File under hypocritical lefties:
Fiona Millar, AKA Mrs Alastair Campbell, is a journalist and a prominent campaigner for comprehensive education. Comment is Free regularly provides a pulpit from which she can unleash fire and brimstone at anyone who might be tempted to interest themselves in selective admission procedures, school choice or similar heresies against the Church of the Bog Standard Comp Triumphant.
Her latest jeremaiad was this piece at CiF on Monday, if you can bear it.
The amusing part about her article was not what she wrote herself (or even the sad fact that she can't seem to find a photo of herself in which she doesn't look like a harpy), but is actually a posting by a commenter calling himself Gerry M.
What Mr M points out is that Ms Millar seems to have contracted that strange affliction of well off left-wing parents which compels them to ensure that their own children get a rather different education to the one they demand for us proles. Well known examples like Ruth Kelly and Diane Abbott abound. The establishment our Fiona chose for her darling son Rory was the William Ellis School in Highgate. This is a state school quite unlike any other state school you've ever come across before. In fact, it's quite hard to find many differences between it and a rather expensive private school.
According to the Wikipedia article linked above, it has a budget of £13 million to spend on around 1000 pupils. For those who learned mathematics at a more traditional comprehensive school, that's £13,000 per pupil. It's pupils are all boys (which doesn't seem very comprehensive to me). It has playing fields, blazers, celebrity visitors (Alastair Campbell, Sir Clive Woodward, Michael Palin, June Sarpong, Brian Lara, David Miliband and Professor Tim Brighouse), and "newly completed Art studios, Technology and Science teaching spaces and [a] state-of-the-art Sports Hall". If music is your thing it's got a "24-track sound and music editing suite with the latest computer technology" and can offer music tuition in just about any instrument you care to mention. All that seems to be missing is the stables for darling Rory's ponies, but hey, this is central London.
All I can say is "Wow!" And to think that some people pay to go private!
Our Fiona is, of course, very much against academies and trust schools - she says that LEA control is the ideal that schools should aspire to. How then to explain her choice of a "voluntarily maintained" school, a majority of whose governors are appointed by an independent trust? Shouldn't she be repulsed by a school which became a specialist language school in 1997?
It's hard to imagine the mindset which would allow someone to justify this sort of hypocrisy to themselves. A normal person, with a normal conscience would cringe every time the thought crossed their mind. Is Fiona Millar such a person?
She doesn't look bovvered, does she?
Has something happened to the Adam Smith Institute? They seem to have a new, very corporate-style website (yuk). The blog appears to be there, but there's no RSS feed. No word of explanation - no nothing.
Have they all been abducted by aliens or something?
In the email this morning, this from Phil Booth of NO2ID:
Hello, you have received this message because you signed my pledge, "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge" back in 2005. In fact 11360 other people also did. Thank you all.
The legal powers to bring ID cards into use are now starting to be applied, and NO2ID want their money. Even if you didn't sign up for the pledge, be a sport and stick a cheque in the post, there's a good thing.
Cheques payable to NO2ID should be sent to:
NO2ID (Legal Defence Fund)
19-21 Crawford St
London W1H 1PJ
Do it today.
Matthew Sinclair has an interesting post about getting a broad education. Having been to a state school he feels that he may have missed out on some of the things his privately educated counterparts may have enjoyed.
I just haven't had the same broad exposure and introduction to subjects beyond the exam, to the broader current of human knowledge, that many public school students have. I labour at remedying this but I'm starting from quite a distance behind.
He reckons that this is because many of his teachers may have been teaching to the test rather than seeking to educate the kids in their care.
Having also enjoyed the dubious benefits of a state education, I think he's right here. The other day, I was lurking at a home education forum where there was a discussion of how home-ed children who went up to universities couldn't work out why their schooled classmates only seemed to want to know what was likely to be tested. Schooled children were just not interested in getting in-depth knowledge. They were, well, schooled, rather than educated.
Matthew quite correctly points out that we can probably deal effectively with this problem by extending the free market in education so that it covers all schools rather than just schools for the rich.
This point was also touched on briefly in a rather fiery exchange between DK and Dave Osler on Vox Politix the other night. Dave O seemed to think that education vouchers would further entrench the privilege of the wealthy (or words to that effect). This seems to me to be a completely bizarre argument. Making education for the poor and middlingly wealthy more effective is surely reducing the privileges of the wealthy. In the same way that most people can buy a car now (but the wealthy can afford swanky ones with leather seats and unuseable top speeds) we could have a system in which everyone got an education (as opposed to schooling) while the rich could afford a swanky one with top hats and stabling for Jemima's ponies.
If we sit back and ask what we want from the education system, the answer is that we want childen to get the broad knowledge of the world - "the best of all that has been known" - that Matthew and I didn't get. We can only give them this if we give them the same advantages - namely a private education - that the rich give their children.
Timmy notes another piece of half-witted environmental journalism, this time from Fiona Harvey of the FT. Ms Harvey notes that the Thames Barrier is being raised more often than in the past (climate change is the culprit of course), while apparently being ignorant of the fact that the south-east of England is sinking at 2.3mm per year.
Fiona Harvey has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge University.
It figures. One can't help but notice that there is something of a theme developing here?
Never mind the science, feel the empathy.
BBC News certainly does not have a line on climate change, however the weight of our coverage reflects the fact that there is an increasingly strong (although not overwhelming) weight of scientific opinion in favour of the proposition that climate change is happening and is being largely caused by man.
He also said this:
It is not the BBC's job to lead opinion or proselytise on this or any other subject. However we can make informed judgements and that is what we will continue to do.
This was all said in the context of a proposed "Planet Relief" special - a weekend in which the whole network would be devoted to programmes on global warming. Eventually Planet Relief was pulled from the schedules, as even the BBC thought it would be unable to brush off questions about its partiality.
Now, however, it seems that the corporation are trying to do exactly what Horrocks said they wouldn't do. According to Rifait Jawaid, again on the BBC editors blog, there is to be a new special about the impact of climate change in Bangladesh.
I think James Sales, who I know from my World Service days, has done a great job by single-handedly taking this project to fruition. I'm told that it was James who first mooted the idea of this [...] show to create awareness on climate change amongst the poverty stricken Bangladeshis.
So here we have a programme which seeks to lead opinion among its audience, something which directly contradicts the claims of Peter Horrocks from just a few months ago. Could someone be telling fibs, we wonder?
I've left a comment on Jawaid's blog post, pointing out this apparent anomoly. I wonder if it will be published?
It strikes me that this could be a double-edged sword for the HE community. If disaffected yoof end up in sham-HE arrangements, it could be an open invitation for the government to shut down homeschooling completely.
I managed to read everything worth reading on my feedreader tonight, so I had a bit of a trawl through 18 Doughty Street.
I found this really good interview with Peter Oborne from a few days ago. Very interesting on the symbiosis of the political parties and the media and the corruption this engenders.
Alex Singleton of the Globalisation Institute is a sensible chap and resides very much on the side of the angels. Unfortunately in his article at the Graun today he gets it spectacularly wrong.
His thesis for the day is that green taxes won't work, and so we should introduce compulsory carbon offsetting.
We should scrap green taxes on flying and replace them with compulsory carbon offsetting. Like a tax, offsetting would add to the price of a journey. The difference would be that the money would go to actually improve the environment.
And he's quite definite about the kind of offsetting schemes he want to see.
It is certainly true that some carbon offsetting schemes are dubious. One involves discouraging the use of labour-saving diesel water pumps in developing countries and getting people to use back-breaking pedal-pumps, which were banned in British prisons a century ago. We should not allow some ill-conceived options to put us off more worthwhile schemes, such as planting trees.
Which is where he has got it wrong.
Anthropogenic global warming is alleged to be happening because carbon, which was formerly locked away in the form of oil, coal and gas, has been released into the atmosphere. Growing trees is going to have little or no effect on the situation, because trees have a finite life cycle and when they die they just release carbon back into the atmosphere.
As Britain's great chronicler of trees and woodland, Oliver Rackham, has said of carbon offsetting:
Telling people to plant more trees is like telling them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels.
Interesting point picked up while researching the last post.
Chris Huhne, who wants to put the environment at the centre of government policy, has five children and seven houses (five of which he lets out).
What is it about greens and procreation? And is the greenery a guilty reaction to the overindulgence? Or is there something in the nut cutlets?
Liberal England is pondering the positions of the "Lib"Dem candidates on the subject of education. It appears that here at least there are some differences in their outlook, with Huhne speaking out against them:
But we should not fool ourselves that either insurance or vouchers will improve the quality or the fairness of public services. They will certainly do nothing, unlike local democratic control, for community responsibility and cohesion.
So if I understand it correctly, in Mr Huhne's opinions, the answer to the shambles of the education system is to make local bureaucrats answer to local politicians. It's funny, but I can't actually think of a single instance of this arrangement, in any area of public life, actually working. You have to wonder if he's on the same planet as the rest of us.
Meanwhile, Clegg is mildly in favour of education vouchers, but is not persuaded that ignorant proles should be allowed to use them outside state schools. So his position appears to be that shuffling children around between different state schools is the answer to all our problems. State monopolies are fine so long as you can get a crappy education at whichever school you like.
It's amazing that these men, who aspire to lead the party of Mill, seem to be blind to the possibility that liberalisation might actually solve some of the problems. I mean, if the LibDems aren't going to suggest liberal policies, what is the point of them?
Jonathan signs off thusly:
So it seems that both leadership candidates are going to disappoint me.
It's a commonplace of blogospheric discourse that government isn't made up of the sharpest minds under the firmament. In fact there appears to be abundant evidence that the powers that be are actually the intellectual and moral dregs of society.
Here's just a tiny bit more confirmation.
The previous socialist administration in Edinburgh took a pot-shot at the private school system by means of instituting a review of the rules for the granting of charitable status. The idea was, presumably, to force up school fees sufficiently that only the very rich, and MSPs, would be able to afford them.
However it is also a commonplace of blogospheric discourse that whenever the government does something they forget to consider something pretty important, and this is no exception.
The current socialist adminstration in Edinburgh (that's different to the previous socialist administration you understand) have found that they have been left a welcome present by the last lot. The legislation targeted at private schools seems to have caught HE colleges in its crossfire.
All charities, including Scotland's colleges, are required to demonstrated to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) that they meet the new charity test, set out the in the 2005 Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act. In a pilot, on John Wheatley College, OSCR ruled that the college did not meet the charity test because its constitution permits Scottish Ministers to direct or otherwise control its activities. This ruling means none of Scotland's colleges would currently pass the charity test and is why ministers are reviewing the situation.
They're not bright and they're not clever.