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back to article Headmaster freezes schoolkids for Gaia

Pagan gods traditionally required human sacrifices – preferably of children – and a West Country academy school appears to be leading the way. To give pupils a lesson in "sustainability" they'll never forget, headmaster Rob Benzie of Ansford Academy in Castle Cary, Somerset, ordered a "No Power Day ... as an experiment to see if …

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At my school in the 60s, freezing classrooms were common

The heating was ancient and ineffective, the windows were huge, single glazed sash and not even slightly airtight, and the ceilings were amazingly high. So at desk level, it was usually freezing. Jar of water left on windowsill would freeze and break overnight. No econutterdom to blame back then, or even lack of money (a very well off fee-paying public school), just "the way things were". Yoof of today, never had it so lucky! ;-)

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@At my school in the 60s...

Yup. Did you get frozen school milk too? Those were the days; these youngsters haven't lived.

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Mushroom

It was acceptable in the 80s

Sounds like my primary school in the 80s. Admittedly I think it was a 60s 'new build', with the single pane draughty windows and ridiculously tall rooms. Strangely, the doors were made of metal for some reason.

The buses too and from school were also freezing, 60s leftover Bedfords and Leyland Leopards with rain streaming down the inside of the windows and cold hard plastic seats.

And another strange thing, while the rooms were freezing, the breaktime 1/4 bottle of milk was always lukewarm.

PE was an excuse to get a bit of warmth, which in primary school was mostly jumping about, unlike the high school sadistic teamsports/cross country in freezing temperatures.

Of course nowadays everything is double glazed and insulated and they just use their Macbook pros on their lap and fire up a full screen flash video, and instant heat!

Nuke icon, as it looked warm.

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Cross dressing

I remember sitting my mock O' levels in 1975 in a bloody freezing cold school hall....It was so bad, the girls were allowed to wear trousers, so a few 'enterprising' lads borrowed skirts to wear instead

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Meh

Too hot is just as bad

Here in the States, specifically in North Carolina where I live, our school always had heat. But we didn't always have air conditioning. It matters here because highs in 90's and 100's (Fahrenheit of course) are common. The cold and the heat each bring their own problems. Our schools weren't designed to let the heat out either. You try listening to the teacher when you are covered in sweat. And then knowing you have to put up with that heat the next day. Given a choice between the two, I rather put up with near freezing temps than being too hot.

And then, the year I graduated, our school was installing air conditioning.

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Happy

Uncle Albert!

"It was so cold one day that the flame on my lighter froze!"

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Anonymous Coward

Frozen in winter

..and cheese in summertime. Maggie robbed a generation the pleasures of free school milk!

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@Sir Wiggum

Same experience here, albeit just nudging into the 90s. Our culprit was a 'temporary' and mostly wooden prefab that the school had acquired secondhand and which decided to use as a permanent classroom. Memorable aspects, other than the cold, included an exploding lightbulb and someone falling through the floor, presumably both related to the damp.

They had a proper classroom built somewhere in the mid-90s, I think.

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Anonymous Coward

Ah, you went to King Williams as well?

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Trollface

Back in my day fire had not yet been invented

Freezing was the least of our worries in school, though. We were eaten by dinosaurs. Every last one of us. No survivors.

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That's nothing

I have memories of playtime behind the bikesheds comprising several lads huddling around a lit cigarette for warmth. (It wasn't a special either).

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Our school (early 70s) ...

... managed to combine the overall near-freezing room temperature/icy milk with heating pipes that were hot enough to melt Bic biros and plastic rulers (most of the rooms smelled constantly of hot plastic and boiling ink* from October to March). It was possible (if in a seat next to a pipe) to have superficial burns to the lower leg whilst trying to hold a pen with blue fingers.

Ah, happy days ...!

*Because if it could be done, it should be done!

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Anonymous Coward

hmm

"What's puzzling is why,[...] barmy dogma"

I think you're struggling a bit with your spin here.

You might well call it "barmy dogma" if they'd kept the heating off for a month, but a day makes the point about taking energy for granted quite well. And at least the students might learn to take energy security seriously, even if there is no particular reason for a lack of heating to turn one green.

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Anonymous Coward

Energy security? BRING IT ON!

If you want to teach kids about energy security, take them to a windfarm during a typical UK cold snap caused by a high pressure system. We have several each year. Show them how much energy is being generated. For a month last year, it was almost zero.

Then show them a shale gas installation. Make sure they see both a) the capital costs and b) the operational costs.

Schoolchildren need to learn as much about the Greens as they can. I agree.

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Anonymous Coward

The dogma seems pretty balanced on either side to me.

It won't do kids any harm at all to spend a day without heating. In fact it may help them. Many people in this country are facing fuel poverty, old people are particularly vulnerable. For people in less prosperous countries it's a fact of life.

Where is the harm in getting kids to understand this ?

Of course, because It's being done under the banner of environmentalism. Therefore we get a Daily Mail/Guardian type horror story (choose your own hysteria peddler). I somehow expect more of the register.

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Childcatcher

Small point - charcoal is produced from trees which capture the CO2 while growing, so the CO2 produced by burning the charcoal is effectively 'carbon neutral'.

Apart from that, the guy is obviously bonkers! An ideal role model for teaching the yoof of today. It never did us any harm being taught by nutters!

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Shhhhh!

'Small point - charcoal is produced from trees which capture the CO2 while growing, so the CO2 produced by burning the charcoal is effectively 'carbon neutral'.'

You're confusing the argument by using 'science'.

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Boffin

Small point - lots more energy is used to convert the wood into charcoal, making it much less efficient overall - better for something like this to burn the wood in its natural state, (after a little gentle air-drying)

Besides, the wood would be a much better carbon sink if not burned at all...

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Another small point

"lots more energy is used to convert the wood into charcoal,"

No, the wood itself is partially burned, using that energy to turn it into charcoal. Admittedly a match or other source of flame is used to light it in the first place, but that's not "lots" more energy.

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Anonymous Coward

@The first dave

The energy comes pretty much exclusively from the wood that's being turned into charcoal, but charcoal burns hotter and cleaner than wood, hence why it's used. Wood does make a much better carbon sink if just left alone, but you have to make sure that it doesn't rot in any way because if it rots it produces methane, which you really don't want.

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IANACB (I am not a charcoal-burner), so my knowledge of charcoal-burning is largely third-hand, but...

I think the energy used to convert the wood into charcoal actually comes from the wood itself - there's no external input. And I believe the process involves very slow combustion to drive off volatile components of the wood while retaining as much of its carbon as possible.

On the other hand, it could be that industrial charcoal-burning is done in huge gas-fired furnaces. I have to admit my information comes from Swallows and Amazons, c1955.

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First Dave is probably a 'Merkin like me

and thinks of charcoal as that stuff which comes from the Kingston company and is made as much from coal as wood. Not sure how carbon neutral that stuff is, but then not being a tree-worshipper myself, I don't care.

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"Small point - "

... last time I checked, coal and oil also started out as natural, living entities too. So how is burning them any less "carbon neutral"?

Sure, the cycle is a few million years longer, but geologically speaking, it's still the merest blink of an eye!

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This just sounds like a 24 hour fast some kids did when I was at school so that they could think about the poor starving Ethiopians.

The Ethiopians still starved.

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FAIL

Charcoal is carbon neutral. While trees are growing they take carbon out of the atmosphere. When the charcoal is burned the carbon is returned to the atmosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

By that argument, Coal is also carbon neutral

When the trees it's made of were growing they took carbon out of the atmosphere.

When the coal is burned the carbon is returned to the atmosphere.

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Stop

Can I 'Fail' your 'Fail'?

Shirley it depends on what you decide the boundary conditions are: if you start with the CO2 that was absorbed by the growing tree then you are already in a CO2 deficit situation (something put it there to start with - perhaps on early geek burning his pre-cambrian copy of El Reg). The subsequent 'grow/burn' cycle still leaves you with a deficit balance, doesn't it?

By extension to the limits of boredom, we have to blame it all on the Big Bang.

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FAIL

Epic fail

How can charcoal be carbon neutral when it is created using a fuel that puts various carbon compounds and gases back into the atmosphere?

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carbon cycle

Its called the carbon cycle, its released and repackaged all the time. Kinda funny how this whole 'renewable' thing is silly. Most energy sources are renewable over time, what they really are looking for is how clean and abundant a resource is and what the environmental impact is.

Then again, sitting one day in the cold wont hurt these kids and show them that nothing is granted.

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Anonymous Coward

@Epic fail

I'm not saying that charcoal is 100% carbon neutral, but where do you think wood gets it's carbon from?

I'll give you a clue - it's not the seed, the ground, or the water.

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@John I'm only dancing

What if the fuel that's used to create it is also charcoal? Recursion fixes anything.

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Only the tree-huggers

claim it isn't. Same thing goes for oil.

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Surely this could be replicated across the school estate and will save a lot of money?

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Coat

At least the kids didn't have to sit through another interminable ICT lesson

The one with the winter lining, obviously.

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Unhappy

1 Degree Celsius?

Luxury! When I were a lad we had.....oh I can't be bothered. Post xmas do malaise and all that. Pffff.

Plus charcoal, wood, neutral etc. Someone else can explain.

Urrrhhhhhhhhh, my head.

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Charcoal is carbon neutral

You know how it's made, don't you?

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Flame

Yes...

...it's made by a guy, who drove to the woods in a Land Rover, who uses a petrol powered chainsaw to chop down trees. The chainsaw is made of plastic and metal and was delivered to him on a slow boat from China. He then uses a diesel tractor to transport the logs to a pit that he made using a diesel digger. Chainsaw again to chop up the logs, then the digger covers the logs in earth. Then he sets fire to it, but he doesn't bother to use the heat from that for anything useful. Then the charcoal is shipped by lorry to the garden centre. The consumer drives there in their minivan to collect it.

Carbon neutral, init? To be serious, is this headmaster really suggesting we should be using charcoal for any practical purposes? Energy conservation, insulation, that's great, but when gas and electricity are being taxed so highly to pay for renewable energy that old folks are dying in their homes for fear of the heating bills, we really need to think again. Alarmism right back at you Greenpeace, "DEAD GRANDPARENTS, YOU WINDMILL LOVING LUDDITES".

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This is your future

Get used to it (unless we start building some new nuclear plant PDQ).

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FAIL

Charcoal

Use of charcoal is more-or-less carbon-neutral, because as any reasonably well-educated person knows, charcoal is, in essence, heat-treated wood. You build a big pile of logs, branches, and twigs, cover it mostly in earth, and then burn it in not enough air. This drives off the water and other contaminants, leaving behind what is essentially pure carbon. But this carbon, when burned, goes back into the atmosphere, where the tree got it from in the first place.

I don't generally have a lot of time for environmental activists and their activities, but they should not be criticised for this particular thing, as it isn't inconsistent with the general theme. We could argue about whether it would be better to use the wood directly rather than via charcoal, but it's worth noting that wood isn't all that great a fuel - it's better than the dung used in large portions of the Third World, but significantly worse than coal, oil, or even charcoal - because it contains way too much water (simultaneously non-combustible and energy-absorbing).

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Anonymous Coward

That's why..

you condition the wood over 6-12 months. You keep in a nice dry log shed and a few days / weeks before before it's needed, bring it in, ideally sticking ti next to your wood burner.

You'd be amazed how much heat a modern burner can kick out, far more than a gas fire or radiator. Ahhh how I miss mine (no where to put it in current house)

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Flame

That's why..

you condition the wood over 6-12 million years. You keep in a nice warm coal mine and a few days/weeks before it's needed, the coal man brings it on a lorry, ideally sticking ti in your coal box by your multi-fuel burner.

You'd be amazed at how nice a modern burner looks in your living room, especially with a log or two on it as well, but a gas fired central heating system is much better at stopping old people dying over winter. Ahhh how I miss my grandparents.

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Three cheers for wood stoves

We have one and burn only 'scrap' wood - fallen limbs, dead trees - and that one that we had someone cut down because it was leaning WAY too far towards the house. It's a nice, dry heat and the furnace doesn't kick on. If it does, it pulls in the heat through a cold-air return and pumps it all through the house. Give me a roaring fire, an unending glass of Guinness, and a day of NFL football, and I am one happy ape.

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Happy

Better still:

You get dinosaurs to eat the vegetation and then, when they die, condition *them* over a few hundred million years..........and turn on the Central Heating before popping out to the shops in your car........

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IT Angle

Children?

I always thought virgins in scampy bimbo outfits were considered a preferable sacrifice.

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Headmaster

No, it's babies and children

Virgins in skimpy (or scampy - down boy) bimbo outfits just look better in films.

Which is where you get your history from.

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@Mme

Well, you know what they say: "pictures or it didn't happen", so there must be some truth in it ;-)

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You must be new

It's playmobile here!

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WTF?

Virgins?

I take it that you've never visited Somerset.

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Anonymous Coward

Why December...

Seeing as you have a picture of Moloch there...Moloch's power is stronger in December.

Everyone knows that!

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Unhappy

Has this guy ever *met* any kids?

"Perhaps it's a subtle recruitment campaign for the fossil fuel industries."

Not *that* subtle, though. Knowing kids as I do (and as this prick of a headmaster clearly doesn't) I'd wager that most of them are now fully in favour of global warming, anthropogenic or otherwise.

Of course, once every school is an Academy and freed from the suffocating restrictions of the LEA oversight, this sort of thing won't be news anymore.

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