Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Grammar schools could be damaging to social mobility – Durham University

March 27, 2018

Grammar schools could be damaging to social mobility – Durham University
— Read on


Meta reinforcement

August 14, 2017

After spending the day feeling alternately seething, saddened and vaguely personally attacked by one friend’s comment to someone else on a Twitter, I would like to add my own emotional 2 cents to the current influx of emotional responses.

The incomprehensible-to-me reactions of people I know force me back to the position (in which I try to make some sense of the world) that none of this will go away until we eschew this polarity of politics which has also became a polarity of ethics, morality and  fundamental definitions of humanity. This is the only explanation I can give for a reasonable, kind person to feel that they must stand on the side of the ideological enemies of (ideological) America, only because those condemning them are on the other side. Until we can overcome the ‘us versus them’, well…it will always be ‘us versus them’.

I don’t mean this as a nihilistic ‘there is no right and wrong’ argument. Rather, that if people are going to genuinely recognise what is right, it’s not going to be through vitriolic responses (however satisfactory they may be to me and those who agree with me), through arguments baited by internet trolls, or through pithy one-liners that insult or alienate. As those holding vigils yesterday were eager to emphasise, it is love that is going to win. I may feel that my side is more closely aligned with love, but it doesn’t mean that I can exclude my infuriating friend from that love.

An allegory…a few years ago I was deeply disturbed by the story of a baby who had died at the hands of a sadistic man. The news was full of the story, but I slowly realised that part of what troubled me was what the news never got close to addressing: why the man acted the way he did in the first place. It satisfied them that he was punished, but what I wanted was the story of how he became such a person, and what could be done to prevent anyone else becoming such a monster.

It seems to me that it is easier for us to tell ourselves short news bites (bad people come out of nowhere and do bad things) than it is to acknowledge complex narratives of alienation or abuse or brainwashing. But I would argue that it is only when we can address these bigger, dirtier issues can we hope to stop the bad things from happening. In the short term, this means realising that the Onion article I long to post is only going to make things worse, and that withering thing I could say…I won’t.

Finally, I don’t mean to suggest that people should not post their reactions or opinions, but that they should do so with the knowledge that those who may be on the other side might be observing with immensely skewed perceptions and, as unfair as it is, we need to be careful in how much we actually are representing not our side, but love, goodness and (if you’re lucky) truth.

*The name of the post means that I’ve blogged this all before, and I’m just reinforcing my existing beliefs…just like I accuse everyone of us across all sociopolitical positions of doing daily…

Two new(ish) ideas

July 12, 2017

Germs of ideas…could make good PhD theses for someone…

  1. ‘International Forum’ for each university department: all students are invited to (and maybe get credit for) a forum where they can openly discuss how questions, issues and ideas in their discipline are addressed in their own country or culture. This could start out with discussion of how the home country approaches the discipline and higher education generally, and then move on to topics in the discipline. Students would have ownership of the forum, but staff would also be involved to learn from what the students say and contribute their own insights.
  2. Pairing primary and secondary school classes up with other classes around the world: as a very big idea, this would be part of the national curriculum (and countries worldwide would be encouraged to take part by some likely international body). Each school year the class would be paired with a class in a different country, and perhaps be given a general type of interaction as befitted the age of the students; for example, younger students might exchange drawings and photos of their school, home, local shops, etc. while older students could talk about cultural events or explore social norms. It would be hoped that the regularity of the interactions would, over time, help the students to approach each other without judgment or preconception, and thus by the time they got to the harder topics would not need a lot of scaffolding to treat each other respectfully. As much of this interaction would be done online (live video, shared multimedia spaces, blogs, apps, etc.) this would also be an opportunity to develop digital skills and digital literacy, explicitly and implicitly. There are plenty of examples of this type of thing as a one-off, but a sustained approach would be very interesting…

Others: crowdfunded book to fight hate

July 5, 2017

A professor at Durham is editing a book, Others, via crowdfunding. The explicit goal of the book, compiled of writing from prominent authors like Noam Chomsky, is to fight hate and raise funds for refugees–the proceeds will be donated to Refugee Action and Stop-Hate UK.

The argument is that literature can help the reader to walk in others’ shoes and understand others’ points of view…basically the empathy argument that I’ve blogged about before…so the book is meant to pack a double punch as far as its goals. Of course, I find this interesting as an unequivocating purpose of literature to change attitudes and open minds. But I do have a few questions…

  • Who is going to read the book? Will it not be people who are already devoted to the ideals that are being encouraged? Not that this doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive effect anyway, but maybe not on the people who need it most…
  • Does the funding method also mean that people who can’t afford to donate won’t be able to read it…?
  • What will writing for this book be like? Will the authors write as they always do, or will they be worried about whether their offerings are appropriate for the book…are relevant enough? (I’m sure we’ve all encountered otherwise worthy authors stumbling when trying to write fiction for a particular purpose.)
  • Getting a bit more philosophical, what does this whole thing mean? What does it say about the monetary value of writing, or of books, or of fighting hate…? What does it say about why people write, or why people read? What does it say about social media and personal persona-building when this gets retweeted (by people like me)?

Empathy? Not in my book

June 8, 2017

Empathy? Not in my book
Counterpoint to the literary empathy argument. He makes some valid points about enthusiasm for literature reading as a means to an end (increased empathy.) But I do think that he’s assuming a little too much in suggesting that the argument for literary empathy is limited to empathy for the right kind of people. Empathy for the baddies of literature, it could be argued, is a relatively safe way to understand what drives people to acts that we are tempted to simply label as existentially ‘evil’. Graduates who can think deeply about [unpleasant] others’ histories and motivations are more likely to be able to come up with long-term societal solutions…I hypothesise…

Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Help Save the Web | EDUCAUSE

May 8, 2017

The Power of Welcome in an Age of Loneliness 

April 30, 2017

Outrage makes you feel good, but doesn’t change minds

April 2, 2017

Can the Science of Lying Explain Trump’s Support?

March 29, 2017

Can the Science of Lying Explain Trump’s Support?

Living Room Conversations engages ideological opposites

March 24, 2017