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March 06, 2006

Gary Younge on Lawrence Summers

Yes, I know, it’s a little unkind to pound on Gary Younge, the poor lad, but this is nonsense:

Quite what is brave about suggesting women are not as clever as men,

That isn’t what he said. Rather, that men have a greater variation in intelligence than women. Something that can be shown to be true and thus should be entirely unremarkable, simply part of the accepted wisdom. You can check the speech here.

Since the privileges you are defending are inherent in the commentariat - how many women, blacks, working-class people or Muslims get to speak, let alone be heard? -

Well, gosh Gary, I’d say that in the UK press, most especially the Indy and your own dear Groan, those groups are probably rather over-represented, not under. Except the working class bit, I’ll admit, but then the income levels of the commentariat (plus the vile schooling that they have inflicted upon said working class) do rather mean that membership of both classes is mutually exclusive.

March 6, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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Why would you say women, blacks and muslims are over represented in the UK press?

Tim adds: I think I actually say in the Indy and Groan. If I don’t then that’s what I mean. The Yazzmonster herself probably is responsible for more comment pieces than the population of muslim women in proportion.

I’m also amused by a black journalist in the comments pages of a major mewspaper stating that blacks aren’t represented in the comments pages of major newspapers.

Posted by: Matthew | Mar 6, 2006 11:39:28 AM


The 'Yazzmonster'?

Surely you can't mean the insighful and productive Yasmin Alibhai-Brown?

The same lady who was admitted to the UK as a refugee from Idi Amin's racist murder squads?

And who now tells us how bad we all are?


Posted by: Martin | Mar 6, 2006 2:13:06 PM

For what it's worth, a freelance journo friend points out that ALL of the commissioning editors he deals with - print, radio or TV (esp BBC) are female. Now I don't for one minute think this distorts things - just thought you'd like to know.

Posted by: Mark T | Mar 6, 2006 3:20:35 PM

Really Tim, it's not fair to mock the poor retarded boy. It's like pulling the wings off flies. Instead we should all pat Gary Younge on the head and tell him what a special, special boy he is. We wouldn't want to provoke him into one of those flailing, drool-spurting tard-frenzies, no would we?

Posted by: David Gillies | Mar 6, 2006 3:58:58 PM

For anyone who cares about facts (seemingly not as many as those who are interested in demonstrating Younge's point for him), Yasmin Alibhai Browm would have to be responsible personally for 1% of all the opinion pieces in the UK for this to be true. Which she isn't, plainly. Since the Guardian prints picture bylines, we can also tell that far fewer than 9% of its opinion writers are non-white. Tim, do you not think that you are rather proving Younge's point here, and is it not pretty clear that your own extremely dodgy assumption is a much more serious error than the one you're attributing to Younge?

Posted by: dsquared | Mar 6, 2006 4:23:17 PM

oh yeh and ...

[plus the vile schooling that they have inflicted upon said working class]

is of course purely faith-based assertion with all the evidence from literacy rates and exam results pointing the other way.

I don't like doing this Tim, but it really does strike me that if you're going to snipe at the work of journalists and commentators every day and call them "idiots", "illiterates" etc on the basis of often quite tendentious interpretations of what they've said, you ought to hold yourself to at least the same standard of accuracy in what you write yourself. Otherwise, you're running the risk of turning into the Mark Kermode of online commentary, which is something you really don't want to be.

Posted by: dsquared | Mar 6, 2006 6:10:17 PM

Who on earth suggested that the ethnic, class or gender distribution of newspaper commentators ought to reflect, or ought to be made somehow to reflect, that of the population as a whole? Would anyone make the same assertion about, say, engine drivers, coal miners, university professors, brain surgeons or lollipop ladi-- er, sorry, lollipop persons? The only sane and defensible criterion for selecting newspaper commentators, surely, is that they have something worth-while to say and can say it clearly and cogently. If some wholly irrelevant categories of person find that few of their number meet those two requirements, they can draw their own conclusions, but they have no business demanding that the requirements should be changed in their favour.


Posted by: Brian Barder | Mar 6, 2006 10:05:23 PM


>...all the evidence from literacy rates and exam results pointing the other way.<

I think you are the one making faith-based assertions about education.

Posted by: paul | Mar 6, 2006 10:12:37 PM

[I think you are the one making faith-based assertions about education.]

Well you think this, I think that, but the measured numbers on exam results and literacy only support one of us. Exam results have been getting better for years and years and the most recent international comparison of literacy at age 15 gave the UK a score of 523 (normalised to an OECD average of 500), better than any European country except Finland and Ireland and significantly better than the USA on 504.

Posted by: dsquared | Mar 6, 2006 10:23:56 PM


But you said "all" the evidence, which is just not true. There is, for example, ample evidence of the dumbing down of examinations, of grade inflation, of universities needing to provide remedial classes.... And 55% of pupils leave school without at least a C grade in English and Maths.

Posted by: paul | Mar 7, 2006 7:48:11 AM

[There is, for example, ample evidence of the dumbing down of examinations]

No there isn't. Assertion is not evidence.

[of grade inflation]

Again, this is a claim more often asserted than demonstrated, and nobody who asserts it seems remotely interested in having a method to distinguish between genuine improvement and "grade inflation" at the aggregate level.

[of universities needing to provide remedial classes]

Universities are admitting more people.

[And 55% of pupils leave school without at least a C grade in English and Maths]

So what? Is this good or bad? How does it compare to the same system in the past, or to other countries? The answer is "quite well", as that OECD survey I mentioned earlier shows.

Posted by: dsquared | Mar 7, 2006 8:42:27 AM

Just a point about the vile education system forced upon the working class.

Those statistics totally ignore individual differences.

Working class kids on average go to worse schools and get a worse education than middle class ones. This would probably be true of all systems, but the truly appalling schools that some kids are forced to go to would not exist under any kind of system that put the power in the hands of parents.

Posted by: EU Serf | Mar 7, 2006 9:26:03 AM

No there isn't. Assertion is not evidence. Neither is denial.

As I recall, the UK's education system is ranked 33rd, while Ireland's is about 4th. Until the apologists for failure (like yourself) are ignored and the Uk education system denationalised, I doubt there will be any improvement.

Posted by: paul | Mar 7, 2006 6:57:09 PM

I suggest that Paul read the London Mathematical Society's report on mathematics teaching in the UK.

It was written a while back, but I doubt whether much has changed.

The key facts are that maths A levels were made easier as a deliberate policy in the mid 1980s and there has been substantial grade inflation since, for various

It is much harder to compare exams in arts subjects, as one can infer nothing from the exam questions.

Posted by: james C | Mar 8, 2006 12:54:05 PM