universities

Book Review: Competitive Accountability in Academic Life: The Struggle for Social Impact and Public Legitimacy by Richard Watermeyer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/01/2020 - 8:45pm in

In Competitive Accountability in Academic Life: The Struggle for Social Impact and Public Legitimacy, Richard Watermeyer critically explores the increasing quantification of academic life and the rise of the marketised competitive university. This book particularly succeeds in not only exploring the futility and counterproductiveness of quantified academic performance metrics, but also revealing how complicity among some academics allows these practices to become even […]

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Economic, Academic and Social Costs of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 9:17pm in

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown issued another stinging attack on Brexit in the I yesterday. She sharply criticised the Brexiteers triumphalism, that made them demand the mass celebration of Britain’s departure from the EU with a ‘festival of Brexit’, churches ringing their bells up and down the country, street parties and ‘a big, fat, jingoistic party in Parliament Square on January 31st’. She compared the proposed celebrations with the forced, state-mandated festivities of North Korea, and quoted the Roman satirist Juvenal on how the rich distracted the plebs with bread and circuses while taking away their liberties. She also bitterly complained about the way Remainers were now seen as somehow treacherous for their rejection of this wave of jingoism despite the closeness of the vote in the referendum. But she also made very good points about the immense cost Brexit had already inflicted on our economy, education, and society. She wrote

According to a detailed report by ratings agency S&P, Brexit has already cost the economy £66bn. It calculates that the amount is more than we paid into the European Union for 47 years. The economy is stagnant. The Union  of the four nations may not hold. Migrants and black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are experiencing more hostility. Complaints are met with increased hostility or disbelief. Universities are panicking about the potential loss of EU grants and the Erasmus+ scheme – a travel bursary for young people which enriched their lives.

Musicians and artists are losing essential EU connections. Care homes cannot get workers because EU citizens are leaving. Too many feel unwelcome or are discouraged by new, costly and unfair immigration rules. NHS workers from elsewhere are becoming disillusioned.

She then describes how an Asian friend, Priti, told her about the increasing racism she was experiencing.

My friend Priti, a nurse who came over from India five years ago, says: “This is not the country I came into. Not the place my parents loved when they studied here. It has become so impolite. Even when I am changing a bandage or putting drops in their eyes, some patients shout at me to go bac. My colleagues are great but I am going – I have a job in Dubai. They need us but don’t behave well.”

We need these foreign nurses and doctors, who do an excellent job caring for our sick. It’s disgusting that they should be treated with such contempt and abuse.

Brexit is wrecking our economy, placing the Union under potentially devastating stress, and impoverishing our education system, our arts and culture, and denying needed expertise and labour to the NHS. But somehow we are meant to celebrate all this as a victory for Britain.

Alibhai-Brown herself says that Remainers should follow Will Hutton’s advice, and light candles on 31st January before going back to Brexit. She says that we must, for the sake of the younger generation and the future of this once-formidable nation.

I don’t think we can reasonable go on opposing Brexit forever without isolating ourselves politically. But I think we should be trying to get the best possible deal with the EU and trying to forge lasting, beneficial links with it.

While pointing out that so far, it is a massive, astronomically expensive failure.

What we talk about when we talk about universities, a review essay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 9:00pm in

The history of universities, including in the UK, is always also the history of the political community; their future, equally, dependent on the future of the community as a whole. In this review essay, Jana Bacevic examines two recent books that offer a good illustration of this point, Who Are Universities For? by Tom Sperlinger, Josie McLellan and Richard Pettigrew and British Universities in the Brexit Moment by Mike Finn.  This review […]

Private Schools Turn Down Bursaries for White Working Class Boys

This is a very interesting story from last weekend’s I. A retired Maths professor, Sir Bryan Thwaites, offered two private schools bursaries for White working class boys. They both turned it down. Their refusal, and the fact that these bursaries are needed, says much about class and race in the early 21st century. The report contained the observation that ‘inverted snobbery and liberal guilt neglect the white poor’. Which is true, but it’s also true that such bursaries wouldn’t quite be so necessary if it weren’t for Thatcherism. Thatcher promised that her reforms would turn Britain into a meritocracy, where everyone could succeed, regardless of class background, provided they had the talent. This has spectacularly not happened. Class mobility was at a standstill during Blair’s administration. Now it seems to have gone into reverse. And at the bottom are the working class that Thatcher and the Tories despise, and Blair neglected.

Thwaites was a working class lad, who had gone to Dulwich and Winchester Colleges on scholarships. He therefore wanted to award them bursaries amounting to £1.2m to set up scholarships for lads from his background. He said he wanted to address the ‘severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools’. The donations amounted to £400,000 for Dulwich and £800,000 for Winchester. They turned them down because they were afraid that the donations broke equality rules. Winchester said that they ‘did not see how discrimination on the grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich simply said bursaries were available to everyone who passed their entrance exam, ‘regardless of their background.’

Thwaites, who is himself a former college head, told the Times, ‘If [the colleges] were to say ‘We are helping these deprived cohorts of children,’ that would do a hell of a lot for their reputation and show that the independent sector is taking some notice of what’s going on in the world at large. The implication of their refusal… is that they couldn’t give a damn.’

Poor White Educational Underperformance

The newspaper then printed some stats to show why Thwaites believed such bursaries were necessary. Only 15 per cent of White boys receiving free school meals achieve a grade 5 or higher in English and Maths at GCSE in 2018 compared with 33.6 per cent of Asian boys and 23.4 per cent of Black boys.

It also noted that four years ago universities were told to recruit more working class students – particularly boys – after statistics showed that just 10 per cent of young men from the poorest areas went into higher education.

Thwaites therefore said he was turning his attention to state schools and academies would be only too glad to accept his money. Referring to Stormzy’s decision to set up two scholarships for Black undergrads at Cambridge, he asked ‘If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of Black students, why cannot I do the same for under-privileged White British?’

Trevor Phillips Attacks ‘Inverted Snobbery’ over White Children

The I commented that ‘it is these barriers – of structural inequality and the intersection of race and class – that society tends to tiptoe around in order to avoid honey-yet-difficult conversations.

However, in last month’s Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, attacked the ‘inverted snobbery’ which held by poor White boys. He claimed that modern society had made institutions ridiculously squeamish about accepting that their treatment of Whites as a ‘non-race’ was itself racist, and added ‘They have become so confused in these ‘woke’ times that a lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood, and liberal guilt ends up rewarding schools for favouring the Black and Brown rich while neglecting the White poor.”

Comments from Other Academics

The report then said that campaigners have long tried to level the playing field so that every child, regardless of its race, gender or background, was given the best possible start in life. They then quoted Dr Lee Elliot Major, the professor of social mobility at Exeter Uni. He said

Philanthropists want to help people similar to them and, of course, that is their prerogative,. But often the bigger issue is help people who are not like them.

Success comes in many forms. Social mobility is not just about getting those magical tickets to the top schools, because that’s not for everyone. State schools cater to all sorts of potential – some students will be high-flyers, so will need support in applying for prestigious universities. Others will seek out an apprenticeship or attend a local college.

I think it’s great that [Sir Bryan’s donations} could be used to support many pupils going through different routes – not just academic study.

However, Major also pointed out the differences between Stormzy’s and Thwaites’ donations. Major said that he had many conversations with Black undergraduates at Cambridge, who were the first in their families to go to university, and who felt isolated there. He remarked

There are very specific issues around highly selective, very academic universities, because they are quintessentially middle-class and very White and I think [Stormzy’s scholarship] was a legitimate move to address this.

He said that there were discussions leading universities could have to make their campuses more inclusive, continuing

If you’re looking at achievement in schools, I would argue taht this comes down to culture in the home, to class and [household] income.

It’s often the case that White working-class boys are [products of] those backgrounds-but equally there are children from all sorts of backgrounds who live in poverty and aren’t getting as much support as they deserve. And the reason I’m anxious about it is that social mobility is an issue that should bring us together.

Of course there are lots of white working-class boys living in areas of deprivation – but the very fact they’re deprived is glossed over. We’re wasting talent in this country – talent from all backgrounds. (pp. 33-4).

Finally, there was a report in one of the papers that the donation had been accepted by a charity run by a Black man, which had been successful in combating low educational achievement amongst Black lads. He was looking forward to turning around the lives of White boys as he had done with Black.

Looking through the newspaper reports, it’s clear that some people are very uncomfortable with a grant being set up for poor White boys. It’s understandable. British politics and society is dominated by White men, and so a bursary aimed at raising the achievements of White boys seems reactionary, an attack on the feminist and anti-racism campaigns.

Which is why it needed the support of Trevor Phillips and a Black educationalist. 

Winchester College’s excuse for turning down the bursary because it was ‘incompatible with their values’ seems very fake to me, however. A friend of mine was privately educated. He once told me that these schools don’t exist to teach children so much as to give them the network of personal contacts to open careers and other opportunities. They exist to preserve middle and upper class privilege. Rich Blacks and Asians are welcome, but not the poor generally, although they may well accept working class BAME pupils as a gesture towards meritocracy.

Lee Elliot Major’s comment about Black students finding themselves very isolated at Cambridge university is true, but I also know White academics from a working/ lower-middle class background, who intensely resented what they felt was the entitled, patronising attitude of wealthier students from the Oxbridge set. He is right about funding being made available for academic and training paths that are more suitable to students’ aptitudes. There was also a recent report in the I about the massive drop out rate at university. Some of this is no doubt due to the real financial struggles some students face now that tuition fees have been introduced and raised, and they are expected to become massively indebted to fund their education. But some of it is also due to university education now being promoted as the only academic route. A friend of mine, who worked in university administration told me that this wasn’t working and was leading to people dropping out over ten years or more ago.

And I completely accept his observation about the role class, income and background play in academic aspiration. In my experience, this also naturally includes those from Black and Asian backgrounds.

But Blacks, Asians and girls have had much attention focused on improving their academic performance and improving their opportunities, that have not been directed towards White boys from poor backgrounds. And this needs to be addressed.

Doing so does not undermine, or shouldn’t, the efforts to improve performance and opportunities for women and minorities, however.

But if we are serious about improving poor and working class academic performance, whether White, Black or Asian, it will mean rejecting Blairism and its rejection of the working class in order to concentrate on copying the Tories.

Review Essay: What we talk about when we talk about universities by Jana Bacevic 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 11:20pm in

The history of universities, including in the UK, is always also the history of the political community; their future, equally, dependent on the future of the community as a whole. In this review essay, Jana Bacevic examines two recent books that offer a good illustration of this point, Who Are Universities For? by Tom Sperlinger, Josie McLellan and Richard Pettigrew and British Universities in the Brexit Moment by Mike Finn

What we talk about when we talk about universities

It is perhaps cliché to say that no conversation concerns only its subject. Rarely, however, does this ring as true as when it comes to universities, institutions that are simultaneously objects of inspiration and intimidation, pride and critique, admiration and administration (in the sense of being managed or governed). Conversations about universities inevitably lead to questions such as what kind of society we want to live in, who should be leading that society and, not least, who this ‘society’ should include or exclude. The history of universities, including in the UK, is always also the history of the political community; their future, equally, dependent on the future of the community as a whole.

Two recent books offer a good illustration. In Who are Universities For?, Tom Sperlinger, Josie McLellan and Richard Pettigrew address the relationship between exclusion, social marginalisation and the accessibility of institutions of higher education, long recognised as a site for the reproduction of social inequalities. In British Universities in the Brexit Moment, Mike Finn discusses the history of the internationalisation of British higher education and the possible implications of the other B-word in its title. Despite taking somewhat different angles on the ‘predicament’ of UK universities, the books share an awareness of the specificity of historical processes that created it, as well as the relevance and salience of the present moment for its future.

In British Universities in the Brexit Moment, Finn offers a reconstruction of negotiation processes that enabled the inclusion of higher education within the domain of EU policymaking. This, alone, was a major achievement; nation states (including EU members) are traditionally protective of education, often seen as an instrument for the ‘inculcation’ of ‘national values’, as well as training vital professions – doctors, teachers and lawyers. What initially enabled the exemption of higher education from this rule was its inclusion in the Global Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the growth of higher education as an ‘export industry’ – not only in the UK, but also in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China and, of course, the US. The creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and its flagship mobility programmes such as Erasmus was similarly driven by the not-exactly-concealed agenda to make Europe more attractive as a destination for international students.

Image Credit: (UCL Occupation CC BY SA 2.0)

The UK’s relationship with EHEA (in an unsurprising parallel with other elements of EU policy) was always ambiguous. It was a leader in commodification and internationalisation, thanks in part to the early adoption of tuition fees and in part to its history of colonial conquest and the spread of English as lingua franca. When it came to other elements of the ‘common market’ – including extending the system of grants and loans to students from other EU member states – it was decidedly less ambitious, agreeing to it only after a sustained push from student unions. Fee regimes remain one of the most pronounced differences between higher education systems of constituent nations, with Scotland, for instance, extending the ‘Home’ fee regime to students from the EU, but not those from England or Wales.

This is just one of the many areas where Brexit may have interesting consequences. The second part of British Universities in the Brexit Moment turns from Brexit’s political genesis to the discussion of these consequences for, respectively, students and staff, and research and funding. The third part takes again the ‘long view’, addressing the implications of Brexit for British social and political context, including ‘post-truth’ and the ‘crisis of expertise’. The conclusion, ‘The Political Economy of British Universities’, returns to the historical role of universities in British society, including in relation to social stratification. Despite the title of this section, however, one is left with the impression that a more serious engagement with political economy would be welcome. There is relatively little discussion of the relationship – and possible tension – between access and forms of funding, for both students and institutions, as well as their implications for broader social and class mobilisation or, indeed, its political consequences.

Who higher education should be for, and how we get there, is the main topic of Sperlinger, McLellan and Pettigrew’s Who Are Universities For?. The book grew out of the authors’ engagement in the Foundation Year in Arts and Humanities at the University of Bristol, a widening participation initiative that aims to make higher education – and especially degrees in arts and humanities – accessible for those who, by the virtue of social background, personal circumstances, or their combination, have previously concluded it was not for them. Despite many attempts to widen participation, higher education is still seen as a site for the reproduction of elites, in part because of the distinction between the social status of those who tend to go to Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell Group universities, and others, including students at former polytechnics and further education colleges. In this sense, opening one of England’s top universities for some of the people who would traditionally be excluded from it – and, at that, in distinctly ‘non-technical’ fields – certainly provides important lessons on how inclusive higher education could work in a politically different future.

Who are Universities For? is far from a guide for widening participation practitioners, however. The book bears the imprint of the authors’ disciplinary groundings – English Literature, History and Philosophy, respectively – and uses the voices of Foundation Year participants as an entry point for discussions about problems of inclusion, equality and social justice. Drawing on a range of experiences, from the Bard Prison Initiative (whose graduates went on to beat Harvard University’s debating team) and the history of women’s and Black liberation, to authors’ personal histories, it shows that learning can and does happen at all stages of life. This leads the authors to ask: how could we design education systems in order to foster and support, rather than impede, this endeavour?

Sperlinger, McLellan and Pettigrew sketch out a vision for a more flexible, universal higher education. The proposal involves a ‘modularization’ of degrees – essentially, decoupling from discrete stages demarcated by measurement of performance at entrance (admissions) and exit (exams) – with part-time learning becoming the norm. Free for students, the system would be funded by a Participatory Education Tax (PET). The book includes a longer footnote showing how participatory budgeting would work in practice, on the basis of economic projections for the current UK population. Yet, the one thing it leaves somewhat underexplored is, precisely, who would be able to access it. Would it be open to UK nationals/permanent residents only, or would this possibility be open to students from other backgrounds? It makes sense to assert that education benefits from a diverse body of participants, but whether this would reintroduce the old distinction between ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ students and exacerbate existing differences in fee regimes and other elements of the ‘hostile environment’ remains an open question. Of course, it is hardly fair to expect any book to answer one of the most profound questions of most contemporary plural societies: that of the compatibility or tension between equality and difference. Yet, it remains a potent reminder of why talking about universities is never about universities only.

Do we need not one but two more books on universities? Previously, I have written about the paradoxical growth of the genre of critique of neoliberalism in UK higher education, pointing out that the ‘proliferation’ of critique was yet to be met with an equivalent rise in resistance. After the USS strikes in 2018 and the recently completed round of industrial action around pay, pensions and equality, it is possible to hope that the sector is at the start of a longer process of political awakening and mobilisation. On the other hand, the results of the 2019 British General Election suggest this may be a long and protracted fight, one that will possibly require unprecedented levels of commitment and solidarity among academics and institutions, as well as between universities and other political and social movements.

In this context, books like Who are Universities For? are a highly necessary blend of critical humanist analysis and concrete policy proposals, not shying away from discussing their broader social and political implications. Though British Universities in the Brexit Moment offers fewer solutions, it draws attention to the fact that the future of a political community is never defined solely within its physical (or administrative) borders. In combination, they serve as a reminder that who universities are for is, in the end, only a subset of the broader question: who the society is – and should be – for. This seems like a pertinent, if difficult, lesson for any kind of political movement in the future.

Dr Jana Bacevic is postdoctoral research associate at Culture, politics and global justice research cluster at the Faculty of Education and Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. Previously, she was Marie Curie fellow at the University of Aarhus, and lecturer at the Central European University in Budapest; she also worked as policy advisor for governments and international organizations in the domain of education policy. Her current work is in social theory and the politics of knowledge production. A selection of her publications are available here https://janabacevic.net/blog/publications/, and she Tweets at @jana_bacevic.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Why Do People Ignore the Suffering of the Disabled and Unemployed?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 10:01pm in

It’s just a few days into the new reign of Boris Johnson, and already he’s hitting those on the benefit, including and particularly the poor and unemployed. Mike put up a piece a few days ago listing all the reforms Labour would have brought in, which would have ended this. And it began with a heartfelt cry of despair by Mrs. Mike.

“Basically now we are all buggered.

“No hope left for me as I’m disabled and they’ve messed me about so much already.

“I don’t see any compassion for people like myself and all the others like me out there – and to all the ones who have already taken their lives because of cuts cuts cuts cuts n more cuts.

“I’m so disappointed in people in general because of all the hatred towards different groups of people.

“And it’s now going to get worse. Thanks a bunch.”

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/17/faced-with-five-more-years-of-tory-persecution-disabled-people-are-losing-hope/

Mrs. Mike is not alone. I know some readers on this blog with health issues were afraid that the Tories would win before the election result, and what it would mean for them. And this feeling is likely to be shared by the disabled, long-term sick and unemployed generally. So why have people ignored them, and voted for a government which actively persecuted them?

I don’t quite have all the answers, but here’s some ideas I have. Firstly, I think most people are unaware of the problems those hit by New Labour’s and the Tory’s welfare reforms have in making ends meet. And they almost certainly don’t know how biased and humiliating the ‘fitness for work’ tests and the Jobcentre can be.  Unless they’ve actually been in an interview with a disabled person, and see it all happen for themselves, or personally experienced it, it has no meaning for them. The newspaper reports are just that. Something that’s in the paper. And it’s out of their minds as soon as they turn the page.

And the Tories and Tory press have been very good at framing the narrative in Orwellian terms to hide and distort the truth. Left-wing bloggers and advocacy groups have pointed out that, thanks to papers like the Heil, the general public now believes that 27 per cent of welfare claims are fraudulent. The reality is that it’s only 0.7 per cent.  And if you talk to people, there’s always someone they know, who’s managed to work the system. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s just an individual or group of people they’ve seen on TV, particularly in ‘poverty porn’ shows like Benefits Street. This is used to maintain the attitude that the state really is supporting people and giving cheats more than enough money, and to dismiss the genuine suffering of others.

Older people may also be more inclined to dismiss or ignore stories of rising poverty because of conditions they endured when they were younger. I remember that even in the 1970s, when the affluent society supposedly was just beginning, it could be a real struggle for working/ lower middle class people. This was ameliorated in many cases through the greater sense of community, where neighbours and relatives helped each other out. That sense of community seems to have vanished as society has in general become more affluent and individualistic. And so some older people ask how the younger generation can really be poor and need to use food banks when they can afford luxury items like satellite & cable television, computers, mobile phones and so on. In fact, computers now aren’t a luxury item. I don’t know about primary schools, but some universities at least expect their students to write their assignments on computer. Computers are used to search out information for homework, and so for many school pupils and students, they’re a necessity. But nevertheless, the attitude among some people is that if people are poor, it’s because they’re ‘feckless’, to use Gordon Brown’s notorious term. They’re profligate with their money, frittering it away of luxuries which they never had in their youth. Being poor, to them, means being dirt poor and definitely not being able to afford the goods and services which are now taken as part of normal, everyday life.

This is reinforced by the Tory press, which seeks to divide those in work but struggling from those on welfare. The line pushed here is that the virtuous, thrifty but insecure are being penalised through high taxes to support scroungers.

The Tories and the compliant press are also devious in the way they present their reforms. Mike and others have posted pieces pointing out exactly what it means for the disabled when the Tories abolish the need for doctor’s note for decisions on whether a disabled person is fit for work. This means that the assessor can arbitrarily decide that a person is able to work based on their own prejudices or pressure from those higher in the administrative chain without needing to consult their doctor, who obviously may have a far better understanding of that person’s needs and disabilities than they do. It leaves disabled people vulnerable to being considered ‘fit for work’ and thrown off benefits when they are in no such state. But as Mike has shown, the headlines about it in the Tory press present it positively. The sick and disabled, it proclaims, are freed from the burden of having to make a doctor’s appointment. Less bureaucracy! Less hassle! I doubt many people like having to make medical appointments like that, but they have to be done. But the Tory spin is that it saves people from unnecessary trouble without mentioning how vulnerable this makes them.

And it’s through lies and spin like this that the British public is gulled into believing that the Tories aren’t destroying the welfare state, just making it more efficient. Giving more to honest claimants while weeding out the fraudsters. 

But there are very few real fraudsters, and the Tories are destroying the welfare state. Just like the Blairites also wanted. Fighting back means directly tackling and refuting the lies and poisonous attitudes.

130,000 people have already been killed by Tory welfare reforms. And if the Tories carry on, there’ll be at least a hundred thousand more. All denied by the Tories and their collaborators in the press, and justified by smooth lies and evil smears.

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 4:15am in

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

Video of British Scientist Eric Laithwaite Explaining Principle of Magnetic Levitation (Maglev)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 6:58am in

This is a fascinating film from Imperial College London. Shot in 1975, it shows great British scientist/engineer Eric Laithwaite explaining how a maglev train would work. He begins with first principles, simply showing how magnets act upon each other with bar magnets. Magnets with the same poles facing each other repel, and he demonstrates how this can be used to suspend one magnet above another. This can be done with ring magnets, but usually something has to hold them in place, like the solid glass tube in this video. But ordinary magnets don’t generated enough lift to raise heavy objects off the ground. He then moves on to electromagnets and how these can also be made to move aluminium objects along them when using AC current. The electromagnets can be flattened out to produce a kind of river – the ‘Magnetic River’ of the film’s title – along which an aluminium sheet can be propelled at great speed. He then shows how the same principle could be used to drive a train by placing a model on the maglev track.

Laithwaite was working on making maglev trains a reality when the project was cancelled due to the budget cuts of the late 70s. The idea has since been taken up by German and other, foreign engineers. It has been seen by visionary scientists and SF writers like Arthur C. Clarke as the solution to current transport problems through the great speed that these trains could in theory attain without friction from wheels touching the tracks. They would also be clean and green through being powered by electricity, preferably solar power, rather than the burning of coal or other hydrocarbons. See the discussion about them in Clarke’s Profiles of the Future.

Laithwaite is one of the great scientists most people have never heard of. In the 1990s he got caught up in developing anti-gravity based on his experiments with gyroscopes. His claim that he had discovered a new principle of anti-gravity propulsion was not accepted by the scientific community. I’ve got the impression that the furor that aroused has caused his earlier, solid work to be unfairly overlooked.

I realise the video’s long at just over 18 minutes, but it’s worth persevering with if you’re interested in the subject. Before computer graphics came in, this is pretty much what science broadcasting was like when I was a schoolboy. It was simply the scientist, engineer or presenter standing in front of the camera talking with the machine or other object in front of them, and using simple diagrams or illustrations. And I’m really impressed with the way Laithwaite is able to explain a sophisticated piece of engineering in ordinary, non-technical language. As one of the commenters says on the YouTube page for this, he would have been a great science teacher.

He isn’t quite on his own here. Helping him with the equipment is his mysterious assistant, Barry, who helps set the apparatus up and loads the sheets of aluminium and then the model train on the maglev tracks, but who never speaks.

It’s a very basic presentation compared to some of the films on today’s popular science television, and it’s not clear if it was intended for broadcast. But it was experts like Dr. Laithwaite who brought science to ordinary people and inspired a new generation witih its wonder when I was young.

Today the government is concerned about the lack of young people choosing to study STEM subjects. Perhaps if broadcasters were able to find a few more experts with ability to explain science with the simplicity of some of those, who graced our TVs then, people able to convey real enthusiasm for the subject, and weren’t afraid of putting more popular science programmes on TV, there would be more school and university students taking up these subjects.

 

 

Short Guardian Video of Corbyn’s Election Promises

Labour launched its manifesto yesterday, as did the Tories, and the newspapers and TV were full of it. The Guardian, however, produced this little video in which Corbyn presents the party’s manifesto promises in just a minute and a half.

The Labour leader says

‘Labour’s manifesto is a manifesto for hope. That is what this document is. We will unleash a record investment blitz. And it will rebuild our schools, our hospitals, care homes and the housing we so desperately need. Every town, every city and every region. So a Labour government will ensure that big oil and gas corporations that profit from heating up our planet will shoulder the burden and pay their fair share through a just transition tax. We’ll get Brexit sorted within six months. We will secure a sensible deal that protects manufacturing and the Good Friday Agreement. And then put it to a public vote alongside the option of remaining in the EU. And yes, be clear, we will scrap university tuition fees.’ 

At this point there is massive cheering from his audience. He goes on

‘We are going to give you the very fastest, full fiber broadband for free. That is real change. And Labour will scrap Universal Credit.’

More cheering and applause. Corbyn’s speech ends with

‘It’s time for real change. Thank you!’

The crowd rises to give him a standing ovation.

Okay, so this is a very short, very edited version of Corbyn’s speech, just giving the briefest outline of the party’s policies. But it shows that Corbyn’s policies offer real change after forty years of Thatcherism, which has decimated our schools, NHS and public services and destroyed people’s health and lives through savage welfare cuts intended to punish the poor so that the rich could profit. All of which was also carried out by the smarmy face of Blair’s New Labour, who tried presenting themselves as some kind of caring alternative to the Tories, while taking over their odious policies and actually going further.

And as Corbyn says, this is a manifesto of hope. Zelo Street has written a post comparing it with the radical changes that set up the welfare state by Clement Attlee’s 1940s Labour government and their manifesto, Let Us Face the Future. The Sage of Crewe describes how Attlee’s reforms, which set up the post-war consensus, were destroyed by Thatcher, leaving nothing but poverty and run-down, struggling public services, including the NHS, so that the rich 1% can get even richer.

But he writes

Today, Labour brought something to the General Election campaign that recalled the message of 1945, and that something was hope. Hope that students of whatever age would not be saddled with tens of thousands of Pounds of debt for years after graduating. Hope that the punitive benefit sanctions régime would no longer target the sick and disabled. Hope that a living wage really would be enough to live on.

Hope that those out-of-towners without cars would not be effectively trapped in their homes at weekends and in the evening because of public transport cuts. Hope that the NHS would be able to cope without leaving emergency admissions on trolleys in corridors. Hope that someone would, at last, take the Climate Emergency seriously. Hope that the scourge of Universal Credit would at last be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Hope that the victims of press abuse would finally see the long-overdue completion of the Leveson Inquiry, so shamelessly ducked by the Tories in exchange for favourable coverage. Hope that bad housing, and bad landlords, would finally become a thing of the past. Hope that the Police and Fire services will be able to cope, giving security and peace of mind to everyone. Hope of an end to homelessness.

Hope that education will be resourced properly, that teachers will be supported in their work, that pupils will not have to ask parents or guardians to help pay for what should be classroom essentials. Hope of real action to challenge racism in all its forms. Hope for 1950s women that pension injustice will be acknowledged – and tackled. Hope that the divisions caused by the 2016 EU referendum can finally be healed.

He goes on to predict how the people, who have profited from the poverty and misery Thatcherism, and particularly the austerity imposed by the Tories and Lib Dems over the past 9-10 years, will fight to prevent these hopes being realised. He points out that

that alone tells you whose interest is served by the decade of decay that has ravaged so many towns and cities across the country.

And concludes

‘Labour has promised us hope. Let Us Face The Future Once More.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/let-us-face-future-once-more.html

This is all precisely what we need, which is why the establishment will do everything they can to prevent ordinary people getting the government, a Labour government, that they deserve. Because, as the Galaxy’s dictator Servalan once said in the BBC SF series Blake’s 7, ‘Hope is very dangerous’.

 

 

Managing secrets in higher education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 3:30am in

In this re-post, Morten Hansen uses secrecy as a prism to deconstruct dynamics and processes in higher education. The reflections spring from various research projects on topics ranging from the Freedom of Information Act 2000, public-private partnerships, and new education markets. The post begins with experiences that Morten has had interviewing senior decision makers in the higher education sector as part of […]

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