Literature: not at university? The Odds Are Against You | The universities
Sonia Sodha’s article brilliantly highlights the unfair advantage enjoyed by young people who can go to college over their counterparts who do not – i.e. a transition to adulthood and government-subsidized, society-supported independent living (“Is it fair that we spend so much to help middle-class children grow into adults?”, Commentary).
There are other structural inequalities that further disadvantage young people entering the world of work (and for whom university may not be an option). The National Living Wage only applies to people over 23, but dental, prescriptions, eye exams and bus travel (in Brighton, anyway) cost 18-22 year olds a full-time job at exactly the same price as for adults 23 and over. finished. Meanwhile, those in full-time college can apply for free low-income prescriptions and free dental care up to age 19; receive income from a student loan that is exempt from their personal tax allowance; and can take advantage of cheaper student travel and discounts on countless goods and services (including eye tests and eyeglasses). There is a lot the government could do to make things better for young people – it seems it just chooses not to. In the meantime, retirees (the largest voting group) continue to enjoy free bus travel, regardless of income.
Sonia Sodha’s race-to-the-bottom logic is ubiquitous. Instead of abolishing tuition fees, investing in schools or ending the rent crisis, should we just defund universities even more? Already, the sector is financed by crippling loans rather than by the government. Universities cannot create their own grading scales, they have external examiners to ensure parity; where it fails is because of corruption induced pricing and funding structures.
If there are more middle-class students than working-class students, we need to fill the gaps in education and opportunity that do so, not further stratify society by sending students of the working class in training. University education inherently has nothing to do with vocational training, and the sooner it is divorced from the idea that society must somehow get its money’s worth, the better.
If, as Sodha claims, “new research suggests that going to college is associated with a decrease in racist and authoritarian attitudes,” that’s all the more reason to encourage more people to go to college. level, whatever work they end up doing. .
Pil and Galia Kollectiv
Surprise, surprise, crèche recruitment crisis (“Staff shortage forces crèches to close – and it will get worse”, News). A friend with a social science degree, NVQ levels 3 and 5 and over 30 years of experience recently quit her nursery job to stack the shelves at Aldi. Better working conditions, less stress and £1 more an hour in his pay. Says it all.
Starmer’s Missed Opportunity
Keir Starmer accurately, if incompletely, describes the political bankruptcy of this Conservative government (“The sound you can hear are the dying moans of a government overwhelmed”, Commentary). It is disappointing, however, that the only reference he makes to the appalling Brexit mistake, imposed on a misled population by the same crew that is currently mismanaging the country, is to identify potential VAT cuts as a “real advantage of Brexit”. This is, of course, one more that Jacob Rees-Mogg has identified, but, failing to address the folly of the government’s version of Brexit and its destructive impact on our politics, our economy, our security and our reputation, Starmer fails to lead and does not initiate dialogue with a view to repairing the damage caused by it.
The fog of war
It is remarkable that there are still those who want to defend the accuracy of Denis Avey’s account of his life as a British prisoner of war in Auschwitz (“Hero or hoax? New story of doubts about the man who broke into Auschwitz“, News).
Avey’s memoir is perhaps unique in that it is a false account based on two other textual deceptions (Charles Coward’s The password is courage and Driver by Donald Watt). There is no doubt that Avey wanted recognition very late in his life and, rather than just writing about what was a horrific experience, built himself up as a savior of Jews. That he does is perhaps understandably so unfortunate, but the lack of care taken to verify the ridiculous elements of his story does no credit to the editors and others who helped him write the book and then promoted and Avey. It is to be hoped that the forensic research of Alon Shapira and others will now lead to a major health warning if Avey’s memoirs remain on sale.
Professor Tony Kushner
Parkes Institute for the Study of Jew/Gentile Relations
University of Southampton
Bertie is not Boris
William Keegan wittily uses a scene from PG Wodehouse Much obliged, Jeeves to make a positive comment on the French presidential election, but incidentally calls Bertie Wooster a Boris Johnson-like figure (“France rejected the far right. So Brexit Britain”, Business). It’s a grave insult to Wooster, whose scratches often stem from his attempt to do a favor for a friend, with hilarious results that Jeeves has to save him from. Johnson’s scrapes stem from his own dishonesty and incompetence, from which there are no Jeeves to save the country.
The Problem of Left Capital
To say that “Labour was too relaxed about rampant finance capitalism and too heedless of the downsides of globalisation”, as Andrew Rawnsley has argued, is the understatement of the decade (“Lessons Keir Starmer can learn from the famous New Labour’s landslide victory”, Comment). The “radical advances” he rightly celebrates have been largely undone, as the French economist Thomas Piketty has shown, by a massive transfer and concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%, and a concomitant fall in the standard of living of the vast majority, creating an unprecedented challenge for potential regulators of capital.
The impoverishment that led millions to vote Brexit in their desperation is now being intensified by Covid and the war, which Labor describes as a cost of living crisis. This is certainly a symptom of a crisis at the heart of which arises a fundamental question for the left: is political regulation a viable solution to capital’s reluctance to coexist with humanity and the planet?
Decline and fall
When quickly reading the Observer, I was first struck by the magnanimous title attached to the article by Tim Adams (“Anyone with a heart is bound to feel sadness at the fall of Boris Becker”, Commentary). Then I realized that, unfortunately, Boris’ downfall was all about someone else. I respectfully suggest that the Observer is considering how his title could be recycled in the near future.