Old people are not stupid.

They don't enjoy being patronised, can learn new things, have initiative, aren't full of idiotic prejudices, aren't obsessed with mindless gossip and aren't a complete and utter waste of space.

Charities can we well-run, useful and free from pointless bureaucracy.

Education is about helping students educate themselves, not faking exam results.

After today, I just need to remind myself of these things.

You see, two years ago the government took a very dim view of unemployed people doing voluntary work - they saw it as a way for them to avoid doing "real" work, and they'd fine you if you did it. Yes, it is stupid.

Now though, they'll try to force you into doing voluntary work, seeing as there's few paid jobs around and so much socially necessary work is now done by charities. So they're trying to get me to do some - not much at the moment, just a few regular hours.

So today I dutifully arranged and attended an interview at a charity that offers IT courses to the elderly. I'm a teacher, I know computers, and those of my friends who aren't under thirty are over fifty, so it made sense.

Now, I've worked for some vague people in my time, but these folk take the proverbial biscuit.

I ask: Who are my colleagues? Comes the answer: It depends who turns up.

Will I be working one-to-one or teaching a class? It depends who turns up, how they feel, and how you feel.

How long does a class last and when does it start? Whenever a "client" is there.

What do the other IT teachers teach? They don't know much more about computers than the "clients". But they do like Windows Vista.

What exactly would I be teaching? Whatever you feel like - provided you teach it a dozen times in a row for those with memory problems.

All pretty free-and-easy, right? Not quite. There is a series of exams, which I absolutely must administer and collect statistics on - in order for the charity to continue to receive government funding. So there is a core of issue I must teach and test, even if I do nothing else.

Here are some of the things I'd have to teach. See if you can spot what they all have in common.

* A Trojan is a program which tries to fool you into installing a virus.
* People called "Criminal Hackers" try to put spyware on your computer, using programs called Botnets.
* Installing the latest updates to your programs keeps your system secure.
* If you use social networking sites, you should not put any information on them, for your security.
* Something called the Virtual Global Taskforce will prosecute on your behalf if you're ripped off online.

So what do all these statements have in common? Yes, that's right - they're all complete bollocks.

Virtual Global Taskforce? I've asked around, and no one's heard of it. Keep your Facebook page empty? That kind of defeats the purpose. Botnets? Possibly they're referring to net bots, but these can't install software at a distance.

All these "facts" are taught by the most patronising, simperingly grating educational multimedia package I've ever come across. Oh, and it took me half an hour to figure out how to navigate it - with the help of two established volunteer teachers who kept saying it was different the last time they used it.

So it would obviously be really easy to use if you've got the early stages of Alzheimer's and have never used a computer before.

I've also got the phone number of a museum that wants tour guides. A job which also involves telling the same lies over and over again.


  1. You haven't put very much on your facebook...

  2. Are there no soup kitchens or parks that need cleaning?

    Tour guide might be fun! It's in an A/C building right? And who says you can't change the script? Maybe offer some alternative (conspiracy) theories behind the art! Throw in some Illuminati and Free Masons and Mary Magdalene carrying Jesus' child!

  3. @David

    Um. Ah, that's not me being security consious...that's me having a very very boring life. :-D.

  4. @Eroswings

    We do have soup kitchens, but two things about them.

    1) They're all run by slightly nutty evangelicals - essentially good people, but with a reality dysfunction. I've, er, encountered their church before.

    2) The reason there's no non-nutty kitchens is, there's no funding for the charities which could provide them, because the government sees them as encouraging homelessness "as a way of life".

    But yeah, I could be a tour guide. I'm even officially quallified to do it. My second degree counts as a quallification to run/administrate/work in museums and art galleries.

    As for making up daft history to feed to gullible tourists...

    ...what a good idea! Heh heh heh.

  5. I love museums and art galleries, so the tour guide job gets my vote.

    If you really want to shock people, tell them real history, not the white-washed version.

    When I was 10, my dad took me to the Missiouri Capitol building. The thing that made the biggest impression were all the Civil War battle flags from both Union and Confederate units. Seeing them really helped me understand what "brother fighting brother" meant.

    When I went back 20 years later, all the Confederate flags had been packed away - including the really cool one with the cannonball hole in it. It made me sad that the state was denying part of its hertiage just to appear more PC.