Monthly Archives: August 2011

Education for whom?

Our higher education establishment is in a mess.

Not, I should add, for the first time.  Nor, I should imagine, the last. Nor is it all bad: indeed, quite apart from our handful of world-leading establishments, there’s evidence to suggest it’s a big success in some important ways.

Today’s news: university places filling faster than ever.  Apparently it’s not just the usual story of a few illiterate no-hopers missing out, but a surge of demand to get in ahead of the forthcoming new fee structures.  Seems this year’s 18-year-olds are missing out on that gap year, and who can blame them?

This is the inevitable outcome of a historic process of expansion that, under political pressure, went too far and too fast in pushing young people into higher education.  It’s roots can be traced back at least to the 1960s, but it’s gone a long way since then with the 1992 name inflation and the last government’s social engineering agenda.  And now the prohibitive costs likely to exclude all but a privileged[1] minority.

At the same time, there seem to be straws in the wind about the possibility of a backdoor return to something closer to sanity.  Universities are to be incentivised to take students with decent A-level grades (AAB or better), and it is thought likely they’ll compete to attract such students by offering favourable deals.  Sounds to me like an element of de facto selection on merit – something that’s explicitly banned in areas of the education system influenced by the more Maoist elements of political correctness.

Could we be heading for something closer to the Good Old Days, where grants were available to students who met basic academic standards?  If so, that sounds like potentially a rather good outcome.  Now if only they could formalise it in a way that’s clear and transparent to prospective applicants, maybe we could have something fit-for-purpose for our youth!

Now, with the announcement that the Open University is to join the high-fees bandwagon, is there anything out there for those who leave school early but are ready to study later in life?

[1] Including those privileged by social engineering criteria as well as the offspring of the very rich and indulgent.

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Someone else’s rubbish!

Our kerbside recycling has since last autumn largely replaced trips to the recycling centre.  In some ways it’s an improvement: certainly getting rid of bottles/etc weekly without hassle, and having somewhere to dump the junkmail without first having to bring it upstairs is icing on the cake.  And the food waste recycling is altogether new here!

But not all is well.  The way they collect it leaves a residue of uncollected stuff which seems to differ week by week.  And the killer is that the residue ends up not with whoever dumped it, but with someone more-or-less random.  And we’re not talking someone dumping litter here (though I daresay that happens occasionally too), but the very people who collect the rubbish.

Today I finally got around to complaining.  After last time I expected an ordeal with their web forms and I got it – in spades!  But eventually I coaxed the form into accepting my complaint, which I’ll let speak for itself:

Your collection of green-box recycling is flawed.

It seems to vary week-by-week, but the most usual pattern is that a team come ahead of the collection lorry, and sort the recycling.  At that point, waste of one kind may move from my box to a neighbour’s, and vice versa.

When the collection follows, they seemingly reject some things.  For example, carrier bags which the team doing the sorting use to collect items such as bottles, cans or paper.  Sometimes items that are harder to identify.

The outcome is that I am regularly left with residual items of other people’s rubbish in my green box.  The system has become one not of collection but of somewhat-random exchange!

The first couple of times this happened, I dealt with it.  But I’ve had enough: I’m not taking the green box back into my house until and unless it’s cleared of other people’s rubbish!

A second minor complaint: they sometimes exchange green boxes, lids, etc.  I have in the past (on separate occasions) been left with a non-matching box and lid, and with a box that was sticky to the touch!

Worse, the boxes are sometimes left right in front of the door to trip over when one just steps outside: this is an accident waiting to happen!

Half-enslaved

Starting today, I am once again a wage slave.  But this time, only half a wage slave: my regular commitment is part-time.  As usual, I’ll be working from home, using our information infrastructure to work with colleagues around the world.

I think this should be an excellent arrangement: a regular income together with the freedom to undertake other tasks – paid or otherwise.  Including the magnum opus on which I’ve been doing quite a lot of work of late (but more on that subject in due course).  I hope I’m right about part-time working well for me, though only time will tell.

Today I have done some paperwork, grabbed some software from github, and spoken to my new boss.  I expect to do a lot of interesting work with that software in the coming weeks and months.

More to come, I’m sure.  But I have yet to discuss blogging with my new masters, so for the time being at least I’ll take the side of caution over saying anything more specific.