my colleague - this sounds rather presumptuous). If you don't get this right (at a time when it is assumed you are doing the best you can to impress) it leaves the person reading wondering what else you might get wrong.

Spell check and proof-read

Teaching is a profession. Part of being a professional is being able to communicate clearly. If your application contains typos, bad grammar, awkward sentences or meaningless statements then you look less professional. At the very least you ought to proof-read your application to check these; I find that reading out loud helps me to find many errors. Obviously writing an application can be a rather involving process and sometimes it is hard to spot one's own mistakes so get someone you trust to proof-read too. Most people are glad to do these things and are flattered to be asked. If you really can't find anyone to do it then email me and I'll do it myself! I hate to see decent applications let down by silly mistakes.

Keep it tight

A covering letter is not the same as your life story. Two pages of size 12 A4 should be plenty to sell yourself. If you write more you should be damned sure that it's captivating stuff otherwise you look like a waffler; no-one wants to waste their time with a waffler. A covering letter should be enough to grab attention and make the employer think you'd be worth talking to in interview. Don't say everything you could possibly say otherwise there'd be nothing to talk about!

(On a similar note don't cut it too short either. Saying, "Please find enclosed my application" does not constitute a covering letter).

Avoid "elephants in the corner"

Plenty of people apply for jobs in unusual circumstances; there's nothing wrong with this. You may be a deputy head in a school wanting to spend more time with your family and so you're applying for a standard teaching job. You may have only been in your current job for one year and are looking to move. You may have come into teaching late and be looking for a change. You may be looking to side-step into a different kind of role.

Whatever your circumstances you need to be aware if your application might be considered "unusual" in any way. If this is the case then your letter ought to address this. This doesn't mean you have to explain in detail about your family circumstances or your position in your current school. It does mean that you need to at least acknowledge that your application raises questions. If you leave an "elephant in the corner" it may look like you have something to hide.

Back up what you say with evidence

This is basic Level 5 stuff. Explain! If you say, "I believe in inclusive education" then great! You should at least try to back this up with some evidence. What have you done to put this into practice? Do you promote the use of ICT in your lessons? Prove it. If you don't do this then your application can look wooly.

These are all things I noticed today which, I'm afraid, meant that a lot of applications (that I'm sure people had spent a lot of time working on) ended up being sidelined. I hope this helps anyone thinking of applying for a teaching job!

Anyone else got any tips, advice or pet peeves when it comes to job applications?