Education and the Coronavirus:
A Farewell to Schooling?
19th May 2020
The latest turn in an increasingly dull coverage of the Coronavirus panic is a proposed reopening of the schools. The Government wants them open as soon as possible for at least some of their students. The teaching unions are bleating that no one should go back until their members can be sure of not catching anything. The headmasters are worried about compliance with the social distancing rules. As a conservative of sorts, I think I am supposed to side with the Government and the pro-Conservative journalists – denouncing the teachers as a pack of idlers where not cowards, and insisting that those factories of essential skills must be set back in full production before the summer holidays. Of course, my settled view as a libertarian is that the teaching unions deserve all the support I have never so far given them. The schools must remain closed until no one is in any danger of so much as an attack of hay fever. The schools have been largely closed since the end of March. The longer they stay largely closed, the better. Best of all if they never reopen – or never reopen as they have been since attendance was made compulsory at the end of the nineteenth century. Continue reading
Education and the Coronavirus:
Trying to Look on the Bright Side
3rd April 2020
Whether the Coronavirus is the Spanish Flu come again I cannot say, and will not try. We shall have some grounds for knowing by Easter, and may have confirmation next year, when the annual mortality figures are published. Something I can say, however, is that the response to the Virus will have large and continuing effects. Many things will return to normal after the lockdown. Much else will not. As ever with those things that change, there will be a new set of winners and losers. And, where education is concerned, I can hope that I shall stand in the queue of the winners – not, I suppose, anywhere near the front, but somewhere in it, modestly and gratefully picking up such additional crumbs as may fall to me in the market where I earn much of my regular income. Continue reading
I usually read your emailed newsletters because, for the most part, I find your observations thought-provoking.
I’m writing to tell you that you continue to fail to convince me of the benefits of studying classics, particularly the learning of Latin – my own experience of which (I concede) is entirely vicarious. Both my two sons were fortunate in winning music scholarships to Eton College, where Latin still looms large on the timetable. Both sons dropped the subject at the earliest opportunity, which they considered nowhere near early enough. Similarly, time spent enduring Latin lessons as choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral was time ill-used – the boys were hard-pressed enough as it was, what with singing in the cathedral for three hours a day, six days a week – and with three instrumental skills to practise. Now in their mid-twenties, neither of them know any more Latin than I do (i.e. semper fidelis, per adua per astra, quid pro quo, illegitimi non carborundum, i.e., e.g. and etcetera). Continue reading
On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment
By Neil Lock
In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.
Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
Homer, Vergil and the Culture War
22nd February 2020
The Classics Faculty at the University of Oxford is considering whether to remove from its undergraduate courses the compulsory study in their original languages of Homer and Vergil. The reasons given are that students from independent schools, where some classical teaching is kept up, tend at the moment to do better in examinations than students from state schools, and that men do better than women. I regard this as the most important news of the week. I do so partly because I make some of my living from these languages, and so have a financial interest in their survival. I do so mainly because I see the proposal as a further enemy advance in the Culture War through which we have been living for at least the past two generations. Continue reading
Anti-Leftism: A Century of Failure
7th July 2018
I am currently preparing another book of essays by my late friend Chris R. Tame. He was an accomplished bibliographer, and I have been slowed down in publishing his book by the need to type in hundreds of references scribbled over the hard copy. This has reminded me of the immense body of literature produced on our side between about 1930 and 1990. University professors, university journals, policy institutes lavishly funded by big business, economists, historians, philosophers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, journalists – no criticism in this period that could be made of the managerial state was left unmade. In writing his essays, Chris ran over whole libraries of books and articles. I read many of them when I was younger, and was convinced. Continue reading