My Response to Strike Action


what follows is a transcript of an email I sent to King Edward VI college after reading the principals response to industrial action from the teachers. News article to strike here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-18792635

and principals response here http://www.kinged6nun.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=393%3Aresponse-to-strike-action&Itemid=102

Dear Sir/Madam,

After reading the statement made on the King Edward VI website regarding the joint strike between NASUWT and NUT it seems to me that you are trying to ignore the reason for the strike or you are not fully aware of the reason. As a student who has just left the college I feel obliged to relay what I feel on the subject. Whilst studying at the college all the staff I had contact with were extremely competent, helpful and would always push to try and help the students in any way they could. However I and I’m sure that many of the other students were not blind to the fact that many of the teaching staff felt that there was something hanging over their head and that they were under more pressure than usual. Clearly now the reason why is apparent, it’s because they were put on capability procedures and perhaps felt that if their students didn’t perform quite as well as they should that they might lose their jobs. I’m not saying that would have happened but it would be a logical conclusion to come to.
It also strikes me that when I read things like “We have a superb group of students at the college and we expect our staff to want to take on CPD to continue to provide an excellent service.  Our students deserve nothing less!” and “This is because we value the professionalism and hard work of all of our staff but for all of us the focus remains on placing the best interests of our students at the heart of every decision we make”, I wonder whether you have actually consulted the students in this decision. Because I certainly wouldn’t want my teacher to be put on capability because I got bad grades, I believe that more factors should be taken into consideration such as a student survey on teachers performance or perhaps you observe the lessons, because I think that cold hard facts such as student grades can be very unforgiving to some teachers. 
Also if what you say here is the case “Their work ethic is very strong however we know that there are areas where some teachers can improve their performance.” Then is there no better way of achieving this than to put members of staff on capability? Also as capability procedures were taken out were they carried out correctly as stated by the department for education:
  1. Were the teachers in question investigated and was evidence collected? And as this is one of the main points of the argument was the evidence solely the Grades of their pupils? If so is that evidence enough for capability procedures?
  2. Once evidence was gathered were one of the next three steps followed? Did you either drop the matter, arrange counselling, or arrange a formal interview? And if it was decided that counselling was the way forward was the recommended upper time limit of 2 terms put in place?
  3. After the counselling there should be a period of review that involves 2 stages lasting 24 weeks. In the first 20 weeks there should be “Regular observation, monitoring and evaluation of performance, with guidance, training if necessary, and support to the teacher”. (taken from the ‘capability procedures for teachers ‘https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eorderingdownload/capability-guidance.pdf‘). Was this criteria met if it was decided that the teacher should be having counselling?
  4. At the end of the 20 weeks there should be an evaluation meeting to assess the teachers performance and if it is decided the performance was satisfactory over those 20 weeks then the capability procedures end there. If not then the monitoring and evaluation carries on for a further 4 weeks. If “performance has been satisfactory, and there is sufficient confidence that it can be maintained, the capability procedure can end here.If performance is unsatisfactory the teacher should be told that the matter will be referred to the governing body Staff Dismissal Committee. The result of the assessment, main points of the meeting and date of the dismissal committee hearing (if known), should be recorded in a letter to the teacher.” ( taken from the ‘capability procedures for teachers ‘https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eorderingdownload/capability-guidance.pdf‘)
 
Notice how in all the points above that the guidance for capability procedures talks about how it is based on teachers performance. Now I am well aware that student performance is an important reflection but there are many other variables such as quality of time spent with pupils, amount of time spent with pupils past records of results from previous years where available. I believe that this is the main grievance that the teaching staff who have taken industrial action have. It is that they are being judged by one parameter and one parameter alone, namely student grades. 
 
I hope that the staff at King Edward VI college get to hear this email as well as the management because I think that it is important that people know what the students think about this subject.
Also this email will be posted on the internet at my website skepticcullen.wordpress.com I hope in doing this it will serve to help other students speak up.
Yours sincerely,
Alexander Cullen

Religion and happiness are not mutually exclusive


So I was checking my college email today and I found one from someone who is doing an AQA extended project, this person shall remain anonymous. They were doing an extended project on whether faith has an impact on well being and as such they were doing a poll. They wanted to know two things; 1, do you consider yourself religious? And 2, on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you?

My first reaction was to just send an email back saying 1, no but then when I thought about answering number 2 I found it very difficult. This was my first problem with this poll. How happy you are is very difficult to quantify. If someone asked me yesterday at around half 6 I would have answered 10/10. But maybe I wasn’t as happy today because I wasn’t feeling very well. But then that made me think. If I’m basing how happy I am on if I feel well or whether Liverpool just won the Carling Cup that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Religion and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

Also if I were completely miserable maybe I wouldn’t want to tell someone that and I would lie and say I was quite happy. Then the more I thought about it the more I realised how skewed the results could get. Because this person has told us that they are looking at the relationship between happiness and religion you might want to lie for your religions sake or lack of religions sake. People might not want, even if they are unhappy, people to think that it is because of their faith or lack of faith.

To avoid this they could have sent the two questions out separately via different email addresses with enough time in between so people wouldn’t have realised they were linked. There is also another problem with this. The person asks whether you are religious or not. Now a lot of people may find that difficult to answer. If they are a deist that means they believe in a higher power but don’t follow the teachings of any particular church. So are they religious or not. I believe that it’s a sliding scale and not a question you can give a yes/no answer to.

So there are many flaws with this including some that I haven’t mentioned like the limited sample size, the fact that all the people they are asking are aged 16-18 and the huge amount of variables that add up to whether a person is happy or not. So in conclusion I will be surprised if they find a correlation between religiousness and happiness and I believe that if they do it will not be because their necessarily is one but because of the points I have made here. I can only hope that the person who is doing this extended project takes all of these things into account and if they do it will have one hell of a summary.

Where do we go from here Dr Burzynski?


I’ll get to the main topic in a minute but couldn’t start a new thread without mentioning my unreserved joy that Marc Stephens has been sacked. I am not a sadist but I quite enjoy watching bullies getting taken down a notch, and Marc Stephens was the worst of them all (see previous post). It was made official this morning in a press release from the BRI (see here). But that’s not what I want to talk about. No I want to talk about what’s going to happen next.

The reputation of the BRI has been somewhat tainted in the UK over the past week. Miss Streisand has been working overtime and if you want to see the full extent of the damage then got to Josephine Jones blog here. Now that’s all very well and good, the internet is full of discussion about the quack Dr Burzynski and pretty much none of it good. In fact to find any positive propaganda at all you’d have to go onto the BRI’s own website. But what effect does this have outside the world of bloggers and skeptics?

Well there has been an article in the guardian about everyone’s hero Rhys Morgan and then he even wrote one for the guardian himself, so this thing isn’t just us bloggers and skeptics. But still I think the people that read the guardian might have already had similar conclusions about the BRI already. But that doesn’t matter because now it’s become quite big news in this country and anyone googling Burzynski will come up with over 100 sites explaining why he is a fraud. So where’s my problem?

My problem is this. Dr Burzynski make his money by getting terminally ill cancer patients to pay exorbitant sums to take part in his trials. He calls them trials because the FDA has said he can’t call them a cure as they are unproven. (you’ve heard this before). But what you may not have heard is that to get on to one of his prestigious trials you have to send a cheque to him personally. Fishy, no? Yet even though nearly every single site, from the FDA to Cancer Research UK to NHS to bloggers, show that Burzynski has no evidence for his claims, and you have to pay him directly people are still signing up to his trials.

This to me shows that because of the desperate situation of people that sign up for these trials they are willing to ignore the lack of evidence and the overwhelming negative response to Dr Burzynski’s claim. And you can’t begrudge people that fact. These are people who are clinging to any hope they can get, and that makes me despise what the BRI are doing even more. They are preying on innocent people at their lowest ebb and cleaning them out.

In my opinion the Burzynski clinic will carry on as long as there are still conspiracy theorists and terminally ill cancer patients. I would love to be proved wrong but I have a horrible sinking feeling that we won’t be seeing the end of the BRI for a while to come. So unlike the BRI instead of a cure we will try and take preventative methods and stop other people from being caught in this mans traps.

Who the hell does Marc Stephens think he is?


Now I’m sure many of you have been following the Burzynski fiasco like me. And if you haven’t here’s a little catch up.

Many well renowned skeptic bloggers have recently been writing about a certain Burzynski clinic in Texas. This is because Dr.Burzynski (although his PhD doesn’t appear to exist) claims to be able to cure cancer using antineoplastons which are certain peptides that are found in your errrr urine. These antineoplastons appear to occur less in cancer patients so the thinking is that because they’re lacking if you give them some then suddenly they will get better. I will not even bother to explain why that is such a ridiculous conclusion.

Anyway the FDA apparently agree with me and Dr.Burzynski is not allowed to offer this as a treatment let alone a cure, as he claims it is. This is because of the lack of evidence from good trials i.e. randomised controlled, you know the drill. But Dr.Burzynski clearly has a much better business mind than a medical one (although that doesn’t seem difficult), and he charges families thousands of pounds to take part in his ‘trials’. But don’t take my word for it, read the word of some other people,

http://thewelshboyo.co.uk/2011/08/the-burzynski-clinic/

http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2011/11/the-false-hope-of-the-burzynski-clinic.html

http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/burzynski.htm

Now I hope that none of these people mind that I am including them in this post, but I suppose if they had a problem then they could point it out to me and I would respond and then we’d work the problem out, that’s how civilised society works. Well apparently not for the Burzynski Research Institute.

The people at the BRI were very angry with what people were writing about them, but one man was more angry than most. His name is Marc Stephens. As he has told people time and time again he is representing Dr.Burzynski and the BRI, but I don’t think very well.

Here’s the 1st email in full that he sent to Peter Bowditch @ http://ratbags.com/rsoles/

From: “MAS” <mastephens1@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 00:47:54 -0400
Subject: Demand to Cease and Desist and Removal of Webpage/Articles

FIRST NOTICE
Demand to Cease and Desist and Removal of Webpage/Articles

Hello,

I represent Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, Burzynski Clinic, and Burzynski Research Institute.  It has been brought to our attention that you have content on your website http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/burzynski.htm that is in violation of several state and federal laws. This is a legal complaint regarding the article you posted online titled “The Millenium Project – The fundaments of the Net – Burzynski Research Institute. This correspondence constitutes a demand that you immediately cease and desist in your actions defaming and libeling my clients. Please allow this correspondence to serve as notice to you that you published libelous and defamatory information.

Please be advised that my clients consider the content of your postings to be legally actionable under numerous legal causes of action, including but not limited to: libel, defamation, and tortious interference with business contracts and business relationships. The information you assert in your postings is factually incorrect and posted with either actual knowledge, or reckless disregard for its falsity, and with the actual and specific malice to injure my client’s business relationships in the community.

 I am sure you are familiar with Defamation (Libel). If not, I will assist you.

What is Defamation (Libel)
Libel is a published or fixed form of defamation of character; a civil wrong that falsely impugns the reputation or character of a person or entity, opening the target up to public scorn or ridicule. Libel might appear in a magazine, book, newspaper, or in a radio or television broadcast. Signs, billboards or posters can also be mediums for libel. Online libel, or cyber libel takes electronic forms such as email, mailing lists, newsgroups, chat rooms, podcasts, vodcasts and Web pages. Although many citizens do not yet realize it, comments made to chat boards, newsgroups and even mailing lists are all forms of publication. Criticisms of companies or their goods can be a basis for libel charges if the poster misrepresents facts, or fails to qualify his or her post as opinion.

Every comment you made in your article is highly incorrect.  I suggest you remove the article in its entirety or I will file suit against you immediately.  I find it surprising for you to make careless statements without researching.  You are highly aware of what you are doing, and I have court documents to prove this.

Although you try to disguise your statements as your “Opinion”, Please note by law you are held accountable for posting incorrect information from a third party..including from the original source.  I am not sure where you obtained your incorrect information, but you will be held liable for your statements. REMOVE ARTICLE IMMEDIATELY.

GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

Sincerely,
Marc Stephens
Burzynski Clinic
9432 Katy Freeway
Houston, Texas 77055

Now I am not a lawyer and am not familiar with their techniques but generally the use of capital letters for effect is the choice of the internet troll not a professional representing someone else. So that made me think, is this man actually a lawyer. You would assume he is because he sounds like an arsehole and is threatening legal action but you can never be sure.

So what do we find. Well it turns out that Mr Stephens is in fact a marketing representative for the BRI. Now that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a lawyer but if he is then he’s not a very good one as he is doing PR work. So we can safely assume that he isn’t a lawyer, so what is he. Well have a read of this http://anaximperator.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/is-marc-stephens-really-a-representative-of-burzynski/ and see what you think. To me this shows he really is a troll. My favourite part is this ‘You are CLEARLY a fraud..as well as the rest of the people on your page.. which is probably you with multiple accounts.’ This is Marc Stephens commenting on a fairly innocuous post on yahoo answers about the Burzynski clinic. I don’t think the word hypocrite even covers the amount of vile hatred displayed by this man.

But not content to accuse people of being a fraud he can do threats as well ‘ Be smart and considerate for your family and new child’. This lovely message was sent to Andy Lewis of quackometer.net (full post here: http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2011/11/the-burzynski-clinic-threatens-my-family.html ). I have not taken this out of context, you can see the full post, and the fact that this man is being allowed to represent the company makes me think that the BRI is an equal opportunities employer.

So threatening peoples families, hypocrisy and trolling. Are there any levels this guy won’t stoop to. Apparently not because he also sent emails to a certain Rhys Morgan. These emails were, as the previous, spiteful and vitriolic but also contained a Google Earth picture of his house, see transcript here:  http://rhysmorgan.co/2011/11/threats-from-the-burzynski-clinic/

This somewhat childlike intimidating didn’t work. After a short time Rhys reposted the original and added a new post including the emails he had received from this Mr Stephens. For which he should be commended and has been by the skeptic society. Yes, the skeptic society. Apparently Marc, I think we should be on first name terms, believes that there is an underground group of skeptics all working together to bring down his boss. Evidence is in the emails he sent to individual skeptics which I have already linked to earlier, here are some quotes, for context follow the links.

‘Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics days are numbered.’ (e-mail to Andy Lewis see here)

‘Please convey this message to your entire Skeptic Network, which includes but not limited to, Ratbags.com, thetwentyfirstfloor, quackwatch, etc.’ (e-mail to Rhys Morgan see here).

With Marc’s paranoia, short temper and overuse of capital letters I think that he probably needs to take a break, I’m sure that his employer wouldn’t mind (he’d probably pay him to).

So to answer the question which is the title of this post, Marc seems to think he is someone who can threaten and bully people into submission and there be no repercussions and that he is perfectly within his rights to do so. I say that Marc is  someone who should be treated with the same contempt as anyone who portrays the same personality traits as he does. That is to say, bullying, hatred for anyone who does not share his view, childish attempts at intimidation and threats to innocent people.

I hope that the BRI release a statement soon saying that Marc Stephens has been sacked because otherwise he just does the skeptics job for them.

What to blog?


So just set up my new blog. Now got to find something to blog about, other than this obviously.