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Chronological Archive • October 27, 2002 - November 02, 2002
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
[2] [1]
Pay as you go

Freedomandwhisky had a piece last Thursday about how the Principal of St Andrews University has been arguing that his university should charge students more and the taxpayer less. I agree. So does Alex Singleton.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:16 PM
Category: Free market reforms
[0] [0]
"They came in and wanted to check up on everything, "

This is from a BBC news report of about a week ago, about bullying, suffered by teachers:

One teacher told how he felt he was victimised after becoming a union representative.

In a BBC Radio Ulster interview he said: "At every turn the management were scrutinising me closer, overseeing me, questioning everything I decided to do and I got the impression I was being put under the microscope.

"Anxiety crept into my teaching. They came in and wanted to check up on everything, my plans, marking, and for the first time ever I was nervous going into a classroom environment."

"And that badly affected my home-life and my wife became ill with a stress-related illness."

Now I could have some fun with this, about how this teacher now knows what it's like being a pupil. "They wanted to check up on everything, ", and so on. But Home Educating House Dad got there first, with his posting on the 24th. (Sorry, can't make his weird archiving software work yet, so scroll down.)

The House Dad also has comments on Britain's new Education Minister who has, sadly, replaced ex-Minister Estelle Morris. Whenever a Minister resigns, you think, great. But then a day later, along comes another. Why do Ministerial resignations have to be spoilt like this, with subsequent appointments?

Patrick, another one for the links section, please.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:00 AM
Category: Bullying
[0] [0]
November 01, 2002
Watching for biased cant

In preparation for going public tomorrow with BEdBlog - and I think that's a nicer acronym than BEB, don't you? - I ought to be writing a Grand Pronouncement about Life, Education and Everything. Instead, here's just the first of many brand-X BEdBlog postings, this being, because I just happened to come across it, about a blog called Cant Watch, and in particular about this piece on leftward bias in academia. That's a story which isn't going to go away any time soon. I haven't read the piece very thoroughly, let alone the three previous pieces before it in the series of which it is number four, but it looks good, if only because it mentions Brink Lindsey's Dead Hand favourably. (That's a book, by the way, not an affliction.) The piece also names some guilty academics. And of course there are lots of links to sympatico blogs, books and sites.

Patrick: Can we (by which I mean: can you) put Cant Watch on the list of "Education Friendly Blogs" please? In alphabetical order would be preferable - as and when it suits to do it. And while we're (you're) about it, could you also please do me, sometime, another subject category: "Academic Bias". As I say, we're going to need that one a lot. Thanking you in anticipation.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:40 PM
Category: Bias
[0] [0]
October 28, 2002
Saint Patrick's Day

This must be like watching the keystone cops at work.

I told you I believed in Brian's Education Blog being about Brian's Education as well as about Education.

So anyway, Britain's Minister of Education, Estelle Morris, has resigned on account of being out of her depth, and having presided over a huge exam-fixing row/cock-up. All kinds of bloggers are making interesting points about education in, you know, various places in the blogosphere. AND, Patrick Crozier is coming round this evening to see if the two of us sitting next to one another can't make some sense of this Movable Type thing.

It just goes to show that learning, like most other things, works better when done by and between people who are able from time to time to actually sit next to one another and be clearer about what exact thing they are each talking about than they can be over the phone, or by such ungodly and unwieldy things as emails, letters, messages in bottles, bits of paper in arrows, pigeons, etc. In fact, I think any hour/day now I might put something to this effect up on Samizdata, the link for which can be found, somewhere. And if things don't go well this evening, I might also post a cri de coeur for all Movable Typists in the London area to visit my kitchen (already one of London's most popular tourist attractions, according to Alice Bachini last friday) and get me truly sorted.

All this because (a) Patrick agreed to visit me this evening, and then set to work trying to do some Movable Typing himself, but (b) declared himself baffled and blocked at every turn and gave up, and said (c) that there was no point in him visiting this evening. I then (d) took a look at BEB myself, and found it made far more sense than it had been making, and as a result was able (e) to persuade Patrick to come and visit after all, and with luck he will, and with further luck we'll make enough headway for BEB to go public Real Soon Now.

I've given up caring what it looks like. Text is the thing. If that stays interesting, it's a blog, especially if there are links, unlike in the above. If it looks pretty but is boring and unlinked to anything, no go ...

I'm impressed that you at least are trawling through the back numbers. That's the only way anyone else would ever be reading this thing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:03 PM
Category: Home education
[1] [0]
Another Test

All I want is something, anything to display. Maybe I have to make it a bit longer. Maybe, that way it gets to display. I certainly hope so. We'll see soon enough.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:18 PM
Category: Technology
[1] [0]
I'm in charge

Nothing to see here.

Posted by Patrick Crozier at 01:57 PM
Category: Technology
[1] [0]