Jason Richwine and the censoring of unpalatable academic research

Published by Daily Mail

Jason RichwineJason Richwine PhD was a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation from March 2010 to 9th May 2013. That was the day he resigned, following the media furore which greeted some remarks made by the Washington Post about his 2009 doctoral research, which apparently suggested that recent immigrants into the US score lower than US-born whites on many different types of IQ tests.

Dr Richwine is not a likely racist: he has no political agenda to manipulate US immigration policy. Indeed, by all accounts, he is a credible statistician and qualitative researcher with a string of highly-respected fiscal research papers to his name.

But the doctoral statistical analysis he carried out suggested a real cognitive gap between Latinos and non-Latino whites. This was unpalatable to the political and media elite, so he had to go. Continue reading

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Honoris causa? Margaret Thatcher and the eternal shame of Oxford University

Published by Daily Mail

Lady TWhen news of Margaret Thatcher’s death reached her alma mater, Oxford University, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, put out a terse statement: ‘As Britain’s first female prime minister, and one of its longest serving, Baroness Thatcher ranks among the most prominent of Oxford’s alumni. One of the foremost politicians of her age, historians will debate her legacy for decades to come; today we remember a graduate of the University who reached the highest public office and had a lasting impact on British politics and society.’

It was carefully worded. With the neutral observation that ‘historians will debate her legacy for decades to come’, and a passing mention of her ‘lasting impact on British politics and society’, Professor Hamilton trod delicately. He couldn’t say nothing, but neither could he say much at all beyond the facts: the merest whiff of praise for her accomplishments would have risked the ire of the Congregation – the academics who make up the governing body of the University, most of whom voted against awarding her an honorary doctorate back in 1985. Continue reading

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Et tu, Shakespeare?

Published by ConservativeHome

Coriolanus2

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done
To thee particularly and to all the Volsces
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus…

I was in the Upper-6th. I still remember that Eng Lit class and reciting those words to a horde of A-level Volscians, many of whom really wanted to be Romans, and most of whom were entirely unimpressed by my lilting vowels and crisp, Olivier-like consonants. Shakespeare was my antidote to the interminable Dark Period of teenage angst. At school I could be a Roman, a Greek, a pauper or a king. One day it was virtue and beauty; the next villainy and treachery. There was infatuation and isolation; vengeance and pride; romance and melancholy; and hormonal virility with bouts of exotic cross-dressing trans-sexuality. I lived and breathed blank verse: I was Romeo, Richard, Malvolio and Hamlet. Tomorrow I would be Lear. But, for today, I was Caius Marcius. Continue reading

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The malignant left-wing pathology of educational academics

Published by Daily Mail

Gove protestsAs the Socialist Worker alliance of teaching unions continue their disruptive ‘work-to-rule’ policy in schools, I see they are now agitating for further strike action. It has been announced that the comrades will walk out (again) and abandon their students this summer and autumn in protest at Michael Gove’s education reforms. We’re more than acquainted with NUT hyperbole and disinformation when it comes to the Government’s education policy, but I am intrigued by a contentious letter in The Independent on this subject which has been signed by more than 100 academics.

These eminent professors and teachers of education write on behalf of some of the nation’s most prestigious centres of learning. They are seemingly persuaded that the proposed reforms to the National Curriculum will damage education standards because the tedious focus will be on ‘endless lists of spellings, facts and rules’, spiced up with a dirge of ‘rote learning without understanding’. Continue reading

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Oxford University students reject Israel boycott

Published by Daily Mail

boycott israel2

On Wednesday 27th February 2013 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the University’s Student Union voted overwhelmingly against the anti-Israel motion to support ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) – a Palestinian movement which seeks to isolate Israel on the world stage by severing all diplomatic and economic links with the country, and placing embargos on trade, aid and military cooperation. Israel’s actions are, in short, devoid of all reason and lack any moral justification.

As far as the BDS campaign is concerned, the Israeli Government is guilty of ethnic cleansing, colonisation, racial discrimination, and military occupation. The motion was to have remained in force until such time as Israel ‘ends the occupation and complies with international law’. Continue reading

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A good cultural education makes good individuals and a good society

Published by ConservativeHome

Matthew Arnold quote

Matthew Arnold – poet, essayist and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools – famously wrote that culture is concerned with knowing “the best that has been said and thought in the world”. This has become the leitmotif of Michael Gove’s educational revolution: if children are not exposed to the classics of literature, music, theatre, dance, film, painting, sculpture – what we terms the “fine arts” – then society is impoverished, civilisation declines and future generations are inculcated with nothing but the banal, mediocre and vulgar.

Out go TS Eliot, Wordsworth, Elgar, Monet and Mozart; in come Carol Ann Duffy, Damien Hirst, Russell Brand and Madonna. Critical thought is abandoned for formulaic answers – who needs epistemology when you’ve got a WH Smith’s revision guide? And academic rigour is replaced with emotional intelligence – what’s the point of straight-A*s if the child has low self-esteem? Continue reading

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EU plans to adopt Shakespeare as ‘Euro-laureate’

Published by Daily Mail

Shakespeare3On April 23rd 2016 – and probably throughout the entire year – we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. By ‘we’ I mean not only England and the English, or the United Kingdom and the British, but all nations and cultures of the world where Shakespeare is a passion, pastime or of any scholarly interest. And that necessarily embraces the whole of civilisation. As the holder of the Guinness World Record for performing the Complete Works single-handedly non-stop (five days without sleep – never again), I’ll certainly be raising a glass or two to the world’s greatest poet-playwright.

My record still stands after 25 years, and has just been re-published in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. I will forever be grateful to those fine English teachers I had at school – Roger Calvert, Daphne Cooper and Jean Tidy – who between the years that spanned my O-levels and A-levels introduced me to Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and King Lear. From the academic confines of the classroom to the emotional exuberance of the school play, I found my soul simultaneously steeped in dramatic greatness, lyrical beauty and profound wisdom: ineffable, noetic, passive – it was like a religious experience. Every visit I made to Stratford-upon-Avon became a pilgrimage: sometimes wrestling with darkness and devils, and then rejoicing with angels and ministers of grace. Continue reading

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Education, Education, Education: Reforming England’s Schools

Published by Daily Mail

DTCP_09_06_09_Cabinet_16.JPGThe name of Adonis will go down in the history of education in England as one of the most reforming and far-reaching ever – right up there with Forster, Balfour, Butler and Boyle; names which have become synonymous over the years with their respective legislative acts. This achievement is all the more astonishing since Andrew Adonis was only an advisor, then head of policy, and then a minister: he was never Secretary of State, and yet his name eclipses dozens of those who have carried that brief.

While Tony Blair and Gordon Brown steadily gnawed their way through six education secretaries who issued 14 separate acts of parliament, along with a seemingly endless stream of white papers, green papers and flowery reports, Adonis was quietly beavering away in the background to forge the academies programme – a new breed of quasi-independent state schools, designed to replace the failing, mediocre, inadequate ‘bog standard’ comprehensives, with the sole objective of raising student attainment in areas of high social deprivation. Continue reading

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A University Degree does not a Teacher make

Published by Daily Mail

Teacher degreeAccording to the latest national statistics on School Workforce produced by the Department for Education, a third of teachers of Physics, Geography and German have no qualification higher than an A-level in those subjects. Over the past year, the number of teachers with a relevant post A-level qualification has declined across the board, reaching 55.3 per cent of teachers of Religious Education; 53.1 per cent of teachers of Spanish; and 27.1 per cent of Maths teachers. Around 25 percent of teachers of Chemistry, History and French have no degrees in those subjects, while for English and PE it is around 20 per cent.

Such statistics invariably elicit concerns that our children are not being properly taught, or, at least manifestly not being taught be subject specialists. This leads to the tediously predictable headlines that our teachers are, at best, under-qualified or, at worst, incompetent. And, at a time of recruitment impossibilities in some subjects, there have been calls to restrict schools’ use of non-specialist teachers, with allegations of parents being ‘hoodwinked’ into believing their children’s teachers are experts in their subjects, while all along they know no more than they read in the pages of The Guardian. Continue reading

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Forced marriage? Don’t forget the boys.

Published by Daily Mail

Forced marriage2I wrote some time ago of Halima (not her real name) who was one of my delights to teach. I’d identified her as ‘Gifted & Talented’ after just one lesson when she came to me in Year 10. She loved philosophy and was captivated by politics and theology, especially issues relating to the Middle East. She also had a flair for public speaking and a charisma for debating which frequently left her peers floundering. I always remember intellects like hers, not least because they made getting out of bed in a morning so much more worthwhile. She told me at one point that she wanted to go into politics: I’d helped to nurture a little future Aung San Suu Kyi. Brilliant.

Then, one day, she arrived at my class wearing a hijab. Nothing wrong with that: hundreds of girls in the school wore one, and seemed very content to do so. But Halima was no longer arguing or debating; in fact, she was scarcely speaking. This went on for quite a few weeks; neither her form tutor nor head of year could elicit anything from her as to why her demeanour had changed so profoundly; why she was suddenly so sad and withdrawn. And neither could I, until one parents’ evening when her father and elder brother came to see. In front of Halima, they began to explain to me how this straight-A* student was such a disappointment to them: all she talked about was religion and politics – men’s things – and she showed no respect for them or interest in getting married and being a doctor – the imminent life they clearly had planned for her. I listened politely, trying very subtly to reason with them by drawing attention to Halima’s outstanding grades. She became visibly upset as I made the defence. Her father scolded her, told her she was a disgrace, and they moved on to their next appointment. Continue reading

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