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THE CRISIS OF THE MERITOCRACY

THE CRISIS OF THE MERITOCRACY

The crisis of the meritocracy: Britain’s transition to mass education since the Second World War PETER MANDLER, 2020 Oxford: Oxford University Press 361pp, hardback, £25, ISBN 9780198840145 Cambridge historian Peter Mandler has a fundamentally optimistic story to tell about the growth of universal education in Britain over the last seventy years and one can sense… Continue reading…

Net Etiquette

Since I started occasionally posting pieces on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, I’ve had my first taste of real net malice. My current favourite remains ‘Melissa Benn. Pig Ignorant and Stupid With It.’ the headline of quite the most extraordinarily insulting blog,  posted by The Devil’s Kitchen, in response to an article I wrote a couple of months ago about Tory education policy.

I know experienced writers who will not enter into the world of net comment for fear of attack. I completely understand their distate and worry; it can be unsettling and even frightening to face such verbal violence.

On the other hand, why let the bullies win? Here, I think my political upbringing may have proved useful. As a child and teenager, I became used to reading nasty diatribes, either in the press, or in the steady flow of abusive and threatening letters sent directly to my father or our family as a whole. So I learned that long term, it is the abusers who reveal themselves to be weak and spineless and the person who can put their point of view calmly, firmly, with wit and thoughtfulness etc, will usually emerge the winner.

Needless to say, that Devil’s Kitchen headline has stayed with me in recent weeks; its comedy has swelled in my imagination: so much so, I’ve actually been considering getting a fridge magnate or a kid’s party style badge made up with those very words on it. It’s the ‘ ……and Stupid With It’ that really cracks me up. As if ‘Pig Ignorant’ alone is …well………just not ……quite………rude enough.

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How politics lost touch with everyday life

Early on in his elegiac study of how our literary and aesthetic past might animate our political future, Marc Stears singles out DH Lawrence’s “wonderful essay” Insouciance, written in 1928, which he believes embodies “the vision that animates this book”. In the essay, Lawrence describes a meeting with two elderly ladies who try to draw… Continue reading…

Latest news & events

A Cold War Tragedy

Melissa will be in conversation with Anne Sebba about her new book, ‘Ethel Rosenberg – A Cold War Tragedy.’ Weds 15th September 2021, 5-6pm, in the Robert Graves Tent at the Wimbledon Book Festival. More information here.   Continue reading…