Lecturers ‘struggle to speak English’ at elite universities charging students £9,000 a year

This is hardly new.

Well, the £9,000 a year might be but the struggling to speak English isn’t. We had one full professor at the LSE where English was his fourth (and very badly learnt) language. Japanese, German, Russian I think, then English. Excellent economist doing very interesting research but as a lecturer not all that understandable.

Now this is a school science project

And yesterday he became the youngest person in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from scratch at his Lancashire secondary school, using high energy to smash two hydrogen atoms together to make helium.

‘It is quite an achievement. It’s magnificent really,’ Jamie said afterwards. ‘I can’t quite believe it – even though all my friends think I am mad.’

Well done that man.

And well done the teachers who allowed him to do it of course. For he was creating RADIATION!

Markets: cooperation or competition?

A question from a reader:

Look, here’s the challenge for Christians, *if* they can see it: those men in suits, in offices, they’re out for themselves, selfish, no thought for the common good. But mankind’s progress has been migration, conquest even, leading to trade in goods and ideas and methods. Self interest has worked for mankind’s benefit, the greed of those men in suits has worked for mankind. At the very least man has been served better by his restlessness than by any higher motives. How do Christians respond to this – to us – paradox.

Within Catholicism at least, the only brand of Christianity that I know much about, it is the motive for an action which is important. A married couple having a legover as a result of their mutual love for each other is just fine: admirable even, a use of one of God’s gifts to us (dependent upon the level of contraception being used or not of course, nothing is ever simple in Catholicism). A man demanding a jump from his wife because he is blinded with lust is not admirable. Indeed, many would say it is sinful. The action might be the same but the reason matters.

As to a market economy, where we’re all assumed to be motivated by our (enlightened) self interest yes, if we think of this as purely being driven by greed then we do have a problem. Greed is indeed a sin and thus, again within Catholicism, we cannot accept that good things can come from bad. So while the results of a market economy, driven by that greed, seem to be better than any other system we’ve tried, that original motive makes the result unacceptable.

Many people, rather cleverer than I am, have grappled with this problem for some number of years longer than I have done so. But here’s at least my attempt at the beginning of an explanation.

Which is that markets, certainly the business world that I’ve been involved with, are not all that much about competition. It’s there, certainly, but that’s not what is really going on. The competition is to try and find the people that you can cooperate with. Say my process needs widgets: I’m not competing with those who make widgets in the slightest. But those who make widgets are competing with each other to find who is going to be the one who cooperates with me in providing my widgets.

We are not competing therefore: we, I and the widget makers, are trying to work out on the basis of price, reliability, quality and all that, who should be the people that we cooperate with.

To return to our sex analogy, we are in a dating market before we make our choice. True, that choice is not until death us do part but believe me, there’s still a commitment being made. Anyone in business will tell you how difficult it is to depose an incumbent supplier.

As above there’s a great deal more thought gone into this question than I can offer. But I would at least begin to argue that the way out of this paradox is to understand that markets are a selection mechanism as to who to cooperate with rather than vicious and impersonal competition driven by greed. Just as the dating market works: we’re looking for the best we can get and no one at all thinks that this is odd behaviour in that context.

Lord this is going to cause all sorts of problems

A gene which may make people more intelligent has been discovered by scientists.

Researchers have found that teenagers who had a highly functioning NPTN gene performed better in intelligence tests.

It is thought the NPTN gene indirectly affects how the brain cells communicate and may control the formation of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain, also known as ‘grey matter.’

It’s probably true. For even a mild bout of pondering the emergence of intelligence is going to conclude that it is genetically based. And if it is then some people are going to end up with a healthier dollop of it than others. And it will obviously also be inheritable.

However, this isn’t politically acceptable to a certain section of the commentariat. I’ve seen, for example, in Danny Dorling’s writings a flat out statement that all babies are equal and that any differences are entirely due to nurture and environment. Anyone could, in his phrase, grow up to be a Professor of Social Geography at Sheffield.

A statement so barking as to make one conclude that anyone has. For we can clearly see that genes exist for unintelligence: how else are we to explain Down’s Syndrome? My lament here though is that the more people do identify the genetic base3 of intelligence the more that certain section are going to stick fingers in their ears and shout lalala. And unfortunately, they’re the people who control much of the education system, certainly the part that educates the educators.

A note on British inequality

When you’ve the plumbers knocking on the door of the one percent I’m not entirely sure that social stratification is the thing driving inequality:

Mr Mullins is considering hiring further French plumbers if demand continues to increase, after Mr Hollande’s 75pc levy for France’s highest earners was last month approved by France’s highest court.

“The worse the French economy gets, the better things become for our business,” said Mr Mullins.

He estimates that the new French-speaking recruits could earn between £120,000 and £150,000 a year, in line with his company’s other top engineers.

It might be, rather, that the famed British inequality is in fact geographic inequality rather than class or job based. Further, given that we know very well that the cost of living varies wildly based upon geography then we almost certainly don’t have as much consumption inequality, the only form we should be worried about at all, as people seem to think.

I’m not sure if it is true today but it most certainly was a few years back. That according to ASHE, the highest paid group of women, measured by average hourly wages, were black women. No, we most certainly do not think that black women in general outearn women of other ethnicities. But that is what the figures tell us. The answer being that black women are highly concentrated in London, where wages in general are very much higher than elsewhere.

I am, as I’ve said before, convinced that some to much of the famed British inequality is this inequality of incomes over geographic areas, not inequality of consumption. Essentially, because London dominates Britain in a manner that happens in just about no other European country.

All of which means that the standard techniques to reduce inequality, that predistributionism, the higher taxes, higher minimum wages etc, just aren’t going to address the problem. If, indeed, it’s worth addressing at all. If it really is geographically based then if it is to be dealt with then it would need to be some geographic solution.

A free school fails: Hurrah!

The inspection of the Al-Madinah Islamic school in Derby was brought forward after claims female staff were made to cover their heads even if they were not Muslim, and pupils were segregated – with girls forced to sit at the back of the classroom.

The leaked report describes the faith school as “in chaos” and in danger of collapsing, as well as “dysfunctional. It is expected to suggest the school be put in special measures.

The report, seen by the Guardian, says: “Leadership and management, including governance, are inadequate and have been unable to improve the school.

“Staff have been appointed to key roles for which they do not have qualifications and experience. For example, most of the primary school teachers have not taught before and the head of the primary school is experienced in teaching secondary-aged pupils only.”

The school is one of Michael Gove’s flagship free schools and opened in September last year.

Contrary to what you will be told, this is part of the success of the scheme. Experimentation does fail, often. But it’s only through that process of experimentation that we manage to make things better over time. And the joy of a “market” approach, in this case just one that is not centrally directed in detail by a bureaucracy is that we do indeed get more experimentation. As long as known failures get closed down quickly then the system will, through this method, continue to improve.

Err, no Polly, no

Like Cummings, I am not qualified to interpret genetic research, so I asked Professor Steve Jones, the celebrated geneticist at University College London, what it means. Cummings, using the work of the behavioural geneticist Robert Plomin, badly misinterprets it, says Jones, and “fundamentally misunderstands” how biology works. That 70% is, crucially, “a statement about populations, not individuals. It certainly does not mean that seven-tenths of every child’s talents reside in the double helix.” Teachers become more, not less, important, Jones says, when examining the close interaction of environment and genes. Even in the simple matter of height, environment plays its part: with no DNA change, his native Welsh population has grown two inches and increased its IQ since the 1950s. Moving to affluence increases a working class child’s IQ by 15 points.

The effect is not upon the IQ of that one working class child that moves into affluence. It i exactly as you are criticising Cummings for: it’s the Flynn Effect and it works on populations, not individuals.

And as to this:

With destiny all but set by five years old

If destiny is set before the education system even sees the child ten it’s clear and obvious that it’s not the education system that influences destny, is it?

No wonder the education system is fucked

Michael Gove held talks with a leading scientist who believes that genetics, not teaching, plays a major part in the intelligence of schoolchildren, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

That seems like a useful belief to have. Given that we usually define intelligence as that innate thing which is then educable.

Mr Gove’s policy adviser, Dominic Cummings, provoked outcry yesterday when it emerged he had backed Professor Plomin’s research that genes accounted for up to 70 per cent of a child’s cognitive abilities.

Outcry? What? For the various twins studies do show something along those lines. Intelligence is heritable: we wouldn’t be the human race if that were not true.

Note that saying that something is heritable does not at all mean that it is entirely or only so. But it is indeed heritable as is blond hair and blue yes. So why outrage?

The research is contentious because ministers and educationalists have long believed that any child, from whatever background, can achieve the highest academic ability.

You what? You mean the education system is based on a simple lie about the nature of human beings? No wonder it’s entirely fucked then, eh?

Why blame inequality?

Just a quick scan of the countries that fared really well in all three categories (Norway, Sweden, Japan, Finland and the Netherlands) compared to the countries that fared really badly (America and Britain) gives a pretty good indication that the inequality that is rampant in the (allegedly) dumber nations might have something to do with their pitifully low scores.

If people aren’t being educated might we not take as our first postulate that they’re being shovelled into a really crappy education system?

We’ve got your social mobility right here

Nearly half of pupils from poorer backgrounds whose private school fees were paid by the last Tory government are now earning at least £90,000 a year.

More than 75,000 children took part in the Assisted Places Scheme, which ran for 17 years from 1980 before it was abolished by Labour.

A study revealed ‘virtually all’ have gone into well paid professional and managerial positions, including more than 40 per cent whose annual pay is £90,000 or more – nearly four times the national average salary of £24,000.

Escaping the soft bigotry of low expectations in the state sector seems to work then.

Ho hum.

Cut teacher\’s pay now!

Primary school teachers in England are among the youngest in the world but they still earn almost £4,000 more on average than their counterparts across the rest of the OECD.

The average salary for a primary teacher in the OECD countries was £24,690 in 2011, compared to £28,660 in England.

The report found England\’s primary teachers delivered 684 hours of lessons in 2011, significantly below the OECD average of 786 hours.

In Chile, teachers spent 1,120 hours in front of their classes, while teachers in the United States clocked up 1,097 hours of teaching time in 2011.

They\’re getting
more pay for fewer hours…..and I seriously doubt that anyone thinks that the education system is better. Clearly we should cut pay so as to be average.

For isn\’t that what we\’re repeatedly told? That we should indeed be like other places in our pay and equality and so on and on?

The property crash was the state education system\’s fault

People with poor maths skills are more likely to be behind with their mortgage payments and have their home repossessed, according to a study.

It shows the risk of defaulting on a mortgage is directly linked to a home owner\’s maths skills and could explain the mortgage defaults in the recent global crisis.

The State has them for 11 years on a compulsory basis and still can\’t teach them to count.

Therefore it\’s all the State\’s fault. Hang them all say I, hang them all.

Why in buggery should they?

Private schools should support their state counterparts instead of operating in ‘splendid isolation’, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said that independent headteachers should be helping struggling comprehensives nearby before opening schools in other countries.

Tesco should make sure it opens in Dudley before it tries Dallas should it? Rolls Royce should make damn sure there\’s a water turbine in Dursley before sending the salesmen to Delhi? Unilever should make sure every baby in Brum has Pampers before selling them in Durban?

What fucking nonsense is this?

Blimey, if we\’re going to have a \”right wing\” education revolution could we at least start with getting the people running it up to speed with the idea of free markets?

Bath\’s a very expensive city you know

The son of a Chinese government official was jailed yesterday for trying to bribe a British university professor with £5,000 to pass his degree.

Yang Li also took an imitation firearm into the meeting with the don and another senior academic at Bath University.

A court heard that Li, 26, was studying a masters degree in innovation and technology management and feared failure.

He was dismayed to learn he had been given just 37 per cent for his dissertation which was a fail – and would have meant him spending an extra year at the university.

That would have affected Li’s visa which he was hoping to upgrade from a student visa to a tier 1 visa.

Li, who was born and educated in China, asked to meet Professor Andrew Graves and Dr Stephen Shepherd to discuss his options.

Bristol Crown Court heard he told the pair ‘I am a businessman’ before placing £5,000 in cash on the table.

£5k just doesn\’t cut it I\’m afraid.

I\’m also amused by the Mail\’s photo. It\’s of a student dorm in the centre of town rather than of the uni itself. And no, it\’s not the student dorm the bloke lived in either.

Polly visits a school and Polly on statistics

This is great fun. All is well in our schools because:

I was assigned to Chris Brolly, a Teach First-er in his third year. His 12- and 13-year-olds have been inventing a product – bottled water – and it\’s my task to help them write a press release. Can they create their own USP, write a grabby headline, hold the fleeting attention of a journalist, persuade with seductive language?

Yes, because 12 year olds are being taught how to write a press release.

Then there\’s Polly\’s famed connection with statistics:

But only a third of pupils who get good GCSE grades are on free school meals. A YouGov poll finds most voters don\’t think poorer children will ever get an equal education. Gove, calling for payment by results, cited Singapore\’s high-achieving school system, \”where expectations are higher\”. What he didn\’t say is that Singapore, like top performer Finland, is one of the most equal of developed nations. As his government drives up inequality, his schools face an ever tougher task compensating for the society they inhabit.

We generally measure inequality by Gini. 0.25 or so is Scandinavian style lots of equality (I am using the figures after the impact of the tax and benefit systems, of course). Above 0.35 or so is about the US and worse than the UK, 0.45, there\’s only one OECD country that bad, Chile, above 0.50 or so is Brazilian style oligarchy.

Singapore? 0.473.

Finland is in there with Scandi style 0.26 or so.

So, we seem to have one of the most equal and one of the most unequal countries managing to provide a very fine education to the kiddies. We might thererfore conclude that inequality is not the determinant of providing a fine education. Death of Polly\’s point, eh?

Presented without comment

Nick Clegg has signalled that he may send his eldest son to a private school, potentially sparking controversy about his commitment to state education.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he would put his children’s education first and would not overrule the wishes of his wife or son for ‘political reasons’.

Shock Horror! Parents want children to be professionals!

Ethnic minority students \’forced into medicine and law\’
Teenagers from ethnic minority families are coming under excessive pressure from parents to push for medicine and law degrees at top universities, the Government’s higher education access tsar has warned.

Blimey. That certain minorities push children into the professions. Such a shocker isn\’t it?

Never mind that it\’s been the mainstay of Jewish jokes (ie, jokes told by Jews, not necessarily about them) for well over a century. That more recent immigrant groups, Hindu and Chinese for example, follow suit just isn\’t all that much of a surprise. You manage to make landfall in a new society, work your fingers to the bone doing the scut work as that recent immigrant. You look around and try to identify the cushy spots and encourage your children to go for them.

Christ, it\’s such a fucking cliche that Tom Clancy uses it as a plot device. The Vietnamese widow running a 7-11, all of whose children are in pre-med or law school.