Replace religious education

I was pleased to see the schools inspector Ofsted weighing in on religious education (RE) in schools. The report Making sense of religion: a report on religious education in schools and the impact of locally agreed syllabuses [release / report] is interesting – though stops short of a full broadside on the very idea of RE. Ofsted summarises:

The report argues that RE should not ignore controversy or the changes in the role and significance of religion in the modern world. Pupils should be taught that religion is complex, that its impact is ambiguous and should be given the opportunity to explore that ambiguity.

Amen to that! Continue reading “Replace religious education”

Compulsory blogging for civil servants?

I’ve had a bad case of blog block – now over – the whole month of May without posting to Bacon Butty… not least due to a hideous computer crash. It’s amazing just how much embodied time is stored in a computer! Anyway, it’s been a busy period and there is much to be said, so stand by for further posts…

But first a comment on blogging itself: what a pity Owen Barder’s excellent blog [now removed] mostly on development issues has been forced into a ‘members only’ space by a ridiculous article in the Mail on Sunday. Continue reading “Compulsory blogging for civil servants?”

Women – cycle and live!

Mia culpa on the cycling and jumping red lights thing [see silly Cyclists obey the law and die post]. An excellent analysis by Marianne Promberger completely fillets the figures and trashes conclusions drawn in the media (and reported uncritically by me…) read her analysis here. For London, the proportion of cycle casualties (fatal, serious and slight) has been stable at around 79% male to 21% female since 2002 [source]. In 2001, the split of London cycle journeys was 73% male to 27% female [source] – which suggests that men have more casualties per journey. These figures are summarised here. Continue reading “Women – cycle and live!”

Cyclists – obey the law and die…!

Women are more at risk of dying in cycle accidents, it seems, because they are more likely to obey the law and stop at traffic lights than the typical male ‘warrior of the road’ [see article in The Times: Women cyclists ‘risk death’ by obeying traffic lights].

After endless close shaves or nerve grinding moments, every cyclist eventually comes to feel risk instinctively. (One of the obvious consequences of the recent expansion of cycling in London is the large number of new cyclists who haven’t yet developed this instinct, and are apparently oblivious to hair-raising situations!). But I can believe the report about jumping lights being safer – one of the risky moments is pulling away from traffic lights when other traffic or pedestrians can make quite unpredictable moves and it is easy not to be seen. From now on, I resolve to carefully disobey traffic lights where this will reduce risk – it’s a health and safety matter, or even a matter of survival. But what do we know of the risks…? Continue reading “Cyclists – obey the law and die…!”

Atrocity exhibitionists…

There’s much to inspire disgust in the Virginia Tech massacre – obviously the hideous acts and resulting toll of dead, injured, terrified, bereaved and traumatised but also the excess of righteous hindsight about what should have been done and the gun lobby arguing for guns on campus and that armed self defence would have prevented the tragedy [see New York Times]. But there is more to be disgusted about… Continue reading “Atrocity exhibitionists…”

Atrocity exhibition

There is something stunning in the brilliance of Google Earth [download] – a streaming map of the world in the form of satellite photography with the mean to zoom from planet to street level in scale. ‘Layers’ are overlaid on the map images showing an ever expanding range of surface features: national boundaries, roads, video stores, government offices, monuments – with 3D buildings, flights through the Grand Canyon etc. Each year the images increase in resolution and the coverage of higher resolution photography increases.

But potentially interesting political uses are also emerging: take the pictured map of conflict in Darfur… Continue reading “Atrocity exhibition”

What was the question again? …Green polling examined

There is emerging conventional wisdom that people are concerned about the environment as never before, but are unwilling or unable to do much about it – for example, from last week’s Independent… Britons unwilling to change despite climate change. And that’s not unusual… but how realistic is it? Continue reading “What was the question again? …Green polling examined”

Cannabis – sorry about the apology

The Independent on Sunday reached a new peak of absurdity last weekend when it blazed over its front page: Cannabis – an apology and reversed its 1997 campaign for legalisation of the dope, apologising to its readers for leading them astray. The Indy frets that:

Record numbers of teenagers are requiring drug treatment as a result of smoking skunk, the highly potent cannabis strain that is 25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago. More than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction – and almost half of those affected were under 18.

It feels like a modern day Reefer Madness (view classic 1937 film) with ‘skunk‘ playing the role of the evil marijuana. One struggles to know where to start with dismantling this rubbish! But lets try… Continue reading “Cannabis – sorry about the apology”

Land use strategy – discuss

Good speech and blog by David Miliband last week – opening up what should be big questions for everyone involved in the environment: what do we want to do with our land?

The vast majority of land in England, perhaps up to 87% is ‘green space’ – farming, forests and urban green space… see chart [view spreadsheet more detail / download xls]. In round figures: about 70% of land has some sort of agriculture, 10% is forests or woodland, 20% is urban or suburban, of which about half is built on – houses, gardens, other properties or transport infrastructure.  Is this the right distribution, and what determines it? Continue reading “Land use strategy – discuss”

Democracy or wisdom?

Our elected chamber, the House of Commons, has just turned in an ‘indicative’ (ie. non-binding) vote in favour of a 100% elected second chamber – currently the House of Lords, which is currently formed by appointments, hereditary rights and bishops (see chart / full data). MPs were asked to vote for various combinations of elected and appointed membership – from fully appointed to fully elected. And they voted for voting (BBC report / Guardian).

To my own surprise, I have serious misgivings about this outbreak of democratic sentiment. The problem is that it will increase political monoculture and weaken the system for decision-making that is parliament. Let’s look in more detail… Continue reading “Democracy or wisdom?”