The Education White Paper.

by Harry on February 2, 2006

It’s starting to look as if the government is going to compromise on the Education White Paper (explained here), though it’s not clear what form the compromise will take. The debate’s been exciting, if a bit frustrating. As one friend said to me, what has come out pretty clearly is that a lot of people are remarkably satisfied with the state schools their children attend, or else it would be impossible to get so many people so excited about what is, in fact, not a very threatening white paper. That’s good. The critics are right, as I’ll explain later, to focus on admissions, not because the government is proposing any kind of retrograde step (it isn’t, as far as I can see, and I have, unlike lots of people who write about this, actually taken the trouble to read the white paper), but because the position the government has always had and continues to have is wrong and its about time that it gets changed.

But I’m surprised the government hasn’t put the case for the more controversial aspects of the white paper more forcefully, or at least gotten its friends to do so. Although I tend to side with the critics I’ve more sympathy with the government than most, and see this (as I, perhaps wrongly, didn’t see the debate about the 2001 White Paper) as a reasonable disagreement. The core of the case, as we’ll see, rests on the pervasive finding of school effectiveness research that successful schools have high quality managers. So the government is determined to improve the quality of management of schools, and this priority crowds out concerns with fairness etc when they conflict. This is neither venal nor stupid, even if you disagree with the priorities (as I think I do…)

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What’s that black Viking doing there?

by Ted on February 2, 2006

One of the wiser things that Hollywood has done in recent years is fail to hire me as a casting director. This is canny for a few reasons: I’ve never worked in TV or film in any way, I’ve never lived in Los Angeles or New York, and I’d be crap at it. Well played, Hollywood.

A number of screenwriters with blogs (John Rogers, Alex Epstein, Craig Mazin, Denis McGrath and John August) have been having a fascinating discussion of how they deal with race and ethnicity in their scripts. I’ve found this interesting for a long time because, in a world full of touchy people, it’s so much easier to get wrong than right. (When I say “wrong”, I mean that you get someone angry at you. I personally think that kvetching about ethnicity in casting is generally inappropriate, but not everyone agrees.)
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WTF alert!

by Chris Bertram on February 2, 2006

Over at the “Spectator website”: , the following text is currently being displayed in their Spectator Live! section below a reproduction of one of the cartoons.

bq. European newspapers reprint Muhammad “bomb turban” cartoon, but as European populations die and Muslim populations grow, and as more and more European students are taught Foucault and “literary critical theory”, the balance of power shifts every day….

They’ll be attacking entartete Kunst for sapping the cultural vitality of the race next.

Those cartoons: hypocrisy and inconsistency

by Chris Bertram on February 2, 2006

I’m puzzled by some of the reaction to the Jyllands-Posten affair. In free speech debates over the last few years I’ve often encountered “so-called libertarians”: who argue that speech ought to be absolutely protected from state interference but that private individuals may legitimately do what they like when it comes to sacking people whose views they disagree with or boycotting products. That isn’t the way I see things, but it is hard to see how someone running that line can object to a private company sacking an editor for reprinting the cartoons or to Muslims boycotting Danish goods in protest. Of course, not everyone takes the view that the state should keep out of speech. Norman Geras, for example, “recently linked”: (I can only assume approvingly) to a report of a court decision in France which condemned the publisher of Le Monde for “racist defamation” against the Jewish people, an article that goes on to condemn the Western media quite generally for anti-semitic representations of Israel, including in cartoons depicting Ariel Sharon and described the court decision as “a major landmark”. Yesterday Geras linked to a piece approving of France Soir’s action, his blog headine being “France Soir takes a stand”: . I take it, then, that Geras would disapprove of any similar court decision against France Soir. No doubt those wishing to distinguish the cases would claim that cartoons of Sharon eating babies are racist but those depicting Muslims as ignorant towel-heads and suicide bombers are merely engaged in the legitimate criticism of ideas: the images may looke like they come from Julius Streicher but the motive comes from Voltaire … or something like that.

So what does Chris think, you ask? Well I was mildly heartened by the recent defeat of the UK government’s proposed law on religious hatred. Only mildly though, because it is obvious that racists in the West (such as the BNP in Britain) are using “Muslim” as a code under which to attack minorities in ways that don’t fall foul of laws against the promotion of racial hatred. When the assorted pundits and TV comedians who complained about government plans to outlaw satire begin to take _that_ seriously, I’ll start to take them seriously. But I’d certainly support a law that could reliably catch the racists but spare the satirists, _The Satanic Verses_, _Jerry Springer the Opera_ &c. That is, I think I’m in pretty much the same space as Daniel in” comments to a post”: over at the excellent “Blood and Treasure”: .