Category Archive • This blog
August 27, 2007
A test
Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:48 PM
Category: This blog
December 20, 2004
I'm now on holiday

I'm now on holiday from Edu-blogging, having broken up on Friday. I start again in the new year, when the schools do. One more post will definitely follow soon in which I announce the date of resumption, which I don't yet know, because I don't know when the schools start.

There may be posts during the next week or two. It's just that I don't promise any, and it may be completely blank for a while.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:11 PM
Category: This blog
November 16, 2004
More comment trouble

The comment thingy is, as of now, and as helpful emailers have pointed out to me, refusing to supply a Turing Number, only a red cross.

This is, I am told by my Blog Software Guru, being attended to. He doesn't think it should take him long.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:09 PM
Category: This blog
September 24, 2004
Another posting done for here but posted over there

KimHowells.jpgI've just done a posting about a Kim Howells outburst on Samizdata. (The posting was on Samizdata, not the Kim Howells outburst.) It was one of those pieces where I only realised at the last second that it would do for Samizdata, instead of merely for here.

I was going to include this rather striking photo of the man here, along with the rest of the original posting, but for Samizdata it was beside the point. But here it is here anyway.

I find writing for Samizdata hard, and for here relatively easy, or that's how it is at the moment. Here I have the mind fix that I have no "readership" to alienate with bad writing, just the occasional passing freak in pyjamas. This may not be true, but I find it more relaxing to assume.

At Samizdata, there are many, many, fully-dressed readers to worry about. Samizdata postings have to be of a certain standard, and that can be worrying.

So now you know. I think that all six of you are trash.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:43 PM
Category: PoliticsThis blog
September 23, 2004

The other night I had a virtual conversation (the mechanics of which I hope to blog more about Real Soon Now – but which for the moment I will ignore) with the Dissident Frogman, who is the man who designed - and more to the point engineered (so to speak) - this blog. I finally told him about the Comment Problem, and, fingers crossed, he has now fixed it.

The Comment Problem has been about number four or five on my list of Important Things To Do for as long as it has existed, and I apologise profusely to all those who have been hit by it, and in general for taking so long to deal with it. If deal with it I have. What happens is, you post a comment, with all the numbers, like you are supposed to, and instead of sticking it up, it comes back at you with some snarky irrelevance about how you have done it all wrong, and you say: well to hell with that no more comments from me at this damn place.

But, the other night, I told me he had found something wrong with the set-up of the Comment System. He didn't know how it had happened, but he had, he said, fixed it. Which sounds promising, I think you will agree.

Here's what I suggest. I will append a string of comments to this posting, with a view to seeing if anything goes wrong, and if you want to check out if things have been fixed, try posting comments here too. The more there are, from more people, the more grateful I will be. Then, if (IF) nothing untoward happens, I will declare the system working (touch wood and hope to die blah blah blah) and invite the resumption of comments of substance, on other postings.

Once again, my apologies for this craziness. I don't know who's or what's fault it was originally, but the delay in sorting it was definitely down to me. However, as I say, with luck, touch wood, it may now have been solved. As I also say, thanks in advance to any who join me in checking this out.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:55 PM
Category: Learning by doingThis blog
September 01, 2004
Back to school and counting my blessings

Yes, here I am, back at the chalk face, as promised, just like lots of others.

I had in mind to do a piece about the cruelty of the English weather, which has just turned good after several weeks of wetness, but instead I resume with a link to a count your blessings story, this time about a bunch of school kids in southern Russia who have been kidnapped by an armed gang of (presumably – unless they're disgruntled alumni) Chechen anti-government fighters/terrorists/bandits/freedom fighters/whatevers. They are threatening a kill ratio of fifty kids for every hostage holder killed by the forces of law and order.

Kind of puts in perspective stories like this about the maternal agonies of the first day of school for your kid. Or for that matter stories like the recently media-dominant claim that A-levels are now too easy. (Here is a link to Chris Woodhead saying just this several years ago. He's one of many.)

The blogging pause has been a success. I wouldn't say I am now gung-ho with edublogthusiasm. But I was getting rather blogged out when I stopped, and was neglecting fundamental organisational tasks which I am now tackling better. It was all a good experience, both the regular blogging and the break from it, and a tiny taste of what being a regular teacher must be like and of why teachers need holidays too. Even if their kids don't get kidnapped by terrorists.

As of now, the rule will be: something (however feeble) every week day, and maybe other stuff on Saturdays and Sundays, depending on my mood and thought processes.

However, and it may be a big however, I am still having mysterious internet connection problems. (Fifteen minutes ago I was in despair about even being able to put this posting up.) So although the plan is normal service, service may actually be somewhat abnormal for a while yet.

Good luck in and best wishes for the coming academic year to all of my readers for whom such wishes make any sense.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:21 PM
Category: This and thatThis blog
August 01, 2004
Blogging pause

Yes, I'm going to take a rest. For the last I don't know how many days, I've been putting something up here every day. For the next month, August, I am releasing myself from this self-imposed obligation. Things may appear here during August, occasionally. But how often, or even at all, I cannot now say.

I will do a posting on September 1st explaining what happens then. I will probably then resume daily posts, but perhaps not. But, I will definitely resume in one way or another.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:01 PM
Category: This blog
March 11, 2004
Kind words

Today I received this very pleasing email, of the sort that makes doing this feel very worthwhile:

Hello Brian,

I came across your education blog yesterday and spent a good few hours trawling through it. Your posts are thought provoking, intelligent and highly relevant to anybody interested in education issues and libertarian principles. I have a 3 year old daughter, and my wife and I will be (and we are now) home educating her. I am glad to see that your posts and your contributors comments retain a balanced level of intelligent debate and do not resort to personal abuse and poorly reasoned waffle, seen on other forums. I look forward to reading your blog (and commenting) in future!

Simon Bone - Reading, UK

Many thanks, Simon. I especially like the bit about trawling through the archives. I don't suppose much of that goes on.

I agree about the nature of the comments here, and look forward to reading any which you may honour us with. Longer reports of progress with your daughter would also be welcome, unless of course you prefer to keep that private. Maybe generalised advice based on the experience, rather than particular dramas – that kind of thing.

Whether that appeals or not, the best of luck with your daughter and her education.

I did ask Simon Bone's permission (I now address everybody) before reproducing this particular email, since it included a reference to a child. But be warned that I regard all incoming emails in connection with this blog as fair publishing game, unless it is stated otherwise.

Especially ones as nice as Simon's.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:48 PM
Category: This blog
January 20, 2004
Temporary interruption of comments and installation of random number system

Last night I was obliged, temporarily, to switch off the comments system here. This blog, and my other blog too, came under severe automated comment attack. There were several hundred comments in the space of a couple of hours. I was out late and only got home an hour into the process. All the comments have been cleared out, and a random number system has now been installed, like the one already in use for the comments at Samizdata. New comments are trickling in as per usual, so there doesn't seem to be any great problem with this.

My deepest thanks to Perry de Havilland of Samizdata, and especially to the Dissident Frogman, for their prompt and excellent assistance. First, the crisis was stemmed. Then the solution was put in place which ensures that this particular crisis can't happen again.

Another learning experience. Brian's Education continues.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:03 PM
Category: This blog
September 22, 2003
A new look

I know what you're thinking. You had no warning of this. But yes, this is same old Brian's Education Blog, but revamped, twenty-first century-ised, blah blah blah. I hope you like it.

I didn't design it myself. That was done by this guy, heckled by me. There will probably be further changes here in the next few days, and the stuff to the right still needs to be looked at, updated, and rearranged. But the basic structure is now fixed. Vent at will in the comments, but it is unlikely to change much.

The reason I gave you no warning of this transformation is that if I had flagged it up beforehand, and if it had then been delayed, but if I had then kept on saying it's coming it's coming, that would have been undignified. There would have been jeers from the back of the class. Better, I thought, to let the change come in its own sweet time, and then say yes, it has changed hasn't it?, well spotted.

If you want my further thoughts on blog design, stay tuned to my Culture Blog, where I'll no doubt have things to say about this, and which is likewise going to get a makeover Real Soon Now.

As for the importance of design to the educational process, I think that if you have to choose between good teachers in a badly designed school and bad teachers and a well designed school, go with the good teachers. The blog equivalent is that there is no substitute for good stuff. Although, it is an interesting question how much effect good design in a school might have on getting good teachers for it, and in allowing them to teach better than they otherwise might. Discuss, if you feel inclined.

That's it for now. I just wanted you all to know that the universe is still in the same place as it was, despite any appearances here to the contrary.
Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:11 AM
Category: This blog
August 31, 2003
Higher education is not always a very good idea (revised version)

Commenting on this, Charles Copeland links to this webpage (with no apparent connection to anything else I could find anywhere) about Media Studies, which offers an alternative view of the benefits of higher education.

For some reason the original posting saying the above is misbehaving, so I've done it again and will delete the first one, if I can.

The comments at the Samizdata posting are piling up.

Yes, the old posting is now gone. I wanted to add the bit about comments piling up, and couldn't get into it, but I seem to be able to revise this posting. I don't know what caused this, but it seems now to have stopped.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:42 PM
Category: Higher educationThis blog
August 06, 2003
Alright everyone - back to work

Yes, alright, alright. Settle down. All the Infrastructure Problems here at Brian High have now been sorted out, so everybody sit down, pay attention, and stop mucking about. You over there, stop that at once.

My thanks to the two members of staff who worked so hard to solve our recent problems, Mr de Havilland and Mr Singleton.

Sometimes I wonder if you people appreciate just how much work is involved in educating you all.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:46 PM
Category: This blog
August 03, 2003
Possible service glitch

It is not likely, but it is possible that there will be some kind of service interruption here, nowabouts. I am switching from one host to another, whatever that means exactly. But I am being helped by these clever friends of mine, so all should be well.

But if there is trouble, I may be prevented by it from telling you about it, that it's not you it's me, and that you are a wonderful person and that you'll find another education blog ... So I'm telling you this now just in case.

PS: Whether or not I do vanish, have a read of this. When I next get a string of free moments I'm going to.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:13 PM
Category: This blog
July 30, 2003
An apology - and a little beating of my drum

I have mishandled my time today. Just when I should have been doing a meaningful stint of blogging here, I got caught up in something else, and now I have been summoned away to an Important Meeting which I Don't Want To Miss. I will put something here before I go to bed, but I won't manage anything before midnight. As I say: sorry. Please all read your books and do not misbehave.

Meanwhile, by way of rescuing my reputation somewhat in the eyes of my readers here, I ask you all to take a look at what it says about little old me at the bottom of this posting. Although I notice that, unlike Colby Cosh, I am not awarded my own newspaper column. So, not that brilliant.

Nevertheless: wow.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:08 PM
Category: This blog
June 02, 2003

Yes, people. Look over to your right. What you thought would never happen (what with how often I have promised it) has happened, and this is now a Real Blog. It may not yet be a very good one, but it definitely now is one.

My deepest thanks to all those who have had me on their permanent links lists without me reciprocating, and in general my apologies in all directions for having taken so long to get this essential aspect of blogging even semi-properly organised.

Any comments on or complaints about these links would now be very welcome. Faced with the difficulty of classifying many of these links, I have for now contented myself with only one distinction, between a link to a blog and a link to a not-blog. That nuance aside, everything educational has been hurled into two alphabetised buckets, with learned commentators on educational policy rubbing shoulders with chatty clappy Christian homeschoolers, maths study guides with websites devoted to privatising everything educational that you can think of. In short, I gave up trying to get it completely right, and have concentrated on getting a first base established. I'd welcome any suggestions about how to classify these various links more exactly, and thus perhaps more helpfully.

And now that I know how to do all this better than I did before, now would be a good time to suggest more blogs and sites that it would make sense for me to include. In fact, comments on any aspect of this operation – from links that actually don't, to spelling blunders, to further suggestions, and even to suggested dismissals on the grounds of, I don't know, being ghastly.

One possible addition Real Soon Now may be a clutch of official British government sites on educational matters, and another obvious one would also be the education pages of the cost-free mainstream media.

I also suspect that when I take another crack at this, part of the answer may be to have pages like the one that Jim of Jim's Journal has at his site. Jim has favoured this blog with a number of comments over the last few weeks, and when I looked at his page of favourite blogs I discovered how very much I admired this man, who, incidentally, has an very educational job. Reynolds, Lileks, some guy called Pepys, Sullivan, Pournelle, Postrel, various others, and me, twice. Thrice, if you count Samizdata. (And Jennings.)

But more to my point here is that short descriptions of blogs, rather than just these massive lists, may prove to be the way to go, as has already been suggested by Alice, although I'm afraid I can't find when or where, for the usual boring Blogger reasons. (Although I hear that they are promising to do better, Real Soon Now.)

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:47 PM
Category: This blog
May 27, 2003
... and the man who helped me with the new look

… namely Patrick Crozier.

Patrick Crozier is a distinguished blogger in his own right, being the boss and principle author of Transport Blog (to which I occasionally contribute) and the boss and writer also of CrozierVision (which is more definitely his own thing). He writes very well, I think.

But more to point here and now, Patrick has recently been acquainting himself with the mysteries of how to set up, clean up and generally sort out blogs. I had the luck to catch him at that special moment when he was determined to understand all this stuff, but not sufficiently confident of his skills to demand lashings of money. He made several visits to my kitchen and together we sat at my screen, trying this, trying that, seeing if this was how to do this, and that how to do that, both of us learning as we went along. I learned how to get this looking nicer, and he learned how to get things looking the way the punter wanted.

Since I didn't have a very firm idea of how I wanted things here to look, but instead wanted the chance to make up my mind in the light of actually visible alternatives, this was, for me, the ideal arrangement. And Patrick also seems satisfied to have had an early client who didn't expect him to know everything about everything either. On the contrary, the fact that he was also struggling gave me more time to think about aesthetics.

For further evidence of Patrick's growing expertise in this field, see his recent posting on CrozierVision, which reports on the developing duel between Movable Type (my and his preferred blogging software) and Blogger.

It was Patrick's willingness to make personal use of that transport that he writes about actually to sit next to me in my kitchen that made the biggest difference. We are now at the stage where things can be done by phone, but to start with that wasn't so. (The educational relevance of face-to-face contact scarcely needs emphasising, but I'll emphasise it anyway. For some purposes, including for many kinds of teaching, there is as yet still no substitute for face-to-face communication. Imagine trying to teach the violin entirely by phone.)

Patrick speculated to me during our most recent session that, since Movable Type is now becoming "easier", serious demand for his type of services might soon diminish. But with computers there's "easier", and there's actually easier, and this change is strictly in the "easier" category. Most bloggers are far cleverer at blogging (i.e. writing) than they are at setting up their blogs, and I don't believe that the sort of thing that Patrick offers will be superfluous any time soon. Everything involving computers is easy, provided you know about it. The trick is knowing.

So, if you live in or near London and you want to get blogging, Patrick could be the perfect man to get you going. Be warned, however, that the queue is already starting to lengthen.

And credit and debit, for the new look of things here, where both are due. The visual merits of this blog are the joint work of Patrick and of me. The visual demerits are my fault, and mine alone.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:34 PM
Category: This blog
May 26, 2003
A new look...

As I write this posting, this blog is about to do a visual switch, and by the time you read this, the switch may well have occurred. On the content front, nothing has changed. The same postings as always, the same inadequate and still unupdated links (these I will fix Real Eventually Now), the same comments.

But, there's now colour. I have in mind those blackboards they use nowadays, which aren't black any more as blackboards once were, but green – although if I really followed through with that idea I suppose I'd have white text on a much darker green background. The comments section now looks more consistent with the front page, and the archives have likewise been greened. As before, I've gone for serviceable and legible and easily loaded, rather than for outstanding beauty that you have to sit and wait for.

My more serious purpose is to have a blog look that will serve as the basis, with colour changes, for my other blog also, thereby proclaiming the two of them to the world as the brother-blogs that they are, this one being the sensible older brother and the other being the dodgy artistic one. My Culture Blog is now, somewhat embarrassingly, a visual mess, co-ordination between front page, comments and archives being non-existent. So my next blog task, once I am reasonably satisfied with the look of things here, will be to get that blog sorted. Then, I have in mind to be sorting the permanent content of both blogs, the links in other words, and also to find time to sort out the categorising of postings properly, which are now a shambles on both blogs. Then I'll be free to concentrate on the daily content. But I still only promise a post (and maybe more) every weekday about educational matters. All else is merely me guessing how things will unfold.

By all means comment on the new look of things if you wish to, but my understanding of graphic design is that it should satisfy not consumers but producers. If I like the way things now look, and I do, then I'll be happy topost lots of good stuff, and that way you'll like this blog because you like what it says. That being so, you'll learn to like how it looks, no matter what you now think of it. Far better a good read in visually undistinguished circumstances than stuff which looks as pretty as a picture but which is a poor read. Many are the magazines and journals whose days of glory coincided with a decidedly quirky visual appearance, and who went down the drain as soon as they started looking prettier.

Nevertheless, I hope that you also like it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:38 PM
Category: This blog
March 19, 2003
Normal Service – and why it is probably about to be interrupted until next Monday

I'm off to Poland tomorrow to speak at a Libertarian International Conference. This means that tomorrow and on Friday of this week, I will, for the first time since I began this, almost certainly not be posting anything here. The almost is because (a) I may manage to get my hands on an internet connection while there, and (b) I may, and this would be even more remarkable, even manage to get it to work. But don't hold your breath. Libertarians are famously well connected people, and I expect the Conference to be bursting with laptops. But it may not be so bursting with laptops with internet connections. I'll try, is all I'll say here. Also, I might manage something at 12.05 am tomorrow, if I can't get to sleep any earlier than that.

But, if you hear nothing from me tomorrow or the next day, use the time to catch up with your homework, or read a good book.

Now that I am probably about to break this rule of putting up something every week day, let me now emphasise that at least come Monday, the rule will be back as if nothing had happened.

I am interested in education as it is, and not just as it ought to be. And one of the dogmas of education as it is is that teachers should Keep On Coming. It's one of the great teaching cliché's of our time (because true) that whenever a new teacher arrives in a class room, there is a huge power struggle, during which the teacher tries to stay and the pupils try to make him go.

Partly of course this is just a pure blood sport without blood, the thrill of the chase, and the chance to chase down a week member of the hated adult herd. Life in prison is like this.

But there is a rational point here as well. The pupils don't want to commit to a relationship which isn't going to last. Remember that moment during other relationships where he/she (usually she, I suggest) moves from best-face-forward romancing to seeing if you have staying power. Okay, with pupils versus teachers it goes straight to phase two, but the principle is somewhat the same. Far better the stability and emotional continuity of uninterrupted hostility to Them, all the time, than committing to one of Them, and then possibly being abandoned.

Thus it is that the Average Teacher, a person I do want to communicate, despite my severe criticisms of a lot of what he or she does (and because of it of course), sets great store by just keeping on keeping on. Like marriage, teaching, as it mostly is now, requires a daily effort, a daily grind, a constant gritting of the teeth and biting of the tongue. And, an absolute ability to resist the temptation to commit any acts of violence.

And talking of marriage, I also want to make some sense to the Average Parent, and also to the Not So Average Parent who is into home educating, child autonomy, and other such besandled exoticisms.

I don't think teaching and parenting has to be this hideous daily grind and nothing else. But insofar as both consist at least partly of simply looking after and out for children, they do required a daily commitment from someone every day of the week. (Actual teaching can often be done very well in a much less relentless and dispiriting fashion, in my opinion. See the posting immediately below this one.)

Well you can see where I'm going with this. If I can't even manage one little blog posting every day on the mere subject of education – with the whole world of education to choose from, and with a completely non-captive readership, none of whom are forced to be present and none of whom therefore require to be quietened or fought off by me without me being sued by their psychotic parents for assaulting them before any of the quieter ones can even hear what I'm saying, to say nothing of filling in a hundred forms every week explaining what I've been doing about racism awareness, the School Bullying Policy, the encouragement of foreign languages and computer skills, oh and the fact that two of my alleged pupils (whom I've never met) have just been done for armed robbery and three of them are pregnant, etc. etc. – then what the hell right to I have pontificating about anything educational whatsoever?

Well, the logical and true answer is that I have every right. But I wouldn't feel comfortable doing this. I wouldn't, that is to say, feel comfortable posting for this blog in the lackadaisical way I post stuff on my other blog. I wouldn't feel that I had any place in the world of education if I couldn't even do this small thing.

One of the orthodoxies of blogging is that you should only do it when you feel like it. Well, for this blog, I feel like doing it five times a week, minimum, at least once every working day.

This rule has, I'm sure you agree, resulted in some very so-so postings here. But I believe it has also resulted in me writing things which have turned out better than that. All serious writers have a daily routine, and I do too. Writing daily here just means fitting this blog into my routine.

So, on Monday, I'll be back, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday …

With any luck at all I'll have discovered all kinds of educational wisdoms and thinkings in Poland, from Poland itself and from the various other libertarians assembled.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:43 PM
Category: This blog
March 07, 2003
A weekend research trip

Tomorrow I'm off to visit some friends, who now have a young son. Plus, if I remember it right, he is an Assistant Head Teacher. That ought to be interesting on both counts.

And this expedition, to the outer wilds of Kent, is not just to see the family. There's going to be a party. Maybe there'll be other teachers present whom I can also interrogate. Stay tuned.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:30 PM
Category: This blog
February 06, 2003
Bashing on regardless

As in the greatest matters, so in the smallest. Compare this, from a Telegraph piece by Charles Moore (linked to by Instapundit):

Yes, America reserves its right to act unilaterally, but it bases its policy on the paradox that it is only by convincing people of your readiness to be unilateral that you can win multilateral support. …

… with this, from me, here, the day before yesterday:

At the top of this it says: "E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages."

Do I make myself clear?

Only too clear, I guess. But don't worry, don't feel obliged to respond if you don't entirely feel like it. BEdBlog will bash on regardless, I assure you. If there are no contributions from the class, I'll just keep on chalking and talking.

Power projection. Don't you just love it?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:54 PM
Category: This blog
February 04, 2003
You are probably a teacher yourself

One of the reasons I set this education blog up in the first place was that I hoped it would give me an excuse to ask questions of people that would immediately take the conversation above the level of trivia. And it works, let me tell you. I find that the question: Education – how about that? is often an instant ice-breaker and profundity provoker.

In particular I have taken to collecting teachers, in the sense that I am trying to identify as many different attitudes to and techniques of teaching that I can discover out there.

I recently gave a talk around the subject of this blog and its contents. Instead of just starting the discussion part of the evening by just sitting there and waiting for questions, I instead asked everyone present what kind of teaching they'd done in their lives. There was only one "teacher" present, but there was also, it turned out, a home schooler, and almost everyone had done some teaching of one kind or another, guest lecturing, staff training, or some such. There was even someone present who used to perform regularly at Speaker's Corner, which sparked off an immediate discussion about the similarities between teaching and political propaganda. Speaker's Corner, if you're wondering, is a little part of Hyde Park Corner set aside for anyone who wants to to speak about anything he wants to speak about. Bloggers Corner before blogging, you might say.

The link between regular education and propaganda, if you're wondering about that as well, is, of course, that in regular teaching you often also have to persuade, rather than just to instruct. You often have to persuade your pupils that what you want them to learn is worth learning.

Are you a teacher? You probably are. Think about it. There you go, I told you you were. You worked in a night club and taught drink serving to drink servers. You have customers, who have to learn quite a lot about the kinds of services you are providing if they are to get their money's worth, and you've learned that some techniques of "education" simply don't work on these people, while other decidedly odd ones work very well.

The underlying assumption behind all this is that the one place in the world where education is now pretty stagnant is … schools! Practically everywhere else in the world, and especially of course in the home and at "work", education is roaring ahead. And the chances are you have not only received education in such circumstances as these; the chances are you've also been a provider of it.

At the top of this it says: "E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages."

Do I make myself clear?

Only too clear, I guess. But don't worry, don't feel obliged to respond if you don't entirely feel like it. BEdBlog will bash on regardless, I assure you. If there are no contributions from the class, I'll just keep on chalking and talking. The above began life as a mere introduction to a piece about teaching in the British Army.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:05 PM
Category: This blog
January 30, 2003
Freedom of expression in British universities threatened

Just had an email from Junius:

I've just blogged about a matter that I think has potentially serious implications for freedom of expression in British universities.

Thank you Junius. His posting starts thus:

A report into Mona Baker's decision to sack Israelis from the editorial boards of journals she edits has recommended that British universities should take on extensive powers to regulate the external activities of their staff. As regular readers know, I thought Mona Baker's actions were wrong, repellent and stupid, but this rings alarm bells ...

I won't quote further. Go there to read more.

However, a more general point about BEdBlog. I am especially interested in focussing on British stories, and, more generally, and no disrespect to that fine country intended, non-USA stories. (You will note that my first Official Guest Writer – and isn't he doing well? – is a fellow Brit.) This is not me dissing the USA, merely a belief in the value of the division of labour. If I wanted to, I could keep this blog plenty full enough by doing nothing but piggy-back stories from the USA. Often I can't resist joining in on a USA story, and I'm certainly not saying that I'll never do that. But a better service to the blogosphere in general, and to the USA's edu-blogger's (and to their readers, linked to here), is to bring British stories to their attention, or, as in this case, help to do that by adding my voice to a hubbub someone else is busy creating. Presumably I wasn't the only person Junius emailed. If I was, all the more reason to respond here.

Besides which, Britain is where I live. I like the place. It's where I am being educated, and am educating from. Nothing wrong with being patriotic about your own little corner of the world. As I often say about another blog I also occasionally write for, Transport Blog: see the world in a grain of sand …

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:49 PM
Category: This blog
January 01, 2003
Please miss I'm not feeling well
I wish I could show you a sick note. Just look for the Beecham's All-in-One adverts. I wish you all a happier new year than I'm having, and hope for a lesson a day for the next few days, but don't assume it. Bring books, and try not to disturb the other education blogs.
Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:13 PM
Category: This blog
December 24, 2002
Happy Christmas everyone! No homework today.
Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:44 PM
Category: This blog
November 22, 2002
See you on Monday – sooner maybe

Just to remind you all as you pour through in your millions, the daily drip of postings may be interrupted over the weekend, by the fact that it's the weekend. As stated earlier in the week, I'm now committing myself only to putting up stuff Monday to Friday. What I'll do at the weekend is anyone's guess, and I personally have no idea how I'll feel. So see you definitely on Monday. Maybe sooner. But maybe not.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:39 PM
Category: This blog
November 20, 2002
BEdBlog is good for Samizdata

Just to say, I've recently done a couple of education-related postings for Samizdata, about private education in Saudi Arabia, and about a home-schooling ruckus in Illinois, the latter story having stirred up a few comments, all of them supportive of the home-schoolers.

Partly, I thought that these were good wider-interest stories that Samizdata readers would appreciate. And partly, I wanted to demonstrate to the world in general, and to Samizdata's Perry de Havilland in particular, that BEdBlog isn't going to hurt my capacity to go on contributing usefully to Samizdata.

If anything, I believe that the reverse will be the case. Neither of the above two stories would have got to me if I hadn't been roaming around looking for stuff for BEdBlog. And I also believe that some stories will be "researched" by me here, as it were, with several BEdBlog postings resulting from my efforts to keep me interested, and then when I have the story clearly in focus, I can sum it all up on Samizdata, linking back to here of course. That, for example, is what may well happen with this "No Child Left Behind" stuff that I've already written about a couple of times (here and here), and maybe also the UNESCO stuff (ditto and ditto).

It's like the relationship between the specialist press and the big national daily newspapers, in the dead-tree media. I want to contribute to Samizdata, and help it to get ever better and ever more widely read. I do not want to abuse and maybe even damage that amazing Samizdata hit rate (now running at around 1,500 per day) by posting an excess (for Samizdata) of thinking aloud - or just more specialised - education stuff, such as you BEdBlog readers are going to have to self-select to like.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:49 AM
Category: This blog
November 17, 2002
From now on BEdBlog may not show up at the weekend

You've spotted the pattern by now. Something (anything - even something as feeble as this) every day. But I've decided to relax on that rule, and make BEdBlog activity definite only on a Monday-to-Friday basis. I may post things at the weekend, but I may not. But I will stick to the every-week-day-in-the-week-rule, even if it involves something desperate like paying Patrick to put some stuff here (while I'm off in Bali taking advantage of the cheap hotels over there just now).

So, maybe next weekend, my uninterrupted posting record is going to snap. Just thought I'd let you know, so that, if nothing materialises next Saturday, say, you don't jump to the conclusion that BEdBlog is a busted flush (whatever that is but it sounds very bad to me). I will remind you all again about this rule next Friday.

Class dismissed.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:02 PM
Category: This blog
November 08, 2002
Links – there will soon be many more

I'm just now in the throws of helping with a Libertarian Alliance conference tomorrow and Sunday, and this evening I'm about to leave for another meeting, addressed by fellow BEdBlogger Patrick Crozier. Patrick's talk won't be about anything educational, unless you count congestion charging as "educating" motorists not to come to Central London so much, which maybe you can, just about.

The only other thing I've time to say today is that I will shortly start including a lot more links here, including to such sites as the one mentioned in the posting immediately below, but also to lots of other blogs. My original thinking was that I didn't want to put off people who share my interest in educational matters but who are indifferent or even hostile to my general political prejudices. But the "blogosphere", as my blogging friends call it, is where I am going to get most of my early readers, and there are ways to phrase things to enable those who want to dig deeper into such things as dyslexia to do so without having to bother with what my blogger friends think about George W. Bush etc. Nevertheless linking to all these bloggers will definitely boost the readership of this, and that in its turn will provide an incentive for many more people like Susan to get in touch with specifically educational information and comment. I haven't even decided what heading to put my permanent link to my mothership blog Samizdata under, or the one to Instapundit, for goodness sake. So please everyone (not everyone, but you know what I mean), be patient.

I wouldn't say that everything at BEdBlog is going according to plan, because the only plan was to start it up and see. But despite all my early fumblings I am content with the first few inches of progress that have been made and look forward to the next few inches with interest and curiosity.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:36 PM
Category: This blog
November 02, 2002
The first big posting on what this is all about

Time for a grand manifesto which will tell the waiting universe what Brian's EDUCATION Blog stands for, believes in, etc. Well, this is no grand manifesto if only because too much will surely get left out, but it will have to do to get things started.

I think what I believe in most is having certain arguments. If I was sure about my side of all of them, BEdBlog wouldn't be nearly as interesting as it actually is going to be.

For starters I'm a libertarian. But I don't just believe in libertarianism for adults; I also believe in it for children. Children are different? So are women. So am I. Lawyers are different from professional ice-hockey players. Does that mean that the usual arguments for liberty do not apply?

But of course I expect lots of counter-assertion from people who believe that "treating children like adults" is all wrong. The relevant link here is to the TCS (which here means Taking Children Seriously, not Tech Central Station) website. Alice Bachini has also presided over several disputes along these lines, such as this, in which I did some commenting.

But that doesn't mean that I have no interest in or agreement with the lesser claim that schools ought at least to be denationalised. (Here the relevant link is to the E. G. West Centre.) I think that parents are almost always going to be better and more humane judges of their children's best interests than is the state, so giving them more power and the state less is likely to improve things, not only for parents but also for children.

I am far more respectful about "formal" teaching than you might expect me to be. I simply don't accept that "learning this needs to be structured" and "learning this needs to be compulsory" are the same statement, and it is a constant source of amazement to me how many other people do seem to think they are identical.

In general, there's the whole vexed matter of government education policy to be considered, both here in Britain and elsewhere. Patrick Crozier did a piece for a piece for CrozierVision (blogger archives chaos - scroll down to Sat Oct 26), about the demise of Education Minister Estelle Morris. I hope in the days, weeks and months to come to be linking to many other such pieces. If you have links like that to suggest, do please suggest away. (Actually, I've been getting ahead of myself and this process has already started.)

I am fascinated by the idea that computers are encroaching upon orthodox education. However, they have so far failed, rather dismally to my eye, to computerise actual teaching. No, the big computer impact so far has been from the internet, which luckier children are allowed to relate to in just the same way that adults do. This makes all claims about how you can only learn about the big wide world out there by going to school even more obsolete than such claims were in the past (and they were pretty suspect even then, in my opinion). However, I do not give up hope of learning about truly effective teaching software. After all, they teach you to drive passenger airplanes these days by putting you on a simulator, not an airplane. So you'd think by now they might have cracked how to teach a kid his ABC. Tell me about any education software you admire, or maybe are trying to sell. The worst that can happen is that I or other commenters won't like it.

Speaking of commenters, I believe in good manners, when teaching and learning, and in life generally. Educational debates can become very vexed, but if the comments become too "vexed" (i.e. abusive) I'll edit them or even chop them out altogether. Please everyone remember that neither error nor ignorance are crimes, and ignorance frankly acknowledged isn't a crime of any sort.

I'll end by referring to all the self-referential floundering by me and Patrick Crozier that I have already included, as we try to get Brian's EDUCATION Blog actually to work. (My deepest thanks again to Patrick.) I included this stuff not just out of self-indulgence and for the convenience to me and to historians of having a few very early diary entries, but also to remind us all just of what ignorance (and also, let's face it, the occasional bout of sheer stupidity) looks like and feels like. To contemplate our own imperfections when trying to learn something is a great corrective when one is contemplating the supposed stupidity of others, pupils of course, but also teachers. I'm serious when I say that a big part of the point of BEdBlog is to educate B. And Patrick too, because he is thinking of switching his UK Transport blog to Movable Type also. I have told Patrick that he has my full backing if he chooses to expose his incompetely encyclopaedic knowledge of Movable Type and its mysteries on BedBlog and to tout for answers to any problems he is grappling with. Call it distance learning!

That ought to throw sufficient spanners out of the frying pan into the pigeons, and ruffle sufficient hackles to set the ball buttering two birds with one light bulb thereby enabling them to gather moss. Let battle commence, but politely remember.

I'm now off to the Samizdata first birthday party, Samizdata (another big learning experience for me) having begun life exactly one year ago today.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:12 PM
Category: This blog
September 24, 2002
It won't always look this bad

The heading at the top of this, now, as I enter this, has got to be as ugly a mess as you've ever seen at the top of a blog anywhere. But it will get better. Like I say, I'll learn. The original plan was for the EDUCATION bit to be much bigger, right across the page, and that is still the plan. However, Alex and I got stuck into other stuff when we had our start-up session, and this mere holding pattern ended up being it, for the time being. Again, "literacy" doesn't really describe this posting. I ought to have a heading for "illiteracy".

Things can only get better.

The next posting will be about the philosophy of this blog.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:09 AM
Category: This blog