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Showing posts from June, 2015

Donald Rumsfeld's Amnesia

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You might have thought that Donald Rumsfeld would at least have the decency to keep quiet.  Having wrought such damage upon the Middle East as the result of his ill-considered and misconceived policies, he could at least have spared us his ongoing thoughts.  Yet here he is again, giving an interview to the Times about the current problems and casting himself as a wise man of the past.

Extraordinarily, Mr. Rumsfeld has announced that he was never really in favour of imposing democracy upon Iraq.  George W Bush made a terrible mistake, he suggests.  His amnesia is all the more culpable given how much of Iraq's current day trauma stems from errors, mistakes and sheer arrogance on the part of Rumsfeld himself.  It does seem extraordinary that he is now suggesting he was not an ideological fellow traveller in the great crusade to impose western democracy on Iraq.  Indeed, it is worth just recounting just how responsible Rumsfeld was for the disaster that ov…

Education is failing poor, white, working class boys

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan hasn't yet explained why she thinks Academies are the answer to failing schools.  In fact, of course, they are an ideological expedient with very little educational thinking behind them.  the ones we have vary hugely in type, quality and success.

The reason this is important is because there is a crisis in education and the political fixes so far designed aren't dealing with it.  The Sutton Trust have produced their report "Missing Talent" - the high achievers (top 10%) at primary school who, after five years of secondary education, rank outside the top 25% of pupils in achievement terms.  That is some 7,000 pupils each year according to the Sutton Trust, and the largest proportion of these are white, working class boys.

There is more to mull on and consider in this important report, and the New Statesman gives an early commentary.  There are no easy or pat solutions, but in an age which has so vigorously set itself against formal a…

#the56 SNP MPs - could they be Commons reformers?

The problem for the well-publicised SNP #56 is that they actually have very little to do for their constituents in the Westminster parliament.  The meaty stuff, the legislation that affects the people who voted for them, actually goes through the Scottish Parliament, and will do so in even greater form after the increased devolved powers are given.  So what to do in Westminster?

Well one thing they could have a significant impact on is a change in the way parliament - and especially the House of Commons - actually does things.  In a sense, the SNP MPs have arrived as rather good-natured insurrectionists.  They have been sent to parliament by voters who see Westminster as the enemy.  Many of these new MPs share that view.  They've arrived in the hallowed halls of Britain's finest active museum as bewildered outsiders wondering what the hell is going on.  And they've lost little time expressing their frustration, being arguably the best group of politicians to co-ordinate …

School history at GCSE is about to be wrecked. Should we care?

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Education change is both a vast area and a small one.  Macro change concerns the very nature of our schools, their funding and their set-up.  Micro change concerns those small things that go on within a curriculum or inside the school.  Much political attention focuses on the macro – it’s easier and everyone tends to have a view.  But bear with me for a little as I try and explain why one of the less noticed micro changes – the complete overhaul of the GCSE history syllabus – is such a regrettable action of education vandalism.  Of course, my concern stems from the fact that I am a history teacher and clearly believe that history should be a strong and coherent aspect of any healthy curriculum.  Sometimes, though, these micro changes throw a much more illuminating light on the flux and turmoil within education than any of the macro items.  I've written a piece for the TES on this very topic, so here it is; why we should be opposing the changes to the history GCSE.

The untimely death of an under-estimated politician

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It was shocking to hear of Charles Kennedy's death this morning.  There was no warning, no expectation, and the man was only 55.  How could he suddenly not be here?  If we who merely know him from the outside think that,  how so much more shocking must it be for his family.  A suddenly bereaved wife, and a young son who also lost a grandfather not very long ago.  It is a sign of the affection in which Kennedy was held, and the largeness of the man's presence in our political consciousness, that so many have leapt to record their shock, sadness and regard for him.

Reflecting on his life and career, I suspect we have all been guilty of under-estimating him as a politician and leader.  Yes, he was widely liked.  Yes, we all knew that he could carry a chat show as well as anyone, especially if it was "Have I Got News For You?"  But were we really fully aware of his sharp political mind and the impressive principle which made him so effective at articulating a vision for…

The One Nation PM

David Cameron announced that he would be a "One Nation" prime minister, and in both outlook and practice he would appear to be fulfilling the role he has set out for himself.

Although he has indeed appointed a more Thatcherite cabinet than his predecessors, this has largely been through the pragmatic necessity of getting the right people into the right jobs.  The Cameron style of governance in any case favours continuity - a significant and, many would argue, welcome distinction from the almost constantly moving BLair/Brown years - and this obviously saw a number of committed Thatcherites retain Cabinet office (Gove, Grayling, Javid, Hammond to name a few).  They were joined by rising stars such as Priti Patel (attending, rather than a full-on member of cabinet) and Andrea Leadsom, while Thatcherite old-stager John Whittingdale got his place in the sun, not least because he happens to be the best-qualified person to hold his role.  The cabinet selection, in fact, was a triu…