Monday, April 01, 2024

A House of Citizens?

I don't know whether the Metro letter page is preserved for posterity or not, but there are some interesting comments on the House of Lords in today's letters. This seems to follow on from recent discussion, which includes one call to abolish the HoL entirely. This follows the recent news that at least one peer also wants to abolish the HoL.

I'm not clear whether some replacement is envisioned or whether James Bradshaw from London would prefer a unicameral parliament. However, David Jubb from Devon offers an interesting alternative in today's letters:

"I’d rather have a House of Citizens than a House of Lords, with people from all walks of life contributing, as we do with jury service.

It would bring common sense to Westminster from every part of the UK and could be based on the model of successful citizens’ assemblies."

This idea isn't new (as he perhaps knows, given the reference to citizens' assemblies). Random selection, along the lines of jury service, is generally known as sortition. It has been proposed before, as a way to replace the House of Lords (Amazon affiliate link) or, indeed, even to replace elected representatives (Amazon affiliate link).

Friday, September 08, 2023

Education and rote learning

Apparently this maths problem is doing the rounds. It didn't seem that challenging to me, though I can't comment on how difficult it would be for 10-year-olds.

I post it here mainly for the note at the end, reminding us that "education is not just about rote learning but also about critical thinking and problem-solving." I'm not entirely sure about the phrasing of this claim, since it seems to imply that education is partly about rote learning. Maybe that's truer at lower levels though.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Is social justice left-wing?

I just saw a piece in the Daily Express about the AHRC's plans to fund a Centre for Law and Social Justice. The angle is very much that this is a waste of taxpayer money. They quote an unnamed academic, who says it is shameful "to be using public money to create a research centre with an explicitly left-wing equality, diversity and inclusion agenda."

Of course, the AHRC has been criticised for its political agenda before (see here and here), when it included the 'Big Society' among potential funding topics. In this case, the suggestion is that they are going against the government agenda. As the Daily Express refers to the AHRC doing this "Despite the Conservative Government's concerted war on woke..."

One thing that's not clear to me, though, is why they assume social justice to be a left-wing agenda. The Centre for Social Justice describes itself as independent, but was co-founded by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. It's described by Wikipedia as 'centre-right' and, according to ConservativeHome, it was influential on Cameron's Conservative government.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

JME blog

I've just had a post, about strike ballots, published on the Journal of Medical Ethics blog. You can find it here

Readers may recall that I've written about similar themes before. The latest piece is indeed similar, but applied to a new issue (strikes by healthcare workers, rather than UCU).

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Toronto Mayoral Election

I saw via the BBC that there are over 100 candidates, including a dog, running for Toronto mayor. Despite looking at a couple of sites that claimed to cover everything one might need to know, I struggled to find the voting system involved. The site just linked mentions that a candidate could win with just 20% of the vote. In fact, it seems that the election uses first past the post - at least, according to Wikipedia, though no citation is given. This means that, in theory, one candidate could win with just 1% of the vote.

FPTP seems pretty undesirable when there are this many candidates. However, while some form of instant run-off could overcome some problems, it would also be burdensome on voters to rank all of the candidates.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Abortion is illegal in the UK

Much of the news coverage around abortion concerns the battle over Roe v Wade in the US. It is relatively low profile in the UK. However, a woman has just been sentenced to 28 months in jail for taking pills, when between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant.

I don't know anything about this case, other than the news report linked above, but Labour MP Stella Creasy is quoted as saying "contrary to what some claim, abortion is not legal in England - and you can be prosecuted for having one".

It concludes with another quotation, from Mandu Reid (leader of the Women's Equality Party), saying "The laws that convicted her [the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act] are archaic and date back to the Victorian era, before women had the vote". 

This seems a slightly odd statement. It's true that the law pre-dates women's suffrage, but of course no one currently alive had the vote back then. Further, women have now had the vote for the last hundred years, so it's not as if there hasn't been opportunity for change.

Generally speaking though, older laws command more respect than newer ones, because they've stood the test of time. Later generations could repeal them if they wanted to, but haven't seen the need to do so. This suggests that they're happy with the laws as they are. (I think Hobbes says something along these lines, but can't be bothered to look it up right now.) 

Monday, May 15, 2023

An ideal learning community(?)

"The fundamental academic freedom is the freedom to study according to one’s convictions and interests. Those who are called ‘teachers’ are essentially experienced and continuing students who have special responsibilities to those less experienced of their fellows who are called ‘students’; study is both a private and a public activity, involving discussion in speech and writing with one’s fellows to achieve a better development of one’s understanding and in some circumstances an assessment of that understanding for the sake of public recognition."

- Peter Campbell, 'Affluence, Academic Authority, and University Government' Political Studies (1975), at p. 147.

One of my colleagues has been known to say something along these lines at open days. I'm not sure how it goes down with prospective students, being told that they'll pay over £9,000 per year to learn from those who are still learning themselves, though it is of course true - we are all studying continually.