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Delicious LiveJournal Links for 12-8-2010

  • "A less-than-accurate narrative is saleable as long as those to whom it is sold don’t discover that it is little more than fiction. Controlling the narrative becomes even more important when few Americans are familiar with the facts. "
  • Our main conclusion is that Africa is reducing poverty, and doing it much faster than many thought. * The growth from the period 1995-2006, far from benefiting only the elites, has been sufficiently widely spread that both total African inequality and African within-country inequality actually declined over this period. * The speed at which Africa has reduced poverty since 1995 puts it on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty relative to 1990 by 2015 on time or, at worst, a couple of years late. * If the Democratic Republic of Congo converges to the African trend once it is stabilised, the MDG will be achieved by 2012, three years before the target date.
  • "only one black Briton of Caribbean descent was accepted for undergraduate study at Oxford last year... One Oxford college, Merton, has admitted no black students in five years ... at Newnham, an all-women's [Cambridge] college, ... black applicants had a 13% success rate compared with 67% for white students"
  • "There is an emotional core utterly missing from The Five Doctors, only evident in tiny moments here and there, while the larger ones are wasted. I still enjoy it as a story, I always will – it’s a grand adventure and one of those Doctor Who stories that is burned on to my ten-year-old psyche – but for a show that was working so hard to define the mythology of Doctor Who, it missed the mark when it comes to defining and redefining the role of women in the show. By acknowledging the cliches about girl companions and not doing enough to counteract them or even comment on them (we needed more pineapple cocktail moments to balance out the tea-making!) it only serves to cement those cliches as being essential to the show’s history, rather than one of the least interesting aspects of it."
    (tags: doctorwho)
  • Guide to the Eleventh Doctor - so far
    (tags: doctorwho)
  • I'm not sure that I really agree with Drezner. Many academic international relations specialists are far behind the reality of what is happening anyway. I hope Wikileaks may shake up the better ones and humble the worse ones. Sure, primary materials written now and made available in thirty years' time may become more guarded, but I am not convinced that they are being well used by scholars even now.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2010 07:42 am (UTC)
That Guardian article is an appalling misuse of statistics - and the unnecessary FoI request when admissions statistics are available on the respective university webpages (in Cambridge's case, using reports that I and colleagues wrote and maintain).

See http://www.virtualeconomics.co.uk/2010/12/telling-lies-about-oxbridge.html for a better rebuttal than I can manage now.
Dec. 8th, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
I'm not so impressed with that rebuttal, which strikes many of the complacent grace notes that defences of institutional bias generally do. I'm not so bothered about how hard David Lammy had to try to get hold of the figures, but it would be quite disingenuous for Oxbridge to lay the whole fault at the door of the state school system, as if they were hermetically sealed off from the world of secondary education and had no responsibility to widening access other than that of sitting on their bottoms and waiting to see what applications rolled in. (It also means that things need never change, given that private schools will always have better facilities, lower student-teacher ratios, etc. This is just a recipe for a self-perpetuating elite, which is not at all the same thing as a meritocracy.)

All that's quite apart from any concscious or unconscious bias in selection once applications do arrive - which does exist, though seldom voiced as explicitly as in the anecdote I've linked to.
Dec. 9th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
sitting on their bottoms and waiting to see what applications rolled in

The University & Colleges of Cambridge spend substantial sums of money (around £3 million) each year on outreach and Widening Participation events, such as the student union-run Target Schools campaign which trains existing students to go out and talk to schools with low application rates. Over the last few years the application system has been turned from a paper-based separate application form with a £15 administration fee, to an electronic supplementary questionnaire with no additional cost to the applicant, triggered by receipt of the UCAS application. (and those are just the two things I have direct personal experience of - there are many more including College links with schools, summer schools aimed at ethnic minority students etc etc)

I don't think the university is complacent and I don't think the admissions tutors would have asked for the improvements to the application system if they thought all was well. I think the university has to continually look at its admissions processes and keep removing the sources of bias, whether conscious or unconscious. The followup on virtualeconomics raises some interesting additional questions we could ask of the data if we break it down differently.

You provided an anecdote, so I will in return. I was the first person from my school to apply to Cambridge in the memory of any of my teachers. (They were a bit more familiar with Oxford because one or two people might apply there each year.) The only other person from that school who has got into Cambridge since is one of my brothers, and when I last checked for recent applications I found none. My experience of doing Target Schools is that teachers would limit the people I talked with to a very few carefully chosen people that they thought might give it some consideration.

So yes, I do lay quite a lot of blame (but certainly not all) with schools and teachers that actively discourage people even aspiring to Cambridge. I think the uncritical publication of Lammy's spin by the Guardian has just made it harder for the university to convince those teachers to stop blocking their students aspirations.
Dec. 8th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
I appreciate your irritation with Lammy's dramatisation of his heroic struggle to get at the truth, and consequent minimisation of your and your colleagues' efforts to make the information available to anyone who cares, but I don't think that detracts from the main story, which is that Oxbridge clearly fails to include British minorities adequately - and I'm afraid the rebuttal you link to comprehensively fails to address that other than to say that it's all other people's fault, and it's not Oxbridge's responsibility in any way to address the fact that it is effectively the educational gatekeeper to the levers of power and influence in England.

Lammy has an axe to grind, sure, but his rebuttal to the rebuttal is much more convincing - and McCauley's follow-up post i) admits that Lammy is right ("Admission to Oxbridge of BME British students is lower than admission of white British students. Admission of Black Caribbean British students is especially low.") and ii) does the classic thing of responding to accusations that weren't made (nowhere does Lammy accuse anyone or anything of being "systematically racist") while iii) continuing to question Lammy's extremist assertion that university admissions policies may possibly have an impact on who gets into those universities.

The statistics are genuinely shocking, I think, and I'm not surprised that people are reacting defensively. But the issue won't go away just because it makes us uncomfortable.
Dec. 8th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
nowhere does Lammy accuse anyone or anything of being "systematically racist"

Well, not in those exact words, but it's the obvious innendo from the article, and indeed the first couple of comments on the guardian article decry it as racism, and have been heavily rated up by readers.
Dec. 8th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
Is McCauley following up to Lammy, or to the Guardian readers' comments?
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Both of them are writing for the audience; McCauley is responding to the likelihood that the article will result in an increased perception of Oxbridge as racist, and any subsequent political fallout from that.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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