Academies and free schools have been granted considerable freedom in the approach they take to pedagogy. Some have imported methods from the US, borrowing in particular from a network of charter schools called the Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP). At these schools the motto is ‘Work hard. Be nice.’ Highly qualified but often inexperienced young teachers deliver carefully structured content to students, pushing them to ‘climb the mountain to college’. They are notoriously strict: articles about KIPP quote parents calling it the ‘Kids in Prison Programme’.
When the book begins, a notable astronomer of the Lowell family could still look up at Mars and be convinced he saw canals, and a Martian race, thirsty, searching for water, desperate for our help. The women of the Harvard College Observatory were less romantic, and less wrong.
Neither side is backing down. As I write, the police are raiding Catalan government offices, confiscating voting cards and arresting separatist politicians. Anyone called up to oversee voting centres will be wondering whether it is illegal to do so, or illegal not to.
In the quest to capture the middle ground that wins elections in a first-past-the-post system, the party of the left inevitably finds itself in an unacknowledged relationship of co-dependence with the party of the right. So much the better, surely, if that enemy on the right is not messianically capitalist?
The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 39 No. 19 (5 October 2017)
Table of contents from London Review of Books Vol. 39 No. 19 (5 October 2017)