Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chapter 6

I'm moving later on today, but thankfully this morning had just enough time to finish the last section of my penultimate chapter (the one on social choice, previously chapter 5 and now number 6). This is good, because I wanted to back it up safely, and it's now available online via WebLearn (Oxford log-in required - if anyone else happens to be interested, email me).

Latest word counts:
Intro 5,211
ch.1 8,349
ch.2 12,617
ch.3 11,394
ch.4 11,467
ch.5 10,930
ch.6 14,426
ch. 7 [to do]
Conc [to do]

Total: 74,394


Finnish cello-rock band Apocalyptica have posted a new song, 'SOS', on their MySpace, featuring vocals from Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia. New album Worlds Collide is due out in September.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Importance of Education

Last term I taught a visiting student interested in egalitarianism and education and now I'm teaching a girl at St Hugh's Summer School who's interested in politics and education. I'm increasingly finding it an interesting field as well, and think when it comes to post-doc research proposals I may well want to do something in the field of education.

In the meantime, below I copy the annotated reading suggestions I gave for next week's tutorial, should anyone be interested. I notice that, since writing it early this afternoon, Mary Warnock is back in the news.

A. Gutmann ‘What’s the Use of Going to School? The Problem of Education in Utilitarianism and Rights Theories’ in B. Williams and A. Sen (eds.) (1982) Utilitarianism and Beyond
Argues that education should be about equipping children for future freedom, rather than serving ‘utilitarian’ goals, i.e. promoting happiness or usefulness according to current standards.

M. Saito (2003) ‘Amartya Sen's Capability Approach to Education: A Critical Exploration’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 37:1 17–33
M. Walker (2005) ‘Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach and Education’ Educational Action Research 13:1 103-110
Amartya Sen argues that rather than looking simply at people’s income or achievement (which he terms ‘functionings’) we should look at capabilities – what people are free and able to achieve. He employs the ‘capabilities approach’ in looking at economic development and inequality, but these two articles seek to relate the insights to education.

M. Warnock (1998) An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Ethics ‘introduction’ p14ff and pp.58-63
Baroness Warnock was part of a House of Lords committee that looked at education policy in the UK in the 1970s. These few pages briefly set out how she thought of the problem and justify her stance that it is important to devote resources to bring about small improvements in the worst off.
If you can’t find that, I assume her thoughts are developed at longer length in M. Warnock (1978)
Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Brief Guide (though I haven’t read this and can’t say which parts are most useful)

M. Walzer (1983) Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality chapter 8
Walzer’s broader argument is that all goods should be distributed according to their own internal logic or standards – so political office should go to the persuasive or charismatic leader, not simply the person with the most money. (It’s generally an argument that not everything should be subject to monetary exchange, since the market corrupts the meaning of others goods). Chapter eight addresses implications for education, arguing that schools are for learning, so should be willing to teach anyone willing and able to learn.

A. Brown (2006) ‘Equality of Opportunity for Education: One-off or Lifelong?’ Journal of Philosophy of Education 40:1 63–84
This is about who should pay for adult education – should the state subsidize those that failed to make the most of the chance they had as children? I include it as it may relate to the drop-outs we talked about, or challenge your focus on the 2-20 age range rather than life-long learning…

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pre-Season Thoughts

Well, yesterday a senior Liverpool team were denied their first trophy (albeit a meaningless one) of the season by losing a penalty shoot-out, in which Reina failed to save any and neither Torres nor Benayoun could score from the spot... Today a young Liverpool XI drew with Colchester United at Layer Rd.

I haven't generally dignified pre-season matches with coverage, but thought I may as well express my feelings on the coming season:

I was disappointed to see Bellamy and, more particularly, Gonzalez axed from the squad instead of being given more time (At least we made a profit on the former, and I suspect there may be non-football reasons behind the latter).

Torres is obviously a good striker, but his record in Spain is only about 1 in 3 and I'm not really sure he's the main to fire us to a title challenge. An improvement on what we had before certainly, but a big risk for £20+m.

Ryan Babel is supposed to be very promising, but I haven't seen anything of him yet, and from what I hear it's not clear where he'll play - he's really a forward who likes to drift out left (like Henry in that respect), but I think he may play left wing, at least at first.

Formation-wise, from what I can tell we've mostly employed a 4-4-2 over pre-season, which surprises me. I'd have expected we might use either 4-3-3, with Babel/Kewell left-sided striker and Pennant or Kuyt on the right, or adopt Benitez' Valencia 4-2-3-1, which would line up something like:
(Back 5: Reina, Finnan, Carra, Agger, Riise/Aurelio)
2 defensive midfielders: Alonso, Sissoko, Mascherano
Right attacking midfield: Pennant, Gerrard, Benayoun, Kuyt
Central attacking midfield/link man: Gerrard, Voronin, Kuyt, Leiva
Left attacking midfield: Kewell, Babel
Lone striker: Torres, Crouch, Kuyt

Overall, some expensive new signings have certainly whetted my appetite, but so far they're untested and need time to gel. Man Utd have spent more, while Chelsea and Arsenal have relatively settled squads, so I'm not going to go crazy and suggest we'll win the league or anything. To be honest, I'd be happy if we hold onto 3rd provided we run the top two much closer and have a good run in the Champions League and one domestic cup (hopefully using youth teamers)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Back 4 Good

Sorry for the lengthy hiatus. I owes largely to the fact that I put my back out Saturday before last (playing tennis) and was reduced to hobbling around the flat - and unable to sit at the computer for lengthy periods of time. While it's still slightly painful, my mobility is now more or less back to normal (even if I'm careful bending/lifting), and I was able to resume work yesterday. Sadly I think things will be further disrupted by the need to move at the end of the month (which will, of course, be further inconvenienced by the back).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Postcodes Again

After some recent encouraging press (see here and here), now we're back to condemnation of healthcare 'lotteries'. I note they always use the inverted commas - they know postcodes aren't really allocated by lottery - but it gives random selection a bad name.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lotteries Ruled Fair

A court considering the Brighton schools case (see my previous round-ups here and here) have declared lotteries for admissions can produce "a greater degree of justice" and are "a reasonable means of exercising a tie-break function".

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Making Votes Count

This is more like it:
"Nothing is more central, however, to the strength of democracy than the way votes are counted. Citizens faced, as so many are at the ballot box, with a choice between disregarding their true preference and wasting their vote, will never feel engaged with the process of government."

Also, scroll down to the comment from WoollyMindedLiberal at 9:23am 09/07/07, where it's pointed out "They are the lucky ones! Most of us live in safe seats where our vote is totally immaterial as the results for at least the next 20 years are already known."

Regular readers will know my solution.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Last night I went to Intrusion in the Cellar for what must've been the first time in about 4 months (it was the first chance I'd had to wear the Ministry t-shirt I got on the day of the End of Term Dinner before last!) It was great fun, particularly the last hour or so although the DJ seemed to forget that it was supposed to be a goth night - playing Prodigy, NIN, Marilyn Manson, Fear Factory, KoRn, Kaiser Chiefs and then The Killers, not to mention Fluke, Dresden Dolls, Blur and William Shatner.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

From the Mouths of Babes

Teaching philosophy to 7 year olds...

Scraping the Barrel?

A few more possible job opportunities (not sure if they're worth my application)

UCL seem to have an AHRC-funded Ethics of Risk programme, and are advertising an associated post-doc and PhD studentship.

Nottingham want a temporary teaching fellow (further details) (via).

Job.ac.uk also provide 10 tips for covering letters (maybe a bit late).

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wiki-Voting Systems

While searching the internet to find a name for a voting system where voters can distribute their votes between different issues according to the intensity of their preferences - I settled on cumulative voting, though that isn't quite the same - I found Wikipedia had an entry dedicated to lottery-voting, under the name 'random ballot'.

Relatedly, it also has an entry on coin-flipping and you can flip a virtual coin here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Free Michael Shields

There may be a new, unelected, PM, but you can still petition Number 10 online. I just signed the petition on Michael Shields (read about it here).

Genetics & Justice

Today I'm going to the Colin Farrelly's Genetics & Justice conference (programme), though I'll have to sneak out after lunch to go up to St Hugh's for my teaching in their summer school.