Category Archives: Liberal education

What our politicians can learn from the Hunger Games rules of persuasion

PANEM today, Panem tomorrow, Panem forever.” You need to watch the chilling new teaser for the next Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay. Its cool irony confirms the series’s remarkable journey from minor young adult diversion to cultural milestone. The series of thrillers is no cinematic masterpiece, but 30 years on from 1984 it is helping inoculate a new generation against the horror and seductions of tyranny. Continue reading

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Filed under Film, Freedom, Liberal education, Politics

Stop speaking like a corporate robot – for the sake of capitalism itself

Here’s a new year’s resolution for business: learn to speak human. The state of business language as a whole remains an abiding scandal. HSBC’s coinage of “demising” as a euphemism for “sacking” led last year’s pack, but corporate statements that resemble something delivered by an alien with a glitchy translator are hardly rare. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Economics, Liberal education

Steampunk Economics and the future of leisure

There’s something repellent about the Conservative Party’s new slogan “For Hardworking People”. I can’t agree with those critics who think it is an empty promise. It reflects the values in which David Cameron believes. It suits the social incentives he is seeking to construct. But while encouraging people to work for their own betterment is unquestionably good, when it comes from the mouth of government it is impossible not to scent cynicism. For hard work is not an end in itself for people – only for a state keen to live off their backs. Continue reading

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Filed under Economics, Freedom, History, Human nature, Liberal education, Politics, Science, Technology

Why you can bank on the humanities to launch a City career

Philosophers have been making a killing in financial services since Thales of Miletus used options to corner the ancient Greek market for olive oil. So it is fantastic news to see several big banks continuing to recognise how much humanities graduates have to contribute in the twenty-first century: nearly half of the intake at Barclays is set to have an arts background. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Human nature, Liberal education

The Greeks have something to teach us about the importance of being idle

BUSINESS and leisure seem like opposites. Ambition’s drive to succeed and achieve has little truck with the pleasures of idleness. With 135 graduates fighting for every opening at investment banks and fund managers, who can afford to be caught with their feet up? Yet leisure is essential, even for the driven. It’s a chance to stand back and train for your next engagement with the enemy. The ancient Greeks understood this, which is why they called leisure skhole – the origin of our English word school – meaning both time held back from the demands of work and a lecture or discussion. Continue reading

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Filed under Finance, Freedom, History, Human nature, Liberal education

It’s now left to Shakespeare to remind us of the depths we are capable of

IT’S POSSIBLE we are to be denied a free press thanks to a backroom deal made in Westminster. But when our right to know what is happening right now is being curtailed, we can at least turn to timeless things for comfort. I attended a thrilling production of Romeo and Juliet last night – but not one primarily for anyone reading this paper. It is instead part of a Deutsche Bank-sponsored initiative at Shakespeare’s Globe, designed to introduce a new generation to the bard. Continue reading

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Filed under Freedom, Human nature, Liberal education, Literature, Politics, Publishing

At the end of the day the business cliche just masks woolly mindedness

LET’S open the kimono. The language of business is a joke. It now seems to be best practice to get your ducks in a row for corporate meetings by memorising phrases like value proposition, point person and core competency. At the end of the day, buzz phrases and bizarre metaphors may take it to the next level, but the most insidious part of this corrosion of office communication is more banal: loose usage, cliche and jargon that conceal lazy thinking. Continue reading

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Michael Gove is courageously recovering our ancient tradition of learning

IN 75 BC, when the great Roman politician and champion of liberal learning Cicero was quaestor in Sicily, he led an expedition to a neglected, overgrown jumble of funerary monuments just outside the city of Syracuse. Directing men with scythes to cut away the briars, he uncovered the tomb of Archimedes, lost for more than a century, just as he had found it described in an old manuscript.

Education secretary Michael Gove took on Cicero’s mantle this week, in a remarkable speech that sought to cut away modish assumptions and reveal Britain’s forgotten debt to liberal education – the tradition of learning for its own sake. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Freedom, History, Human nature, Liberal education, Politics

Facts may be slippery but the most important human qualities remain true

FACTS aren’t what they used to be. When I started school, Pluto was a planet and carbon came in just three flavours: diamond, soot and graphite. By the time I left for university, a fourth kind of carbon had been announced, football-shaped buckminsterfullerene. And, thanks to Pluto’s reclassification six years ago, there are now just eight planets in our solar system, not nine. It’s hard to keep hold of truth when it’s become this slippery. Continue reading

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Filed under Human nature, Liberal education

Life isn’t short: But we’ve learnt to squander our time like spendthrifts

SUMMER’S lease is drawing to a close again. With less than a month until the autumnal equinox on 22 September, we’re running out of time to complain about the disappointing weather or attempt to cook burgers in one another’s backyards. Or, from another point of view, there’s four weeks left before the summer of 2012 is over: what shall we do with all that time? Continue reading

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Filed under Human nature, Liberal education, Literature