Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Good Tax?

No taxes are fun to pay. But a recent conversation made me think that stamp duty – the tax you pay when you buy a new home – might be a good thing.

I was speaking to one of our partners in North London – a local charity which provides great places for children to play. We sat in the recently reopened community centre at the heart of a council estate and talked.

A recent study has revealed that Britain is divided at a local level, with social divides being most common within communities. The study found that despite living on neighbouring streets, residents live separate lives due to the income gap between them.

Today, think tank IPPR released a new report on integration entitled ‘Back to Basics’.* The report highlights the confusion that exists over the definition of integration. It also argues that policy makers often confuse integration and social cohesion; the former being concerned with the relation between migrant and ethnic minority groups and wider society, and the latter with relations between all groups of people.

Today, Justin Welby will be formally enthroned as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury. The event will include longstanding traditions, such as knocking on the west door of the cathedral three times at the start of the ceremony, and other elements which wouldn’t have been incorporated hundreds of years ago, such as African dancers, Punjabi music and the archbishop being enthroned by a female cleric.

The archbishop’s enthronement ceremony teaches 3 lessons about integration:

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, recently unveiled his plans for reforming the National Curriculum. The proposals have been criticised by leading academics who argue that the changes will stifle “children’s ability to think, including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity.” The academics also fear that Gove’s plans will increase rote learning without understanding, which is ultimately detrimental as “young children need to relate abstract ideas to their experience, lives and activity.” Ultimately, the new curriculum is too narrow.*

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The state of our roads

Recently, a lot has been said about the poor state of Britain’s roads, with over a third of drivers rating the condition of their local roads as poor, very poor or terrible.*

The interesting thing about roads is that we all notice when they are damaged, but very few of us get excited about road building and maintenance: it’s hard to get passionate about that.

There are many great lessons to be learned from children’s literature. ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ by Judith Kerr is one such book. Published over 40 years ago, the story illustrates some uncomfortable truths about the cost of integration.

A few years ago I lived in Gaza – where segregation is the norm. It is a day to day experience with walls and borders there to remind you.

Attempts to cross from Gaza into Israel are met frequently with no’s, rejections and ‘come back tomorrow’s. Sitting on the closed border at Rafah was a shock to me – the incredibly lucky owner of a British passport. Until that day I’d never been told ‘no’.

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