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Bill Hicks takes a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms.

It was half-term week. Perhaps the forums had calmed down a little, what with so many teachers taking off to improve mind, body and spirit in interesting and energetic ways.

No. Forum activity almost doubled last week, once again demonstrating that there are thousands of teachers who come to our electronic talking shop for pleasure. Each day, around 3,000 postings came in. Blizzard conditions in Opinion and Personal, but it's not all vacuous tittle-tattle, thank you very much. In between the marking and preparation that many of you seemed to be facing up to (see the "Work over half term" thread), we have myriad examples of the ever-inquiring, ever-questioning minds of the modern teacher.

Some of you, fired up by our recent "What is education for" series, engaged in high-minded debates in the related forum. Stanley, a maths teacher, was appealing for "serious analysis of just what we are doing in education and what effects this has on our learners", his hypothesis being that schools "hinder rather than enhance the development of knowledge and understanding in our pupils". lizmasuk agreed and cited John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling in support. Eureka! said, "A mass education system cannot be written off, because there are plenty of parents who do not provide a viable alternative," just before Cassander lobbed the scholarly caveat, "I wouldn't recommend John Taylor Gatto's book; he's rather free and easy with his historical facts in the pursuit of a polemic point."

Over in Opinion, discourse had moved towards the literary. "Is Shakespeare a load of bollocks?" wondered pgcemaths aloud, and rather provocatively.

No, replied teachur, at 11pm on St Valentine's eve. "Shakespeare is not a load of bollocks, but it is very very old." Rourkes drift, a fan of the Bard, believes all the same that "teaching it for exams is often a chore.

For lower ability groups it's a waste of their time and mine. I don't think it's valuable until post-16." After 100 or so contributions, the thread tailed off into a game of Shakespeare quote tennis, and the argufiers moved on.

Sometimes, the ever-inquisitive educator's eye lands on things it might, in retrospect, wish it hadn't. Cue this week's post-watershed thread title of the week award. It goes to Camelot for "Anal bleaching", with the pithy first posting: "Why?" Eighty-three posts later, we have quite enough light thrown on this subject, wouldn't you agree?

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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