Monday, 29 February 2016

Massive success for British state schools

This is well worth a few minutes of your time if you are interested in British education. "If you compare the top 100 state schools to the top 100 private schools, the state schools outperform. Same if you compare the top 50. Or the top 200. Or any number you like." I'd query the data for very small numbers of schools (do they all do A-levels?), but once we are talking about hundreds of schools, it's hard to quibble with the numbers. (There's a rather non-intuitive graph you play with as well.)

This bit is good too: "The panicked private schools commissioned their own research from Durham University, comparing all state schools to private schools. ... newspapers wrote it up as private education adding the equivalent of two years of schooling aged 16, or a two-grade improvement on GCSEs. But the small print adds that this was…“…before deprivation, prior academic ability and school-level factors were taken into consideration. The difference was reduced to 0.64 of a GCSE grade when these factors were controlled for.”

So all of that extra cash buys your kids barely half a grade more at GCSE? Not a boast you’d see on many private school prospectuses.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A variety of fascinating links

1. Elif Batuman in the New Yorker on wearing a headscarf in Turkey. Much much more interesting than that sounds.

2. When did NATO begin to think it might be able to hold back the Red Army? "Let’s be utterly clear on this point; from the creation of NATO until the 1970s, Western military planners expected the Warsaw Pact to easily win a conventional war in Europe. Conventional warfighting plans by the major NATO powers often amounted, almost literally, to efforts to reach the English Channel just ahead of the tanks of the Red Army." More here. What struck me about this was its alignment with British strategic theory. All possible existential threats to Britain come from the Continent. Since at least the Seven Years War (and perhaps since the Hundred Years' War), Britain has known that it cannot hold ground on the Continent. Its allies might be able to, but you can't count on that. Once there is a power which is so dominant on the Continent that our allies cannot withstand it, then what? (Obviously the aim to prevent there being such a power, but from time to time - Napoleonic Wars, WWI, WWII, the Cold War - it happens.) The aim is to win the resulting siege, which requires allies or territory overseas, and then hope to turn the besieger into the besieged by a global surrounding of the Continental power and attacks on its peripheries. That was Napoleon and WWII (with the twist of the Normandy landings - but only when it was tolerably safe) and WWI (with the twist of the Continent not falling). Read this and you'd think that NATO was a British strategic instrument. It's less clear what was in it for the US.

3. A couple of things about Brexit. This, on the pro-ish side, from Simon Jenkins, and this, on the anti side, from Anatole Kaletsky. One way of looking at the debate is this: how much do you think tomorrow looks like yesterday? My guess is that a lot of people have changed their minds on that question since 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the rise of outside political movements (from Syriza to Donald Trump). If you think the past is going to be very like the future then Kaletsky is the man for you. (Oh, and here's the IEA on jobs.)

4. Congratulations on the birth of Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius! I hope Peter, Mary, Thomas and Anselm are pleased with their new little brother.

5. Successful women who are married to successful men. Sarah Vine here; Justine Thornton and Marina Wheeler in conversation here. (Their family situation is highly relevant in each case.)

6. Bill Bryson has become so British that he thinks the country is going to the dogs. No doubt he's right.

7. Hmm. This one is, well, er, quite a story.

Monday, 22 February 2016

This is not funny

Really it isn't, because it's true. It's the sad story of the world's safest Dad and most health-and-safety conscious employee.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Living up to one's stereotype

First, this story: "A Spanish civil servant who failed to turn up for work for "at least" six years has been caught after becoming eligible for a long service award." But perhaps he deserved it: "They said he did go to the office, although not for full business hours every day, and that he dedicated himself to reading philosophy." That's a lot of philosophy.

Second, the Bar Council, which seems to have two slogans, "Integrity. Excellence. Justice" and "Justice for All", has turned its attention to one of the key issues at the intersection of climate science and the pursuit of justice:
Third, Bernie Sanders supporters"a green-eyed aspiring glassblower with a black beard and blue bandana on his head, told me. ... “I am a feminist,” said Sean Mitchell, a bearded political-science major with a ski ticket hanging off his jacket, whose fraternity marched for Men Against Violence Against Women Month. (He chose the frat in part because of its progressive orientation.) ... a women’s studies major at the University of New Hampshire ... A 20-year-old sustainable-agriculture major"I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

And then they say such fantastic things: "Patriarchy is something I think about a lot", "I’ve had friends say to me, ‘As a woman of color, why would you vote for a cis white male?’”", "Being an intersectional feminist, I want equality for people of every gender, race, color, and social standing" and "I know I enjoy white privilege".

Friday, 12 February 2016

You don't see this every day

That's right - it's a French car sporting a Morris Minor Owners Club sticker (spotted by me in London yesterday). 61 is, I think, in southern Normandy, so the owner is not too far from home, but even so perhaps s/he felt the trip would be better suited to the Volvo than the Morris Minor.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A miscellany of links

Here are a few recent things you might have missed.

1. A funny article about a hedgefund's internal squabbles.

2. A slightly depressing article about social media and so on, but with this immortal Amazon review of a carbon monoxide detector: "Saved our son’s life—4/5 stars."

3. A very horrible article about what happened in the circuses in Ancient Rome.

4. Did you know that the man who wrote "Ain't Misbehavin'" was Andreamenentania Razafinkeriefo, a grand-nephew of Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar? "He was, to coin a phrase, the artist formerly known as Prince."

5. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has been saying the most interesting things about the American primaries. Here is his New Hampshire fraud prediction: "Look for Rubio to have a surprisingly strong second-place showing in New Hampshire. And look for the most common explanations for that surprise to be his momentum from Iowa."