Writings

On (not) being over the hill…..

“I no longer want what I used to want,” Marina Benjamin declares somewhere towards the end of her lucid and sophisticated exploration of what it means for a woman to turn 50 in a culture that glorifies youth and encourages us at every turn to “disguise … deny … disown” the process of ageing. Single-word chapter headings – Skin, Muscle, Guts, Spine – speak to her promise to bring “the body back into the frame at every turn”,

Read More

Into the Lion’s Den

 
It is not often a committed advocate of comprehensive education is invited to address one of the country’s leading independent schools. But after a robust exchange at a conference between myself and the head of Westminster school, Patrick Derham, I was asked to speak to his students. Derham is one of a handful of independent school heads who grasps that something needs to change, though not quite in the way I am about to suggest to his students.

Read More

A very English mess

Nice try, Nicky. Despite official efforts to bury the bad news of the  government’s major volte face on forced academisation under rolling election coverage, Morgan’s climbdown late last week has been widely publicised and celebrated by what had turned into a formidable array of opponents stretching right across the political spectrum.
In the end, Morgan dared not defy a handful of powerful Tory backbenchers or shire leaders – according to one, the government had simply ‘gone bonkers’ –

Read More

How to think about forgiveness in daily life

 

Marina Cantacuzino is telling me a story about two women, both of whom discovered that their partners were having affairs. For the first one – let’s call her Woman A – the infidelity, says Cantacuzino, “was seen as the act of ultimate betrayal, which not only ended her marriage but for the past 30 years has been the defining, obsessional, story of her life.”
As a result, her children, whom she had roped into the bitter,

Read More

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH PRIVATE EDUCATION?

Speech given at Westminster Abbey,  March 7 2016, to Westminster School.

 
Standing here in Westminster Abbey this morning, speaking to you, the pupils of Westminster School, it is only too easy to grasp the true meaning of educational privilege.
The beauty of these buildings, the dizzying proximity to power and real influence – just across the road!
An education at Westminster school will surely offer each of you myriad opportunities,  access to influential networks and significant career advantage  –  

Read More

Our Kids reveals American class inequality – which has all-too-evident parallels here

Robert D Putnam is that rare creature, a political scientist who has risen above specialism and skilful use of statistics to become the “poet laureate of civil society”. Since the publication in 2000 of Bowling Alone, which charted the weakening of social ties in modern America, he has been courted by civic and religious leaders, including Barack Obama. His latest book, Our Kids, has already inspired passionate essays by Francis Fukuyama, Ed Miliband and Tristram Hunt,

Read More

Hold the front page! Tory peer offers ‘ringing endorsement’ of Tory school policies.

Some of you may have been a little puzzled by headlines yesterday, including in the Guardian, proclaiming ‘Soaring state schools threaten private sector.’ It is not often that a Guardian lead story risks sounding like a Tory press release or a Toby Young blog but, as I argue in a post on today’s Local Schools Network, this is certainly one report that begs rather more questions than it answers:
Who or what was the source of this lead story?

Read More

Under the hammer and sickle: David Aaronovitch’s Party Animals

Anyone brought up in a left-wing family gets used to a particular joshing, voyeuristic line of questioning (“I expect you spent your whole childhood on political marches”, “Did you call each other comrade?”). This is not just an everyday nosiness about an unconventional upbringing; at its worst, it can feel like a discomfiting, albeit disguised form of spite. The question is, in other words: what’s it like to have been raised in a family that had the idiocy or courage (take your pick) to believe it might be able to change the world?

Read More

The slow revolution that makes learning fun

It’s hard to feel like a covert revolutionary when hovering around a reception class on a chilly Thursday morning. But within minutes of arriving at St Silas’ Church of England Primary School in Blackburn, it is clear that I have stepped into a bold educational experiment that daringly flies in the face of much current accepted thinking. All around, four- and five-year-olds are playing energetically with water, building things or writing stories. So far, so normal,

Read More

Vivian Gornick: one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of

Vivian Gornick is one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of. A biographer, journalist and memoirist, she is among the supreme essayists of the past 50 years, a writer who bridges the worlds of Joan Didion and Meghan Daum, Susan Sontag and Leslie Jamison, without ever having achieved the cultural glamour or worldly success of any of these figures.
In a recent interview in the Paris Review, Gornick, now aged 80, was candid about her marginal status for a large part of her writing life and how often she longed to be part of “the uptown parties,

Read More