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September 06, 2004
The Sunday Times is full of it

Yesterday I, Patrick Crozier and Michael Jennings met up, for Michael to help me with my computer (thank you Michael) and then for the three of us then to go for coffee in Café Nero. There I did something I only do occasionally, which was glance through a Sunday paper, as in paper paper.

I was struck by the number of education or education-related stories there were, in the Sunday Times news section alone. And they weren't all clumped together in an education section; they were scattered about in the general news. I bought a copy, and the various supplements and appendages came in very handy for covering up the windows of my bathroom and toilet while workers on scaffolding are busy tarting up the outside of my flat and those of my neighbours.

The first story I noticed was about Jasper Conran giving loadsamoney to a fashion academy. Something tells me that this will work. I mean, will this place be cool or what? I think: cool. Sub-zero, in fact. Yes, I can really see these specialist academies working well. And if not, it won't because the idea is an intrinsically bad one.

Story two is classic Sovietisation, about pupils being expelled from a school to makes its pass rate higher. The measurement, the pass rate, is supposed to measure educational effectiveness. But it also builds in malign incentives. Next step, more orders, ordering people not to succumb to the malign incentives.

Story three is Atticus commenting on Education Minister Clarke's contribution to the healthy eating initiative or whatever the hell it is, pointing out that Clarke himself is not a model of slenderness. New blogger Guido Fawkes echoes the sentiment, and has a picture to prove it.

Story four is a letter from David Milliband saying that Chris Woodhead is wrong about A-levels and they are actually a fine fine thing. But then he would say that. What's the betting that when Milliband finally gives up on politics and tries to get a more sensible job and a more sensible life for himself, he stops pretending, and admits that what Woodhead et al say is right? Just like Woodhead himself did when he gave up?

Story five is only tangentially educational, but importantly so, I think. It is about giving children a vote, in "youth mayor" elections, on the off chance that this might make them less apathetic. I'm for it. In fact I think "youth" should get real votes. I think that adulthood rights and responsibilities, voting, driving, criminal responsibility, leaving home if you want to, the lot should cut in at the beginning of teenagerdom. If you don't want adulthood at that age, fine, don't bother with it. But if you do want to get stroppy and claim the privileges of adulthood, the system would stand ready to deal with you sensibly, instead of being utterly bewildered like it is now. I can see no problem with thirteen year olds voting in all elections.

Story six concerns middle class kids shunning university and going straight to work instead. (Sounds like they've been reading my previous posting here, although of course they haven't.) This is excellent. Student loans are working. Universities are being recognised by smart go-getting youth as posh dole queues, and not places the ambitious really need to stagnate in. If you do go to such places, have a plan about what you are there to do, and get stuck into it. Splendid, splendid. What's the betting that in fifty years time only the thickos go to uni and the smart ones all get great jobs at thirrteen (see story five above).

Story seven is about Americans sending their ill-mannered brats to good manners camps, and story eight is (another tangential one this) about a kid who wants to be the youngest person ever to climb Everest. Good on him. A young man with a plan. He's bound to learn a lot, even if it's only that getting permission to climb Everest (quickly enough to be the youngest) is harder than he thought. I wish him luck.

Oh yes, and did I mention the stuff on page one, two, three, six, seven, eight, ten, eleven, etc. etc.? The small matter of what happened to that school in Russia. I wonder what lessons will end up being learned from that horror.

It's amazing the newspaper had room for anything going on in the world that is not education related.

By the way, these are all timesonline links, and for foreigners especially these tend to go dead pretty quickly. Or maybe it's merely expensive which for the blogosphere is the same thing. So if you are curious about any of them, follow them soon, or you may not be able to follow them at all.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:17 PM
Category: This and that


I am 16 and think that I should be able to vote. The biggest arguement against minors voting is that they don't care and aren't mature enough. Well, look at the US. Last time I check about 50 % of eligible voters weren't voting, and I've met some voters who are extremely immature. So there we go, some adults who don't care and aren't mature. Hmm...

I want to be vote because I what is going on and I wish that I could have my say. Until I turn 18, it seems that nobody cares about my opinion. I can't affect anything at all.

Comment by: Amy on September 7, 2004 12:41 AM
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