Friday, 20 December 2013

Personal Observations II

More autobiography, which will again be relevant.

In 1988, I had academic qualifications in Philosophy and Religious Studies but not yet any professional training. The headmaster of an independent school mistook Religious Studies (study of religions) for Theology (knowledge of the Bible) and did not ask the right questions in my job interview so I became Master in Charge of Religious Education, fortunately a part-time post, and had to work full time reading Biblical texts and commentaries. (I learned a lot; no one else did.)

I would not have lied in the interview and should not have been appointed. I also lacked a teacher training qualification but the school, wrongly, did not require that. When I met the man whom I was to succeed, a vicar, he mentioned the Good News Bible, adding "...with which, of course, you are familiar." I had to say, "Yes." By that stage, it had become my responsibility to learn about the Good News Bible, and indeed the Bible, as quickly as possible.

A year later, I had been laid off. The stated reason and a real reason was the school's financial difficulties. Religious Education had to be shared among the other staff. Deciding to build on that year's experience by gaining a teaching qualification, I attended a postgraduate course where a fellow student said, "I've heard that, although the Good News is not an accurate translation, it is good if you just want the story," to which I replied, on the basis of a year's experience of working with that text, "Yes, the Good News is very readable!" So, by then, I had justified my saying "Yes" to the vicar.

Relevance to Neil Gaiman: to gain work as a journalist, Gaiman phoned magazine editors and claimed to have worked for Time Out, City Limits, The Observer and The Sunday Times of London Magazine.

"NG: ...over the next five years, I  actually did write for every magazine I'd mentioned during that first week of cold calls. So I wasn't really lying, I was merely being anachronistic. [Laughter.]"

- Hy Bender, The Sandman Companion (London, 1999), p. 14.

Gaiman knew that, by pitching good ideas, then writing well, he was making it very unlikely that any editor would ever check up. Good for him. I would not have imagined that it would be possible to get away with that and, in any case, would not have felt right about doing it. But my writing style is not journalistic so I would not have been looking for that kind of work in the first place. I felt that the lie to the vicar was forced upon me and did my best to be, as Gaiman puts it, "...anachronistic."

In a later job, a new Human Resources Manager pressurized me to resign, then got me charged with serious misconduct. With support from colleagues and trade union members, I withstood this attack and remained in the job. After the HR man had dissatisfied his superior a few times, he was asked to produce the management qualification that he had claimed in his application and was summarily dismissed when he was unable to comply. Extraordinary.

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