Instant Opinion

‘Exam results have become an all-consuming mania’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press


James Marriott in The Times

Academic intelligence is absurdly overvalued

on forgotten qualities

“For many at the top of society, schools, universities and exam results have become an all-consuming mania,” writes James Marriott in The Times. Perhaps for good reason: “Almost every high status or well-paying job requires a degree.” It’s for that reason that telling a middle-class friend that their child is “athletically incompetent” results in a “knowing eye-roll” while suggesting the child is stupid will lead to an “imploded” friendship. We seem to have “forgotten that intelligence is one admirable human quality among many”. Academic qualifications “seem to offer a reassuring final statement of value in the form of a number or a letter”, writes Marriott. “But the grand edifice of academic achievement upon which so much elite self-worth is built is shaky.”


Mary Harrington on UnHerd

Crying is now a political weapon

on tears

As Labour leader Keir Starmer recounted several painful personal events to Piers Morgan in an ITV interview this week, “it was affecting to see the usually very controlled Starmer in the grip of deep emotion”, Mary Harrington writes on UnHerd. Here, we saw his tears as “more real” than his self-restraint, she writes. But the question of “whose tears garner sympathy, and whose trigger cynicism, is itself becoming a battleground”, she suggests. “If you’re ugly, old or badly-dressed, don’t expect crying to work; if you’re male, it’s a gamble; and if you’re not in the in-group, you can forget it,” she writes. “But if your face fits (and you don’t ugly-cry) then you can do what you like.”


Minna Salami in The Guardian

Why I don’t believe the word ‘black’ should always have a capital ‘b’

on an empty change

“Anti-racism. Allyship. Accountability. These are some of the key words that have accompanied the Black Lives Matter protests over the past year,” writes Minna Salami in The Guardian. “But one little-noticed change is to the word black itself. Since the protests, people have started to capitalise the ‘b’ when writing about black people”. Indeed, the Associated Press has updated its influential style guide, something of a “bible for journalism”, to capitalise the “b”, stating that “the lowercase black is a color, not a person”. It seems pertinent to ask, then; “after a year of renewed protests: does capitalising the ‘b’ in ‘black’ help the anti-racism cause?” “I’m afraid the answer is no,” says Salami. “Rather than empowering black people, these stylistic changes simply show how the conversations about race are circular and repetitive,” and can inadvertently “narrow the black experience”. We must start “reimagining the meanings of words such as black and white, and we cannot do that if we piously assign rigid meaning to these words”.


Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph

We cannot move on from Covid until Boris clears out the ministerial dead wood

on a fresh start

“When will Covid be over?” asks Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph. When will the UK feel it has “turned a page and embarked upon a much-needed new chapter of our invigorating island story?” “Probably not, I would suggest, while all the same political faces we associate with the epic struggle against coronavirus continue to pop up,” he writes. In particular, it would be a “blessed relief to many of us” if health secretary Matt Hancock was assigned elsewhere. Also in the line of fire is the prime minister’s education minister. “It may sound brutal to put it this way,” writes O’Flynn, “but the dispensability of Williamson could prove the key to it all. He simply does not convince as a leader of a public-facing department and the excruciating gaucheness which led him as defence secretary to declare that Russia should just ‘go away and shut up’ has not evaporated,” he continues. There is a “new world” waiting to be born, which could be helped along by a cabinet reshuffle. “The prime minister should give it a shove.”


Harriet Sinclair in The Independent

Pride is here and the US is celebrating in the worst way

on LGBT+ rights

“LGBT+ Pride month is upon us once again, and this year the US is celebrating in style with the rollback of trans rights on a state level,” writes Harriet Sinclair in The Independent. “Not content with a long-running obsession with who’s using which bathroom those well-known women’s rights defenders the GOP have picked up the baton of ‘protecting’ women’s sports, with numerous Republican governors signing bills banning trans women and girls from participating in school and college sports,” she writes. “Just like the homophobic laws that came before it, the trans sports ban doesn’t actually aim to improve things for cisgender women,” as Republicans try to claim, writes Sinclair. “Instead, it uses them as a pawn to squash progress and opportunity for transgender people – and it does so with a bold disregard for anyone who identifies as female.”


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