Thursday, August 14, 2008

Them oop north already on their bikes

I'm bemused by the bleating about Cities Unlimited, the Policy Exchange report suggesting the good people of Hull p***s off down south.

From what I gather (I haven't read the full report), it doesn't dismiss the north outright. It acknowledges that cities, such as Leeds and Manchester, are vibrant and happening places. Its sin is to suggest that some towns, such as Hull and Sunderland, are beyond regeneration and the Government should just give up and hope everyone living there b****rs off to Oxford.

Is this news? Don't they know that everyone in Hull who isn't either unemployed or working for the public sector has already got on their bike and b****d off to Leeds, Manchester or London? I am case in point. Born seven miles from Hull and schooled there, I p***d off down south aged 19.

I'm defining public sector broadly here, of course - there are lots of jobs in Hull working as legal aid solicitors and a few at the theatre (all private sector, but at least partly Government funded). Most graduate and professional public sector jobs in Hull are as teachers and doctors, but there is also a significant minority of people employed in the 'regeneration industry' - planning and rebuilding the city, and trying to get the unemployed into jobs.

The city centre has been repeatedly knocked down and regenerated for as long as I can remember. Enterprise Zones, Millennium Projects - you name it, they've tried it. Unfortunately, it's at the end of the line (literally) and the easiest place to get to from Hull is Holland. And why go to somewhere that the Government's trying to make edgy and educated when you can go to Leeds which already is?

Sometimes I wonder if the kindest thing would be to stop rebuilding Hull, slowly and voluntarily rehouse people in the council estates, and wait for nature to take its course. The natural rate of outmigration is so rapid that, without the vast public-funded regeneration industry to hold people in place, Hull would probably become a medium-sized town within 30 years.

Idiot of the week

The mind boggles. Are literature and long-dead languages really the best grounding for banking and accountancy? According to Simon Jenkins they are:

In the two decades during which British pupils have fled from maths towards
social science and the humanities, the economy has boomed. It has done so on the
strength of finance... on service activities that have little mathematical

Reading on, however, I suspect he's simply confused about the difference between 'pure maths' and 'maths'. He writes:

I studied advanced maths to 16. I loved wandering in its virtual world of
trigonometry and logarithms, primes and surds. I breakfasted on quadratic
equations, lunched on differential calculus and strolled, arm in arm, with
Ronald Searle's square on the hypotenuse.
Quadratic equations are 'pure mathematics' and appear on the average GCSE and AS-level syllabus. However, GCSE and AS-level mathematics also includes statistics, probability and plain old adding up - all things that Mr Jenkins agrees that we need (or I think he does):
The two best books on this topic are Innumeracy, by the American John Allen
Paulos, and A Mathematician's Apology, by former Cambridge professor GH Hardy.
The first describes all the maths a person needs to know, mostly simple concepts
applied to daily life, to proportion, risk and probability. Paulos makes the
point that a nation may be expert at algebra yet have no sense of statistical
probability, to the profit of its insurance industry and the detriment of its
public life.
Since statistics, probability, etc. aren't currently covered in any other school subject, our society needs mathematics. Mr Jenkins is throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. Reform, yes, wholesale dismissal, no.