Standard Response

With UK education ministers braving the controversy that has surrounded their decision to relax the testing regime at 7 and 11, they can take some comfort from the US, where movement in the opposite direction is producing fairly catastrophic results.Following the introduction of Bush's No Child Left Behind Law, states face penalties if their test results don't meet the standard. The result? States are just lowering the standard.Read more.

Posted by Paul Joseph on 22 May 2003
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The seedier side of intellectual property

Last night I went to hear a fascinating talk by Dr. Vandana Shiva called 'Imagining a Cultural Commons'. Dr. Shiva is an Indian physicist, ecologist, bioactivist and author who has founded an organisation called Navdanya to protect biodiversity and farmers' rights against the threat posed by the patenting of crop genes.She believes that patent law and intellectual property are the products of a new form of Western colonialism designed to deny the developing world access to common...

Posted by on 20 May 2003
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Our Final Century?

Following his excellent contribution to the Demos seminar for Black Sky Thinking Sir Martin Rees has been doing a lot of interviews publicising his book Our Final Century. This one on Edge.org is one of the more in depth that I've seen. His position can be summed up in the quote, "I am concerned about the threats and opportunities posed by 21st century science, and how to react to them. There are some intractable risks stemming from science, which we have to accept as the downside fo...

Posted by Paul Miller on 20 May 2003
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Sixty Million Tories?

Last week saw the publication of the Conservative Party's "Green Paper" on the future of the voluntary and community sectors. Given the party's lack of manpower (especially of the female and ethnic minority kind), they've hit upon the brilliant idea of recruiting every single person in Britain (or those with passports anyway) to deliver their policies for them, hence the title, Sixty Million Citizens (although interestingly the buzz word of the moment 'co-production&...

Posted by on 19 May 2003
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Cyberpunk makes fun of the Brits

Thanks to Jack Dalton for pointing us in the direction of William Gibson's site. Gibson, the grand-daddy of cyberpunk literature and author of the Neuromancer series, also publishes a blog and an entry for May 14th currently includes the harsh but fair point that 'Any culture that can produce a woman actually called "Baroness Strange" has got to be said to seriously have it going on'.Gibson clearly finds it funny that an institution as venerable as the House of Lords sho...

Posted by Paul Joseph on 16 May 2003
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fastrack to nowhere

One of the most startling insights to be discussed by the group of relatives of the imprisoned drivers, who all maintain their innocence, and the spokesmen for the Road Haulage Association and Trucknet UK - an internet group that provides networked support and information for international road hauliers - was the inability for drivers to inspect their load due to health and safety and insurance requirements, while having to accept full or partial responsiblity under European law when they rea...

Posted by on 15 May 2003
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A Taxing Question

As President Bush tries to give billions of dollars back to some very rich people through his tax cut plan, Prof Robert Shiller, writing in the New York Times, calls for a radically new approach to tax policy:"Tax law should be based on a principle that might be called inequality insurance: the taxes would be collected in such a way as to insure that the level of inequality, after taxes and transfers, does not exceed the levels present when the law was enacted. If such indexing were put ...

Posted by Paul Joseph on 15 May 2003
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Teachers need teaching too

Isn't it funny that teachers spend all day, every day in a learning establishment, but get very little time to learn themselves? This article (registration required - but easy!) argues that "we cannot expect teachers to create a vigorous community of learners among students if they have no parallel community to nourish themselves". The authors describe learning schemes that enable teachers to learn more about pedagogy as well as their subject areas.

Posted by Gillian Thomas on 14 May 2003
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Questions on the colonial past

The UK government is currently investigating claims that British colonial officials were responsible for a series of atrocities during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s. Click here to read full article.I think this raises a variety of questions not only in regards to the way that former colonial powers deal with their past, but also about historical injustice and whether it can be redressed.

Posted by Julia Huber on 14 May 2003
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Self-Organising Fireflies

Fireflies do funny things when you get a load of them together. If you've ever seen the spectacular scenes along tropical riverbanks, where thousands upon thousands of fireflies in the trees all light up and go off simultaneously, you might have wondered why. The answer according to mathematician Steven Strogatz is that fireflies are self-organizing. As he says in this interview on Edge.org, "They manage to get in step every night of the year and flash in perfect time for hours upon ...

Posted by Paul Miller on 13 May 2003
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