Reform of the Employment Relations Act, in particular the provisions around zero-hours agreements would provide some small security of work hours to vulnerable people who are employed.
More public housing affordable to those on benefits or in low-paying employment would give greater security of accommodation.
Prioritising pedestrian and cycle access to roads leading to schools would enable more children to travel there safely and actively.
Social welfare reform in which people's access to continuing basic income is not contingent on meeting ever-shifting targets or staying out of domestic partnerships would provide further stability of accommodation.
All these would make a difference to individuals' ability to source and prepare food for their families and for their children to safely access ordinary physical activity, and none involves increasing food scarcity for vulnerable people or their families or evaluating individuals' current and future health based on how they present today.
I sincerely believe that we shouldn't let the low-hanging fruit of choice rhetoric distract us from the extent to which things are the way they are because of political change - initially radical, subsequently gradual - over the past thirty years. The most proximate explanations may not be the best, nor the most proximate solutions.
Pip Adam's short story Zero Hours does a far better job than this post in articulating this situation for friends, neighbours, ourselves.
My mother knits children's toys in bright wools and acrylics. This is the palette of her world. Thank you!
You’re not going to get a lot of sympathy for calling “dog-pile”. Unless, of course, we’re all supposed to get together and elect a spokesperson? Because it’s Megan. (And Gio, and James, and Rob and Danielle. Okay, that didn’t work.)
Yeah, nah, which is to say, thank you, no. I think there's value in scrutinising tonal differences (and ideas about tonal differences) online where we're words and avatars alone; for me at least it's a gear-up for much of the hair-curlery I get to experience in my line of work. Where being stirred leads to the kind of self-scrutiny Ben is talking about I think it can be profoundly helpful, despite the fact I don't particularly enjoy it. I should note, however, that as some of you know I do actually live with a pile of dogs.
Is this really the debate you want to have, that you’ve been angling for for months? That the polite culture of PAS can harm robust debate? Be honest now, no polite tricky games, or that makes you a hypocrite.
It comes to this, again and again on the internet, I think: that you can have the debate or you can have the community, but having both involves constant and ongoing compromise, unless, as in other places, the community manages to invest its identity in the notion of all-in debate. Sometimes the group will set aside notions of community in order to have the debate (attempting thereafter to be self-repairing) and sometimes proceeding directly to debate will provoke the gatekeeping of those who want to protect the community, moderators or otherwise.
I strongly dislike being insulted or insulting people back, so if either of those reactions are invoked, I tend to duck out for however long it takes. Hypocrisy, perhaps, of a different stripe.
One of the things that contributes, I think, to wider scepticism about the humanities in addition to the arguments about benefit and utility which have been the focus here is the way in which the teaching of it has changed so much over time . Many people have I think the idea that literary studies is an overstewed blend of Great Works cut down by postmodernism, and little else.
For myself, I find the contention that the works of popular and high culture are worthy of serious consideration in a manner other than straightforward consumption (the latter of which I take to include buying, reading, writing fan-fiction, going to literary festivals and so on), and that wider society benefits from this, far less problematic than the older, Leavisian notion that the teaching of literature exists to win a Gnostic-style understanding of a Great Tradition that contains insight into a national character. Yet for many people, the funding of the first seems a far more problematic proposition than the second.
I know most scientists aren’t particularly good at communicating to the public ....
This is another area to which I think humanities-educated graduates could effectively contribute (what writing courses call science writing/science communicating) but it needs that interdisciplinarity and basic mutual literacy that has been touched on elsewhere in this thread as difficult to teach and promote to students for all kinds of reasons. So long as students (and their lecturers) view disciplinarity as an insuperable and indeed rightful boundary then we'll continue to miss opportunities to educate and engage the public. That ideas vacuum that gets stuffed with rubbish exists in all kinds of social and cultural settings. At the very least, it's a metaphor for another metaphor: that space in which people think they perceive political correctness having gone mad.
One of the challenges to the universities' ability to produce public intellectuals in this country is the way in which there are few incentives for academics to communicate in wider public arenas, beyond, say, talking to journalists, concerning their areas of expertise. Certainly, some see such public communication as a form of public good; Denis Dutton is one example already cited here and there are also postgraduates such as Matthew Dentith and David Winter (the latter of "Ken Ring Can't Predict Earthquakes" fame) who do work of this kind. However, in general, the state's tertiary funding models and, in my view, the universities' application of them require academics to prioritise exactly the kinds of research, writing and publication that is decried as wilfully obscure in the humanities. Most arts academics in my experience aren't sociable, gregarious, extroverted people of the kind who might dwell easily in public discursive contexts. Whether that's because the academy attracts certain temperaments or whether it merely shapes 'em that way is largely moot in the face of the institutional pressure to operate almost entirely within closed, professionalised locii which means that academic intellectualism, if not exactly private, is in practice not more widely visible.
for their … work in the later pages of this very thread
One thread doth not a public intellectual make, but I appreciate the kind words. Like Danyl, I’m a general staff member of a university (unless I’ve parsed wrongly his accounts elsewhere of what he does) and so, without the protections of academic freedom or the mandate to exercise my social critic and conscience from behind my (currently inaccessible) work desk, I do my thinking on the internet.
FWIW, I dropped an Engineering degree in favour of a BA in Philosophy, purely because that's what I was interested in, and fully aware of the fact that I had no idea what sort of productive job it would get me. Worked out OK for me (and the taxpayers).
This has been my experience, both personally and in teaching students who go on to graduate BA. Arguments about the benefits of education based solely in utility exclude what I believe is the considerable accrual of indirect social and cultural benefit when universities have as their foundation that concept of the "institution... of pure research whose academic freedom is paramount" that David articulates above. It has also been my industrial experience that, in general, this idea of the university exists among those whose teaching is into professional programmes as well as the the older generalist departments, faculties and schools. I think the assumption that indirect benefits are neither widespread nor substantial is in error, and I hope that I've articulated some of them in my comments thus far.
On this point I recall being somewhat apprehensive before a government scholarship interview, anticipating that the person from Federated Farmers on the panel might give me a bit of a hard time. As a matter of fact, he asked a perfectly sensible question that I was grateful for and able to answer in plain English.
Ditto my experience - very likely I suspect with the same scholarship interview and perhaps the same panellist. It was at the question "where do you see yourself in ten years time?" that I balked. I'd been close-annotating the poems of Robin Hyde for months and the only thing that came to mind was "not dead, I hope".