breaking news from the world of ideas

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
Reaction
11:49

What will masks in schools actually achieve?

The lack of logic behind the Government's new Covid guidance is infuriating

This week the Government announced that secondary school pupils will once again be ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in ‘communal areas’ such as corridors. The Department of Education has said that the guidance is temporary and will be reviewed in three weeks (when most schools break up for the Christmas holidays).

The lack of logic behind this policy is infuriating. Why enforce masks in communal areas but not classrooms, where students spend the majority of their time and transmission is most likely? Why make masks mandatory for secondary pupils but not primary ones? Between the 10th and 20th of November, almost the exact same percentage of primary school students tested positive for Covid as secondary school ones (3.7 to 3.5), and we already know that primary school staff are just as likely to catch Covid as secondary school staff.  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 23
November 2021
Dark Web
10:00

Male teachers labelled ‘paedos’ on TikTok

The online platform has been a breeding ground for male abuse by students

After eighteen months of disrupted learning, cancelled exams and Covid u-turns, teachers now face a new problem: Tiktok. Reports have been circulating for weeks of teachers being harassed on the social media app; staff have been filmed, impersonated, rated, photoshopped onto pornographic images and accused of everything from homophobia to racism. One video, filmed more than 650,000 times, claims a teacher is “trying to prove he isn’t a paedo.”

This new TikTok ‘trend’ is needlessly cruel, humiliating and distressing; it is no surprise that many teachers who have been targeted have taken sick leave or left altogether. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 15
November 2021
Debate
14:15

What Durham University doesn’t understand about sex work

The student union can't make an inherently dangerous industry 'more safe'

Durham University has come under criticism for its decision to offer students an online course on working in the sex industry. The ‘opportunity’ is designed to offer students “support which is well informed and free from prejudice” so that they can be “safe and make informed choices.” For example, Level 1 involved discussions on “the laws that govern sex work”, “the challenges students can face”, “motivations for entry for students” and the “impact of Covid” on the industry.

There has, unsurprisingly, been a backlash. MP Diane Abbott called the move “horrific”; Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan warned that the university is “legitimising a dangerous industry” and Only Fans model Kaya Corbridge said that Durham is “preying on people’s vulnerability.”  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 9
November 2021
Explainer
07:00

Universities — not the Government — should cover tuition fee losses

A new report argues that they should bear the cost

A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies has condemned the university tuition fee system by claiming that students are being ‘ripped off’ with low-quality courses. The report,  ‘The Value of University’, states that huge amounts of taxpayer money are being spent on courses that do not improve the lifetime earnings of students. For example, Creative Arts — one of the fastest growing subjects in the UK — has zero impact on earnings for the average female graduate, and a negative impact for the average male graduate. Yet it has the largest subsidy of any subject: £1.2 billion, or £37,000 per student. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 3
November 2021
Reaction
07:00

Banning ‘complex language’ from exams won’t help my students

The latest round of dumbing down exams is cynical and depressing

The exams watchdog Ofqual has just announced a new consultation on producing more accessible assessments by removing ‘complex language’ such as sarcasm, idioms, metaphors, homonyms and abstract nouns. The idea is to make questions ‘accessible, clear and plain’ for students who may be disadvantaged by ‘irrelevant features’ in exams, as well as mitigate the ‘psychological impact of difficult questions’ which may ‘demotivate learners.’

No matter the subject, level or exam board, people have always considered ‘today’s exams’ much easier than the ones they did in their youth. However, never before have examiners been so explicit, and so short-sighted, about making exams easier for students. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 20
October 2021
Campus Wars
13:00

University anti-spike boycotts put the onus on women

These campaigns might raise awareness, but they are still only symbolic

Up and down the country, university students are reporting a terrifying new phenomenon: spiking by injection. Students from Glasgow, Dundee, Leeds, Durham and Nottingham have all reported similar experiences happening to them on a night out: feeling a sharp scratch, discovering a pin prick, blacking out and even being taken to hospital. So far one man in Nottingham has been arrested for possession of drugs “with intention to injure and aggrieve” and two other men have been arrested in Bristol after a video circulated on social media of a woman being spiked.

Spiking has been on the rise over recent years; according to a Freedom of Information request there has been a 108% increase in the number of police reports that include both the words ‘drink’, ‘spiking’ or ‘lacing’ since 2015. Although there were more than 2600 reported incidents in England and Wales between 2015 and 2019, it’s difficult to tell the full scale of the problem. Many victims cannot remember what happened, or do not report it for fear they will not be believed or will somehow be blamed. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Debate
07:00

Women don’t need ‘fertility seminars’

Dystopian warnings about declining egg quality help no one

Earlier this week it was announced that Murray Edwards, an all-female college at Cambridge University, is now offering fertility seminars that warn women that they risk childlessness if they don’t start a family by their mid-thirties. 

President Dorothy Byrne claims that the classes are about ‘empowering’ women, but the reality is that this is nothing more than scare-mongering. Yes, the birth rate is falling; from 1.92 children per woman in 2011 to 1.53 in 2021, to be precise. But we are not quite at the Children of Men stage yet. We do not need vaguely dystopian, ominous warnings about declining egg quality; instead, we need to consider why parenthood is not financially, professionally or socially viable for so many people. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 4
October 2021
Campus Wars
07:00

St Andrews reverts to 16th Century Calvinism

Instead of original sin, students now have to acknowledge 'personal guilt'

You would be forgiven for thinking that universities are secular institutions. But it turns out that the University of St Andrews is reverting to something akin to 16th Century Calvinism: except that this time it is preaching the doctrine of ‘personal guilt’ rather than ‘original sin.’

The university has introduced new induction modules for students (or should I say converts?) for students on sustainability, diversity and consent, and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not pass. How do students pass? By agreeing with certain statements, such as “acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” ...  Continue reading