One of those times when you really should use the word “nigger”

That a school doesn’t want to teach Huck Finn any more is entirely their choice. However, I rather doubt the reasoning process that led them to that decision:

“We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits,” Mr Hall said.

The head of the school said the N-word references within the text was “challenging” for some pupils. He added that the word made some feel that the school was not being inclusive.

As Twain wrote it, and as any sensible modern reading would still have it, the use of that word nigger is one of the most powerful, and liberal, parts of the book.

For here we’ve got Huck, on his raft, and he knows, absolutely, that if he aids that nigger, that escaped slave, that he’s going to damn his soul to Hell for all eternity.

At which point he aids that nigger, that escaped slave.

What better example of do the right thing, of taking the moral path rather than the societally acceptable one, would anyone like to point to in literature? Especially children’s literature?

Yes, obviously, we all know the uses of that word, the oppression and vileness that has accompanied its use. and yet here it’s not just acceptable it produces a large part of the very power of the point being made.

As I say, what a school teaches and how it teaches it is up to said school: but I do think this is a wrong turn.

On the value of a masters degree in history

Possibly not a lot:

The first book I published, which kind of got me started on this, was “SteamDrunks: 101 Streampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks”… It was basically to shut up a lot of my steampunk friends, who’d bring a bottle of absinthe to a party and be like, “This is just like what they were drinking in the 1890s!”

I have a masters in history: “No, it’s not. Even Byron didn’t drink that stuff straight!”

Byron? Absinthe? 1890s?

I beg your pardon? What?

A UK government move to drop feminism from the A-level politics syllabus has sparked outrage among campaigners and students.

The section on feminism in a revised version of the course put out to consultation by the Department of Education has been removed, along with the topics of sex/gender, gender equality and patriarchy.

Furthermore, only one woman – Mary Wollstonecraft – appears in a list of seven political thinkers in the draft.

The open consultation on the proposal for the AS and A-level syllabus will run to 15 December and campaigners and students are urging the public to oppose them.

When in fuck did we become a country when what is in the exam syllabus was decided by politicians?

Find whoever this was and hang them. Yes, even if it was Cromwell: we can dig him up and hang him again.

Just how howlingly ignorant is this?

Top private schools should charge foreign students three times more than British pupils so they can ‘bring back the middle classes’, an educational expert has said ahead of a conference this weekend.
Charles Bonas argues it is unfair for international students to benefit from fees that are substantially less than places like Switzerland and the US when they come from countries with lower or non-existence tax.

People should pay higher private school fees because they pay less tax at home? Aren’t we rather getting those concepts of private and tax confused here?

And very confused about markets too: British private schools have a market clearing price….which just is what it is.

Weird, weird, argumewnt.

People’s PPE

A new initiative:

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford is the degree course of choice for those in politics, policy or journalism. In fact more than 40 current MPs including the Prime Minister have studied PPE, as have countless other world leaders.

This is because knowledge of politics and economics, and the philosophy that underlies the two, allows one to more meaningfully engage with, comment upon, and indeed govern society. Those who do not have access to this knowledge are open to manipulation by those who do.*

We do not think that those in power should have a monopoly on this knowledge.

Our project, “People’s PPE”, was officially launched at Momentum London East End’s inaugural event with John McDonnell MP. Join us for a series of lectures, seminars, debates and workshops aiming to empower the grassroots and enable ordinary people to become more politically engaged and literate.


Here is the PPE syllabus. Go read that, go read what it tells you to read, then you’re done, right?

Idiot statement of the day

If we’re serious about wanting a better-educated, better-trained workforce, let’s not look to selective education for the solution.


I know that Ritchie and Farnsworth show that you don’t actually need to know anything in today’s academia but could we start from at least one basic premise? That we’d like the bridges to be designed by people who can do maths? And then take selection as far as we need to from there?

Or, alternatively, just about all that’s wrong with the education system in one sentence above:

Selina Todd, a social historian, is fellow and vice principal of St Hilda’s College, Oxford.

Is Melissa Benn and idiot or just stupid?

A government insider says: “The department knows it’s not watertight legally. They know it’s going to be subject to judicial review. My soundings suggest that they think they have, say, a 60% chance of winning. Essentially the decision is political.”

If who can open a school of what kind and where is something decided by politicians then of course any such decision is political:

Establishing a new selective school is prohibited under an act passed by Labour in 1998.

See, politics!

If you don’t want politics in this then just stick a voucher on the back of every child and let the non-political process sort it out.

This seems pretty sensible really

Tens of thousands of poor families have left inner London in the past five years, creating “social cleansing on a vast scale” and leaving large parts of the capital as the preserve of the rich, figures suggest.

Umm, why shouldn’t rich people live where property is expensive and poor people live where it is cheap?

We think it’s OK that the poor don’t gorge on filet mignon and foie gras. That holidays are spent at Clacton not Curacao. why would or even should we expect poor people to live where just the land for a house is worth £1 million?

Nice try Larry but no cigar

It has been a catastrophic political blunder not to challenge the myth that Brown’s government caused the crisis and the austerity that followed. The choice, correctly framed by the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, is whether to pretend Osborne’s version of events is true and own up to perceived past mistakes or to contest it.

Pleading guilty seems the easier line to take, but it isn’t. The confession would be brandished by the government for the next five years as proof that Labour should never again be trusted with the public finances.

Instead, Labour needs to start its fightback by rehabilitating the record of the Blair-Brown years, making the point that the purpose of the pre-crisis borrowing was to modernise and improve the NHS and shabby schools. It also needs to challenge the idea that all borrowing at all times is bad. If that were the case, individuals would have to save up the entire asking price for a house rather than buying it on a mortgage and there would be no startup capital to launch businesses.

That’s not the argument about why Labour was profligate. Rather, look to the entirely standard Keynesian story. Yes, we should (using automatic stabilisers by preference, not spending sprees) increase aggregate demand in a downturn. But the flip side of that is that we should be running, yes, including that “investment ” shtick, a significant surplus at the peak of the boom. And we were at the peak of a boom: the longest one of modern times in fact, dating back pretty much to 1993.

No, not so as to pay down the national debt, no, not to save money for the future, not even to increase the firepower available for stimulus when the downturn inevitably comes.

Rather, to suck excessive demand out of the economy. There should have been, as with Ireland and Spain (not that it saved them, but things would have been even worse if they hadn’t been doing this), substantial budget surpluses in the period 2000 (or so) onwards. That’s the profligacy, that Labour didn’t even follow the standard Keynesian prescription.

Tristram Hunt goes Wibble, Wibble

For what’s the point of being a forward looking politician if people are just getting along and solving shit without you?

“Smartphones are psychologically addictive, encourage narcissistic tendencies and should come with a health warning.” That was the conclusion of a recent University of Derby study which highlighted the disturbing downside to our digital obsession.
But it could be even worse than that. Smartphone addiction could be damaging educational standards and exacerbating inequality. Advanced digital technology is now an everyday component of classroom and community, but we need to think much smarter about its long-term impact.
As shadow Education Secretary, I have a recurring conversation in the schools I visit. Primary head teachers explain to me the challenge they face in getting their pupils up to the relevant level of progress, given their various developmental delays. In particular, more children are presenting with serious difficulties when it comes to speech and language. In disadvantaged communities, children’s ability to talk, to play, to interact is often markedly behind. When I ask if the condition is getting worse, all heads say yes – and they blame the iPhone.

Yeah, right.

Pupils not being up to speed in English might have more to do with the number of children from families which do not speak English. Which has been rising rather, hasn’t it?

That Finnish teaching success

Ye, we know, Finland’s teachers are great, the school system is excellent.

But the five-year master’s degree for primary school teachers is not in question. Competition is fierce – only 7% of applicants in Helsinki were accepted this year, leaving more than 1,400 disappointed.

It’s the smart people going to be teachers. As opposed to the UK where….well, I don’t know about now so much but back when two Es got you into the teacher training college when three As might or might not get you into Oxbridge. Many of the inmates of the girlfriend farm that was the local teacher training college were in fact remarkably dumb.

Sounds like an extremely good use of £12

Ten years later, in 2002, MacFarlane-Barrow travelled to Malawi for the first time, to assist with famine relief. He met a woman dying of an Aids-related illness whose 14-year-old son told him that his one wish in life was to have enough food to eat, and to go to school one day. That encounter sparked Scottish International Relief’s evolution into a new school-based feeding operation, which MacFarlane-Barrow, a devout Catholic, named Mary’s Meals.

The charity now provides for children in 12 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, at an average cost of £12.20 per child, per year. ‘I think the reason we have got so far is that we’ve found something that really works,’ MacFarlane-Barrow says. ‘It’s so simple. And it’s also been successful because it is the community who own this – they are in charge of providing volunteers to cook the food, and supervising it.’

To feed the hungry? And as one authority had it, what you do to the little children you do unto me.

A bonzer plan there, entirely bonzer.


A Manchester charity is proposing to open a state school that will specialise in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. There has never been a better time to announce such an initiative. Unfortunately, there has never been a worse time either.

Well, umm.

It’s OK to separate children by their sexuality during their education but not by their intelligence?

And Tristram Hunt can kiss my hairy freckled arse

Private schools would be stripped of £700 million in tax breaks if Labour is elected, under plans being drawn up by Ed Miliband.

The “class war” proposal could add up to £200 a year to the cost of a private school education.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, is expected to outline plans to “claw back” relief given to private schools from paying local authority business rates.

More than 2,000 private schools across Britain can claim up to 80 per cent cut in their business rates because they are charities, worth around £150 million annually.

Mr Hunt will say that a Labour government will legislate to ensure the schools only qualify for this “subsidy” if they pass a new “schools partnership standard”.

Sigh. They’re charities. So, they should get the same breaks (and face the same costs) as other charities. Providing education is, and has always been seen as, a justifiably charitable endeavour.

And I’d also advise being very, very, careful about how you define “school” or “education” in this sense. For I’m absolutely certain that there’s all sorts of charities out there providing some educational benefits that you don’t want to subject to this taxation because they’re run by your supporters.

But the real problem here is that it’s a gross misunderstanding of what the charitable sector is all about. This is an areas supposed to be outside such detailed and direct governmental control.
Charity is about the things the little platoons do for the little platoons. Civil society: not politically directed centralised society. Government is and should be limited to setting the general rules. You’re a charity? Here are the rules. The same rules apply whether you’re a Labour Party front organisation, a donkey sanctuary or a school.

So here, here is that hairy freckled arse: pucker up matey and then you can fuck right off.

They had an investigation to figure this out?


Investigation reveals US university let athletes take fake classes
More than 3,000 students at University of North Carolina took fake classes as part of a program that allowed many to remain eligible to play sports


Aren’t universities supposed to be where all the bright people are?

There’s amoeba at the bottom of the Marianna’s Trench that know about this, wolverines convene on the taiga to gossip about it. But then there’s no one so stupid as a bureaucrat insistent on not noting what they don’t wish to see, is there?

And absolutely no one at all should be thinking that this is happening at only one US university. It’s not even epidemic, it’s pandemic in the system. A 30 second conversation with most of those* playing college sport is all you need to divine that.

* Perhaps a touch harsh: but true of the major sports at the major sport playing places, if not of all sports at all colleges.

This is what happens when a craft becomes a profession

The professional classes then colonise that former craft:

 But then who am I to criticise Stephenson when journalism is as much of a rich kids’ game? Lindsey Macmillan of the Institute of Education found that journalists used to come from families 6% better off than average, whereas now they come from homes that are 42% richer. Indeed, British journalists, the supposed tribunes of the people, now hail from wealthier backgrounds than, er, bankers, an awkward fact that ought to cause embarrassment all round. I look at my younger self today and wonder if he could become a journalist on a serious newspaper. My parents were teachers. They were comfortably off by the standards of 1980s Manchester, but they could never have afforded to rent me rooms in London and cover my expenses while I went from internship to internship. They had to look after my sisters as much as anything else.

When the standard method of entry was a lowly paid couple of years on a local or regional to be followed, maybe, by a climb up to the nationals then that “right background” didn’t make a difference. When acting meant living on sixpence (rather than the nothing of interning or “parts to gain exposure” ) for a couple of years and doing Rep then again, that sorting system of separating the sheep from the hams didn’t favour background.

Once these, and other such crafts, become professions then it’s obvious enough that those from the professional classes will try to colonise those former crafts.

Quite what we do about it is another matter. No one wants either Rep or local newspapers any more and there’s no point in running them just as socially equitable training grounds.

We could say much the same about being a solicitor or an accountant. Many a working class boy has made good by doing their articles while working in the past. Now it’s graduate only entry (in effect, if not in possibility) and once again the selection process favours background.

Eh? We do?

We know that sporting talent will be randomly distributed among the 700,000 babies born every year.

Is this some ignorance of genetics from Will Hutton? We would rather expect that sporting talent will be more common in those born to parents with sporting talent, wouldn’t we?

This matters. There is growing concern that too much of Britain’s elite sport is occupied by athletes educated at private schools: for example, 41 % of the medals won at the 2012 Olympics went to the privately educated. We know that sporting talent will be randomly distributed among the 700,000 babies born every year. Yet the British system ensures that it will be those lucky enough to be born into households rich enough to educate them privately that will have the best chance to lift their natural sporting ability to Olympic standards. By any moral code, this is not fair, but beyond morality this is a huge squandering of talent.

And the entire idea there is flawed because it’s not looking at the entirety of sport. Agreed, those born into wealthier families are more likely to, if they have the requisite talents, shine on horseback or in rowing. But how many middle class or upper middle class footballers are there? Class (or income, not the same thing in the UK, obviously) might well influence which sport the talented pick up but that isn’t the same as saying that the underprivileged do not have an opportunity in all sports.

The same is true of intellectual and academic ability. The Sutton Trust reports that four private schools and one sixth form college in Cambridge send as many students to Oxbridge as nearly 2,000 state schools. Are we to believe that native academic ability is uniquely concentrated in the children of parents rich enough to afford to pay the fees (or live in the catchment area of Hills Road sixth form college, Cambridge)?

Genetics again Will. For yes, we do rather think that the children of all of those Cambridge academics have something of a leg up in intelligence. For intelligence is indeed inheritable (with regression to the mean etc). And even if you want to insist that intelligence is randomly distributed (something which it cannot be for if it were it would never have emerged in the first place) then yes, we’d still expect that children growing up in the groves of academe are going to do quite well in academe.

Actually, there could be a fascinating paper in this. Why don’t the Oxford schools display the same results? Are the catchment areas different, there being no one school that gets all the professors’ kids? Are more privately educated in Oxford?