Michael Sandel -- live!

Watch the political philosopher's hot course on justice on the web

The American political philosopher Michael Sandel, whom I profiled for the NS in June this year, has been teaching Justice, an undergraduate course in moral and political philosophy, at Harvard for nearly 30 years now. It's wildly popular, having attracted more than 14,000 students over the years. Watching the video footage of his classes recently made available online by Harvard, as part of a collaboration with a local TV station in Boston, it is easy to see why Justice is always oversubscribed.

In a previous life, I taught philosophy at several English universities, and I know how hard it is to animate or enliven the same hoary old problems in ethics and political theory year in, year out. But Sandel manages to make the liberalism-communitarianism debate, for instance, seem like the most urgent thing in the world -- which, in a way, it is, of course. He is a thoroughly compelling and beguiling presence in the lecture theatre. Here, for example, is episode 11 on "The Claims of Community", in which Sandel deals with "Kant's reply to Aristotle":

 

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Children from "just managing" families most excluded from grammar schools

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said grammar schools "offer nothing to most kids".

Children from "just about managing" families are unlikely to benefit from an expansion of grammar schools because they don't get accepted in the first place, research from the Sutton Trust has found.

The educational charity also found that disadvantaged white British pupils were the least likely among a range of ethnic groups to get access to elite state school education. 

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The Tories are failing our children. They should be delivering a country that works for everyone but all they have to offer is a plan to build an education system that only helps a handful of already privileged children.

"The evidence is clear - grammar schools reinforce advantage and offer nothing to most kids."

Theresa May launched her premiership with both a pledge to make Britain work for the "just managing" families (consequently termed Jams), and a promise to consider expanding grammar schools. 

The Sutton Trust researchers used the Income Deprivation Affecting Children index to compare access rates to those defined "just about managing" by the Resolution Foundation. 

They found that even non-disadvantaged pupils living in deprived neighbourhoods are barely more likely to attend grammar schools than those in the poorest. The report stated: "This is a strong indication that the ‘just managing’ families are not being catered for by the current grammar school system."

The Sutton Trust also found different ethnic groups benefited differently from grammar schools.

Disadvantaged Black pupils made up just 0.8 per cent of pupils in 2016, while disadvantaged white British pupils made up roughly 0.7 per cent, although disadvantaged white non-British children fared slightly better. Among disadvantaged groups, Asian pupils made up a substantial proportion of grammar school pupils. 

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “Today’s research raises concerns about the government’s plans to use new grammars as a vehicle for social mobility. We need to get existing grammars moving in the right direction before we consider expanding their number.”

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.