The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed


1:02 pm - December 6th 2011

by Paul Cotterill    


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The initial releases from the Reading the Riots analysis suggests that what I was hearing from my own conversations with people was reflective of the wider picture:

The idea that more than half of those responsible for riots should blame a failure of moral conscience might seem contradictory – but it accords with hundreds of interviews in which rioters expressed regret, concern or disappointment at what they saw going on around them. More interestingly, they revealed how the rioting crowd would – at times – exercise some degree of moral restraint.

Whatever the bleakness of the picture portrayed by the research, this is something to hang on to.

So, more contentiously, is the finding that those who do belong to gangs made agreements to suspend hostilities while the riots continued.

For what the research appears to reveal (and I haven’t seen the full report yet) is that those involved are not the feral, mindlessly consumerist thugs the government and the Right are so keen to portray.

Instead, they are often people with the capacity to think things through and make quite sophisticated, negotiated judgments about who the (current) enemy is. While I’m not currently at liberty to provide my own quotations or even paraphrase conversations, what I can say is that even I – liberal old woolly head that I am – was impressed by the way in which people – when given the chance I was able to give them – were able not just to articulate their feelings, motivations and judgements, but also to set them in the wider economic and political context.

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

I’m not naive enough to think that this will happen any time soon, and I know if I were to start wandering the streets where the riots took place trying to sell my class-based wares, I’d soon enough be laughed out of town, or worse.

The scale and depth of the social and economic dislocation experienced by a very large number of people in this country is likely to require massive state intervention if it to be resolved. After all, as I have previously set out, many of the problems faced by people in their 21st Century ghettos are a direct result of massive and malign state intervention in the mid-20th Century.

Only a similar scale of targeted investment in education, jobs and housing – alongside a ‘peace and reconciliation’ process which recognises the riots for the semi-declaration of war that they actually were – stands a chance.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


“Instead, they are often people with the capacity to think things through and make quite sophisticated, negotiated judgments about who the (current) enemy is.”

Nope, that’s really what it was – it was more like they knew enough not to bother fighting each other when there were enough Curry’s stores to go around. It’s a simple cost/benefit analysis.

2. James Harvard

As Neil O’Brien points out in his Torygraph blog, your ‘surprisingly politically sophisticated’ rioters were a self-selecting group. They can hardly be portrayed as representative.

Don’t know whether I’m allowed to post links, but anyone who’s even vaguely interested in getting to the truth on this matter should listen to the other side too: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/neilobrien1/100121632/how-the-guardian-destroyed-the-lefts-excuses-for-the-riots/

Whatever the bleakness of the picture portrayed by the research, this is something to hang on to.

Clutching at straws, Paul. Not a good idea if you want to stay connected to reality.

The idea that more than half of those responsible for riots should blame a failure of moral conscience might seem contradictory – but it accords with hundreds of interviews in which rioters expressed regret, concern or disappointment at what they saw going on around them. More interestingly, they revealed how the rioting crowd would – at times – exercise some degree of moral restraint.

That’s no real surprise. In the first case individual human beings tend to be more ‘moral’ than they do collectively so will look back on threir actions that day with some regret; in the latter case, its no surprise that they showed some restraint even due to the riot because – and this might surprise some readers – most people are better than you think they are. Most, in fact, did not riot.

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

You are supposing you already know the reasons for the riots, which are actually more likely rooted in the irrational dynamics of collective behaviour than in 19th century theories of class warfare.

Only a similar scale of targeted investment in education, jobs and housing – alongside a ‘peace and reconciliation’ process which recognises the riots for the semi-declaration of war that they actually were – stands a chance.

Jesus.

5. James Harvard

Although my initial reaction to the final paragraph was pretty much that of ‘shatterface’ (comment #4), I think it merits being expanding upon a little.

If you insist on a ‘war’ analogy then please consider that not all wars are either morally or practically appropriate for “a ‘peace and reconciliation’ process”. Nor was this a “semi-declaration of war”. It is more of an insurgency with daily, mostly unreported, skirmishes between mainstream society and a very screwed up (for reasons we should debate elsewhere) slice of society who bitterly resent anyone (most obviously, the Police) who dares to place any constraints on their behaviour. Also, like an insurgency, when authority looks weak, a bunch of other malcontents come out of the woodwork to have a pop too. Iain Duncan Smith is right; we have to address the root causes that are creating these troubled individuals, but that doesn’t mean we can shirk the necessary business of confronting and defeating those already undertaking acts of aggression against society.

I’m sure we were all shocked that the riots did happen, but if you were surprised that they *could* happen then frankly you can’t have been paying any sort of attention to the part of society the Left claims to care the most about.

Here’s another (older, written just after the riots) article to challenge your prejudices 🙂 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/08/simon-marcus-listen-to-the-children.html

6. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Perhaps the writer could explain under what conditions he feels these disaffected folks will become willing consumers of his ‘class based wares’. Ive always interpreted incediarism as a political expression but not one that is necessarily sensitive to the wandering minstrels of the left. Maybe you could fill in the details?

This analysis doesn’t really chime with the first research published on the Tottenham riots: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2011/Title,77249,en.html

Bad policing and long-standing grievances played a significant role.

“As Neil O’Brien points out in his Torygraph blog, your ‘surprisingly politically sophisticated’ rioters were a self-selecting group. They can hardly be portrayed as representative”.

I take nothing that O’Brien says seriously. How would he know that those being interviewed were a “self-selecting” group?

For what the research appears to reveal (and I haven’t seen the full report yet) is that those involved are not the feral, mindlessly consumerist thugs the government and the Right are so keen to portray.

Instead, they are often people with the capacity to think things through and make quite sophisticated, negotiated judgments about who the (current) enemy is.

lol

11. James Harvard

@buddyhell “I take nothing that O’Brien says seriously. How would he know that those being interviewed were a “self-selecting” group?”

Erm, because the Guardian says so. Did you actually read O’Brien’s article?

Local contacts were used to to find people who were willing to be interviewed. In other words, they interviewed those who put themselves forward to be interviewed.

How would he know that those being interviewed were a “self-selecting” group?

Presumably because the Guardian asked people to take part in the survey.

A lot of what the rioters say will be self-regarding twaddle.
In Croydon where I’m from, the worst damage was done to London Road which is full of Asian owned businesses. There was no empathy, and maybe even jealousy and resentment to that commercial activity and enterprise.
One anonymous guy on Newsnight last night said he was on holiday when his mates contacted him to tell him what was going on, and he flew home straight away to take part.

Why there are disaffected young people living marginalised lives and coming into regular contact with the police – which they deeply resent – is complex and and has many causes. And you can argue what came first, lack of opportunity or lack of willingness to use and take advantage of opportunity …. but it’s not going to be totally one or the other.
I certainly didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities I was given at school properly, and a huge percentage of school kids don’t either. That young people are leaving school with poor qualifications can’t be blamed all on the school and the teachers.
And many don’t want to take ”entry level” jobs, because they don’t understand what deferred gratification is.

This is what we expect the police to deal with.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ2sKhs2Hgk

And this is the story of one of the young men who did that series of short films for Channel 4.
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/dispatches/i4i+aj+nakasila+biography/1394447.html

mindlessly consumerist thugs the government and the Right are so keen to portray.

Hey why consumerist ? Consumers pay for things, they are sometimes called customers .These were thieves who wanted other people`s stuff and vaguely legitimised it by virtue of numbers

Socialists you might say

15. Leon Wolfson

@13 – Nope, pure capitalists. Just like the thieving bankers.

”@13 – Nope, pure capitalists. Just like the thieving bankers.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Nothing I guess.

Anyway, a gauntlet (of sorts) has been thrown down and I wonder if people on LC are able to rise to the challenge of disabusing it.

”The Guardian’s study of the August riots is pure advocacy research, designed to harness the power of riotous menace to chattering-class causes”.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/11869/

It’s pretty damning of the whole Guardian effort. And rightly so IMO.

”The riots did indeed reveal a great deal about modern Britain, particularly about the dearth of social solidarity amongst younger generations of poorer communities and the collapse of police and state authority in inner cities and elsewhere in England; yet neither of these things can seriously be discussed so long as all political factions remain more interested in plonking the rioters on their knees and getting them to mouth What We Want To Hear.”

@7. ukliberty: Link to http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2011/12/who-cares-what-rioters-say.html

Chris Dillow’s article reminded me of a past career in market research. The methodology used by my employers was based on ideal point analysis; in practice, that means asking people indirect questions about ideals from which respondent practice or inclination is determined (in comparison with directly asking a respondent “do you like brand X?”). There are other forms of indirect questioning such as conjoint analysis.

Direct questions invite dishonest answers. Even the most willing survey respondent is unlikely to reveal their soul to an interviewer and people don’t carry around organised sets of preferences in their minds. Theory is that the answers to indirect questions can be statistically organised to provide a guesstimate of belief and intent.

And whilst I have reservations about indirect questioning studies, I have greater ones for those that use direct questions. Directly ask a 15 year old boy whether he is a virgin; then ask yourself about the quality of the response. Try again, and ask him how many of his classmates are virgins. Neither answer is entirely useful, but the second one is probably better.

OP says: “Instead, they are often people with the capacity to think things through…” Thank you for that, but I think that you should have spotted it a few months ago when robbers covered their faces to avoid identification. Does not that not demonstrate foresight or the capacity to think things through? Have you not considered whether their participation in an interview demonstrates “capacity to think things through”, or perhaps an ability to to reconcile/justify past events?

Shitty pseudo analysis as far as I am concerned. Given the opportunity to discover the motivations and expectations of robbers/gawpers at a public disturbance (the rioters were statistically insignificant in the reports that I have read), it’s just all wasted.

That Spiked article is rather good. In particular, this:

What we have here is a pretty naked attempt to add a touch of physical force and menace to Guardian-style arguments about cuts and inequality and the monarchy and MPs, an attempt to harness the violence of the rioting to the various causes of the liberal commentariat. Feeling, perhaps, that their measured, middle-class demands for nicer policing, fewer cuts to the public sector and more banker wrist-slapping lack urgency and oomph, the Guardian and others are now effectively arguing that the failure to address such issues causes actual violence; that the alienated youth of Britain not only share this general outlook, but are willing to use violence to pursue it. It is moral blackmail in place of proper conviction and proof.

@Paul Cotterill, OP: “The scale and depth of the social and economic dislocation experienced by a very large number of people in this country is likely to require massive state intervention if it to be resolved.”

I think this is very important, pointing to the families and businesses that lost their homes/premises in disturbances. The failure of government organisations to support them in rebuilding their homes and businesses is a major political fuck up. If businesses legally deserve state/local council compensation, then the money should be delivered immediately. If a council gives it to the undeserving, do what you can and own up to fuck ups.

@18. vimothy: “That Spiked article is rather good.”

Spiked quote: “…that the alienated youth of Britain not only share this general outlook, but are willing to use violence to pursue it. It is moral blackmail in place of proper conviction and proof.”

When is violence against fellow citizens justifiable?

@2 – I almost hate myself for completely agreeing with a Telegraph article. Especially:

“In Britain’s cities there are large numbers of badly socialised young people (mostly men) who have an adversarial relationship with the police. They have few qualifications, but a strong sense of entitlement. They are adrift from community and work.”

That’s not to say that we can’t fix it through state intervention (i.e. a more left-wing approach); but I find it difficult to accept that the riots were about hating the police for any other reason than the fact the rioters had been caught breaking the law before.

@20

When is violence against fellow citizens justifiable?

Self defence, in both narrow and wider meaning.

Paul Cotterill: “For what the research appears to reveal (and I haven’t seen the full report yet) is that those involved are not the feral, mindlessly consumerist thugs the government and the Right are so keen to portray.”
Surely you could equally say the EDL’s football hooligans are politically sophisticated because they don’t usually fight each other when on anti-Muslim marches, and individual members probably do sometimes talk at least semi-coherently about the issues when questioned. But does that really make them “politically sophisticated”?

Yes, there were of course political, social and economic motivations for a lot of the rioters (the proportion coming from low income areas is hardly a surprise), but that doesn’t require either conscious political theorising before the event (as you seem to be implying) or mean that a riot constitutes a “semi-declaration of war” (which is a phrase which could probably be applied to any riot at all, regardless of the motives).

@22. Cylux: “Self defence, in both narrow and wider meaning.”

Fair enough, but you removed my own quote, which quoted Spiked in context:

Spiked quote: “…that the alienated youth of Britain not only share this general outlook, but are willing to use violence to pursue it. It is moral blackmail in place of proper conviction and proof.”

25. Teddy Groves

I think the article was bad, but there are two things which should be borne in mind:

1. Police officers routinely break the law blatantly and harmfully, in front of other officers, and this almost never results in them being prosecuted.

2. One can be totally justified in hating the police for no other reason than having been caught breaking the law. Most people break the law all the whole time. Look at section 1.5 here for example: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64. I don’t think there has been a PMQs where David Cameron hasn’t been guilty of an offense under this law. Moralising about ‘criminality’ given the crazy and selectively enforced nature of the law is really misleading in my opinion.

@24 Well it is a comment piece from Spiked, which if the Guardian had just published a liberal piece about how the sky was blue, would feature one or two comment pieces claiming that the sky was in fact ochre.

Bearing in mind the general thrust of the Guardian piece is that if you back a dog into a corner it’s gonna bite.

Well Cylux @26, maybe the problem is ropey old liberal pieces in the Guardian are sometimes in need of being taken to task. This looks like one of them.

Your second point about ‘backing a dog into a corner’ is so wooley it’s meaningless.
There’s not much you can really do about ”the ghetto” that is easy and straight foreward.
Maybe we should go for affirmative action like in the US?
Prefering school leavers from Tottenham over job hunters from Poland, to work in West End hotels and such entry level jobs might be a start. Positive discrimination for British young people who are in danger of becoming (or are) NEETs.
What else? Put up the minimum wage?

28. So Much For Subtlety

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

Of course. Most sane people would think the sensible thing would be to work with the poor people who had their homes and businesses destroyed. But no, have to work with the lumpenproletariat. By all means, let us know how that works out for you all.

I’m not naive enough to think that this will happen any time soon, and I know if I were to start wandering the streets where the riots took place trying to sell my class-based wares, I’d soon enough be laughed out of town, or worse.

Even the underclass does not give a sh!t? That’s got to hurt.

Although quite why some young Blacks driven by hated for White people with property, together with a number of White underclass hangers on, targeting Asian businesses is exactly open to Marxist class analysis escapes me.

What utter politically correct flatus!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8765030/Riots-the-statistics.html

The above is the real analysis.

Britain has a hardcore group of repeat offenders who revolve between light sentences in nice day centres (‘prison’) who are responsible for about 1/3 of all crime. These were the rioters (many of whom were not caught as the police stood down initially).

The left wing then use the above to say ‘prison does not work’, whereas the right wing say prison is no way near austere enough and the sentences are far too short.

The above report supercedes all of the previous reports where they interview a few people and use their utterances to generate a non-scientific report and ditto for the reports about rioter ‘poverty’ (we have no true poverty here).

I would also love to see the insurance data showing how these poor, desperate, law abiding types were so the aforementioned that they had to target trainer shops and electrical goods shops.

Only just seen that this shortened version of my original post (http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2011/12/05/far-from-feral-the-hope-reading-the-riots-offers-the-left/) has been cross-posted here.

Anyway, as quick as I can:

@1: ‘Cost/benefit analysis’.

Yes, I tend to agree, though I called it ‘rational choice’ in my first piece back in August http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2011/08/08/rational-choice-rioting/

I just think the list of perceived costs and benefits is longer/harder to spot than you appear to (at least from your facetious reply).

@2 & @5: O’Brien’s piece is not actually a bad response and sees the value in the research. However, he hasn’t seen the methodology (not his fault) and is mistaken in his assumptions about self-selecting bias. Interviews did not necessarily come via ‘community groups’. This is an academic study open to peer review and of course the people at LSE who designed the methods will have done so with the risks of self-selection bias in mind, though of course no qualitative social research will ever ticks all the objectivity buttons that quantitative research claims to (but doesn’t).

@3: Amusing. I didn’t say any solutions were easy.

@4: “Jesus”.

So I set out what might be a long -term solution (see @3 above). You say “Jesus”.

@6:Actually people already go out on the streets with their political offerings. It’s called canvassing for elections. I fill this point out in my original piece, acknowledging that this approach doesn’t and won’t work in the near future with people are too distrustful to listen.

@7: Chris Dillow is merely raising the usual questions about the objectivity of such social research. As set out above, it’s not as though those who developed the research methodology are unaware of these. They spend their life on this kind of stuff.

@8: Don’t understand.

@9: As above, at least O’Brien acknowledges that there’s value in the research, but he makes a key invalid assumption about the method.

@10: Right. Thought you were less troll than that.

@11: See above

@12: See above

@13: So we both agree that it’s all complex. That’s good. So does the research, which also acknowledges the risks that some of what is said may be post-hoc rationalisation etc. (as did the Newsnight piece, explicitly).

@14: Don’t understand

More later. Similar theme, no doubt.

@11

“Erm, because the Guardian says so. Did you actually read O’Brien’s article”?

Erm, yes I did. Next.

@11

“Local contacts were used to to find people who were willing to be interviewed. In other words, they interviewed those who put themselves forward to be interviewed”.

How do you think a lot of surveys are conducted? By the way, Policy Exchange has been guilty of fabricating evidence in the past.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-favourite-thinktank-sued-by-muslim-group-897548.html

O’Brien is a fine one to question someone else’s research. the truth of the matter is that many people refuse to accept many of the underlying causes of the riots and would rather play the criminality card. It’s dishonest.

As for Spiked Online, they pursue their own agenda.

Ever heard of LM?
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/LM_network

I don’t think there has been a PMQs where David Cameron hasn’t been guilty of an offense under this law.

I think you might need to cite an actual instance of David Cameron using or threatening unlawful violence, so as to make Ed Miliband fear for his personal safety. Because otherwise you’re talking bollocks.

I just love the way the right wing trolls here refuse to countenance anything other than criminality. It fits in well with their limited cognitive skills.

36. So Much For Subtlety

34. buddyhell

I just love the way the right wing trolls here refuse to countenance anything other than criminality. It fits in well with their limited cognitive skills.

That is because smashing into other people’s stores and looting them is, you know, like, totally a crime. Carried out, as it happens, by criminals according to the nice people at the Guardian.

Go figure.

I just love the way that the Guardian and other assorted Leftists are trying to spin a largely Black, and also partly White, mob made up of the, to be very generous, lumpen proletariat looting shops owned by mainly Asians as some sort of wonderful progressive movement. I don’t see it myself.

Buddyhell @32 – you have to do better than that.
But having a look at your weak blog I can see why you don’t like them.
You sound like Sally.

@35

“I just love the way that the Guardian and other assorted Leftists are trying to spin a largely Black, and also partly White, mob made up of the, to be very generous, lumpen proletariat looting shops owned by mainly Asians as some sort of wonderful progressive movement. I don’t see it myself”.

Nice but of deterministic thinking here, chum. The truth of the matter is more nuanced than either you or your brethren are capable of understanding. Why? Because you’re imprisoned by your prejudices and limited cognitive abilities.

39. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 buddyhell

“I just love the way the right wing trolls here refuse to countenance anything other than criminality.”

I think there’s a fair bit of wide-eyed idealism going on from both sides, to be honest. On the right you’ve got the assumption that the rioters are obviously all thuggish morons with no redeeming features whatsoever, plus of course the old favourite “OMG you care more about the criminals than the victims!!!111 <:( ", modelled by SMFS above.

On the left you've got the idea that the rioters were generally politically motivated and are more-or-less blameless for their decision to go out on the rob, peaking with the fiction that the riots were essentially the deliberate start of a revolution, or "semi-declaration of war" as the OP dramatically puts it.

Charlieman,

Have you not considered whether their participation in an interview demonstrates “capacity to think things through”, or perhaps an ability to to reconcile/justify past events?

Quite – an element of ex post facto justification, rationalising their involvement in the “irrational dynamics of collective behaviour” (hat-tip Shatterface).

@27 Well if job seekers from Poland taking all the entry level work is your preferred source of animus, just wait till there’s 750,000 less jobs and 750,000 more qualified, experienced job seekers crawling about the jobs market for any scraps they can get.
Should make for a fun summer.

42. James Harvard

@34 (buddyhell)

You accuse others of trolling whilst in the VERY SAME POST dodging any substantive issue in favour of an ad hominem!

It is fallacious to assert that alleged problems with past Policy Exchange research (I say ‘alleged’ because it seems attempts at legal action ultimately failed – see http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/news/news.cgi?id=1603 ) mean that O’Brien has no grounds for questioning the methods and conclusions of the Guardian/LSE research. Neither does he dismiss the research out of hand as you seem to suggest – indeed he praises the Guardian & LSE for undertaking the project.

If you think being “imprisoned by your prejudices” is solely the preserve of the Right then you neatly disproved your own theory!

43. James Harvard

By the way, I would like to make the point that, as a rightwinger, I don’t blame Poles and other migrants for taking British jobs. They absolutely have been taking jobs that should have gone to Brits, but this is because our society has created a very large group of people who don’t want to work and whom nobody wants to employ. This has happened under both Labour and Conservative governments so I don’t claim ‘my side’ is blameless, but only insofar as they failed to break or even properly challenge the liberal/left hegemony in education that has existed for decades.

I’ve no doubt that some rioters were motivated by political grievances but this research was definitely weighted towards (a) finding them – because, as posters have noted, these were the ones prepared to respond to the Guardian – and (b) encouring people to lay claim to them. Few people, after all, would have been tempted to respond with, “Why did I riot? Well, ‘cos it seemed like a laugh; I wanted some free gear and, hey, my friends were doing it.” We’re biased towards romanticising our own actions, especially when we have to justify them.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 42 James

“This has happened under both Labour and Conservative governments so I don’t claim ‘my side’ is blameless, but only insofar as they failed to break or even properly challenge the liberal/left hegemony in education that has existed for decades.”

That was a slightly suprising sideways leap to education. What’s your justification for placing the blame here?

47. James Harvard

@45
My justification for blaming education, or for blaming liberal/left influence for education failures?

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 46 James

Both, actually – the former might seem a bit self-explanatory, but there are always other factors.

@42 If there’s a left/liberal bias in education that’s been there for decades, why ain’t there an overwhelming majority of liberals and lefties?

Buddyhell @ 30:

“Erm, because the Guardian says so. Did you actually read O’Brien’s article”?

Erm, yes I did. Next.”

Well maybe you should read it again, in particular the part where he explains precisely why he thinks the sample was self-selecting.

51. James Harvard

@47
OK, well I suppose I think the establishment of an underclass (are people going to have a fit if I use that term here?) of people that are unfit for employment is the result of nurture rather than nature, and education is major factor in ‘nuture’. Not controversial, I hope, and as you say, pretty self-explanatory.

Is it safe to assume that everyone agrees the educational outcomes for the ‘underclass’ are really bad? For examples the figures for basic literacy I’ve seen are shocking, although I don’t recall them off the top of my head.

I have to admit on the subject of liberal/left influence on education over the past 50 odd years I have a problem – it’s not a topic I know in depth. However, it’s a big topic and I only have a small amount of time, so I’m not able to go and do the reading and research to enable me to produce a well argued case. Hopefully you’ll all be nice and reasonable and not try to claim this proves I’m wrong! I’m merely, ahem, temporarily unable to provide comprehensive proof that I’m right.

In hindsight I shouldn’t have indulged myself with an extra sentence to point the finger at lefties. Fair play for calling me on it, and sorry for not engaging properly in response. However I stick the main thrust of the post, which is that there is a large group of our society that isn’t employable, and if migrants are drawn in to fill that gap we shouldn’t blame them for it.

52. James Harvard

@48
Heh – fair point! I suppose I’m claiming that the external influences on the most troubled stratum of our population (social services, education & culture) have been largely configured and run by people with a leftie-liberal viewpoint. Non-judgmental, rights without responsibilities, equality of outcomes – those sorts of things that I think (wrongly or rightly) the Left cleaves to. I wasn’t saying that people are actively indoctrinated with leftie views through education. (I do think it happens, but more passively!)

I think we’re kind of getting off topic …

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 50 James

Cool, I respect the fact that you wanted to check sources before pursuing the argument.

As for education, I don’t deny it’s a factor, but I think other questions need to be answered. For example:

1) Has education changed for the worse over the last few decades in terms of preparing people for work?
2) What could we realistically do to improve education in this respect, and would such a policy have undesired side effects?
3) How much of an effect does personal upbringing have – if both of your parents are long-term unemployed, are you likely to end up spending your life on benefits even if you have really good teachers?
4) Are there other trends that may have had a large effect? (For example, I suspect that the rise of celebrity culture and especially reality TV may have encouraged some teenagers to put all of their hopes into unrealistic dreams, and hence not bother with “pointless” schoolwork… although maybe that’s just me rushing to blame a pet peeve).

I’m not saying that YOU need to answer these questions, of course, just that blaming the quality of education may be less cut and dried than it appears.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 52 James

“I suppose I’m claiming that the external influences on the most troubled stratum of our population (social services, education & culture) have been largely configured and run by people with a leftie-liberal viewpoint. Non-judgmental, rights without responsibilities, equality of outcomes – those sorts of things that I think (wrongly or rightly) the Left cleaves to. ”

Well, education is judgmental, in a very formal way – you get official grades on your exams. In the shorter term, I suppose that non-judgmentalism (i.e. complimenting kids on their strengths instead of informing them of their weaknesses) could in theory lead to children not trying to improve their abilities… but in my experience, this tends to translate into finding something nice to say about Timmy where 30 years ago a teacher would have just told Timmy he was an idiot. I don’t think it means refusing to address the fact that Timmy is bad at maths, except with very poor teachers.

As for “rights without responsibilities” and “equality of outcomes”, I think those are both concepts that people on the right invented to bash leftwing beliefs. Every leftwinger I can think of, self included, believes in rights AND responsibilities, and some of form of equality of OPPORTUNITY. There may be a few people who believe in the former concepts, but I think they’re rare among lefties, educators and policy-makers.

The issue with education is that New Labour ran with the School Effectiveness and School Improvement ball as a way to justify extra spending on education. Unfortunately ,in practice what this has meant is an audit culture in our schools and colleges, teaching to the test, and grade inflation.

Cylux @ 49:

“If there’s a left/liberal bias in education that’s been there for decades, why ain’t there an overwhelming majority of liberals and lefties?”

Society is very liberal compared to previous generations.

Chaise Guevara @ 53:

“1) Has education changed for the worse over the last few decades in terms of preparing people for work?
2) What could we realistically do to improve education in this respect, and would such a policy have undesired side effects?
3) How much of an effect does personal upbringing have – if both of your parents are long-term unemployed, are you likely to end up spending your life on benefits even if you have really good teachers?
4) Are there other trends that may have had a large effect? (For example, I suspect that the rise of celebrity culture and especially reality TV may have encouraged some teenagers to put all of their hopes into unrealistic dreams, and hence not bother with “pointless” schoolwork… although maybe that’s just me rushing to blame a pet peeve).”

Just a few observations…

1. I would say Yes. I interview 50-200 people a year for jobs in the care sector. The quality of the younger ones declines every year – spelling, maths, spoken and written English, motivation, punctuality, hygiene etc all seem to be in decline.

2. Big question, but at least in schools we could emphasize self-discipline, hygiene/self-presentation, politeness, basic numeracy, spoken and written English. Nearly all policies have some undesired effects: did you mean undesirable?

3. Young people are influenced principally by their peers, with school and family next. The challenge is to cultivate the valuing of self-improvement, education and training in peer groups, schools and families. Even if your parents are long-term unemployed, they can still encourage you to do better than they did, and there are plenty of such parents who do. Your assessment sounds rather deterministic.

4. I’m not convinced that celebrity culture and reality TV are so harmful. Personally, I dislike it all. My daughter and all her friends love that sort of stuff, but nearly all have got jobs and qualifications. (Now, my pet peeve is violence on TV and film…)

58. So Much For Subtlety

39. Chaise Guevara

I think there’s a fair bit of wide-eyed idealism going on from both sides, to be honest. On the right you’ve got the assumption that the rioters are obviously all thuggish morons with no redeeming features whatsoever

Hard to believe anyone could call that sort of realism idealism.

plus of course the old favourite “OMG you care more about the criminals than the victims!!!111 <:( ", modelled by SMFS above.

Thank you. I try. Except the problem is not that he cares more about the criminals. The problem is that he does not care about the victims at all while holding the criminals up as role models.

53. Chaise Guevara

As for education, I don’t deny it’s a factor, but I think other questions need to be answered. For example:

1) Has education changed for the worse over the last few decades in terms of preparing people for work?

Well yes. Less and less has been taught, consistently, over the past few decades. Every review of the A levels I have had any, even remote, involvement with or heard a rumour about, has started by chucking a large part of the course out as too hard for modern students.

2) What could we realistically do to improve education in this respect, and would such a policy have undesired side effects?

Sack more incompetent teachers. Expel more useless students. Stream more vigorously. Examine more stringently.

3) How much of an effect does personal upbringing have – if both of your parents are long-term unemployed, are you likely to end up spending your life on benefits even if you have really good teachers?

The problem with that is that even if it is true, and I hope it is not, the only solution is discouraging the feckless from having children. Well that or more extreme measures, but let’s stick with the plausible. Do you want the British government to openly call for the stupid to have fewer children?

4) Are there other trends that may have had a large effect? (For example, I suspect that the rise of celebrity culture and especially reality TV may have encouraged some teenagers to put all of their hopes into unrealistic dreams, and hence not bother with “pointless” schoolwork… although maybe that’s just me rushing to blame a pet peeve).

That may well be true although I think that there are benefits as well as costs to paths out of poverty that are not well trod by the Middle Classes.

I’m not saying that YOU need to answer these questions, of course, just that blaming the quality of education may be less cut and dried than it appears.

I disagree. The collapsing Polish education system clearly still works. No reason why ours should not.

59. Leon Wolfson

@58 – “Every review of the A levels I have had any, even remote, involvement with or heard a rumour about”

So that’s none then. Hint: We no longer use slide rules, of course a bunch of stuff is no longer taught.

And you’d…lower educational results. The government won’t have that now.

“The collapsing Polish education system clearly still works.”

Yes, among other things, they have a higher rate of university graduates, a key figure. Oh, wait…

@50: As noted above, O’Brien in the T’graph is not an authority in the method used for the research, and is wrong in his principle assumption about the creation of a self-selection bias.

To be quite honest Chaise has allowed a false equivalence to form here – to the extent that Britain’s education can be proved to be failing, that only proves that it’s failing, not that left or liberal thought is hegemic within them.

Furthermore, let’s follow the clues!
The left is often characterised by the right as being overly intellectual to the point where their excessive exposure to academia has removed all sense of common sense, which is why they propagate such rot as “climate change”.

The right on the other hand characterises itself as being well in touch with reality due to it’s keen grasp of common sense and general more “reality” based knowledge, like knowing that climate change is just bollocks despite what the lefty pointdexeters, geeks and nerds say.

If Britain’s schools are failing due to an internal culture, perhaps the blame might lie with the section of society that likes to promote anti-intellectualism…

62. Chaise Guevara

@ 61 Cylux

“To be quite honest Chaise has allowed a false equivalence to form here”

True, well caught.

63. Chaise Guevara

@ SMFS

“Hard to believe anyone could call that sort of realism idealism.”

Suit yourself, but idealism doesn’t have to be positive.

“Thank you. I try. Except the problem is not that he cares more about the criminals. The problem is that he does not care about the victims at all while holding the criminals up as role models.”

Source please.

“Well yes. Less and less has been taught, consistently, over the past few decades. Every review of the A levels I have had any, even remote, involvement with or heard a rumour about, has started by chucking a large part of the course out as too hard for modern students.”

Remote involvement and rumors are hardly convincing evidence. Nor are hysterical tabloid stories, which is where most people seem to get the assumption that modern exams are easy (that and the desire to believe that their generation had it harder).

“Sack more incompetent teachers. Expel more useless students. Stream more vigorously. Examine more stringently.”

Agree on 1 and probably 4. 3’s good but needs investment (timetabling complications mean you probably need more teachers). What would you do with the expelled students?

“The problem with that is that even if it is true, and I hope it is not, the only solution is discouraging the feckless from having children. Well that or more extreme measures, but let’s stick with the plausible. Do you want the British government to openly call for the stupid to have fewer children?”

No. But my feelings on this have no effect on the truth value of my previous statement, do they? I’m not so irrational as to think “this can’t be true, because if it was SMFS would be able to make nasty suggestions based on it”. The discovery of evolution led some people to suggest that blacks were “less evolved” than whites, but that just reflects those people’s attitudes, not the truth or falsehood of evolution. Same thing here.

“That may well be true although I think that there are benefits as well as costs to paths out of poverty that are not well trod by the Middle Classes. ”

Agreed. My only problem is with kids being encouraged to exclusively follow a career dream that is extremely unlikely to come true, and that doesn’t generate skills that can be transfered to a fallback option.

“I disagree. The collapsing Polish education system clearly still works. No reason why ours should not.”

What on earth has that got to do with whether or not education is the key to discouraging benefit sponging?

64. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 Yibble

“I would say Yes. I interview 50-200 people a year for jobs in the care sector. The quality of the younger ones declines every year – spelling, maths, spoken and written English, motivation, punctuality, hygiene etc all seem to be in decline.”

That could reflect other things – changes in your industry or your own perspective – but it’s interesting and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

“Big question, but at least in schools we could emphasize self-discipline, hygiene/self-presentation, politeness, basic numeracy, spoken and written English.”

They already do. Maybe the issue is catching schools that fail.

“Nearly all policies have some undesired effects: did you mean undesirable?”

Yes, apologies.

“Young people are influenced principally by their peers, with school and family next. The challenge is to cultivate the valuing of self-improvement, education and training in peer groups, schools and families.”

That suggests that the key is ensuring that schools contain kids from a variety of backgrounds.

“Even if your parents are long-term unemployed, they can still encourage you to do better than they did, and there are plenty of such parents who do. Your assessment sounds rather deterministic.”

If by that you mean the idea that kids tend to end up like their parents, it’s simply realistic. You’re far more likely than not to match your parents on several metrics (religion, political views, attitude towards education and childraising, rough adult income).

“I’m not convinced that celebrity culture and reality TV are so harmful. Personally, I dislike it all. My daughter and all her friends love that sort of stuff, but nearly all have got jobs and qualifications. (Now, my pet peeve is violence on TV and film…)”

Funnily enough, I’m the opposite – don’t care about synthesised violence but do worry about celeb culture. I’m not CONVINCED though – not enough evidence.

@42

“You accuse others of trolling whilst in the VERY SAME POST dodging any substantive issue in favour of an ad hominem”!

You’re playing fast and loose with the phrase “ad hominem”

“It is fallacious to assert that alleged problems with past Policy Exchange research (I say ‘alleged’ because it seems attempts at legal action ultimately failed – see http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/news/news.cgi?id=1603 ) mean that O’Brien has no grounds for questioning the methods and conclusions of the Guardian/LSE research. Neither does he dismiss the research out of hand as you seem to suggest – indeed he praises the Guardian & LSE for undertaking the project”.

So you deny that Policy Exchange – in common with all think tanks – isn’t working to an agenda? You’re either hopelessly naive or just plain stupid. Which is it?

“If you think being “imprisoned by your prejudices” is solely the preserve of the Right then you neatly disproved your own theory”!

Nice try, son, but the Right have proven, time and time again, that it would rather look for easy answers rather than adopt a more nuanced approach. You’re probably not old enough to remember this but your fellow travellers said exactly the same thing as you in 1981 in the aftermath of the St Pauls and Toxteth riots.

Plus ça change.

@39

As I keep saying, the reality is more nuanced than many (if not all) on the Right are prepared to countenance. This comes to me as no surprise since almost everything in their mind can be boiled down to the lowest common denominator of simple ‘criminality’.

Chaise @ 63:

“Nor are hysterical tabloid stories, which is where most people seem to get the assumption that modern exams are easy (that and the desire to believe that their generation had it harder).”

Well, children are on average doing better in their exams, whereas there is no corresponding increase in their skills or knowledge. Quite the reverse, in fact. If people are getting better scores without better knowledge, then that would suggest that passing exams is in fact easier than it previously was.

68. Chaise Guevara

@ 67 XXX

Yes, if that’s all in fact true. What’s your source for these falling skills and knowledge?

@67 Or children are being trained to pass increasingly harder exams at the expense of everything else. Given the whole pseudo-market method used to improve school performance via league tables, passing exams is the only thing which is incentivised.

Chaise @ 68:

“Yes, if that’s all in fact true. What’s your source for these falling skills and knowledge?”

Comparing what I learnt at school with what older people learnt, comparing present-day exam papers with earlier ones, businessmen complaining about school leavers who lack basic skills. I also recall that some academics from Durham University did a survey a few months back, suggesting that exams are easier to pass. On the other hand, most of the people who deny that skills and knowledge are falling tend to be those with a vested interest in doing so — exam boards, government ministers, that sort of thing.

@67 Or children are being trained to pass increasingly harder exams at the expense of everything else.

Which would amount to the same thing.

BTW, I used to work for a research that looked at post-compulsory maths ed at college and university level. We definitely saw a lot of evidence of this. One example was the rise of the importance of further maths in technical degrees. Since a further maths A level is what a maths A level used to be twenty years ago, now everyone running technical programmes wants their students to have further maths as well.

This is all obvious from experience when you think about it. The govt wants to have nice figures for rising pass rates. Everyone’s bloody job depends on making it so. And lo–rising pass rates are what we get. Now, either everyone has got much smarter recently (seen any evidence of that?), or schools are giving the govt what it wants to hear.

I know, I know–shocking.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 70 XXX

“Comparing what I learnt at school with what older people learnt, comparing present-day exam papers with earlier ones, businessmen complaining about school leavers who lack basic skills. ”

Sure, but there’s all sorts of biases at work there. Mainly the possibility of people presuming that because kids these days don’t know as much about certain things as people do who were educated 10/20/30 years previously, they must know less full stop.

It’s very possible that the focus of education has changed somewhat, but the people doing the judging only notice skills that they consider noteworthy. So computer skills might be dismissed or undervalued, and analytical skills (I get the impression that schools place less value on rote-learning these days) might not be noticed.

73. Chaise Guevara

@ 71 vimothy

A problem, granted, but what’s the alternative? If you remove the incentives that make teachers inclined to work to exams, you create other problems.

@71. vimothy: “BTW, I used to work for a research that looked at post-compulsory maths ed at college and university level. We definitely saw a lot of evidence of this. One example was the rise of the importance of further maths in technical degrees.”

I have to be careful what I say on this just in case my eldest sister reads it. She worked on a study for UK universities to determine whether Pure Maths A Level papers are as rigorous as in the past. She argues that the papers are just as hard, and after looking at papers (not just questions) they are very similar. One of the old papers that my sister showed me was that the JMB Pure Maths paper that I answered in 1981.

At the same time, I have to be careful not to upset work colleagues teaching Engineering and Physics who tell me that students do not know enough maths, and that the first year courses that teach “all of the maths in every A Level syllabi” in 16 weeks are a bit of a challenge. Allegedly, current students are not equipped for it.

Assuming that A Level papers are as difficult as in the past, determine for yourself whether increasing pass rates and grades can be attributed to:
i. Better teaching
ii. Teaching to the examination system
iii. Lower marking standards

And perhaps university teachers expect too much (and that they expected a hell of a lot years ago, too).

@71

Which would amount to the same thing.

Aye, that’d be my point. It’s also worth pointing out that Exams tend to test memory ability more than knowledge, (if on a job I forget the exact form of a formula I need, I can look it up, something usually denied during an exam) so the harder you make an exam, the more time is going to have to be devoted by teachers to hammering in the bits that are expected to appear on the upcoming exam, and fuck the rest of it, cos it ain’t important.

@73. Chaise Guevara: “If you remove the incentives that make teachers inclined to work to exams, you create other problems.”

That is a lovely argument. If you change the incentives for a teacher from being “a good target achiever” to “a good teacher”, you’ll achieve more. Measure the man/woman in the role, and help them to become good teachers. Judge success by assessing teachers rather than academic league tables.

It’s widely agreed by programme providers that current students lack solid mathematical backgrounds by the time they get to university. Most degrees that rely heavily on maths run compensatory programmes aimed at filling this gap. E.g. teaching them A level maths again in the first year.

One key issue seems to be that, since there’s no time to do anything but prepare for the exams, students only acquire a procedural knowledge of the subject. When they’re asked to apply their understanding, e.g. in modelling, they aren’t able, because they haven’t learnt what any of the procedures mean or how they interrelate..

78. So Much For Subtlety

63. Chaise Guevara

Source please.

Read what he said.

Remote involvement and rumors are hardly convincing evidence. Nor are hysterical tabloid stories, which is where most people seem to get the assumption that modern exams are easy (that and the desire to believe that their generation had it harder).

I would not use remote involvement or rumours as evidence. Have you been reading the Telegraph’s undercover work? Will you accept that as evidence? How about the fact that a large number of Universities now have to have pre-entrance courses before students are capable of entering First Year? I believe that Oxford now does this for its maths students – and can we agree that if Oxford does this, it means the entire maths course is in collapse?

3?s good but needs investment (timetabling complications mean you probably need more teachers). What would you do with the expelled students?

I don’t see why streaming needs more teachers. Why do you think it does? I don’t care what expelled students do. If they are under 14 I would suggest some sort of secure holding facility. If they are older, let them get jobs.

No. But my feelings on this have no effect on the truth value of my previous statement, do they? I’m not so irrational as to think “this can’t be true, because if it was SMFS would be able to make nasty suggestions based on it”. The discovery of evolution led some people to suggest that blacks were “less evolved” than whites, but that just reflects those people’s attitudes, not the truth or falsehood of evolution. Same thing here.

I don’t think the issue is whether it is true or not. Just that it would be nice if you recognised how undesirable this recognition is.

My only problem is with kids being encouraged to exclusively follow a career dream that is extremely unlikely to come true, and that doesn’t generate skills that can be transfered to a fallback option.

As any parent will tell a child who wants to become a rock star (many of whom end up as teachers ironically – teaching becoming the last option for the dregs of Western society) or the next Wayne Rooney.

What on earth has that got to do with whether or not education is the key to discouraging benefit sponging?

Well for one thing it shows that none of the issues complained about are based on reality. Poles work hard despite greater obstacles than British children. They get real educations despite larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer and worse resources and so on. The problem is not the spending. The problem is the lack of will to make education work.

79. So Much For Subtlety

69. Cylux

Or children are being trained to pass increasingly harder exams at the expense of everything else. Given the whole pseudo-market method used to improve school performance via league tables, passing exams is the only thing which is incentivised.

And why would that be a bad thing? Most people don’t need much more from school than to be crammed with facts. It is only a small minority that need that extra to take them to post-graduate education and research. The truth is that while we fail to teach the majority what they need to know, we also fail to teach that minority the foundations they will need later on. Teaching the exam is the basis of any successful education system. Let’s get that right before we go on to teach more. It is better than the “teach to your feelings” approach we have now.

72. Chaise Guevara

Mainly the possibility of people presuming that because kids these days don’t know as much about certain things as people do who were educated 10/20/30 years previously, they must know less full stop.

Well it is true that children will know a lot more about anal intercourse and proper blow job technique than they did 30 years ago, but where it counts, they do know less. Spelling. Grammar. Basic history. Mathematics. Science.

It’s very possible that the focus of education has changed somewhat, but the people doing the judging only notice skills that they consider noteworthy. So computer skills might be dismissed or undervalued, and analytical skills (I get the impression that schools place less value on rote-learning these days) might not be noticed.

It is possible but it is not likely. The analytical skills is a great cop out. You teach children some pop Trot rubbish and delude yourself you are teaching them to be critical. Whereas in reality British education, Western education in fact, is the least tolerant work place in the country. There is more ideological diversity in the Wee Frees than in your average British sociology department. What computer skills do you think are being taught in High School? Nothing remotely useful is learned by surfing the net for porn. They lack the basic knowledge to program – and their teachers don’t even come close in my experience. They place less value on rote-learning because of fashion and because it can be tested. That way everyone will know how badly they are doing.

75. Cylux

Aye, that’d be my point. It’s also worth pointing out that Exams tend to test memory ability more than knowledge, (if on a job I forget the exact form of a formula I need, I can look it up, something usually denied during an exam)

Really? So why bother hiring real engineers anyway? Why not just hire all those unemployed sociology graduates instead? After all, if they need to know something, they can look it up.

so the harder you make an exam, the more time is going to have to be devoted by teachers to hammering in the bits that are expected to appear on the upcoming exam, and fuck the rest of it, cos it ain’t important.

I am not convinced the rest of it is important because I think it cannot be taught. Either you understand the stuff, or you don’t. Which is mainly about motivation. What can be taught is the basics that you need before you can hope to design a bridge. Which is what British students don’t get.

76. Charlieman

That is a lovely argument. If you change the incentives for a teacher from being “a good target achiever” to “a good teacher”, you’ll achieve more. Measure the man/woman in the role, and help them to become good teachers. Judge success by assessing teachers rather than academic league tables.

Define a good teacher. Explain to me how you measure being a good teacher. Ask the children? They will give marks to suck ups and people who give them good marks. They don’t know. They can’t judge. Their colleagues? They will reward ideological conformity. The Union will oppose it anyway.

At least targets can be measured. And at least in education we have targets that matter and the achieving of which is a measure of success. So we should try.

@79

Aye, that’d be my point. It’s also worth pointing out that Exams tend to test memory ability more than knowledge, (if on a job I forget the exact form of a formula I need, I can look it up, something usually denied during an exam)

Really? So why bother hiring real engineers anyway? Why not just hire all those unemployed sociology graduates instead? After all, if they need to know something, they can look it up.

Only someone who has no idea about engineering would make such a comment based on what I wrote. I suppose you go through life without any reference material whatsoever then? That would go a long way to explaining a lot of your comments on this site anyway, to be fair.

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

Absolutely.

I got it! How about next time it kicks off “The left” should stand outside JD sports and Curries holding placards with directions to Westminster?

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

83. Chaise Guevara

@ 78 SMFS

“Read what he said.”

Already have, thanks. I take it you have no source and will be dropping the accusation?

“I would not use remote involvement or rumours as evidence. Have you been reading the Telegraph’s undercover work? Will you accept that as evidence?”

I haven’t read it, so I can’t say.

“How about the fact that a large number of Universities now have to have pre-entrance courses before students are capable of entering First Year?”

This could easily be due to the wider range of A-level and degree subjects nowadays, and people taking degrees that they didn’t take the A-levels for. E.G. an English student taking philosphy at university.

I’m also under the impression that pre-entrance courses are mainly to ensure that students are grounded in the specific subjects that the uni will cover. So if the opening course assumes a working knowledge of Plato, they might have a catchup course for those who studied Descarte instead.

“I believe that Oxford now does this for its maths students – and can we agree that if Oxford does this, it means the entire maths course is in collapse?”

Possibly. This is more worrying, although it could be designed to cover for people who took maths but not further maths, or vice versa.

“I don’t see why streaming needs more teachers. Why do you think it does?”

Because a good streaming system would stream kids per subject, or at least in small groups of subjects. This creates timetabling conflicts when Fred is in the A group for maths and science, the B group for history and geography, the C group for English and the F group for art and music. Resolving this issue is likely to leave you with smaller classes (15 people in the French D group can’t make the usual class time as it clashes with their electronics C group lesson), hence more teachers.

My secondary school used a streaming system that didn’t do this, instead splitting you up based on your English, maths and science skills and keeping you there permanantly after year 7 (i.e. for four years). I assume this was due to timetabling concerns. The system was better than nothing, but plenty of kids ended up struggling or coasting because they were, for example, good at English but not history.

“I don’t care what expelled students do. If they are under 14 I would suggest some sort of secure holding facility. If they are older, let them get jobs.”

So your plan to improve education involves kicking people out of education. There’s a flaw here. Not to mention that you apparently want to make messing about in class a jailable offence.

“I don’t think the issue is whether it is true or not. Just that it would be nice if you recognised how undesirable this recognition is.”

I do. But the issue IS whether or not it’s true. Read back to your previous post: you’re trying to get me to convince myself that it isn’t true because I wouldn’t like the moral implications. Like they say in Futurama: “these concerns were dismissed as ‘depressing’.” It’s wholly irrational and hence I reject it. I also don’t accept your “solution” to the problem.

“As any parent will tell a child who wants to become a rock star (many of whom end up as teachers ironically – teaching becoming the last option for the dregs of Western society) or the next Wayne Rooney.”

Yes, yes, it’s obvious by now that you can’t help being an ignorant prick. My sympathies for you and those you know. If these kids successfully became teachers then they obviously paid attention to at least one subject in school.

“Well for one thing it shows that none of the issues complained about are based on reality. Poles work hard despite greater obstacles than British children. They get real educations despite larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer and worse resources and so on. The problem is not the spending. The problem is the lack of will to make education work.”

This still has nothing to do with whether or not education is the solution. Keep it up.

84. Chaise Guevara

@ 79 SMFS

“Well it is true that children will know a lot more about anal intercourse and proper blow job technique than they did 30 years ago, but where it counts, they do know less. ”

Oh, fuck this. I’m not spending any more time trying to winkle you out of your fantasy world where everyone except you is a waste of breath who deserves to be jailed or die, and where all your bizarre prejudices are made flesh. The gulf between you and humanity is just too large, you utterly ridiculous little man.

85. Leon Wolfson

@77 – Absolutely. Teaching to the test is a HUGE problem.

When it comes to University, they lack things like the ability to structure a report…because that’s a kind of format not found in exams. The British obsession with exams in education is nuts.

I’m quite happy to admit my bias – I’m dyslexic and get exam stress, whereas I’m fine with coursework…my degree was nearly entirely coursework and I got a solid 2-1. But I don’t believe that makes me WRONG either.

@80. Cylux: “Only someone who has no idea about engineering would make such a comment based on what I wrote.”

Standing up for Engineers: Some of the university courses are the most rigorous of all. A Portsmouth Polytechnic engineering graduate from the 1980s was a high flyer. Most universities that teach engineering and medicine acknowledge that first year engineering is more difficult than medicine.

87. So Much For Subtlety

83. Chaise Guevara

Already have, thanks. I take it you have no source and will be dropping the accusation?

No. Your lack of reading comprehension is not a flaw in my argument.

I haven’t read it, so I can’t say.

Then how about you read it – given it contains admissions from people running the test that they are making it as easy as possible. Even that the tests don’t actually measure anything any more.

This could easily be due to the wider range of A-level and degree subjects nowadays, and people taking degrees that they didn’t take the A-levels for. E.G. an English student taking philosphy at university.

It could be. But it isn’t, is it?

Possibly. This is more worrying, although it could be designed to cover for people who took maths but not further maths, or vice versa.

You think that Oxford can’t find enough people interested in maths that they have to search for people who did not take Further Maths? This is your argument?

Because a good streaming system would stream kids per subject, or at least in small groups of subjects.

I see. So when you said streaming needed more teachers you meant that one form of streaming that you like requires more teachers? Perhaps. Maybe. Depending on how it works.

So your plan to improve education involves kicking people out of education. There’s a flaw here. Not to mention that you apparently want to make messing about in class a jailable offence.

You know, it is kind of funny but in the real world, you come, you see the mess, you do a triage, and you do what you can where it will make a difference. Faced with chaotic hospitals for instance, most people will sort the patients into those that they can help and those they cannot. That means outcomes improve even though some people may get no medical attention at all. Education is no different. There are some people who cannot be helped and are not interested. There is no point wasting resources on them.

I do. But the issue IS whether or not it’s true. Read back to your previous post: you’re trying to get me to convince myself that it isn’t true because I wouldn’t like the moral implications.

No I am not. As you might notice the moral implications are not exactly alien to my end of politics. Getting you to admit it is true would be the first step to you voting Tory. But that is not what I was trying to do either. I think it is possibly true but that if it is, that is a disaster for everyone. All I want is that recognition.

Yes, yes, it’s obvious by now that you can’t help being an ignorant prick. My sympathies for you and those you know. If these kids successfully became teachers then they obviously paid attention to at least one subject in school.

Really? How do you know? And yet I am right. It is amazing how many former rock stars end up as teachers once their rock careers fail.

But I take it you’re a school teacher yourself?

This still has nothing to do with whether or not education is the solution. Keep it up.

Let’s see. Polish children get a Polish education and are employable. British children get a British education and are not. I would tend to think that means that education is the solution. Unless you think the Poles have some sort of genetic or environmental advantage British children do not. Do you?

88. So Much For Subtlety

82. dave

The challenge for the Left is, of course, to work with the people who rioted, or who may riot in the future, towards a more coherent class analysis of why they find themselves in the situation in which they find themselves.

So a largely Black and partly White group of feral youths attack mainly Asian shop keepers, and you think there is a class-based analysis of this? By all means, tell us what it is.

89. So Much For Subtlety

80. Cylux

Only someone who has no idea about engineering would make such a comment based on what I wrote. I suppose you go through life without any reference material whatsoever then? That would go a long way to explaining a lot of your comments on this site anyway, to be fair.

I am not sure what I am more impressed with – your utter failure to get the point or you lack of any critical reading comprehension, given you were unable to read that as anything other than literally – unironically, unsarcastically, unimaginatively.

90. Leon Wolfson

@88 – Well yes, where do you think music teachers came from? Although I’ve also worked with a metal band at their day job (Computer game artists).

And of course the moral implications are not foreign to you. They’re just used as a weapon to hurt as many of the enemy as possible. Certainly you don’t get any of them on you, that’s so lower class.

And strangely enough, the actual difference is the Polish kids are willing to work for less, since they’re here temporarily and living in cheap shared accommodation for a few years. This won’t be true once your party has finished slashing and burning the UK economy. Don’t worry though, the BRIGHT kids will leave to places with a higher GDP(PPP) like Poland and not return.

If you had a deacent education you’d realise these things, but it was badly deficient, since it turned out people like you and Cameron.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/3HLecsIn

  2. Delroy Booth

    The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/3HLecsIn

  3. paulstpancras

    RT @libcon: The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/1K8hJQAC

  4. Wildey

    The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/3HLecsIn

  5. Indigo May Roe

    The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/UuEqSZFa via @libcon

  6. Heather Kennedy

    The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/3HLecsIn

  7. Pucci D

    RT @libcon: The Rioters were more politically sophisticated than many assumed http://t.co/G1ig0dHk #ukriots





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