Classics, Poetry And Art Are Not Useless. They Furnish Our Minds With Beauty

I was recently shown a clip from Question Time where the subject of education was being discussed. An audience member, sceptical of the “usefulness” (for want of a less odious term to describe art) of learning poetry in schools, challenged the panel to recite a poem they learned at school. Most, predictably, failed to do so and I suspect if they could remember one, preferred to toe the politically correct line that we should not be subjecting children to such anachronisms. The erstwhile Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, spouted vague and contradictory statements about how learning the names of the kings and queens of antiquity is no longer educationally relevant, but all the same it is important for children to understand history. The general mood was one of scornful disdain and transparent bias against classical education, presumably fuelled by the oh-so-well-meaning anti-elitist imperative that so animates modern British liberals. Read More…

Why It Is Important To Speak To People You Disagree With

Megan Phelps, a former member of the incredibly divisive Westboro Baptist Church has given an inspiring TED talk on why and how she left the church – of which she was one of the most zealous and committed members.

Her decision to leave the WBC was not a Damascene conversion. It was part of a long process of engaging with people who opposed her on social media. Often they did so with anger or bemused disdain, but, occasionally, she would encounter individuals who would argue with her civilly. It was these discussions that began to slowly chip away at her harsh worldview, eventually causing it to collapse.

The story of Megan Phelps is a powerful illustration of just how important it is to listen and speak to those with whom you disagree. Especially in these polarised times where people too easily dismiss perspectives they don’t like.

 

Patrick Cockburn Says Media Coverage Of Syria Is The Worst He’s Ever Seen

Truth is the first casualty of war, as the saying goes and is proved right time and time again.

The 21st century has thus far been consumed by Western wars in the Middle-East. Most of which have been complete catastrophes. Just last week, Westminster MPs released a scathing report of David Cameron’s foolish foray into Libya in 2011. The Foreign Affairs select committee criticised Cameron for intervening in Libya based on poor intelligence. And much of the media which supported the action was also bamboozled by what Peter Hitchens has described as atrocity propaganda. The same pattern has repeated itself in the reporting of the Syria conflict, which long-time Middle-Eastern correspondent Patrick Cockburn has described as the worst he’s ever seen.

The most striking thing about Patrick Cockburn is that when reading or listening to him, you’re not just receiving his opinion or ideology (as is so common in journalism these days), but very important factual information. This is becoming rarer and rarer. And probably one of the reasons why people are so confused about what has happened in the Middle East.