A dozen years ago the charter school movement found me when I volunteered my time as a member of the governing board of the MATCH Charter High School in Boston. American charter schools are
taxpayer funded public schools that are independently managed, akin to the free schools that are taking root in England now. I'd been a civil rights activist, having headed the civil rights
enforcement agency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, when I became captivated by the promise that charter schools held to redress the achievement gap between black and white students.
Alex Salmond will be a formidable opponent – so David Cameron needs to fight on his own termsIn Aberdeen this week, a new statue of Robert the Bruce was unveiled. Canny, daring and tenacious, he is a king revered for an audacious victory that altered the course of Scottish history and secured his country’s independence from England. It is easy to imagine Alex Salmond plotting where his own statue will be, how tall the plinth.
Since oil was struck in the North Sea in 1970, it has fuelled dreams of Scottish independence. ‘Rich Scots, or poor Britons?’ ran the Scottish Nationalist Party’s slogan two years later. Alex Salmond has refined this slogan into a formal plan for separation which — he says — would make Scottish independence financially viable. For a country which has Swedish levels of state spending, this is quite some claim.
A new baby boom is reaching school age, and we’re not preparedSome time in the next week or so, all being well, my wife will have baby number three. That means more hours spent in Battersea Park’s playground, a flocking place for parents who inhabit that sliver of south-west London known as Nappy Valley. Go there any Saturday morning and you’ll see toddlers everywhere: squabbling on the swings, pushing each other off the pirate ship.
Well, knock me down with a Ferrari, who’d have thought it? Jemima Khan and Jeremy Clarkson! The fragrant, pouting Mima — epitome of well-bred, bankrolled, metro liberal hand-wringing faux angst — getting it on with the dishevelled reactionary so far to the right-of-centre-he’s-almost-in-the-median-strip petrolhead Jeremy.Well, knock me down with a Ferrari, who’d have thought it? Jemima Khan and Jeremy Clarkson! The fragrant, pouting Mima — epitome of well-bred, bankrolled, metro liberal hand-wringing faux angst — getting it on with the dishevelled reactionary so far to the right-of-centre-he’s-almost-in-the-median-strip petrolhead Jeremy.
Louise Stern on what the deaf really think of ‘hearing people’I’m at my desk in London chatting to a deaf woman in Mexico. We are communing through the internet. At 17.57 GMT, an instant messenger bubble pops on to my computer screen: ‘Louise Stern: Hi Freddy, it’s Louise’ and the interview has begun. It’s miraculous, when you think about it.Louise Stern is the author of Chattering Stories, a recently published collection of short stories about adventurous deaf girls in the big noisy world.
The vendetta against Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace Prize winner‘It is all lies,’ says Muhammad Yunus, his voice quiet but firm. ‘The media in Bangladesh attacks me unceasingly and I cannot stop them, but the accusations are untrue.’I believe him absolutely. Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has done perhaps more than any other living person to alleviate global poverty. Grameen Bank, the microfinance operation that he founded nearly 30 years ago, has (by lending to even the very poorest families) transformed the lives of millions of his fellow Bangladeshis and become a model emulated across the world.
‘Localisation’ is an expensive path to greater political corruptionThe last time the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas played a part in national debate was in the 17th century, when — recent studies suggest — locals carved a rude chalk parody of Oliver Cromwell into a hillside. It failed to unsettle Cromwell, but the village may yet be the nemesis of another Oliver: Oliver Letwin, architect of the government’s pet policy of localism.
Kisangani, capital of the province of Orientale, Democratic Republic of the Congo, once Zaire, is the setting for A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul’s grim masterpiece, published in 1979, about post-colonial reality in central Africa. Naipaul’s plot describes a tribal war that threatens the city. This actually happened 20 years later, when Kisangani became a battlefield for the bandit armies of Uganda and Rwanda.