A new elite university, set up by such academic stars as A. C. Grayling and Richard Dawkins, to compete with Oxbridge universities will be set up to offer more ‘direct teaching’ to students.
The New College of the Humanities, which will be based in Bloomsbury, aims to “make a profit”, according to the Guardian, and charge a whopping £18,000 in fees.
Before last year this might have conflicted with Dawkins’ party commitments, being a long time Liberal Democrat supporter, but now it seems rather coherent. As for Grayling, things are rather different.
In a piece about university contact hours in November 2009, Professor Grayling commented, against the plans of Lord Manelson at the time, that university should not be about “spoon-feeding and hand-holding”‘ students, but about “autonomy in thinking, reading and writing”.
Neha-Tamara Patel, in a Guardian piece in 2010, disagreed with Grayling at the time, saying: “University lecturers are experts in their fields, so the more contact there is with students, the richer their degree experience will be.”
It would seem that Grayling has come round to this thinking, as his “college aims to educate a new British elite with compulsory teaching in science literacy, critical thinking, ethics and professional skills on top of degree subjects taught in one-to-one tutorials.”
Fair enough, but he’ll have to face up to the consequences. In the same piece Grayling noted that: “The more contact hours imposed on students, the less time they have to read, think and write, these being the three crucial elements of higher study.”
Perhaps he doesn’t believe in the best for elite students!
But that isn’t the real scandal.
In a piece for the New Statesman in October 2010, expressing concern for the cuts to arts and humanities subsidies, Professor Grayling said:
increases in tuition fees will not only fail to compensate fully for the cuts but will act as a brake on student recruitment, too, and the net impending effect will be a shrinkage in higher education, with the greatest shrinkage in the humanities.
Does Grayling mean fee rises will have negative effects on student recruitment? It would seem so, and it ties in with other noises he has made on this subject. In the same piece on contact hours Grayling stated:
University education should be provided free of charge to all those suitably qualified for it, as a national investment that goes far beyond its benefit to the offices and factories of the land.
How on earth does this justify charging £18,000 for direct higher university education?
Furthermore still, on October 4, 2007, Professor Grayling gave a lecture to the North East Humanists (NEH) on its 50th anniversary. The NEH became a registered charity in February 2006 and supports the Isaac Newton High School at Kateera Village near Masaka, Uganda. According to its wikipedia page, a ‘major aim of the school is to help disadvantaged children who cannot afford to pay fees for secondary education’ and by ’2006 the school had over 80 pupils, of whom only half could afford tuition fees.’ The NEH does this in accordance with the principles “of the philosophy of humanism”. Is Grayling forgetting his own humanist principles?
Only in deed does A. C. Grayling support free education, but in practice, so it appears, for the elite the charge of great sums will suffice.
There is an emergency meeting on Monday June 6, located at room B111, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, to oppose the new college. You can visit the Facebook page here.
Anybody who reads Private Eye will know why this is funny:
Speaking from Jerusalem in his capacity as Middle East do-gooder, [Tony Blair] warned against rushing to oust President Hosni Mubarak and argued that it would be better to move to “a situation where the Egyptian government evolves and you have full, fair and free elections at a certain point in time”.
Private Eye, Edition number 1282 (18 February – 3 March 2011) [p. 5]
250,000: Estimated number of protesters gathering in Cairo resulting in ousting of Hosni Mubarak, which Tony Blair welcomed as a “huge opportunity for change”.
Private Eye, Edition number 1282 (18 February – 3 March 2011) [p. 5]
Like all loyal subjects, I am delighted at the news from our royal couple-to-be, and look forward immensely to the wedding.
In the meantime, is there any word from Clarence House as to how people should most properly refer to Ms Middleton, once she is married?
Will she become Princess Kate, and when she does become Queen at some point in the future, will she become Cathryn the Kate?
I’ve got that Friday feeling, so time to set aside the monster business plan for a minute and start a new competition than not even I can boycott.
The rationale is easy. Blogging is, if it’s supposed to be about anything, supposed to be about interactivity.
That, at least is what has marked it out from mainstream media. The journalist ‘bloggers’ winning the blogging prizes that abound are not, by this definition, really bloggers; they’re mainstream journalists with blogs.
And what makes blogs interactive are the commenters. For me, the very best blogs are those which have opinion pieces to get stuff started, but where the commenters then talk to each other and to each other, and the whole of sum of knowledge/analysis ends up being much greater than the original piece.
We used to do this brilliantly at TCF, before Dave Semple went on sabbatical. His commitment to engaging with each and every comment was as astonishing for its speed as it was for its depth (and occasional ‘take no prisoners’ vitriol. If you came here, that what you expected, and that’s partly why people came.
I’ve never been as good at it, though I do try, because I have neither the dedication nor Dave’s razor sharpness, and I’ve certainly been guilty recenlty of not responding to commenters as I should. I’ll try to put that light, because commenters spend time and effort on commenting and it’s at the very least common courtesy to engage.
Other blogs where you get this really good, respectful but not toadying author-commenter engagement include Bob from Brockley, Harpymarx (a little intermittently), 21st Century Fix (though sparsely) , Duncan’s Economic Blog (often mind-bendingly), The Third Estate and Paul Sagar’s Bad Conscience, though Paul’s exponentially increasing popularity (well-deserved) may make that difficult to maintain.
There are no doubt others on the right where you get proper author-commenter dialogue like this, but I’m not aware (happy to disabused), at least since Giles Wilkes left the blogosphere for a life of Coalition hypocrisy and, I hope, self-doubt, self-loathing and eventual redemption. He’s better than that.
Liberal Conspiracy also deserves a mention because, despite its prfile and the inevitable high-dosage trollling, a lot of authors do put a fair bit of time into individual responses to the more sensible comments (again, I do try but do not always succeed when Sunny cross-posts), and the calibre of the comments has remained surprisingly high. Some of this may be down to the fact that the comments format has not become too complicated for its own good (as it has at Labour list), allowing people just to use their common sense and number their replies to each other), but I think more important than that is that the OP’s are, generally, of a high enough standard to invite properly engaged comment.
But overall, I do get the sense that blogs are tending away, as they grow in readership, from this kind of value-adding engagement, and towards one oriented to maximising links (sometimes a bit left incestously, as with this very post) and to maximising reader numbers at any cost.
So perhaps it’s time to celebrate the commenter – the life-blood of blogging.
The proposed rules are simple, and still open to adaptation if anyone really wants to have their say. Each blog gets to nominate one of their regular commenters, perhaps after an on-blog discussion to decide who it is, and they send in, let’s say, three comments from that person.
If there are enough entrants, I and a couple of willing helpers will do a longlist to sort out the ones who are bollox/sent in as obvious piss-takes, and then we’ll publish the longlisted comments with links back to the OP.
From there the judging team, which will be appointed absolutely unilaterally by me, will fill in a ridiculously complicated scoresheet with marks awarded and appropriately weighted for thinks like a) added knowledge b) incisiveness c) humour d) courtesy levels e) engagement with other commenters etc..
The competition will open, I intend, on 01 December and be open for two weeks.
The overall winnner will be announced on, let me announce totally radnomly, 19 January 2010, or maybe some other time, possibly at a glitzy ceremony in Bickerstaffe, or maybe somewhere else less exicting, or maybe just on this blog when we’ve added up. That depends on the sponsorship deal I’m more than open to discussing.
I am now looking for bloggers to advertise it on their blogs, write about what a wonderful idea it all is, donate a big big prize, volunteer to be on the listing/judging panel, and generally look busy.
And as for TCF’s selected commenter, I think there’s one outstanding candidate to send into the main competion.
1) In school, I was no more a socialist than Kilroy is still a Marxist, but I did wear a badge that said “I hate the Middle Class” which was worn in protest at a family member I took a disliking to.
2) I first became a socialist after reading Marx at college. Soon after I went to a Socialist Workers’ Party meeting in Southend, where on entry I was asked if I’d read the Communist Manifesto. Having met their criteria – strange as it was – I became a member.
3) I didn’t join the first anti-war march in London because I hadn’t made up my mind at the time, despite being a cohort of the SWP.
4) My favourite band is Yes.
5) I have a wanky taste in film; my favourite film is Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande a Part.
6) I had something akin to a religious experience when on a bus during the day near St John’s Wood, the sun was beaming in through the window, while I was listening to Wagner’s Overture. A cloud covered the sun and I could see a Jewish wedding was taking place. For some reason this made an impact on me.
7) I’ve met a fair few bloggers now: Sunny Hundal; Dave Semple; Paul Cotterill; Tim Ireland; Five Chinese Crackers; Left Outside; Pete Bowers; Laurie Penny; Paul Sagar; Jack of Kent; Jamie Sport; Louise Whittle; Splintered Sunrise; Dave Osler; Cath Elliot; Kate Belgrave, to name only a few.
8) I went through a phase of listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells once a day
9) I once wore a badge reading “repeal all immigration laws”. I stopped wearing it after a man came up to me to say he liked my badge, and that “there were too many fucking Japs in the country anyway”. I told him the word Japs is as outdated as his stupid opinion.
10) When I was 17 I attended the Marxist festival in Central London where I requested accommodation. It was space on the floor of a church in Bow with about 50 SWP activists.
11) I’m pictured on the Redwatch website after attending a demo against the National Front, who themselves were marching in Woolwich after a Caucasian boy was beaten to death by some Asian youths. I saw and recognised the NF activist who photographed me, and knew from then on that the NF is inextricably linked to C18.
12) The first anti-BNP demo I attended was in Wickford, Essex, which was used as a meeting point for the BNP to get the train to their red, white and blue festival. Before the BNP had arrived a man was stood near the platform wearing his postman uniform and holding a British bulldog by a leash, causing one person to mistake him for a BNP member, whereupon the entire crowd of anti-fascists confronted him. He, very meekly, told us he wasn’t the BNP, and that he hated that lot. Very embarrassing for everyone.
13) Even though I was a socialist, I used to hang around with an anarchist sect in Essex because they didn’t care for meetings about the old’n days (as I would’ve put it back then). Oddly for an anarchist sect, we effectively acted as security for Labour activists in South East Essex during a by-election campaign where BNP activists were intimidating them.
14) This lot, and me, also acted as unofficial security when the holocaust survivor Leon Greenman spoke to a small audience in Vange, Essex. The room, which composed of mainly SWP activists and local Labour members, went uncomfortably quiet when Greenman praised Tony Blair and expressed his support for the war in Iraq.
15) The second May Day march that I attended was with one of the anarchists who went by the name of Austin, and is relatively well known for, among other things, his piercings and large red Mohican. After the main march, we wondered around Hyde Park waiting for the anarchist cricket match to start with a constant police presence – it was then that I learnt of his notoriety. We both had our pictures taken with the police, but they did not leave us until about 3pm.
16) The Southend division of Unite Against Fascism – which was almost entirely composed of SWPpies – staged a protest outside a pub in 2003 where the BNP were going to meet, but were refused by the pub landlord last minute (it turned out that the BNP had booked the room in the pub under the name “National Trust”). A friend of mine became involved in a fracas with who we later found out was Matthew Single. Single was the individual who released the names and addresses of all BNP members a few years ago – a story I recall here.
17) I’m a big fan of the writing of Edmund Standing, who has written a report on the far right for the anti-fascist think-tank Centre for Social cohesion, and occasionally writes for Harry’s Place.
18) I was happy that the BBC put Nick Griffin on Question Time. I don’t think it was ever going to have the effect people feared (giving credibility to an old fascist) – I knew the BBC was simply lending Griffin the rope with which to hang himself with.
19) My girlfriend once accidentally kicked Walter Wolfgang – the man who was thrown out of the Labour Party conference for heckling – on the leg during an anti-war march.
20) I spent the day looking for a bank so I could change up dollars in Bolivia while a pro-Evo rally was taking place – I was very jealous.
21) I was, for a very short period of time, a “Grantite”, which is someone who is a member or supporter of Socialist Appeal. I was attracted to SA because I felt the only way to bring about socialism was through the historical party of the working class – the Labour Party. By this time I had had enough of Trotskyite groups serving little other than creating factions between themselves and dismissing the Labour Party outright.
22) About a year and half ago, I realised I wasn’t a Trotskyite at all (or at least I wasn’t Trostkyite in the way in which I’d experienced it in the South East of England and London) but rather, my politics are based nearer to British guild socialism. Earlier this year I joined the Labour Party.
23) People say they hate being pinned down to labels, I love labels, I’ll have to check with Phil, but I think this has something to do with my love of sociology, which also loves labels.
24) I support a strategic presence of US and UK troops in Afghanistan, but have not always been happy with the strategy. I am in favour of massively reducing armed conflict in the country, but continuing the assistance of building up an Afghan army able to deal with the huge internal problems, which impacts upon global safety.
UK troops leaving Sangin is the beginning of the end of our defeat, which means that fascism will continue to spread across the Middle East by terrorists who will gain an almighty boost similar to that when the Russians left. This is by no means a victory for the anti-war movement, even less so for the anti-fascist movement, and far less so for the Trotskyites who favoured a mass internal rising over UN intervention.
25) I secretly don’t support any of the candidates for the Labour leadership.
A. When it was instituted by a British Labour government. This is the impression one can’t fail to get when reading the following two statements by the Taxpayer’s Alliance on the subject of government-developed iPhone applications, which improve civic engagement.
April 30th, 2010, posted on Taxpayer’s Alliance website.
In the Dutch city of Eindhoven, citizens can now report broken street lights, potholes, graffiti etc. using an app on their iphones. Users can take a picture and locate the problem on GPS and maps and send it directly to the local authority so they can easily locate and solve the problem. Obviously not everyone has an iphone, but it’s a great innovation that involves citizens in looking after their community.
July 6th, 2010, statement given to media by Mark Wallace, TPA campaign director, after news leaks via FOI requests that the previous government spent £40,000 on something similar.
“It seems many Government bodies have given in to the temptation to spend money on fashionable gimmicks at a time when they are meant to be cutting back on self-indulgent wastes of money…It is ridiculous not only that they are commissioning these apps but that some of them are supposedly secret on grounds of national security.
“Someone who is faced with losing their home because of high tax bills, or whose life is being ruined by crime isn’t going to get any reassurance from knowing there’s an app for that.”
The recent furore is over the government developing iPhone apps to provide DVLA services, to provide Jobcentre services and so on. Personally I think it’s a great idea – I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have a smartphone, and applications have a way of transferring across, once developed.
What I found particularly amusing about the blatantly churnalistic BBC report (some of which was cribbed direct from the wire service report by the looks of it) was this:
“By the end of May there were over 53,000 downloads of the Jobcentre Plus app, although critics have asked why someone who can afford both an iPhone and the expensive running costs would need a Jobcentre Plus app.”
Because even those who have been prudent with their savings and worked hard to amass them can be made unemployed, and even bottom of the chain workers can fit this particular bill? Nice to know what the BBC generally thinks of the unemployed though; if they have anything remotely fancy, there’s something funny going on.
“When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag.” This is the chorus to K’naan’s anthem to the 2010 world cup – and no one who is a football fan can fail to be moved both by the sentiments and the stunning visuals set to the music, from the tear-jerking moments to the high drama to the comradeship of players and fans.
Sport is and always has been intensely political. Whether the question is how the world cup affects South Africa, especially the poorest - put to no few interviewees by white European journalists – or the fact that commentators around the world were forced to remember the Soweto uprisings through their anniversary, World Cup 2010 is no different.
Interlaced into the above song are images of Nelson Mandela’s march to freedom, set to lyrics which are quite political in context: “Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher”. What all this obscures is that in reality this is a marketing campaign by Coca-Cola. It is not an artist celebrating his joy at the meeting and friendship of nations through sport.
In fact there is an ‘original’ version of K’naan’s song, from his recent album, Troubadour. It contains lyrics like the following snippet:
So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say, love is the way
Love is the answer, that’s what they say,
But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers
It’s basically a song about racism, war, poverty and a fight against these things. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, have diluted all this content to as little as they could without basically getting rid of the song entirely. In place of the most political lyrics, there is chanting and words about football.
Marketing magazing Billboard Biz recorded that Coca Cola “loved the song but noted that lyrical references to ‘a violent prone, poor people zone’ and people ‘struggling, fighting to eat’ didn’t fit the campaign’s themes”. Despite these things all being true about the continent of Africa, which in 2010 is the centre of the vortex of wealth and media attention coat-tailing the World Cup.
I’m not saying that K’naan is somehow ‘pure’ and Coca-Cola is somehow the anti-christ, having unfairly taken this song and basically prostituted it. Even the distorted ‘celebration mix’ contains sentiments which are worthwhile. In fact what Coca-Cola have done makes perfect sense.
They have taken something liable to strike a cord with popular sympathies, diluted it to taste and then utilised it to promote a product. It’s brilliant. It’s so common we don’t even think about it these days; humour, solidarity, love – basically every human emotion and expression worth having and with general applicability is used like this.
In this case, the song is even translated into languages other than English (for which it was originally written) to give it global appeal. In short, a global corporation intent on profiteering from a cynical marketing campaign can also appear as the guardians of diversity and local identity, from a certain point of view.
Mostly this disgusts me. And yet…there’s something good to take away as well.
Outside of the West, the cry ‘give me freedom’ resounds and ruling classes tremble. Whether it’s Iran, Burma, Thailand or Greece, the basic message explicit to the original version of this song is that one day we will shake off parasitic leaders and be free – and the political actions of these countries give the force to this message.
In Western Europe, we’re all too often inclined to think that the age of a redemptive politics is dead – that we’re consigned to basically tinkering around the edges and that there is no room for a panoramic vision of change. Even the mass movements of the last thirty have contained only a minority of those people with genuine aspirations for wholesale political change.
Yet across Europe this song, which is basically about that, is getting airplay, with a message attempting to tap into a persistent sense of solidarity, of wanting to belong as an equal and wanting others to belong as equals. If these beliefs weren’t widespread and waiting for a real movement to utilise them, Coca-Cola wouldn’t bother with them.
However vacuous a gesture, whatever echoes of a Live8 style (without the advantages of raising money for charity, though minus the disadvantages of tits walking round with their armbands believing concerts change the world) it all may seem, that thought is still enough to make me smile.
Brothers, sisters, let me tell you the good news. Last night, despite a brave performance by five-time World Cup winners Brazil, the Juchist Ideal reached its apotheosis in a glorious triumph on the football pitch.
Three goals were scored, and the Third World pawns of US capitalism, Elano and Maicon, ably supported by their co-conspirator Robinho, came close to incurring the wrath of the supreme leader. Yet true believer in the revolution and three-time Hero of Labour Jong Tae Se kept the pressure on Brazil’s defence.
Ji Yun Nam clinched the key goal of the game, securing the pride of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Capitalist commentators last night anguished over the superior national pride displayed by the whole team during the singing of the Korean national anthem, all of whom knew the words and weren’t in the least afraid of being shot if they forgot any.
Jong Tae Se was singled out by the Dear Leader in his congratulations to the team, for exceptional devotion. Jong was spotted in tears of love and joy as he sang the anthem prior to kick off in his first game at the World Cup Finals. Rumours that his family were threatened with imprisonment if the team lost are capitalist propaganda.
Speaking seriously for a moment, watching the football last night was one of those moments where I felt happy to be British. The commentators and the players lined up in post-game – and quite a few others – were all rooting for North Korea after they displayed such tenacity.
Here’s a team which is ranked 105th in the world playing the top ranked team in world, against players whose careers are worth millions. Going in to the game, I expected a whitewash on the scale of Germany’s hammering of Saudi Arabia in 2002. I was looking forward to it, because the Brazilians play a superb passing game and their technical skill is a joy to watch. Instead of a trouncing, we got a beautiful game.
The Koreans played a five man defence, with sweeper in the middle, and were literally all over the Brazilians. Luis Fabiano continued his streak of not being able to hit a barn door, and that saved the Koreans a little, but with a few exceptions, every time Robinho etc came near goal, they were closed down.
Half time and a nil-nil draw – unthinkable! Clearly the Brazilians recognised that they weren’t getting enough traction up the centre and Maicon’s goal from way out on the right proved that playing down the wings would yield results. After the first goal, everyone suspected that the Brazilians would get everything their own way – and true enough, Ronaldinho got a few more chances thereafter – what no one was prepared for was the Koreans to sneak one in.
Genuinely Jong Tae Se played brilliantly – he just wouldn’t let up, nor would Hong Yong Jo. I think the pair of them just kept the whole show going. Never wasted an opportunity – kept pushing forward.
I think a large part of how impressed everybody was is that no one has ever come across North Korea before, and their footballers generally play in leagues remote from the UK. Some play in Russia, some play in Japan – and though we know the names of the teams they play for, I imagine few enough of us have thought to wonder if the players were from North Korea. That fed into the support-the-underdog thing we all have going on.
I wondered, while watching the 90-minutes, if the Brazilians knew what to make of their North Korean opponents. Having watched the Ivory Coast-Portugal game earlier, which was blighted by diving, accusations of diving and a welter of yellow cards, in this game, the Brazilians picked North Koreans up off the dirt and on several occasions there were warm claps on the shoulder. The Brazilians seemed as impressed by these newcomers as the rest of us.
Mind you, Dunga did not seem happy as his boys came off the pitch. Can’t imagine why.