Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some Queer Reasoning by a Prominent British Homosexual

The words of old campaigner Peter Tatchell:

"I am both perplexed and angered by the storm of controversy over the sweet Christmas pop song, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. The furore is not about the use of the word "faggot" in the lyrics, but the fact that BBC Radio 1 decided to bleep out the f-word. Critics decried it as censorship and an attack on free speech.

A BBC online poll asked the public whether the word "faggot" should be deleted. Over 95% said no. They believe that singing the word faggot is acceptable. Faced with this deluge of criticism, Radio 1 caved in and rescinded its bleep-out. This looks like capitulation to mass pressure, rather than a rational, consistent policy decision....

I don't favour heavy-handed bans. I draw the line at words that incite violence and murder, not at language that is merely prejudiced.


So why is he bothered about the song? How can it both contain "words that incite violence and murder" and also be a "sweet Christmas pop song"? He accuses others of double standards but he appears to have double thinking!

More background here

British universities cut back on research

THE PhD - seen as a foundation for an academic career - is becoming redundant for many lecturers as they are increasingly sidelined into teaching-only roles.

The claim is made in a research paper presented to the Society for Research into Higher Education annual conference this week, which links the increased selectivity of the research assessment exercise with a rise in the number of teaching-only contracts. It warns that the RAE has put pressure on academics to publish the "right sort of papers in the right sort of journals" or to risk being "consigned to the waste-land of the research-inactive".

The paper by Stephen Court, senior research officer at the University and College Union, warns: "There is a danger that entrants into the profession will be over-qualified if staff with PhDs end up in a post that does not require research." He explains: "Academics may have started their careers conventionally, investing three or more years in a PhD, and if they find themselves in a teaching-only role that would be quite damaging."

The paper highlights rapid growth in the number of teaching-only posts, up from 12,000 to 40,000 in a decade. They now account for a quarter of all academic staff positions. The biggest teaching-only employers are found across the sector, including the research-intensive University College London, the University of East Anglia and post-92 institutions with less research activity.

Mr Court adds: "It is a part of the academic culture of the past 50 or 100 years that teaching goes hand in hand with research, and to be removed from that position must be very painful."

The paper says the proportion of academics classified as doing teaching and research that were counted as research-active for the purposes of the RAE fell from about 66 per cent in 1995-96 to 58 per cent in 2001-02, and appears to be in further decline as 2008 RAE entries were finalised last month. It says: "Often, if universities do not feel that an academic's research is up to RAE standard, those considered not research-active will be put on a teaching-only contract."

Lisa Lucas, senior lecturer in education at Bristol University, said the days when a masters was enough preparation for a career in academia were "long gone". She said: "Just because someone is not submitted to the RAE and is therefore deemed research-inactive doesn't mean they are not doing research that has a bearing on their teaching."

Arwen Raddon, a lecturer at Leicester University's Centre for Labour Market Studies, said the PhD was now a prerequisite for many academic posts regardless of the role. She argued that the view of teaching as the poor relation of research was a modern one. "The PhD was traditionally seen as an entry qualification that gave you a permit to teach," she said.

"It is only more recently that the emphasis in the academic role has shifted towards research and away from teaching. Retired academics I spoke to were actually discouraged from doing research in their early days and urged to focus on teaching because they were told this was what higher education was really about."

Dr Raddon said that some postgraduates, far from seeing teaching as a backwater, were put off by the pressure to publish early in their career. "One told me they were considering going into further education, where they would be able to teach but without the pressures of the RAE," she said. "Similarly, among early-career academics, having the emphasis taken away from teaching is not a positive experience, as this is one area they enjoy and where they feel they can 'make a difference'. "So if those in teaching-only posts feel they are overqualified, perhaps this is more a reflection of the way in which teaching now seems to be less valued in the higher education environment where the pressure to publish is everything."

William Locke, assistant director of the Open University's Centre for Higher Education Research and Information, also saw value in teachers having research training - with benefits for students and their careers. He said: "High levels of scholarship are required to teach in higher education, and a PhD is one means of training for this. "Young academics may also move on to posts that require research expertise later in their careers. Or the policy of selectivity or higher education institutions' strategies for the next RAE may change, requiring research alongside teaching responsibilities."

Ron Barnett, professor of higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, said he could understand the frustration of those in teaching-only posts who saw themselves as potential researchers but questioned how many fell into that category.

He said a teaching-only role did not preclude scholarship, which he argued was still possible even when contracts fail to encourage it. "Many worthwhile publications are not dependent on primary empirical research: it just needs good libraries and thinking time," he said. "If teaching-only contracts allow time in the library then they allow implicitly for thinking and writing. "So an individual could develop a writing profile even though their contract did not include an obligation of that kind. "Einstein wrote several of his papers while working in a patent office, and wasn't Trollope a Post Office clerk?"



Fresh environmental plans have been submitted for an opencast coal mine originally approved in 1956. Outline permission for the scheme at Auchencorth near West Linton in the Borders was granted more than 50 years ago but is now officially dormant. However, Scottish Coal now hopes to extract some 450,000 tonnes of coal from the Peeblesshire site.


Illegal immigrant was working at front desk of Britain's Home Office

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith faced huge embarrassment last night after it emerged that an illegal immigrant had been caught working on the front desk at the Home Office. The Nigerian man was picked up as immigration officers examined the status of more than 11,000 foreigners mistakenly cleared to work across Britain. Aides said the Home Secretary was furious over the discovery of an illegal worker within her own department. The security guard had been in the department for about 18 months, checking the passes of visitors to the Home Office. The man, supplied to the department by a sub-contractor, faces deportation after being arrested on Friday night.

The Border and Immigration Agency had been examining the records of 11,100 non-European Union nationals given permission to work by the Security Industry Authority (SIA). It uncovered problems with a sub-contractor and the trail led it to the Home Office, its own department headquarters. One security guard was detained and the immigration status of all others supplied by the sub-contractor to Ms Smith's department are being checked.

The Home Secretary added in a written statement to MPs last night: "The Permanent Secretary has taken immediate steps to tighten the procedures for checking the immigration status of those working in the Home Office, whether as a civil servant, employed by a contractor, or in any other capacity."

The latest episode echoes the discovery last year of five illegal immigrants working as cleaners in immigration offices just days after John Reid became the Home Secretary.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said Ms Smith had been at pains last week to blame employers for the "SIA shambles". He said: "If she is going to try and avoid responsibility in such away she should at least check her own house is in order. "Who will the Home Office now prosecute and fine? Itself?" He added: "It is clear this Government is part of the problem, not the solution." Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "The Home Office seems to mess up with depressing regularity, but this latest breach of security goes literally to the heart of government."

The blunder over security guards emerged in the summer after an illegal immigrant was found guarding the yard where the Prime Minister's car was taken for repairs. It was also disclosed that Ms Smith had accepted Home Office press office advice in August not to tell the public about immigration control mistakes. When the problem became public, initial estimates put the figure of numbers affected at 5,000. But last week Ms Smith indicated the figure could be as high as 11,100. She disclosed that the SIA handed permits to 6,650 illegal workers, plus a further 4,450 people who officials believe may not have the right to work.


A Brigadier and a soldier: "The British Forces commander in Afghanistan played a personal role in the recapture of Musa Qala, the Taleban-controlled town in the north of Helmand province. Brigadier Andrew Mackay, who commands 6,000 troops of 52 Brigade, walked for nearly a mile across no man's land to reach the town as the battle raged. He then took up position on Roshan Hill, which overlooks Musa Qala. The Taleban were driven from the town by a combination of American, British and Afghan troops, using a plan devised by Brigadier Mackay and his staff, called Operation Ma, which means "snake" in Pashtun. The 50-year-old brigadier, who would normally have been expected to stay well clear of the frontline action, flew by helicopter to the area around Musa Qala and walked the last stage. He spent ten days supervising the attack on Musa Qala from his headquarters, "just a hole in the ground", on Roshan Hill, about 700 yards from the fighting."

No comments: