Worlds apart: Education and Britain’s inequality problem

All in this together? The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, and seems likely to be a part of our lives, in some form, for some time to come. It has…

Worlds apart: Education and Britain’s inequality problem

Reading in lockdown 2.0

26 February – 25 March


Edna O’Brien, Girl

Klaus-Peter Wolf, Ostfriesenzorn

Lucy Foley, The Hunting Party

Daniel Kehlmann, Tyll

Ella Danz, Osterfeuer


Jill Lepore, These Truths: A history of the United States

Rob White, BFI Film Classics: The Third Man

A digital citizenship agenda for educators

“Greater digital literacy is often the recommendation for dealing with the effects of social media within society, but this ignores the fact that …

A digital citizenship agenda for educators

“He didn’t believe in adult education” – Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein

Saul Bellow was well into his 80s when he published Ravelstein, a portrait of a brilliant, opinionated, knowledgeable and influential philosopher – generally thought to have been modelled on Bellow’s friend, the classicist, philosopher, and conservative cultural critic Allan Bloom.

I took an instant and deep dislike to the novel’s central character, not so much for his opinions as for what I saw as his bumptious, show-off, intolerant, judgemental, controlling personality. I also recognise the book’s achievement as a complex exploration of love, friendship, learning, consumption and Jewishness, but I didn’t much enjoy it.

Bellow portrays Ravelstein’s character through the eyes of the narrator, an old friend of the philosopher. The narrator is not a philosopher, and he reflects on his lack of understanding as Ravelstein lies in the final stages of his illness: “I was too old to be a pupil, and Ravelstein didn’t believe in adult education. It was far too late for me to Platonize”.

Make of that what you will. Maybe Bellow is alluding to one of Allan Bloom’s deeply held prejudices, in this case against adult learners. Or perhaps Bellow was simply inserting another example of his hero’s fixed opinions, in a further development – if you can call it that – of the Ravelstein character.

Learning, earning and the death of human capital.

Is there a clear predictive relationship between the amount of education ‘received’, as measured by qualifications achieved, and future earnings? The…

Learning, earning and the death of human capital.

Reading in Lockdown 2.0: the second month

26 January – 25 February


Saul Bellow, Ravelstein

Hannelore Cayre, The Godmother

Stefan Keller, Kölner Totenkarneval

Francis Spufford, Golden Hill


Nick Mansfield, Soldiers as Citizens: Popular politics and the nineteenth century British military

Reading in lockdown 2.0 – the first month

26 December – 25 January


Roy Jacobsen, The Unseen

Frances Cha, If I Had Your Face

Krischan Koch, Rote Grutze mit Schuss

Lucy Atkins, Magpie Lane


Martyn Bennett, Oliver Cromwell

Williamson’s White Paper: ‘Skills Without Jobs’?

The much-awaited White Paper skills-for-jobs-lifelong-learning-for-opportunity-and-growthDownload has been published this week. It’s a long and …

Williamson’s White Paper: ‘Skills Without Jobs’?

The relevance of Erich Fromm for online learning during a pandemic

I was struck recently by how much Erich Fromm can offer in understanding online teaching. In his To Have Or To Be? Fromm distinguishes between two …

The relevance of Erich Fromm for online learning during a pandemic

A year of blogging: the most popular posts of 2020

A new year always brings with it a spur to reflection: looking back, taking stock, and looking forward. So to start with, has this blog done what I’d hoped – and how might it do better?

My main hopes in continuing the blog have always been to share my own work, and to engage in dialogue, on topics that interest me. I was intrigued, then, to find that the two most popular posts of 2020 were something on predatory publishing that I published some years ago, and an open question about holistic evaluation that I didn’t answer.

These are interestiing themes, but my main focus is on adult learning (including its history) and social capital. As you can see, both of these topics attracted reasonable numbers of readers, as did an old post on the EU’s Erasmus scheme which found new readers this year after the UK government announced that it would no longer take part.

As a writer, I’m more than satisfied with the numbers who read these posts, and I only hope you found them useful. No one knows how many people read the average academic paper, but it’s widely believed that the numbers are very small indeed, and far smaller than those of you who check out my blog. And I get far more feedback, both through the comments section and via social media, than for any of my more academic publications.

I’m also struck by how international this readership is. The vast majority of you are based in the world’s richest countries, but quite a few of you come from middle income countries where English is a second or third language. Brazil looks particularly strong: obrigado!

In fact, thank you all for taking time out in 2020 to read this blog. I hope you continue to find it useful, and send me your feedback in the year ahead. My best wishes to you for 2021, and may it be happier, more productive, and healthier than the last twelve months.