A Driving Instructor's Blog


Regular readers will know that I periodically cover topics that are associated with the dumbing down the education system in this country, and the annual hullabaloo come exam results time which seeks to pretend everything is really OK. So this latest story fits in rather well.Lego Hitler scene - NOT INTENDED TO ENDORSE HITLER OR FASCISM, BUT USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES

It seems that a teacher, David West, from Rossett School in Harrogate – came up with the “brilliant” idea of using Lego figurines to cover the history of Hitler in the 2nd World War. And this was to A-level students – not kiddies. West published the “lesson” on his blog – the viewing of which I ought to point out is by invitation only, so it’s more of a private notice board – as an example of what others should do. This led to a storm (on closed student and teacher forums).

Just as a reminder, Hitler and his regime was directly responsible for the deaths of around 6,000,000 Jews and around 5,000,000 non-Jews. When you factor in the manner in which many of these deaths occurred, the entire story is off the scale. And certainly well beyond Legoland.

The exercise involved pupils being asked questions such as ‘why is Hitler wearing a witch’s hat?’, which prompted the response ‘to show the spell that Hitler put on Germany’.

The man is obviously a genius, and his claims to be “world renowned on Twitter” and “a sensation on YouTube” (according to his page on Edmodo) must be well founded. West insisted:

…[the lesson] was ‘creative’ and ‘memorable’ while not compromising on ‘depth and detail’.

Yes. I’m sure that it WAS memorable. But perhaps West needs some re-training so that he can learn to distinguish between “memorable” and “useful”. Oh. And “embarrassing”. Because I remember that when I was at school, extrovert or childish activities like this would have been hugely embarrassing to me and many others. Sometimes – and for a great many people – the best way of learning is to be provided with the facts and then to talk about them sensibly. Not to end up in some sort of pantomime dreamed up by someone who considers himself to be a “world renowned sensation” in spite of providing no back up evidence for the claim.

If you’re still not convinced, here are some of other questions posed:

Why is Hitler waving to a cat? He is giving up his personal happiness to devote himself to the nation.

Why is the spider laid like that? He is giving the Nazis salute showing how devoted all his people were.

Is this really for real? It’s like a Santa Claus myth you’d teach to pre-schoolers, not A-level students who are almost classed as adults. And to make matters even worse, Rossett School is apparently rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, so is it any wonder we have the annual festival of trying to pretend that the 100% crop of A* grades actually means something?

West is talking up the “support” he has received from inside the school, arguing that simply because students have said that they got a lot out of the lesson then he must have done a good job. Of course, he fails to see that it is a case of the tail wagging the dog – because how the hell can a student tell you if they have learnt anything? It is down to exams to do that. Oh, wait. Guaranteed A*s… a sad downward spiral. However, West dismisses the near-universal negative comments outside of his little enclave.

Face facts, Mr West. It IS dumbing down. It IS childish and inappropriate for A-level students. It IS shallow. And let’s not even get started on how it trivialises the issues of Hitler, Nazism, and anti-Semitism among young minds which may not yet have grappled with the topics.


This time of year sees a lot of new pupils who are in their first year at university. On more than one occasion I have driven to various halls of residence to pick up a pupil, and been struck by the groups of (mainly) males sitting outside in hoodies smoking and spitting. The only thing missing is their BMX bikes.Nottingham sudents off on pub crawl

I have repeatedly reminded myself that only a few days previously they would have been doing this outside the local chip shop or on benches in shopping precincts of whichever towns they came from. So it comes as little surprise to read this story on the BBC website.

This year’s freshers gathered outside the Capital FM Arena and filmed themselves chanting:

Now she’s dead, but not forgotten, dig her up and **** her rotten. You wish, you wish, you wish you were in Cavendish [one of the Halls]…

God knows what the hell it is supposed to mean. For one thing, the little prats haven’t been associated with “Cavendish” for anywhere near long enough to have formed any sort of serious attachment to it, and certainly not one that warrants this display of childish behaviour. But then some twat then had to go and post it on YouTube.

Quite frankly, society would be much better off if necrophilia was all they got up to – that way we could be sure they wouldn’t breed. As it is, all we can do is hope vainly that Nottingham University actually finds those “culpable” and sends them back where they came from so that they can grow up and maybe try further education again in a few years. But I certainly won’t hold my breath – the video has been around for over a week and they’ve done nothing.

Still no action as of 13 October, but it would appear that the proto-politicians who comprise the students union have found a new word to keep repeating. See if you can work out how many times the word “misogyny” is used in this latest article. More significantly, look how pissed off D&G Taxis and Domino’s Pizza are at having been dragged into this puerile episode.

A third-year student, who did not want to be named, told the BBC… during her first year she was part of a group taken to a secluded spot and taught a song about sex with women, which they were warned not to repeat.

How pathetic.

As of 25 October it appears that some of the students involved have been fined, though the University refuses to confirm or deny this. If it’s true, the “fine” consists of a paltry £150 – which will no doubt be considered a badge of honour among the retards involved.

The incident also appears to be only to do with misogyny now. No one seems to be the least bit concerned about how a large group of alleged adults was standing around in a public place swearing at the tops of their voices. They appear still less concerned that such behaviour is both sanctioned and encouraged by the University and the Students Union.

Worse still is the fact that a number of Student Union reps were also involved.This has apparently given the Union the opportunity it needs to have a lot of meetings before it, too, dishes out whatever it laughably considers as “punishment”.

I was talking to one of my pupils about this, and she told me some of the things that “freshers” are expected to do. It was a real eye-opener, and clearly shows “freshers week” to be a far more insidious group of events than the posters would have you believe. It’s a form of indoctrination for minds that are still only weeks out of childhood (and, as this story shows, in many cases still years away from leaving it).

Well, the union reps have been “removed from their posts”, but they’re still at the university.

As I said above, there is more to this than meets the eye. Freshers are specifically taught these immature chants (and many other rites), and no matter how much is made of it being against some sort of “union code” if reps do it, they’re still apparently appointed specifically to encourage the freshers to behave this way.

I love tis quote by the union president (Harry Copson):

We also recognise that this issue is culturally ingrained and one that comes to light not through malice but through a lack of awareness.

It’s no wonder it is “culturally ingrained” when this sort of behaviour (in various forms) is encouraged at every university throughout the country during freshers’ events. It mainly comes about as a result of gross immaturity, but there is an underlying malice that cannot be glossed over. The person who filmed the event in the first place was obviously upset by it because of the person she is. The morons who engaged in it – and those who taught it, not to mention those who go under the guise of political officialdom who know damned well it happens – do so because of the kind of people they are.

What makes it really frightening is that these same people will gain degrees, some will run the country or large companies, and most will probably breed. God help their children having parents like that.


I saw this on the morning news and it gave me a few unpleasant flashbacks – to work, not school!

Ofsted has reported that persistent low-level classroom disruption is damaging pupils’ learning and long-term prospects. Ofsted says that leadership and authority is lacking, so the problem isn’t being addressed. As you’d probably expect, the namby pamby head teachers don’t agree. The BBC article lists the following as examples of disruptive behaviour:

  • Disturbing other children (38%)
  • Calling out (35%)
  • Not getting on with work (31%)
  • Fidgeting or fiddling with equipment (23%)
  • Not having the correct equipment (19%)
  • Purposely making noise to gain attention (19%)
  • Answering back or questioning instructions (14%)
  • Using mobile devices (11%)
  • Swinging on chairs (11%)

The morning news showed several dramatized examples, one of which really triggered the unpleasant flashbacks for me. You see, you don’t need to be a teenager to be distracted by people with issues.

In the final years of my employment in the rat race, I was plagued by people who were socially deficient. We had been forced to adopt an open-plan office arrangement – successively losing a dedicated office, then 5 foot cubicle walls, and finally ending up with secretarial walls that barely extended above desk level. At the time I left, they hadn’t quite got to the stage of mandatory sharing of underwear and bodily fluids, but that’s the direction it seemed to be heading.

On my island of four desks, I had my boss to my left. He had this habit of licking out his coffee mug (inside and out) complete with slurping every time he had a drink. To my right was this guy who made sandwiches at his desk, and he would get butter all over his keyboard, mouse (which I was responsible for maintaining), and workstation area. One time there was fish roe – the cheap caviar kind – all over it as well.Fish Roe

He was not computer literate and was a one-finger typist. The combination of sticking keys and his inept typing literally shook the desk group every time he hit a key, and God help you when he decided to delete a block of text… backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace… It was like an earthquake.

He used to eat vegetables from his father’s allotment – one whole lettuce, one whole bell pepper, one whole parsnip, etc. at a time – as though they were fruits. He would bite ravenously into oranges, apples, and pomegranates. The juice was everywhere. One time he apparently climbed into his car pooler’s car one morning with an opened tin of pilchards for putting on sandwiches later that day.

Then, directly opposite me, was a hummer. It took me months to figure out where the annoying background noise was coming from, but I eventually nailed it. It turned out that when he was at his workstation he just hummed all the time. An annoying, low-pitched, almost constant hum.

On a neighbouring desk island another colleague was clumsy and heavy-handed. She was only happy when she wasn’t getting her hands dirty, and therefore spent a lot of time in and out of stationery cupboards and drawers. It was slam-bang-slam-bang whenever was around. She knew it annoyed me and would simper “sorry, Fergus” every time she did it or heard me tut.

About the same distance away, but in a totally separate department (it was open-plan, remember) on another desk group, there was a buyer who conducted every single phone call on full-volume speakerphone. She listened to all her voicemails using it, and if she called someone (which buyers do a lot) she would similarly use the speakerphone while she rummaged loudly in cupboards waiting for someone to answer. When they didn’t (which people who buyers call tend to also do a lot) she would just let it ring and ring until it cut off, and then redial. She’d do this almost constantly when she was at her desk. When she had to go out for a meeting, she doused herself in that cheap Impulse deodorant, which floated around the office via the air-handling system for an hour or more.

So I can fully understand how bad behaviour in the classroom can have a detrimental effect on the education of children. It’s just a shame that no one can take the problem seriously in the workplace. None of my ineffectual and incompetent managers would.


Imagine that you have an online retailer who sells, let’s say, groceries. They fulfil all orders from their own warehouse. You place an online order which includes a bag of flour. When your shipment arrives, you find that instead of flour, you have been supplied with 2kg of Cocaine. When you protest, the supplier apologises, insisting that it was a computer error and you were supplied with the wrong item.Kung Fu Panda

Now, I don’t know about you, but there is no possible scenario I can imagine which explains the error away properly. Yes, there may well have been a computer glitch. But how do you explain the Cocaine in the first place?

On a related note, I saw this story on the BBC website. Apparently, the London School of Economics (LSE) sent out a welcome email to its students – 25% of whom are East Asian – and some “test names” from the database resulted in people being identified as Kung Fu Panda.

The university says that other test names used include Piglet, Paddington, Homer, Bob and Tinkerbell.

Yes, but there’s no mention of people being identified by those names. More telling is this bit:

The use of this ‘name’ merely reflects that a member of staff who set up the test record is a fan of the film.

It’s an odd name to choose. Joe Bloggs or John Smith are the ones I usually go for. I’d steer well clear of double-barrelled monikers if I were testing a database. They also say:

The email was sent to all students and did not target students from any particular background.

The article doesn’t mention any non-Asian examples. What I do know is that Asian students usually turn up a week or two earlier than everyone else (I’ve mentioned this before). Maybe Finding Nemo is in that database somewhere, too?


This story on the BBC caught my eye. It begins:

As many as three quarters of a million young people in the UK may feel that they have nothing to live for, a study for the Prince’s Trust charity claims.

This makes me angry whenever I read it, but not for the reason you might expect. My reason is based on one of the examples given in the story, where a young male tried to kill himself because he couldn’t get a job. His story begins and ends as follows:

Excluded from school at the age of 14, [he] had no qualifications…

…But after attending a course run by the Prince’s Trust, [he] built up his self-confidence and gained new skills and qualifications. Now 23, he works in a residential home for young people and is studying towards a youth worker level 2 qualification.

I seem to be the only one who can see that it is bad behaviour (and whatever caused it) and the subsequent lack of qualifications which was fundamental problem. Once he had sorted himself out and gained some sort of education – which he should have got 10 years earlier – he got a job. Surely there is an obvious lesson to be learnt here?

It’s all very well rattling on about how people who have been unemployed for a long time suffer depression, but much of the time they brought it on themselves by bunking off school (and getting away with God knows what). Childhood isn’t childhood any more. You get 14-year olds who think they’re adults – often egged on by well-meaning but incompetent parents and teachers – who simply refuse to study properly at school. You don’t need 40 GCSE A* passes to get a job, though God knows that’s not difficult these days. Just a handful of Grade Es passes as an education and is more than enough to gain employment. It might not get you into Merchant Banking – you should have got the A*s if you expected that – but it’s certainly a lot better than having a disciplinary record the FBI probably has a copy of.

Too many kids think they’re grown up at 12 and get away with it. It’s a shame they only seem to actually grow up in their 20s once they’ve realised that the gutter they have crawled into isn’t as cool as it once seemed. Reading between the lines, many of the kids referred to in that article did not have stable family backgrounds (many young girls have got two or three kids of their own by the time they get to his stage). This is where most of the problems stem from.

The Prince’s Trust says:

If we fail to act, there is a real danger that these young people will become hopeless, as well as jobless.

As far as I’m concerned, any action needs to be for the generations still at school – to force them to get a bloody basic education instead of pissing about until they’re 20-something then expecting the world to save them.


One from the newsfeeds drags the old chestnut about teaching 11-year olds to drive. I’ve written about this before, most recently last year, but it goes back further.

Let’s not try and disguise the fact that the main beneficiaries are the people who provide these lessons – not those who take them. A normal, quality learner lesson costs about £23-£25, but these things are charged at £60 an hour. There is absolutely no way the vast majority of those taking them are going to get up to test standard at that price, and the “lessons” amount to little more than a ride round a go-kart track in a real car. Indeed, I recently took on a pupil who had had one of these sessions, and in absolute honesty you couldn’t tell. She was no different to someone who’d sat in the car on a driveway or in a car park with mum or dad and made the car go forward a bit.

In one of my earlier articles on this subject I quoted one 11-year old driving a car for the first time as saying:

How cool is this?

That was in 2012. He will be 13 now, and still has at least four years to go before he can drive legally. Unless mummy and daddy have kept up the lessons (and they’ll have forked out up to £1,500 by now even at one lesson a month, assuming he hasn’t got bored of driving round the same circuit) he will have done nothing.

This current story is almost an exact parallel:

[name removed] is 11 and was very excited at the prospect of driving a car for the first time.

I’ll bet he was. And I’ll also bet that it will come as a major disappointment when he realises that unless mummy and daddy have very deep pockets, it will also be the last time for at least the next six years. Well, legally, anyway.

Then there is this comment:

Given [name removed] is just 5ft he was given three cushions to make sure he was high enough to see over the steering wheel and reach the all important pedals.

Or, in other words, he is too small to drive safely in the first place. And even then, going by the photo, he is barely at eye-level with the steering wheel.

And the most telling comment:

As the hour lesson goes on his confidence is clearly building and we are getting quicker.

Oh dear. Getting “quicker”. And there we have the common denominators in the majority of accidents involving new drivers – over-confident and too fast for their ability.

These courses do absolutely nothing to help children’s’ Immature and juvenile minds, and they simply cannot handle adult activities like driving. Nor should they be expected to, and they definitely shouldn’t be encouraged to try.


He’s a nice story about a young girl who passed her driving test – after being told she’d never even pass her theory test.

However, the story makes me angry for a number of reasons. First of all, dyslexia is absolutely no bar whatsoever to either passing Dyslexiathe theory test or to being a safe driver once you have. At worst, it is an obstacle which has to be overcome (it’s pretty obvious that difficulty in reading or comprehending words is going to be an issue, but it doesn’t have to be a terminal one).

Dyscalculia isn’t something I have any direct experience of as far as I am aware. I have quite a bit of experience teaching dyslexic pupils, but for all practical purposes dyscalculia is simply “dyslexia with numbers instead of words”. Apparently, about half of all dyslexics are dyscalculic as well, although dyscalculia can be manifest by itself, so I have probably experienced it without realising.

I find that a significant number of my pupils either have dyslexia, or have been tested for it for specific reasons while they’ve been at school. Some are only “mildly” dyslexic, whereas one or two have been severely so. I always point out that many famous – and very successful – people have been dyslexic, and it didn’t stop them. My favourite one – though not many pupils have heard of her these days – is the case of Susan Hampshire, who was a famous actress when I was growing up.

So it is both surprising and very frightening that in the 21st century someone like Abigail Elstone should have apparently been written-off so early in her life (when she was seven) by the system.


I was surprised to see on a forum that the fact that young people have more accidents was being disputed. Insurance companies don’t charge young people more just for fun – it’s based on factual data.

Some of the comments were opinion-based, and made no attempt to link to actual statistics. But the statistics are there for anyone who cares to look (unfortunately, too many people favour the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” mantra over facts, and appear to see no wrong in today’s young people).

This report from 2010, based on investigations by Admiral, reveals that 17 and 18 year olds are:

  • twice as likely to have an accident as someone in their 30s
  • three times as likely than someone in their 40s
  • six times as likely as someone over 50

The data cover 2 million motorists, so they’re hardly non-representative. Admiral also found that:

  • 13% of 17 and 18-year olds have had crashes
  • 6.5% of motorists overall have had crashes
  • 4.5% of those in  their 40s have had crashes
  • 2% of over 50s have had crashes

The cost of the claim was also revealing. The average claim value was:

  • £3,500 for 17 and 18-year olds
  • £1,741 for drivers overall
  • Accident claims by 17 and 18-year olds are five times more likely to include an injury to someone

A spokeswoman for Admiral said that the young driver statistics only seem to improve when they reach 25. The report also notes that those in the 17-21 age group are four times more likely than the average driver to be involved in a careless driving rap.

This report by Roadsafe (2009) also makes interesting reading. In particular the table on page 5, which compares factors involved in KSIs against age. It shows that 17-24 year olds are, when compared to over 25s:

  • more than twice as likely to lose control
  • twice as likely to be careless, reckless, or in a hurry
  • twice as likely to be caught out by road conditions
  • ten times as likely to be inexperienced, resulting in an accident
  • over twice as likely to be travelling too fast for the conditions
  • three times as likely to be exceeding the speed limit

This was comparing nearly 40,000 young driver KSIs with 150,000 older driver KSIs.

Brake, the road safety charity, reports that:

There is a wealth of research and casualty data showing that young drivers – particularly young male drivers – are at a much higher risk of crashing than older drivers.  They are therefore more at risk of losing their lives or being seriously injured on the road, often killing or injuring their young passengers or other road users too. For example, in the UK only one in eight driver licence holders is aged 25 or under, yet one in three drivers who die is under 25.

That is quite a sobering thought. That only 12.5% of the driving population accounts for 33% of all road deaths. The report also notes:

  • 17-20 year old males are seven times more at risk than all male drivers
  • between 2am and 5am they are seventeen times more at risk

Those wishy-washy liberals who can find no wrong in today’s youth need a good slap to wake them up. There is clearly a problem.

The Safe Roads Partnership says much the same thing, and also includes numerous report references for those ready to dispute the facts. Interestingly, they also point to Pass Plus as being a way of improving matters – which flies in the face of recent comments by ADIs that Pass Plus is a waste of time (it’s only a waste of time if the person delivering it is a crap instructor).

From my own perspective, I teach people to drive. How they choose to behave when they leave me is unfortunately out of my control, and no one is ever going to convince me otherwise. Part of the reason many of them DO behave so differently on their own is that they’ve been brought up badly by people who simply can’t see that there are problems, and so who don’t do anything about it. I mean parents and school teachers.

I say again: I teach them how to drive. I give them all the necessary skills to do what I did when I learnt to drive – and that is to take care and carry on learning. That’s what the driving test does. It allows people who have reached the first point on a lifelong learning curve to go out and move to the next level.

Unfortunately, modern youngsters have been brought up to believe differently. And that’s why we have such shocking statistics.

One more thing. It doesn’t matter if the number of deaths involving 17-24 year olds has fallen over the last 10 years. What matters is the proportion of deaths compared to other age groups – because that highlights the problem instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet.


Or what most people are saying when they mean ‘coaching’ these days.

Note: This is an old article from 2012. DSA is now DVSA.

The recent announcement that CPD wasn’t going to be compulsory (for the foreseeable future, anyway) threw the current crop of nouveau-spammers into disarray. No longer could they send out almost daily emails offering their latest miracle ‘coaching’ course as the only way to possibly avoid being stricken from the Register and thrown into a foreign hellhole prison somewhere. Suddenly, their cash flow projections looked at risk – after all, not all ADIs are so stupid that they will keep paying £200 for a course that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Some are, of course. Or they’re just not very good at what they do and are desperately trying to pay their way to superstardom in much the same way they were persuaded to become ADIs in the first place so they could earn £30,000 a year working a couple of hours day, a couple of weekdays each week.

Anyway, there has been a noticeable shift over the last couple of months. The nouveau-spammers are now offering ‘client-centred learning’ (CCL) courses instead as though nothing has changed. They’ve made this shift in much the same way that the enemy was switched seamlessly between Eastasia and Eurasia in George Orwell’s 1984. I think it was described as ‘a lunatic dislocation of the mind’ in that novel to explain how it was possible for people to accept such a fabricated change of facts blindly and without question, and to actually believe it.

Client-centred learning – CCL – is the term DSA is using to describe it’s preferred approach to training styles following the two-year Learning To Drive (LTD) study. There is a distinction – DSA points out that coaching can mean quite a lot of different things, including CCL.

As a result of the LTD trial a new syllabus has been put together incorporating a number of scenarios – to be precise, 23 scenarios are included. DSA has pointed out that CCL is not a replacement for current methods. It is a new tool to be used when appropriate.

This is clearly at odds with what the nouveau-spammers have been trying to tell people over the last few years in their numerous emails, and on test centre waiting room posters. If you’d have listened to them you’d have thought that every instructor was going to have to start their careers again from scratch (across the forums, that was clearly what people were coming away understanding). Those who had actually wasted money on attending one or more of these courses frequently fuelled the fire making comments they couldn’t substantiate using what they’d apparently ‘learned’.

The new DSA syllabus deals exclusively with the ‘higher levels’ (often referred to as levels 3 & 4) of the GDE Matrix. These are the ones labelled as Goals And Context, and Goals For Life, which I discussed initially well over 2 years ago.

When the LTD trial began the suggestion was that when it was complete it would have to become part of every ADI’s training package going forward. More than two years down the line this is no longer the case. DSA has stated that check test examiners have been trained to asses on both CCL and non-CCL skills and so an ADI who does things the way they have always done them will not be penalised. There are no plans to make it in any way compulsory for existing ADIs.

CCL will be part of the training for new ADIs (while they are PDIs), though. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that CCL will not be mandatory until all existing ADIs on the Register have retired. By that time, it will just be part of the training, and no one who fancies themselves as a modern-day Wat Tyler in opposing the evil DSA will have anything to fuss about.

Personally, I’d much rather see it become mandatory for existing ADIs. That’s because the LTD trial set out to fix the problem of new, young drivers killing themselves, pinning some of the responsibility on some ADIs who just taught people to pass the test. It cannot possibly achieve any of that if the same ADIs are still teaching the way they always have.

As I have said before on more than one occasion, many instructors are already using CCL techniques. The big problem is that many are not – and the reasons for that are very complex, ranging from just not being cut out for the job up to offering stupidly cheap lesson prices and so not being able to afford to teach people properly.

Unless CCL as it applies to the LTD syllabus are applied across the board then nothing can change. And any such move would be opposed by all the Wat Tylers out there through their ‘local groups’. DSA has chosen the easy way out, I think.

Footnote: Undoubtedly there will be quite a few out there who will resent anyone but them stating what DSA is or isn’t going to do. The information here was obtained from me personally attending a course run by DSA concerning the new syllabus and CCL. It is current and accurate  – not old or twisted – information.


Rat SandwichWhen I was in the rat race, the “good news/bad news sandwich” (GNBN) was much touted. One of the things I learnt about it was that it is only something you were expected to give to other people. No one ever seems to give it to you… or do they?

The GNBN technique is how you’re supposed to impart bad or negative news to someone by starting off with some good stuff, then cover the bad news, then round it off with more good stuff. It’s a pathetic and childish attempt to disguise the bad news, that’s all. And it’s made worse by the ineptness of those trying to do it.

There are a number of problems with the technique. The main one is that most people can see right through it. I said that no one seems to use it on you, but that’s only because it doesn’t work if you have a mind of your own. If you’re being chewed out, you’re being chewed out, and no amount of waffle about inconsequential “good things” can hide that.

You see, the bad news portion is usually hugely significant in terms of the collection of events that make someone’s life go round, whereas the good news parts are ridiculously insignificant when measured on the same scale. A good example would be the results of an interview for a new job. GNBN might deal with it using the following elements:

  • you gave a really good interview and we were impressed
  • you didn’t get the job
  • you have a future with us and shouldn’t be discouraged

If you’re naive enough to be mollified, even for a short time, the simple fact is you didn’t get the job that you had your heart set on. Your career (and your bank balance) really needed it, but now you’re consigned to at least another year in the same position, with the extra humiliation of knowing you’re not good enough. This will probably be even worse when you find out who did get it and you start to realise the extreme social awkwardness that this will create – the new job holder will most likely be gloating or patronising now that they’re senior to you.

Do you really feel better about all that because you gave a “good interview”? Have you considered the multiple meanings “a future with us” carries? Is it a future in the same position, with no chance of promotion (because someone higher up doesn’t like you)?

GNBN will really have helped you, won’t it?

GNBN is one of those things that is sound as a general principle, but which has been grabbed by successive crops of wishy-washy coachinistas (new word) as being The Answer To Everything. A huge problem with it is that it doesn’t work when the relative magnitude of the bad news is huge compared with the good news parts, or if the bad news and good news are poles apart in terms of relevance and importance.

I remember a while back having a school teacher as a pupil. On one occasion our discussion went like this after we’d pulled over to deal with a mistake she’d made:

“Aren’t you supposed to wrap the bad news with good news?”

“OK. I like what you’ve done with your hair, and those are nice shoes you’re wearing. But I’m more concerned about how you just drove over the edge of that roundabout, swung out to take the wrong exit without looking because you accelerated, and forced all those other cars to slam on their brakes. You ought to be, too.”

“All right, I take your point. I was only joking though".

And this illustrates the point about magnitudes, relevance, and importance. Even if I’d sandwiched her mistake with how well she’d riven down a quiet road earlier, and how competently she’d dealt with the traffic lights and crossings in the shopping precinct (which I’d have already commented on separately, anyway), these two things were hugely insignificant and irrelevant in terms of what had just gone wrong. The possible consequences both now and if she did it in future when out on her own (not to mention what would happen if she did it on test) were massively more significant.

Bill Gates, in his book Business At The Speed Of Thought, makes it clear how he feels about bad news…

An essential quality of a good manager is a determination to deal with any kind of bad news head on, to seek it out rather than deny it. An effective manager wants to hear about what’s going wrong before he or she hears about what’s going right…

You focus on bad news in order to get cracking on the solution.

He says a lot more, but you get the point. And he’s absolutely right. Many ADIs – who already believe we should be teaching yoga, Buddhism, aromatherapy, and all kinds of other crap – would do well to get a grip and start dealing with things properly. Learners will learn a lot more if we teach them to accept they made a mistake, live with it, and to fix it for next time than they will from all the politically correct New Age claptrap some think we should be peddling.

Think about that: why should trying to teach people to acknowledge their faults and strive to eliminate them be less desirable than pandering to their insecurities and trying to make them look good when they just tried to kill you and themselves in a 1 tonne lump of machinery?

Over the years, of the 99.9% of pupils I’ve taken to test who have been 100% ready (yes, I admit that I have taken a small few who weren’t), on the occasions when they have failed I have often said something like “well, you only got three faults, so you’ve got to look at it positively”. I forget the number of times they have replied:

“But I still failed, didn’t I?”

They’re not as stupid as the current crop of New Age driving instructors think they are.

GNBN has a place… sometimes. If someone has negotiated six crossings perfectly, misses a pedestrian about to walk on to the seventh, and then does the next few properly until you can pull them over, a GNBN sandwich is easily applied – and quite rightly so. But if they pulled away from their house perfectly, tried to drive across a busy junction without checking (and with cars coming both ways) because they didn’t even see it, and then dealt with an empty crossing satisfactorily, trying to contrive a GNBN routine out of it is a waste of their time and money.

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