Monday 17 December 2012

Time Does Not Tell

One of the wonders of our time is just how complicated everything has become, especially in relation to those things that are supposed to be simple.  This has been a theme of this blog so below is a post from October 2010 as a comment.  How little has changed.

“Education has not been the same since the decline and fall of the Ink Monitors.  At one time in an Elementary School (5-14 then leave school) each class might have one.  Mostly “he’s”, they would be a trusted pupil and if they proved reliable, polite and diligent they might earn a reference to be a shop assistant or even a clerk.

They learned to check the inkpot at each desk, judge the quantity necessary and pour in the right amount of ink from a jar.  To do this they would have to be entrusted with access to the classroom cupboard and would both obtain and return the jar properly and without supervision.

This was integral to a whole culture of steel pen nibs and scarce paper when writing was a form of calligraphy and care needed in the shaping of each letter, the accuracy of each word and the whole structure of a sentence and paragraph.  It is a world long since lost.

But think of what might have happened in our modern age if ink would be still been in use.  It is certain that persons of 15-17 or any younger age could never be allowed to undertake such onerous duties. 

Nor could teachers or cleaning staff, it would be outside their conditions of service.  There would have to be Writing Materials Replenishment Assistants with negotiated salaries and comparable conditions of service.

This would take management and to avoid the post code lottery of differences a staff at local authority level to co-ordinate, manage and supply the needed staff and materials.  Clearly high level consultancy would need to be brought in to satisfy the auditors and others that it was all to be done as it should be.

But could local authorities actually be entirely trusted with matters of this kind?  It would cry out for central direction and thinking.  Possibly, it would begin as part of one government department or another. 

Then in recent years an Ink Procurement and Inspection Agency would have been established with fully staffed at salary levels to compete with senior management in the financial sector to ensure that all the angles were covered, the targets set and statistics and supervision ensured.

There would be research budgets.  A new department would be funded at the University of East Dunwich or somewhere to ensure only inks of the highest quality, specifications and safety standards were in use and to develop new inks.

The standardisation of ink procurement would mean major contracts with all that this entailed.  No doubt agreements would be reached in some foreign place for out sourcing all the production for transport by container ships.  This would help the UK carbon footprint and rid the nation of all the nasty inky manufacturing pollutants.

By some miracle of accounting and with all the consultancy, financing and layers of management and control the filling of inkpots would become critical to keeping up the GDP and stimulation of the velocity of circulation of public sector funding.

The big question is given the need to increase the consumption of ink during a time of economic difficulty whether the use of ink pellets (wodges of paper dripping with ink used as a missile fired by the skilled use of rubber bands) by alienated victims of oppression in the classroom should be subject to reduced or no regulation.

I keep rubber bands in my desk and can still hit a moving target at fifteen paces.  Will my time come again to cop the teacher or the Ink Monitor one behind the ear?”

There is no answer to that.


  1. I never made Ink Monitor - it's been a blot on my CV ever since.

    I have a faint recollection that school ink was once made from a powder of some kind.

  2. Oh the status of being an Ink Monitor then! I was, in '46. A girl and boy were chosen seach month from 10 years. Strangely, I don't remember any accidents, but you had to be very, very, careful. When we went on to Secondary Modern or Grammar we usually were lucky enough to have a proper fountain pen. Girls also did hand sewing (with proper needles)from 7 years. I made a cotton summer dress for myself all by hand at school at 11. Shortly after that my best present ever was my very own electric iron In the 60s I was involved in pre-school community playgroups -children sewed with bodkins and wool through thick hessian. We had a highly supervised scaled down woodwork bench too with wood, a strong small saw, large nails, and proper small tools. Both sexes sewed and hammered. Never had an accident. Nowadays I would probably be in prison I suppose. Husband is still good at flicking rubber bands.

  3. Alas, my time as an Ink Monitor lasted only one day. Being a fan of Western films I thought it would be nice for the class to put on war paint for the divinity class.