Jonn @NewStatesman – on the politics of “hard choices”

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On George Osborne’s latest round of cuts, and the strange political euphemism of “hard choices”. 

Whenever politicians start talking about how tough they’re being, in fact, it’s like a flashing neon arrow pointing down the path of least resistance. If a policy actually requires guts, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to the fact, as that’ll just tip your voters off that someone’s about to get stiffed. Better, then, to reserve the label for making yourself feel big while doing exactly what you wanted to do anyway. 

You can read the rest here.

Luck and Oxbridge

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Every year, the British media will bang out the same predictable stories about the Oxbridge entry process. In December they’ll write about crazy interview techniques; in August, they’ll debate the existence of systemic bias towards posh people. These stories have been written since time immemorial, as regular a feature of the British newspaper diet as Diana conspiracy theories and Winterval.

…so this is me trying to write a third variant – on quite how arbitrary the process can be.

How to drain the poison from the MPs’ pay debate

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I know, I know, we’re all sick to the back teeth of comment pieces arguing that MPs have their faces in the trough/aren’t really paid that well when you really look at the numbers, actually [delete according to taste and income]. But we have the same arguments every time this topic comes up, and I’m not sure our inability to talk sensibly about these things is conducive to good government. So here’s a couple of ideas on how we can drain this swamp before we all go mad and start bashing our heads against things.

You can find out what those ideas are here.

“Let’s concrete the North Downs!” and other stories

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For someone primarily employed as an education journalist I’m spending a lot of my free time thinking about housing policy. Some recent snippets for the New Statesman:

  • And finally, a new way of illustrating the insanity of London’s housing market: how much would Del Boy’s flat be worth these days? Contains other sitcoms, too.

On politics and objectivity

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My latest at the NS, on why a little noticed admission of error from Michael Gove tells us much about the subjective nature of public spending decisions.

Politicians can come up with a formula based on an objective set of numbers – but which numbers they choose, and what they do with them, will always be a matter of judgement.

You can read the piece here.

On teachers, facilitators and tiny Arab states

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Jonn @NewStatesman, talking about radical new models of schooling:

Here’s a sentiment that you hear rather a lot in education futurology circles (yes, such circles exist). If you took a doctor from a hundred years ago and dumped him in a modern hospital, he’d be utterly lost: medical science has simply changed too much. Do the same with a Victorian teacher, though, and they’d probably get along fine. It’d take them a while to get used to the fact blackboards were now white and electronic, and lessons about Nazis might present a few challenges – but the basic model, of one teacher talking at a couple of dozen kids, is pretty much unchanged from the 19th century.

This is odd, because it’s not as if it works particularly well: just think of all the amazing stuff from science or history that school managed to make about as exciting as Tipp-ex.

You can read the rest here.