The statistical correlation between both age and relatively low levels of education, on the one hand, and a vote to leave on the other, was much remarked upon, not only in Britain but throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Age and lack of education were usually taken by commentators as a proxy for stupidity. The majority vote to leave was therefore a triumph of stupidity: for those who vote the right way in any election or referendum have opinions, while those who vote the wrong way have only prejudices. And only the young and educated know what the right way is.
While age is certainly not a guarantee of political wisdom, the ever-increasing experience of life might be expected to conduce to it. But in the wake of the vote, there were even suggestions that the old should have no vote because they wouldn’t have to live as long with the consequences of it. The reaction to the referendum exposed the fragility and shallowness of that each person’s vote should count for same.
The relation between political wisdom and levels of education is far from straightforward. It was educated people who initiated and carried out the Terror in the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution, and all the great joy that it brought to the Russian people, was the denouement of decades of propaganda and agitation by the educated elite. There was no shortage of educated people among the Nazi leadership. And the leaders of the Khmer Rouge were also relatively highly-educated, as it happens in France. The founder of Sendero Luminoso, who might have been the Pol Pot of Peru, was a professor of philosophy who wrote his doctoral thesis on Kant.
Here is a BBC story from a couple of weeks ago: Thousands of children taught in ‘illegal schools’. Similar pieces appeared in the Times, the Guardian, and other newspapers. When this story came out I listened on the radio to an interview on the subject with some Ofsted guy, either the Sir Michael Wilshaw quoted by the BBC or one of his minions. Whoever it was, he came across as so evasive on one particular point that by comparison even the BBC interviewer was plain-spoken. From the way Ofsted Guy spoke of these illegal schools as places where only “religion” was taught you’d think clicking on the BBC Bitesize GCSE Religious Studies page makes a red light flash in GCHQ, and from the way he spoke of “radicalisation” you’d think that all roots resulted in the same flower. Oh, and from the way he spoke of these schools being “illegal” you would think that they had been convicted in a court of being illegal. The BBC interviewer pressed him and eventually got him to admit that the alleged illegality was merely his opinion, not having been tested in court, and that “some” of these schools were Islamic.
That’s progress of a sort. The Guardian article linked to above does not mention Islam at all but has a quote from a disgruntled former pupil at a Charedi school. We should all be very grateful to the Charedim and the Belzers. When one simply must have someone other than the Muslims to point to, they are there. They ought to start an agency and charge for their services: “Jews in Hats: the safe option for all your denunciation needs.”
The Times says the unauthorized schools are “predominantly Islamic”.
So far this post has almost written itself. The usual pathetic fear of naming Islam from the establishment, the usual pushback from angry commenters, the usual opportunity for bloggers like me to use up old out-of-code packets of sarcasm from the bottom of the freezer. But now things get a little odd and diffuse and unsatisfactory.
I would like to offer a few scattered thoughts regarding three points. (1) Not for the first time, the efforts of the media to conceal that some minority are disproportionately involved in some disfavoured activity has resulted in the public overestimating the involvement of that minority; (2) this whole effort on the part of the so-called Office for Standards in Education has all the characteristics of a power-grab and a smear; and (3) there is no evidence that these little informal schools, including the Muslim ones, do any worse than the state schools at either education or terrorism-prevention. There is some reason to suppose they might do better in some circumstances despite worse facilities. Many children turn to these schools having suffered bullying at normal schools. The low number of people involved means that everyone, teachers and pupils, knows everyone else; no one can “slip through the cracks”. Another benefit is that the presence of an affordable alternative helps keep more traditional types of schools on their toes.
Taking point (1) first, scroll down to the end of the BBC story with which I started this post. It says, “Update: This report contains new information from Ofsted, which had previously said most of the schools involved were Islamic or Jewish.” The following line seems to have been inserted into the main text since it was first published: “Roughly a third of them [the unregistered schools] were Islamic and a sixth either Christian or Jewish.” So fully half of them are not religious! I’m guessing hippies. Daft but not scary.
Point (2). If this whole fuss were any more of a smear you could use it to test for cervical cancer. Let us look at the BBC article in particular.
Oh, the horror. They weren’t in pretty buildings and they charged a fee. Did Sir Michael Wilshaw ever stop to think what the fact that people, often rather poor people, would rather pay to have their children taught in an old warehouse than not pay to have them taught in a purpose-built school implies?
I call bullshit. There is dirt a-plenty in modern Britain but there really aren’t that many buildings with open drains running through them any more. I looked on Zoopla and “Open sewer in middle of room” was not offered as a search term. Depend on it, “some” means “one”, and that was probably an ambiguous case.
It is undeniable that they could be. It is also undeniable that not a week goes by without a newspaper account of some carefully vetted right sort of person teaching in an official school being revealed to be a kiddy fiddler. I don’t claim that vetting is useless, but its efficacy is greatly overstated. Frequently the effect of CRB forms and other box-ticking exercises is to reduce vigilance. People think the paperwork is correct so all must be well.
Which takes us to point (3). Again, it is undeniable that these children, meaning Muslim children, in unregistered schools could be associating with extremists, meaning Muslim extremists. You know, like Muslim children in state schools definitely do. You want to see Islamisation in schools? This is Islamisation in schools:
Emphasis added. Note that this (“Operation Trojan Horse”) happened in state schools, and they weren’t even the dreaded “faith schools”. Also note that the much vaunted criminal records checks went by the wayside.
Birmingham is not the only place where all that vetting and inspecting that state schools get proved ineffective. Here is a story from London: School of Jihadis: Why have six former pupils of the ‘Eton of comprehensives’ been linked to terror? The July 7 bombers were also products of British comprehensive schools. One of them even mentored at one. Of course vast numbers of pupils go to state schools and do not emerge as mass murderers. But when a high official raises fears that “illegal” schools might incubate terrorists, it is legitimate to reply that we know that “legal” schools have incubated terrorists, rather a lot of them.
A determined and cunning would-be child abuser or would-be terrorist recruiter would not direct his attentions at some wretched hedge school with half a dozen pupils. He would go for richer pickings.
A fresh instalment in the case of the man, the heroic Jon Platt, prosecuted for taking his chid out of school in term time for a holiday, but was acquitted by Magistrates. Scandalously, bureaucrats on the Isle of Wight appealed against the decision of the Magistrates to throw out the case, only to find that the High Court has found ‘no error of law’ in the Magistrates’ decision, so the acquittal remains. This has now blown back in the face of the bureaucrats, as this decision sets an unwelcome precedent with two High Court judges giving a ruling on the law, and meaning that for years, bureaucrats have harassed parents and got many to pay fixed-penalty notices on what was likely, in most cases, to be a wholly wrong interpretation of the law. As Mr Platt put it:
It appears that the scale of the problem is vast:
And are the bureaucrats saying ‘Oh well, the law is the law, we must respect it’? If they are, I can’t hear them.
This is, of course, great news for parents in England and Wales who may now take their children on holiday in term-time without a realistic prospect of a prosecution. It also means that the old and absurd complaint about prices and supply-and-demand, ‘Oh look, holiday prices go up at half-term, how exploitative blah, blah, blah, regulate the holiday industry…‘ will be less easy for buffoons and villains to make out, and there will be a more economic use of resources in the holiday industry, taking use one more step away from the Stone Age.
What’s not to like when the light of freedom flickers more brightly?
With all the furore about students “no platforming” those whom they dislike, for whatever reasons, it is worth recalling that a core problem for libertarians is that while making universities fully private, and thereby removing this behaviour as a public policy issue requiring political interference or comment, would be an answer to a degree, it is unlikely to happen any time soon. Also, even if universities were all private, such as the UK’s University of Buckingham, there is still a good case for the owners of said to make the case that universities aren’t, if they deserve the title of universities, meant to be “safe places”. I thought about the point when reading a recent Facebook comment and I wrote this:
I like this quote, expressed with usual diamond-hard clarity, by Ayn Rand, on free speech and what it does and does not involve:
With tax-funded universities, though, there is the case of whether such an organisation should ban, say, a free market radical like the late Miss Rand from speaking, on the grounds that she “advocates their destruction”. Or should a current UK university, funded as they are, host speakers who are, for example, preachers of hate against Jews, Americans, white males, entrepreneurs, scientists, logicians, or indeed any other of the sort of persons who are probably on the receiving end of the current “safe spaces” stuff. Should we wait for such places to be privatized while this situation persists? My brief answer is that the default setting must be let people of any kind speak on a taxpayer-funded academy unless the persons so speaking are clearly and identifiably at war with a country (such as a figure who is, or has, served in ISIS, or some other hostile force). I am not sure this is a very clear answer, though, because defining “at war” clearly varies.
Meanwhile, the madness continues, such as against the difficulty of STEM subjects.
I expect there to be a storm of outrage.
And a rise in applications to those academies so named and shamed. One “difficult” child can ruin the education of dozens of others. Parents know and fear this. If the elite truly wanted to improve the education of the masses, they would give comprehensives the power to exclude as well. But then what would happen to those children no school would take? That would happen. No school would take them. They would not be educated, by their own choice.
More than 50 years of education reforms ‘have not helped social mobility’, “reveals” the Guardian
That is because the reformers’ response to observing the problem of underachievement among poorer children was not to cure it, nor even to explain it, but to conceal it.
Take it away, commenter “Schacar Mevsky”.
This notion might attract non-comedic attention from academia. Maybe it already has.
The above mockery makes a bit too much sense to be five star academic bullshit, but the guy should stick at it. What he gets so right is the way that these idiots quite quickly reach the stage of trying to out-idiot each other. And by the way, in case you are wondering, “Diasporic Imaginary” is not a misspelling of “Diasporic Imagery”, or some such slightly less confusing thing. This is a reference to actual academic discourse.
Those piss holes in the snow take me back a few decades. I do love a bit of Michael Caine discourse.
Just how bad and how widespread is the kind of nonsense that is lampooned in the above comment? Are all academies in the Anglo-Saxon world as intellectually deranged as some parts of some of them clearly are? Or is it merely that Anglo-Saxony is huge and contains lots of academies, and so if you look for any particular sort of academic insanity you will find it?
The University of Harvard has decided to eliminate the job title of ‘Master‘, (but not the degree title) for certain members of staff after protests that the title had connotations of slavery, although they maintain that there is no connection between the protests and the change, and degrees at ‘Master’ level are unaffected.
Of course, with one apparently trivial point conceded, other demands continue:
Well yes, seals belong on the shore, in the seas, or perhaps at Lake Baikal etc., so I find some common (seal) cause, and harbour no ill-will.
Otherwise, I have to say that I know next to nothing about American Universities, and I could not name the (5?) members of the ‘Ivy League’ with any certainty, but I do sense in this a canary dropping drowsily off its perch in the coal mine of self-referential academia as the flatulence builds up, with no outlet for its escape.
* Inclusive terms for those who are not ‘Jacks’.
“Top universities are failing poor students”, said the Times headline. I was concerned. What exactly were the top universities doing to cause them to fail in their obligations to the poor students? If I had read that the universities were failing to process student loan applications in a timely manner I would have been distressed. A student finance screw-up is no joke if the family does not have much spare in the bank. If I had read that universities were disadvantaging poorer students by requiring that they pay for ostensibly optional but practically compulsory extras in order to complete their courses I would have been outraged. If I had read that the academic staff were marking down students for irrelevant attributes correlated with class such as accent I would have been sceptical – my experience of academics is that their biases tend the other way – but I would have certainly wished a stop put to it, if it were confirmed to be happening.
If, if, if. So many ways those smooth Oxbridge types could be letting down the young proletarians under their charge. Then I read the article.
I should have guessed. “Top universities are failing poor students” is just one of those little in-jokes favoured at High Table. What it means is “State schools are failing poor students”.
…for the striking London black cab drivers whose hard won skills have been rendered obsolete by Uber and Addison Lee, just as we should remember with pity the thousands of drivers of hansom cabs whose hard-won skills with horses were rendered obsolete by the coming of the internal combustion engine. I am not being flippant or sarcastic. To lose one’s accustomed livelihood to new technology is a tough spot to be in, and there will be many reading this, some of them highly paid at present, who should look at Trevor Merralls’ situation and tremble.
But that pity should not extend to offering to keep Mr Merralls forever in the style to which he has become accustomed simply because he was born working class, or to stifling the opportunity for self-employment that Uber offers to its drivers (also working class), or to depriving Londoners who could not afford black cabs of the ability to take a cab at a reasonable price at any time day or night, and which will, as one of the Guardian commenters put it, “actually go to exotic destinations like Lewisham”.
I like these people:
– The Times, today.
Several aspects of this story lead me to wonder if I have slipped into a nicer timeline than the one I’ve been living in recently.
It was about students standing up for free speech against po-faced authoritarians. In 2015.
The university didn’t surrender. In 2015.
Better yet, it actually helped the good guys:
More fun things to note include the fact that the process of nimbly outwitting the lumbering Students Union by adroit use of social media was obviously huge fun. These days if you want to build up a bank of happy memories of a rebellious youth to comfort you in your old age, you rebel against the Students Union. You could make a name for yourself that way. So could the Student Union apparatchiks make their names, as sour, whiny prematurely-withered prunes who couldn’t stop the music. No one will boast that they were part of Manchester Student Union in the good old days.
I have a personal grudge against Julie Bindel, and I could get irritated by Milo Yiannopoulos. Three cheers for them both for this.
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