It’s a school, Jim, but not as we know it

We’ve learned over the past few months that schools are about much more than learning. The social interactions that they provide and the relationships that they nurture are essential to our children’s social development and to their mental health and wellbeing. And yes, they teach stuff, too. They also allow many parents to go to work. Or to get work done from home.

Consequently, it’s hugely important that we try to find a way to re-open our schools in September to all young people. Especially given that we seem to have found ways to open pubs. But only if – and, to be honest, it’s a massive if – we can do so safely.

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The key to unlocking the lockdown

I think it’s fair to say that we’re all getting a bit fed up with the lockdown. But like most people, I can see why we’re doing it and am happy to play my part in keeping people safe. If some of the newspapers are to be believed, though, things will be back to normal within days. I don’t think for one moment that this is the case. But it does raise the valid question of how, when the time is right, we’ll go about unlocking the lockdown. Continue reading

Every day’s a Tuesday

The COVID-19 outbreak and the current lockdown appear to be taking their toll on my ability to measure time. Natalie put it best the other day, when she announced that, essentially, ‘every day’s a Tuesday’. The hours, days and weeks roll together into one long period of foggy uncertainty. Thankfully, though, I’m slowly finding ways to manage my temporal confusion and to keep things on track. Continue reading

The morning after

I woke up this morning in a country that, while technically the same one in which I went to bed last night, already feels very different. Elections tend to bring change. And I’d long suspected that a majority Conservative government was a distinct possibility. But now that we have one it has hit me hard. And like many others, I’m struggling to know what to do about it. And how to feel towards those who brought us here. Continue reading

A house, a home

We’ve lived in our house for over a decade now. It’s nothing special as far as houses go. A three-bedroom, semi-detached, ex-Council house on the edge of a medium-sized market town in Somerset. But it’s a nice, well-built house, with friendly neighbours and a reasonably large garden for where it is. And it’s on a nice street in a nice part of town. But it’s not just our house. It’s our home. Continue reading

Changing the rules

It’s becoming increasingly clear that our existing economic order is no longer working. It promotes the needs of capital above those of people. It relies on an outdated notion of unlimited and unfettered growth. And it fails singularly to address the deep-seated social and environmental challenges that we face as a society. Thankfully, there are creative and enthusiastic people working tirelessly to create a more democratic and sustainable economy. And a new project from the New Economics Foundation helps us to find them. Continue reading

Why it’s good to be mortal

Whenever Natalie reads something in a magazine that she thinks I’ll find interesting, she leaves it out somewhere obvious for me to find. And so I stumbled this morning upon a review in the Guardian of Swedish philosopher Martin Hagglund’s book ‘Why mortality makes us free‘. It’s “a sweepingly ambitious synthesis of philosophy, spirituality and politics”, apparently (the book, not the review), which argues that it is not believing in the glorious afterlife promised by many religions that makes our lives on Earth so full of meaning. To be honest, though, this benefit of what Hagglund calls “secular faith” is far from news to me. Or to my fellow humanists around the world. Continue reading

An unexpected day of rest

Having been away for a couple of days during the week, I started the day today with a long list of things I wanted to get done. A bit of work, some projects in the garden, a good long walk or two with the dogs, perhaps lunch out somewhere, catching up with some reading, and a training session or two with Ozzy*. But I think we all know, of course, that was never really going to happen. Continue reading

I want my country back

It’s just over six weeks until the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. Whether our Government will manage to agree a deal on our departure, though, or whether we’ll just ‘crash out’ without a deal (or, indeed, whether we’ll decide to not leave at all, or to not leave quite yet, or to have a second referendum, or perhaps to have another general election) remains to be seen. It’s all a bit of a mess. And it’s making me quite cross. But what angers me most is not the act of leaving, but rather the mess that this whole sorry affair has made of our country. Continue reading

In Newman’s footsteps

One of the many inevitabilities of higher education policy discussion is that, sooner or later, someone will raise the question of what universities are actually for. So inevitable is this phenomenon, in fact, that I’ve seen it mooted that it be named Newman’s Law, after John Henry Newman, who famously asked this question back in 1852. But in trying to give a definitive answer, I think we’re missing a trick. Because there is no single answer. Rather, there are many. And they are all equally valid. Continue reading