16 April 2011
“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,”

From an article entitled: Conventional Education Will Go the Way of Farming.  Heh.

12 September 2008

“Comedy shows, like universities, are where ideas go to die.”  Brian Micklethwait.


21 November 2007
Podcast: Brian and I talk about education

There is more to education… than just preparing people to earn lots of money.  Education is also something that prepares you to make do with much less money.

Brian’s Education Blog, if not actually back, is about to be.  So, what better way to celebrate could there be than to do a podcast on education?

In the podcast we talk about sovietisation, compulsion, discipline, the educational impact of Elvis Presley and how teddy bears will go about teaching quantum physics.

Well, that’s the blurb.  Actually, I think it is a bit of a ramble.  An interesting ramble but a ramble nevertheless.  The lesson is that there is a huge difference between being an interviewer and an interviewee.  The last couple of times I have been the interviewee, so I forgot that as interviewer you have to prepare.  Preparation doesn’t have to take very long - all that’s really required is to find out what the interviewee wants to say and tell him what questions you want to ask.  But it’s essential.  Lesson learned.  Until it’s forgotten again.

04 March 2007
In case you haven’t already…

Here are a few of the items I enjoyed this week:

  1. Tony Blair holds a summit on gun crime but somehow fails to invite Rob Fisher: “I know the solution, and it is really very easy and straightforward. Drum roll please. Are you ready? Legalise drugs.  No-one ever got shot over cigarettes, alcohol, or anything you can buy for £2.99 from Boots.”
  2. Jeremy Black has a couple of good articles on the First World War.  Here and here.
  3. Also from the Social Affairs Unit, William Rubinstein offers an historical perspective on the current cash for honours scandal.
  4. Live Aid: “Fund-raising event which helps needy African dictators enlarge their fleets of Mercedes, while simultaneously enabling white, midole class people to demonstrate conspicuous compassion.”  Harry Phibbs reviews How to be Right: The Essential Guide to Making Lefty Liberals History.
  5. Stewart Brand, environmentalist heretic. (hat-tip: Instapundit)
  6. Want to get ahead in the USA?  Easy: brag.  OK, so that’s a bit of an over-simplification of a thought-provoking, if long, article.  (Hat-tip: Instapundit)
  7. An academic bemoans the state of British education before the Guardian journalist interviewing him proceeds to prove it: “It’s superficial stuff, fine for the general populous,...” Oooh.
  8. “At last, a machine fully compatible with Windows Vista.” Heh.


18 February 2007
In case you haven’t already…
  1. Harry Hutton considers the issue of smoking inspectors:
    If we can raise a fighting fund of £500,000 we can probably drive many of them into exile, arranging for gangs of hoodlums to break their windows, drag them from their homes and tar and feather them.
    Ha! Unlikely, for sure, but looking to the future, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility?
  2. Just when you thought it was safe to surf free of pop-ups, WordPress (of all people) bring them backJackie isn’t too impressed either.
  3. Free market think tank sets up school.  Or does it?
  4. The standard version of the Madrid train bombing is that the government tried to pin it on ETA when, in fact, it had been carried out by Islamists.  John Chappell begs to differ.
  5. A photo of Roman Abramovich from the 1980s.  Seems there’s nothing new in the blank expression, even when, as it would appear here, he has plenty to smile about.
  6. Helen Szamuely feels the need for a German national identity.  Which begs the question, if they don’t already have one, what is it that is keeping them together?  Also check out Helen’s article on Willi Munzenberg - Josef Goebbels’s propaganda nemesis.
  7. France’s Socialist Party has selected a good-looking woman to be its candidate in the up-coming Presidential election.  This has implications.  But only an economist can tell us what they are.
  8. Don’t fancy yours much… Mark… Anthony.
  9. I know this item is called: “If you haven’t already…” but I have never made it clear what you may not already have done - read it, or seen it.  For instance, while I have read this article on bullying in the Russian Army I haven’t seen it and I am not sure I want to.  The British Army, of course, is so much better.  While we’re on the subject of English Russia don’t forget to check out, well… everything.

Toodle Pip!

20 December 2006
Brian Micklethwait and Leon Leow produce an excellent podcast

I have just finished listening to Brian Micklethwait’s podcast with Leon Leow.  A bit late in the day, admittedly - it was recorded about a month ago - but none the worse for that.  Actually, it’s rather better than that.  It’s really very good.  The centre of their discussion is Leow’s research into what makes countries rich and what makes them poor.  Make that statistical research.  What is interesting is that Leow sticks to the statistics even when it leads to conclusions he would normally disagree with.

The big one is tax.  Tax rates have no effect on prosperity. Bad news for me.  But that’s OK.  It only removes one of the props of my argument.  But, still, interesting.

The other big surprise (sort of) is education.  Now, while I am against state education I am by no means against education as such.  But it turns out that it either (I can’t quite remember what he said) doesn’t matter or actually makes you poorer.

A nice surprise was that race makes no difference.

The biggest factor in prosperity is the rule of law.  Get that right and you should be OK.  That was no surprise to me at all but it’s always nice to hear.

One of the amusing parts of the discussion was the way Leow managed to keep his temper in the face of Brian’s frequent enthusiastic interruptions.  London libertarians are used to the idea that Brian’s Brain runs considerably faster than his mouth (which itself runs quite fast enough) but it can be quite disconcerting at first.  So congratulations to Leon.

Update Oh crap, I’ve spent Louw wrong the whole way through.

06 December 2006
Smoke and mirrors

I was watching BBC Breakfast, I know, big mistake.  There was an item on healthy school dinners or, at least, what the government thinks represents healthy school dinners.  Now, I switched on too late to see the start but the gist was that here was a school that had contracted out its catering (golly would you believe that I proposed the very own thing to my own school some 2x years ago - precocious or what?) The outcome (according to the pupils interviewed) was much better choice and quality, the implication being that here was a scheme that could be rolled out to the rest of the country.

Hmm.  The assumptions were that:

  • safety/being healthy is the only thing - they aren’t
  • the government knows what is healthy
  • the pupils were being entirely straight and honest.
  • the government could roll this out to other schools around the country

I think I disagree with them all.


So, lying, dissembling 16-year olds?
You’ve kind of answered your own question.  Plus the desire to get on the telly (best to say what the nice TV people want to hear).  Plus the desire not to piss off the head teacher in exam year.  Plus, the sort of feeling that most us labour under: “I know I ought to eat lettuce but I want to eat Mars Bars.”  - the difference between what we say and what we do.

And rolling it out?
The more I watched the more I was reminded of those Potemkin villages where everything was wonderful which Eastern Bloc countries kept going to show off to anyone who questioned the wonders of communism. What are the chances that this school had been given all sorts of carrots and sticks unavailable to others to make the switch?  High, I should think.

08 November 2006
James Bartholomew tells us why he doesn't trust school league tables for the "value-added": schools make sure the initial scores are as low as possible. Another reason not to trust statistics.

11 March 2006
They wanted to end selection by ability but ended up with selection by wealth. Another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences
31 January 2006
The doctoring of the school league tables - I have some thoughts …link
03 July 2005
You know you are in trouble when maths gets political

Sometime ago, I was watching some BBC Educational programme.  It was about education in Nazi Germany and featured a chap called Harry Mettelman who was a schoolboy there at the time.  His parents, who were very much not Nazis, told him never to believe anything that was opinion but that maths was fine.  Little did they know that the Nazis had managed to sneak their propaganda into maths lessons as well.

So, you can guess how I felt when I read this:

In a comparison of a 1973 algebra textbook and a 1998 “contemporary mathematics” textbook, Williamson Evers and Paul Clopton found a dramatic change in topics. In the 1973 book, for example, the index for the letter “F” included “factors, factoring, fallacies, finite decimal, finite set, formulas, fractions, and functions.” In the 1998 book, the index listed “families (in poverty data), fast food nutrition data, fat in fast food, feasibility study, feeding tours, ferris wheel, fish, fishing, flags, flight, floor plan, flower beds, food, football, Ford Mustang, franchises, and fund-raising carnival.”

Uh oh.

28 May 2005
Why are Ford and GM in so much trouble?

David Farrer suggests:

The widespread trashing of the education system by politicians that has resulted in pinko-victimological-media studies being considered superior to engineering.

[Or at least he did on my Bloglines feed but the article does not seem to have made it to the actual blog.  So, if you’re reading this David, you have some work to do, unless the idea was to keep this under your hat for a while, in which case - too late.]

Update  Aah (see comments) - mea culpa.  I’ve noticed this too - Bloglines bringing up a post from way back.  I’ve always assumed it was something to do with updates but apparently not.

23 May 2005
University gets tough on plagiarisers - but only if they're women …link
21 May 2005
Three cheers for social exclusion

Brian Micklethwait thinks that the government’s new committee on school discipline won’t work.  He contrasts the “all must attend” ethos of state schools with what happens in shops:

I mean, shops who are subjected to customers whom they take against just get a couple of extremely big men in uniforms to escort them to the door. They do not waste their time blaming the parents or setting up committees – sorry, task forces – to make detailed recommendations, or for that matter demanding for themselves any new and draconian powers. They have all the powers they need.

Which is exactly what the Bluewater shopping centre decided to do this week and as DumbJon points out it has already seen a 25% increase in the number of customers.

Who says social exclusion is a bad thing?

14 May 2005
“...Mr Blair is a busted flush” - how the wheels came off the project …link
24 April 2005
State schools are crap - and so are the unions …link
18 April 2005
Top tips for getting smarter - by a) avoiding state schools and b) turning off the central heating
31 March 2005
Ruth Kelly speaks - Briffa struggles to stay awake. Another day in the turgidisation of British political discourse …link
02 February 2005
Goodness - I've been Catallanched …link
30 January 2005
Homeschoolers beat Oxford undergrads - in a moot …link
22 January 2005

The Ombre links to the Castle who would link to the Mrs but she seems to be down at the moment (on the Mr, perhaps?)  Anyway this is what Tim (ie the Castle) has to say about the woman trying to interest him in state education:

The ONLY benefit of [his daughter] going to a mainstream school that was mentioned - and mentioned repeatedly was that of “socialisation with her peers”

Indeed.  State educationalists seem to have given up trying to argue that education provides, well, an education (however defined) and “socialisation” seems to be the fallback position/last refuge of choice (and not just here judging by the news from Germany).

The thing is, what do they mean by “socialisation”?  I asked someone once and they replied that it was: “rubbing along with other people.”  A fine thing to aim at, for sure, but in that regard does state education really succeed and does home schoolling really fail?  And, how would you know?

Homeschooling banned in Germany -  …link
12 January 2005
Private education - works
03 January 2005

Schools, hospitals, clean water, policing, courts without the state.  Impossible?  Not only is it possible but it’s happened and not that long ago either.  Jay Jardine reviews the Voluntary City.

19 December 2004
Quote of the day

Gosh, why don’t we go back to the old system that we know provided it, rather than inventing expensive new ways that may or may not work?

Tim Worstall’s actually talking about education here but he could be talking about any number of other things.

06 December 2004

My son and I are currently studying a 50-lecture course from The Teaching Company entitled The Great Ideas of Philosophy, with the very excellent Professor Daniel N. Robinson, of Oxford University and Georgetown University…I did not say, “I am teaching my son the great ideas of philosophy.” …In our homeschool we study with our son so that his education will not be restricted or delayed due to our inadequacies…

Linda Schrock Taylor on her family’s approach to home schooling.

Excellent piece by Sean Gabb on Home Education.  A couple of quibbles.  For starters I thought it was Alistair Campbell who used the phrase “bog standard” before telling us that up North “bog” meant “really good”.  And then there was this:

They are from all social, educational, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

You don’t say.  But, as I said, these are quibbles.  Home education rocks.

05 December 2004

Back in the day when James Callaghan were Prime Minister and I were nowt but a nipper my mum and a few other mums in the village set up a playgroup in the large back room of the Methodist chapel.

What? An unregulated enterprise, unqualified staff, no government support.  Mark Holland details the full horror story.