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The Problem With Universities In The U.K 2017

I just published an article on MCXV which discusses some of the issues surrounding university tuition fees, graduate jobs and the hardships facing millennials in the U.K.

This article was inspired by last night’s BBC Newsnight debate. This debate was all about the ‘generation gap’ between under 30’s and over 60’s in the UK. They inevitably discussed tuition fees (they used to be free, now they cost £9,000 a year) and job shortages (you used to have loads of offers, now you have unpaid internships). I wrote

I wrote this article because it felt like everyone was going around in circles. They were talking about how unfair it is that things are so different now, but barely anyone tried to explain why things are different. People talk about free tuition fees as if they are the answer to all our problems, but university tuition fees are not the only issue.

How are more graduates going to improve an already overcrowded graduate job market? How is it surprising that it is so much harder to get a job now there is 1: so much more competition and 2: it is so much easier to find and apply for these jobs in the first place. Should we be encouraging more people to go to university? Why should degrees like events management or social care exist? And how can we realistically make things better for the future if we are still stuck in the past? These are the questions I am asking in this article, so if you have a moment it would be great if you could read it and let me know your thoughts!

https://mcxv.com/problem-universities-2017/ 

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Tories and the theatre

Hello everyone,

I am a writer for an online cultural/reviews magazine called ‘The Upcoming’ and on Friday I went to review a piece of experimental theatre called ‘Cock and Bull’. The show was a mixture of performance art, dance, and avant-garde theatre and it centred around the election, politicians and the words they say. The show was originally created in 2015 for the election and I really wish I had seen it then because the three identically clad gold handed Etonian performers were really channelling David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg (particularly David Cameron). This time around you can’t really say that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look alike, say the same things or really have much at all in common with each other.

If you hate the tories, you like experimental theatre and you want to commiserate about broken political promises see if you can get a ticket to the FINAL performance this evening!

Take a look at my review here: http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2017/04/28/cock-and-bull-at-the-southbank-centre-theatre-review/ 

 

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#OscarsSoWhite and what else we can do about it

Read my article about #OscarsSoWhite here.

When people talk about #OscarsSoWhite I feel like they are missing a vital point. We need more diverse staff at all levels of the industry i.e in directing, writing, producing and casting as well as acting because without it we miss out on a lot of talent which we the audience could benefit from, but this isn’t the only way we can try and get more diverse actors in the short term. A lot of main and secondary characters are ‘racially neutral’ i.e their race hasn’t been specified and yet for some reason unless we are specifically told otherwise we assume that all these characters are white.

I remember the recent uproar when the part of Hermione Granger in ‘The Cursed Child’ was given to a black woman and a bunch of people  just couldn’t understand why this Hermione was black when the character was meant to be white. But was she meant to be white? Did J.K.Rowling specify her race? As far as I can recall from the books Hermione’s specific skin colour is not mentioned (although we know she has bushy hair) and so we didn’t actually know whether she was meant to be white or not. We just assumed.

The recent talk (however real it actually was) of having a black James Bond is another important point because there really isn’t any reason Bond couldn’t be black. The people who talk about the ‘historical accuracy’ of Bond’s race seem to forget that in the 1950s we didn’t have smart phones, lap tops or tablets. We didn’t have many of the fancy tech gadgets they use for the films now, hell we still haven’t invented some of the things they show in those films. So although it’s perfectly true that a historically accurate James Bond probably couldn’t be black, since when was historical accuracy an issue for the Bond series? James Bond is a timeless character who adapts to the time, fears and current threats the world has. He has no set time, and he needn’t have a set race either.

I believe that true equality in mainstream film won’t just come from hiring more diverse writers and hoping they write about more non-white characters (although that is a big part of it). Real equality can only come when we stop assuming everyone is white unless stated otherwise, when we stop limiting talented actors to specific roles. Real equality can only happen when we stop seeing people as representatives or spokes people for their race, gender, sexuality etc and start seeing them as individuals who can play individual parts. Only when we all have the freedom to play a superhero, a villain and a romantic lead without people focusing on “what our character says about our specific group and what kind of role model we are” will we have full equality.

To read my article on Diversity at the Oscars click here now.

http://uk.blastingnews.com/entertainment/2016/10/we-need-more-diversity-at-the-oscars-but-are-we-thinking-about-it-the-right-way-001174171.html

 

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Amber Rudd’s’Name and shame’ proposal leaves a lot of unanswered questions and a rather irksome feeling.

Despite all claims to the contrary I’ve always tried to avoid the simplistic view that BREXIT was primarily about race and xenophobia. Whilst no one is denying that the ‘breaking point’ campaign and indeed a lot of the leave campaigns rhetoric was focused on immigration (despite EU immigration being limited to Europe these campaigns tried to focus on refugees, which is kind of ironic considering we still have a duty to them with or without our EU membership) there were other factors that would encourage someone to vote leave.

My article on Public Opinion and the Young People Who Voted Leave discusses several of these alternative reasons and shows that many people were influenced by the perceived anti-democratic way the EU was run, they wanted to leave what they saw as a global superpower that was trying to control 28 countries from a remote headquarters, and/or they wanted Britain to have more control over their destiny and economy. It would be very naive to assume that no one voted leave due to racist and/or xenophobic reasons, but the idea that these were the only reasons highlights the remain campaign’s failure to appeal to people in the first place.

Recent events have made me a little disturbed, however.This ‘name and shame’ policy that attempts to look at how many non-British born people work for a particular company does sound quite sinister because the aim appears to be quite clear. This policy seems to have been discontinued due to the backlash it recieved, but the fact that this was an option, the fact that this is what our government wanted to focus on is a little scary and perhaps shows what is to come. According to The Guardian Amber Rudd’s aims were as follows:

“Under her proposals, firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals. Ms Rudd said she wanted to “flush out” companies abusing existing rules and “nudge them into better behaviour”.

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37561035

Whether they publish their findings or not the goal seems to be to check how many migrants compared to how many British born people work for a particular company and if they are not satisfied that British people are getting first pick at the jobs they may take measures to encourage the company in question to focus on British applicants and give them first choice for employment. I am not sure if these policies will focus on people who weren’t born in the U.K themselves or people whose ancestors were immigrants, nor do I know whether it will focus on a particular group (i.e European immigrants or non-EU immigrants).

I also don’t know if ‘British born’ is going to be based on race or residential status and how that’s going to be qualified (will Amber Rudd count you as a British citizen if you weren’t born in Britain but have British citizenship? Will a recent immigrant with a better application be turned away in favour of someone who has no relevent experience but is a Britis citizen?) but either way this seems very contradictory to our apparent commitment to inclusion and the need to encourage a more representative, diverse workforce not only so our workforce reflects the country we actually live in but so we don’t end up with stale ideas and we don’t miss out on talent.

We already know that we have a problem with diversity in British industries, and even though we have schemes and quota systems in place to encourage a more diverse workforce they don’t always seem that effective. We know, for example, that around 8% of the Creative sector (i.e media, film and art-based jobs) are nonwhite, and when we consider that a lot of these jobs are based in London where the demographic is roughly around 40-60% this is quite shocking. (source here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-creative-industries-and-meritocracy/)

From a quick Google search on the subject I found the following statistics:

  • Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than white employees with the qualifications
  • Ethnic minority people were more likely to live in poverty than white people
  • Ethnic minorities are still “hugely under-represented” in positions of power – such as judges and police chiefs (info found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37114418)When they are talking about hiring more locals, what jobs do they mean? Do they mean the NHS where a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Non-British born staff? Do they mean the jobs many British people simply don’t want to do or don’t have the skills for? Do they mean the more competitive industries where diversity is still a real issue? And what do they mean by foreigners? Is this based on your race, where you were born, or is it simply how soon it was that you moved to the UK? If you were brought up here and lived most of your life here but you happened to be born in another country how do you fit in? How do you qualify a British person and how do you qualify a non-British person?

    It is hard to get a job in the U.K and a lot of this is because there is too much competition for certain jobs, not enough jobs to go around and a real preference for free labour under the guise of ‘internships’. How we could sort that out is a whole other issue, but the solution isn’t to close off all opportunities to people who ‘aren’t British enough’ if they have the skills that the particular job needs. Surely if companies are encouraged to hire as many ‘British’ workers as possible it will exasperate inequalities. Surely changing hiring policies so ‘the British come first’ would increase racial profiling? Surely ‘British Jobs for British workers’ is quite an open statement which doesn’t really mean anything,  because who is British and who isn’t? What are you basing that on?

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Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Have any of you seen Pedigree Dogs Exposed? For anyone who doesn’t know this was a 2008 documentary that looked at the many health problems that plague pedigree dogs as a result of years of selective breeding for dog shows and a disturbing amount of incest. After reading a recent Guardian article about the health of pugs I was inspired to write something I’ve been meaning to write for over a year, which is an article on pedigree dogs and the issues brought up by the Exposed documentaries. You can read my full article by going here: https://mytrendingstories.com/article/the-truth-about-pedigree-dogs/

Dogs 100 years ago vs dogs today

All images were taken from https://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/100-years-of-breed-improvement/. To find out more about Pedigree Dogs Exposed and its aftermath refer to Jemima’s blog http://pedigreedogsexposed.blogspot.co.uk/

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Why you can’t trust politicians

Since my country voted by a small margin to leave the E.U on Thursday, things have gone a bit crazy. Our prime ministers resigned and it looks like we now have a choice between Boris Johnson, a very memorable public figure but not exactly a trustworthy leader who is reported as being homophobic, and Theresa May, a sour faced woman who has said some  nasty things about refugees in the past. The Labour parties falling apart; Jeremy Corbyn, who wasn’t exactly vocal during the referendum campaign, has had his leadership challenged and has now lost 23 members of his cabinet and counting. Neither party looks prepared to lead this country in regular times, let alone sort out a Brexit, and no one really knows whats going to happen next.

Our pounds fallen to a 31 year low, some stock shares are falling, the future of our city is in question and the people continue to fight amongst themselves. It also looks, although no one can be sure, that the leading lead campaigners are now having a change of heart. Boris Johnson has assured the public nothing immediate is going to happen, that we will have a continued partnership with the E.U and this decision will not affect our universities, science, arts or the ability to live abroad. But how is that the case? Does that mean we will stay (and pay) for the single market? Whilst that is the scenario I personally am hoping for, the fact that so much of the leave campaign was about immigration and about us making our own trade deals, how will those who voted leave for this reason react when they realise nothing in that area will change? If we stay in the single market, that means we will also accept the continuing free movement of people. I would be very happy with this result, but many won’t be. Can the leave campaign betray their own supporters and take back their own words like that?

Of course they can. Their politicians.

I always feel that you can never totally trust politicians, but not because they are all scumbags who lie to get votes. You can’t trust them because the public again and yet again assumes they have far more power then they actually do. Look at what happened to poor Nick Clegg when he had to retract his promises over tuition fees.

David Cameron had as much to do with putting them up, but because Nick Clegg made the mistake of promising something, something he probably didn’t know he couldn’t deliver, he paid the price. The fact is that under the current system tuition fees couldn’t have stayed the same price. If you have as many universities as we have, and if more and more people start going each year, people the government gives tuition and maintenance loans to, what happens is that if these people fail to get well paid jobs quickly (which, as the degree keeps falling in value and as it is getting harder and harder to get a graduate position, is quite likely) the government is basically giving away more money then it is getting back. In that situation they either need to throw far more money into education, we can debate about whether they could do that or not, or they need to raise the prices so eventually they may break even (which they won’t).

Nick Clegg made a mistake, but it wasn’t not keeping loans the same price. He made the mistake of making people believe he could, made the mistake in becoming too popular. That was his downfall, because now people will always blame him for it regardless if it was actually his fault or not.

That was a pretty long analogy, but it may well end up applying to the leave campaigners as well. I’m not saying Nigel Farrage didn’t lie about his claims that money saved on the E.U would be spent on the NHS (he most definitely did, we’ve all seen the bus) or that these politicians shouldn’t be held accountable for their broken promises, even if they are promises you didn’t personally want in the first place, but the public isn’t blameless either. The public cannot assume that the government has all these over arching powers that can totally rewrite reality. Individual politicians will never be able to deliver all that they promise because none of them have that much individual power. That is what living in a democracy means. That is why it is up to the public to research their claims and make an informed decision for themselves. That is why it is up to the press not only to report but to analyse and to explain what they are actually saying and what the reality may be.

I don’t know, again I don’t think any of us know right now, but in the short term at least it may not be possible to totally break from the E.U. And whilst it is acceptable to blame the politicians for not following through with their pre-referendum promises, it is also not acceptable to believe everything they say as fact and not do your own research. People are saying they feel cheated, that they didn’t understand the referendum, voted leave and now ‘want their votes back’. This makes me angry. If you wanted to leave, and you knew why you wanted to leave, then fair enough. But if you are going to live with your head under a rock for all of your life, take it out really briefly, believe a bunch of confusing things a bunch of confusing politicians said and then get upset when it turns out it wasn’t strictly true, then you don’t get my sympathy. This is why voting shouldn’t be made compulsory; if  someone doesn’t really know what they are voting for, then why should they be obliged to vote?