These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 12, 2006.
Sunday, 12 March 2006
Charter will force BBC to back Britain
This is from the Sunday Times this morning. I had already read the BBC website and there was nothing about this! I wonder why not?
THE BBC is to be forced to promote British citizenship and a sense of community under a new royal charter to be unveiled this week.
It will redefine the purpose of the BBC, entrusting it with a far wider brief than its established mission to “inform, educate and entertain”.
The BBC’s leading dramatists reacted with dismay to the demand — to sustain citizenship and civil society — which they fear will force the corporation to do the government’s bidding........
Andrew Davies, the BBC’s most prolific and successful drama writer responsible for hits such as Pride and Prejudice, said: “It sounds Stalinist. It looks like the BBC will be doing the government’s propaganda. Part of the BBC’s function should be to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.” ......
Which would be fine if "challenging the prevailing orthodoxy" was what they were doing currently. Instead they support the "prevailing orthodoxy" of political correctness, and a news bias which at times has verged on treason, in my opinion.
Activists gave notice that they will seek to exploit the measure to force the BBC to “clean up” its programming. John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-UK, said: “This means much more than the BBC thinks.
“It’s not just things like impartial news. It is about reflecting good behaviour on the BBC and using good language. The BBC has a moral role. As a lobby group we will now use this phrase as a way to make the BBC act responsibly.”
I'm less worried about the moral tone. I don't actually like the moral tone a lot of the time but I can supervise family viewing and use the off button. I don't want to go too far down the moral majority road but I do want to lose the biased reporting. The venom in Orla Guerlin's voice whenever she speaks of Israelis. The constant pro Islam-the-religion-of-peace drone. And it's anti-semitic kid brother.
But I'm not holding my breath. The only thing I can rely on is that the BBC will continue to be funded by my licence fee for a few more years yet, and that fee is expected to rise.
Posted on 03/12/2006 4:57 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 12 March 2006
Cherie Blair in yet another fee furore
This was not on the BBC either. But it was in the Sunday Times. And even more scathingly in the Sunday Telegraph. Cherie Blair nee Booth is off on a lecture tour of the US for which she is, yet again, charging rather large sums of money. At least this time she is to appear at a club where the wealthy members have a choice whether or not they buy these (expensive) tickets. In Australia last year she took a fee greater than a charity raised from her presence, and she had to be persuaded to return some of her free gifts.
The Sunday Times seems more concerned about her desire to make money, and the extent of the Blair families debts.
Cherie Blair, who has been accused before of abusing her position to make money, is billed as the “noted British attorney, human rights advocate and the wife of prime minister Tony Blair”.
It is not the first time that Blair has embarked on a lecture tour apparently to raise money. Public records show that the Blairs have mortgage debts of almost £4m, leaving them with repayments of about £16,000 a month. They are looking for a tenant for their London townhouse, which they bought in 2004 with a 95% mortgage of £3.4m.
While the Sunday Telegraph is more concerned with the reputation of the Everglades Club in Florida which, in the past, banned Jews and Blacks from membership. Whether the institution retains that prejudice is not clear from the article, and US readers will be able to comment on whether the reputation is deserved. The Sunday Telegraph is in no doubt about Mrs Blair herself.
Mrs Blair has told friends that she "needs the money" from her lectures to fund huge outgoings, particularly the £3,467,000 mortgage on the central London townhouse bought in 2004. She has been embroiled in controversy over offending Jewish people in the past. In 2002, she appeared to express sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers within hours of an explosion in Jerusalem that killed at least 19 people.
She was forced to apologise after saying during a visit to a Palestinian medical charity in north London: "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress."
In her speech this week, described in publicity material as "An Afternoon with Cherie Booth", Mrs Blair will discuss The Goldfish Bowl, the book about life in No 10 that she co-wrote with Lord Bragg's wife, Cate Haste. The Sunday Telegraph understands that Mrs Blair is being paid £30,000, or £750 per minute, for the 40-minute speech. Her talk will be followed by 20 minutes of questions from the audience. The society is also believed to be meeting the costs of her travel and accommodation.
Would you pay £750 a minute for this woman?
Posted on 03/12/2006 5:47 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 12 March 2006
A nation of greengrocer's
Educational standards are continually rising, politicians tell us. Every year, more and more students pass A levels and GCSEs, and more of them are getting top grades. And of course more people are going to university. Soon 50% of young people will go to university, or "uni" as it is now called. Young people today must be much cleverer than we were when I was that age, when only around 10% went. Perhaps they are doing a lot of su dokus.
How churlish are those who let the facts get in the way of a good piece of spin. Curmudgeons like Bernard Lamb, reader in genetics at Imperial College, London, and chairman of the London branch of the Queen's English Society, who, writing in last week's Telegraph, had this to say:
I have taught biology and genetics at Imperial College in London for nearly 40 years, and during that time I have logged the depressing decline in the standards of British students who enrol on the degree course that I teach, even though their A-level grades continue to improve. The most fundamental problem is an inability to write English accurately: to use words and punctuation correctly so that sentences state the ideas the students are trying to express. The most shaming fact revealed by my surveys of my undergraduates' performance is that foreign students - whose first language isn't English - make fewer mistakes than native-speakers.
For example: students from the UK write "it's" when they mean "its" far more frequently than those from overseas; they confuse "affect" and "effect", and "substituted for" and "substituted by", "complementary" and "complimentary", and even "by" and "to" far more frequently than students for whom English is a second language. These mistakes may appear trivial but, as I assure my students, they are not: if you use "effect" when you mean "affect", you can end up saying the exact opposite of what you mean, as in "haemophilia effects clotting of the blood". The consequences, for the dispensing of drugs, of confusing "by" and "to" can be dire, indeed fatal.
It is not that today's British students are less intelligent than those of previous generations: they are just as able to grasp complex scientific ideas and arguments. But they have not been taught elementary rules of punctuation and grammar, so they cannot express themselves accurately. They may be able to work out the correct answer to a scientific problem, but they frequently cannot state it accurately.
Many of my students resent the fact that I correct their mistakes in the use of English, insisting that "no one has ever done that before", and that "it's not your job". Of course it is my job, because my job is to teach them to be competent scientists - and it is impossible to be a competent scientist if you cannot express your results accurately and unambiguously. Their resentment at being corrected reveals the way they have been taught, or rather not taught, at school. For despite the fact that accurate punctuation and spelling are part of the National Curriculum, many English teachers believe they should not correct their pupils' mistakes. They are encouraged by the instruction to examiners that they are not to penalise candidates for poor use of English - even when marking A-level English!
Students educated in most other countries do not suffer from the same kind of non-teaching. They are not effectively encouraged, as many of our children are, to be careless and imprecise in their use of language. They are corrected, and they learn from the corrections. The result is that they frequently out-perform native English-speakers at English - never mind science. The top student in my department last year was a Greek woman. Native English students can of course do very well but it is getting rarer for them to beat the foreign competition, as shown by the very large number of overseas prize-winners at degree day.
Could this failure to educate students in the basics have anything to do with the closure of Sussex University's Chemistry Department, which produced two Nobel prize winners? Perish the thought. Students are getting better and better. The A level pass rate has increased to 96%, with 25% getting A-grades. So what about the new report from the Royal Literary Fund, which describes the writing skills of young people starting university as a "public catastrophe" ? Its compilers were probably jealous that they didn't get so many A grades in the pre-sudokalist era:
"Many students have difficulty not just in structuring a sentence, but in structuring paragraphs or essays as a whole," the report says. "They seem to have had very little experience of writing. In consequence, their essays are often incoherent not only at the level of the sentence but also in their overall argument. Absent, in many cases, is any sense of confident fluency, of knowing how to mount an argument, how to articulate it with clarity and consistency and how to see it through to a decent conclusion."
Contributors to the report blame primary and secondary schools, that "spoon-feed" pupils and reward then for "displaying bits of knowledge". Social and cultural changes are at the heart of the problem, say the authors. Pupils have been encouraged to use the internet and to communicate electronically, leaving them unable to "find their way around a book". Yet universities still demand written assignments and the analysis of text.
However, the writers found that students who were given the right guidance improved rapidly. Undergraduates had the intellectual capacity to write well but had been let down by their schools' neglect of good writing.
The report calls for teachers to emphasise grammar, essay writing and English-language skills and recommends that all universities should have writing development centres.
Never mind writing development centres. Bring back the grammar schools, stop grade inflation and restrict university to those students with the ability to benefit from it. There will be fewer people with degrees and A grades, but at least these achievements will mean something.
Students, perhaps some teachers, and many politicians may wish to live in a fool's paradise. Employers, who must live in the real world, know the score and must act accordingly if they are to stay in business. The decision of Amazon to re-locate its European customer service centre away from the UK makes perfect business sense:
Amazon isn't a manufacturing company that is leaving Britain for the familiar reason that it can pay its work force far less in the Far East. The company is leaving Britain for one reason only: it can't find workers here with the level of education required - and that is very worrying. Despite all the reforms Tony Blair has promised, our schools perform so dismally that there is a greater chance of finding educated and skilled workers in Cork than there is in the supposed "booming heartland" of Britain's economy. Our education system has failed so badly that Amazon's relocation could well be the start of a mass exodus of the kinds of companies we depend on if we, collectively, are to earn our living.
We have been warned. Still, if all else fails, we can become a nation of greengrocer's.
Posted on 03/12/2006 6:09 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 12 March 2006
Spielberg's next balanced sequel
Posted on 03/12/2006 9:03 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 12 March 2006
David Warren finally gets it and he gets it well
Writing at TCS, Warren says:
It didn’t help that Mr Bush took for his advisers on the nature of Islam, the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong, or the profoundly learned but terminally vain Bernard Lewis. Each, in a different way, assured him that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible....
My own views on the issue have been aloof. More precisely, they have been infected with cowardice. I am so “post-modern” myself that I, too, find it almost impossible to think through the corollaries from our world’s hardest fact. And that fact is: the post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam.
Posted on 03/12/2006 6:06 PM by Andy Bostom