The weeks go by and, even though I don't have much to do most of the day, I don't seem to have time to sit down and blog. Certainly not time to sit down with IE, which is necessary to blog on LJ because the "Post an Entry" page crashes Firefox on my computer. Between that and LJ's increasing censoriousness the breastfeeding icons thing was just the beginning I'm seriously contemplating moving to another blogging site altogether.
I did some exam supervision again in November; the first time I've done it without pelliondance being there at all, as he was off visiting long-lost relatives in the North Island. And also the first time I've had to deal with an emergency situation; somebody set off a burglar alarm, it turned out, rather than a fire alarm, but it was a very loud alarm and the students could hardly be expected to work with it going, so I had them stand around outside the gym (that being the exam venue) and NOT DISCUSS THE EXAM while we waited for someone to turn it off.
Exam supervision is a thought-provoking job, sometimes. You are basically there to make sure everybody obeys the rules, and boy oh boy are there a lot of rules. They change them slightly every year, as students in various parts of the country find new ways to sneak information into the exam or communicate with each other or disrupt the proceedings. Because, of course, the whole point of an exam is to have every student of that subject in the country facing exactly the same questions and exactly the same conditions at the same time, so that their marks are a fair comparison of their grasp of the subject. So you can't have some rules for some places where these cheating situations have arisen, and other rules for other places where they haven't arisen. Many regulations really only make a difference in a few places, but everybody in the country has to obey every single one regardless.
There's a writer in New Zealand called Joe Bennett, who does humour pieces mostly about (a) dogs or (b) how people worry too much. He's recently finished a new book, and was doing a signing tour promoting it. I went to listen in, and it was very entertaining. His main take-home message: our society's endless insistence on safer and safer food, plumbing, dog breeds, etc., mask needless fears which are twisting us all up inside and ruining our freedom to enjoy ourselves. An example: a toilet in a hotel, I think it was, with a little notice saying "This toilet has been thoroughly sanitized to provide a safe environment." "Safe?!" says Bennett. "Are lavatories usually dangerous?... I've never been attacked by a lavatory!" ...and so on.
Got me thinking, anyway. Usually, this sort of thing is put down to Political Correctness Gone Mad, which is a kind of rant I don't have much time for because Political Correctness Gone Mad also seems to mean things like the fact that you're not allowed to pretend people with mental disabilities don't exist any more, or the fictitious War On Christmas. (Recently a group of British Muslim representatives made a public statement to say it doesn't offend them at all if Christians want to celebrate Christmas; only silly secular liberals worry about that. Only... secular liberals don't want to ban Christmas either. It seems all the stories about Christmas being taboo come from Christians of a certain stripe trying to make themselves out to be persecuted. Having been one myself once, I do understand how a staff memo saying "let's not assume all our customers/pupils will be celebrating Christian holidays" mutates in certain brains to "They're trying to ban public mention of Christ! The Apocalypse is on its way!" ...But I digress.) I don't think "Political Correctness" has much to do with it. No, the modern preoccupation with safety is just like the exam rules; the reason why there's so much of it is because everybody, everywhere, has to live by the same rules, and that means everybody gets all the rules. At every public barbecue in the country, the food servers must wear gloves to handle food. Nobody anywhere in New Zealand shares bottles any more, even in places untouched by the meningitis outbreak a year or two ago.
What's the root of the problem? Not the "Nanny State" if you're going to have a state, it's better to have one that cares about its citizens than one that doesn't. But maybe that's the point. Not the Nanny State, but the State per se. Not the concern for safety, but the concern for standardization. Dare I suggest, the solution might be to decentralize? Oh, as far as fundamental human rights go, those should be universal: the right to live, the right to feel safe, the right to say what you think, those should be enshrined in national, indeed international, law. But maybe, just maybe, "One Law For All" should be confined to such fundamentals, and safety standards and resource management should become responsive to local conditions.
You know why they won't be. Because that would mean devolving power from central government to local communities, and somehow people who've got power, even the well-meaning ones, never seem to want to let it go. Maybe especially the well-meaning ones, if they think they're the only ones who can be trusted with it.
Anyway. Having got that into the ether, I shall get off the computer. Because, while I was writing it on IE, Firefox crashed.