Talks and Debates

Culture Wars online review covers public talks, debates lectures and conferences in and around London, and beyond, in order to get to grips with the ideas behind the headlines.

Monday 28 January 2013

Debatable assumptions about state schools… and the purpose of debating

A critical response to a recent debate about whether debating should be encouraged in state schools

To assume that state school students are unable to raise the confidence to compete with their public school counterparts in debating is both pessimistic and false, as the evidence shows.

Friday 16 December 2011

Is technology making us smarter or dumber?

A talk given to the Brighton Salon, 2 November 2011

We can argue with the current shape of technology and propose how it might be better. But there is seldom much engagement in this direction. More common is dour warnings about our impotence in the face of new technology; that it is the agent and we the passive recipient.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Hearing art

Boxed Tunes: Self-reflexivity in Sound and Art, ICA, London, 19 October 2011

All the artists who spoke treated sound as something other. As a musician, I was surprised by this - perhaps just because I am used to putting sound first, but also perhaps because the visual element of musical performance is and always has been a firmly established part of music: any musical experience always involves seeing things. But the reverse is not the case.

Friday 28 October 2011

For unfussy intelligence

Great Thinkers: In Their Own Words, BBC Four, August 2011

In fact, the overall atmosphere in footage shown throughout the series is noticeably unburdened compared with today. The unfussy intelligence and well-meaning conviction is compelling.

Passports to modernity

Interview: Alex Danchev on art manifestos

‘These are living and breathing social documents that talk of human beings speaking to other human beings. The language and mode of expression is radical, bold and strident. And I think it relates to what we’ve already discussed…that artists saw themselves as part of a much bigger change that some sections of society were attempting to bring about.’

Friday 21 October 2011

Is writing a thrilling option?

Deon Meyer, Novel Books, Bryanston, Johannesburg, October 2011

Ideas for his characters may come from people he meets or sees, but on the whole he spends a lot of time creating them, imagining a back story for them so that he can feel how they will react in different circumstances. The more time he spends with them the more real they become and sometimes he is even surprised by how they react.

Friday 7 October 2011

A diet of anxiety

Myths and Realities: ‘We’ve never had to so good? Food and Diet in the UK’, British Library, London, 21 September 2011

If a few people wish to eat themselves into supposedly an earlier grave, that is an individual lifestyle choice. It may not be a choice to either be applauded or celebrated, but it is the choice of the individual, and should not be micromanaged by governments or public health groups.

‘I wish the government would stop trying so hard to make my life safer’

Understanding Extremism: What are the real dangers? , Frontline Club, London, 14 September 2011

As one panellist pointed out, less than 60 people have been killed in the UK by terrorists in the past 10 years. It is also worth noting that statistically residents of the United Kingdom were actually more likely to be harmed by terrorist attacks in the decade prior to 9/11.

The case against American military dominance

Is the United States in Decline, and Why Should Anyone Care?, IEA, London, 20 September 2011

Preble’s case against a robust American military internationally predictably starts with the damaging role it played in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aware of the exhaustive commentary already delivered on this subject, Preble swiftly initiates an exploration of why the United States has philosophically felt the need to serve as the world’s police power.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Asking the right questions

John Cage: Every Day is a Good Day, Hayward Gallery Project Space (Saturday 13 August – Sunday 18 September / John Cage Night, performed by Apartment House, Queen Elizabeth Hall (Tuesday 13 September, 7.30pm)

In the discussion which followed the concert, it was refreshing to hear Philip Thomas and Anton Lukoszevieze (the founder of Apartment House, as well as its cellist) strongly defend Cage as a composer, not just an ideas man, as he is sometimes viewed.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

An overblown scandal

Phone-hacking: is it time to get tough on the press?, LSE, London, 6 July 2011

The conclusion to this debate was delivered by a man who wondered onto the stage wearing 1960s clothes, a beard and a bad temper. An uninvited hippy came onto stage and, with the audience’s encouragement, went on a rant (not dissimilar to that made by Gordon Brown regarding Murdoch’s ‘criminal media-nexus’ at the House of Commons) about the increasing apathy and lack of transparency in the press.

Friday 24 June 2011

Not a big deal?

Institute of Ideas Current Affairs forum on the New College of the Humanites, London, 22 June 2011

It seems uncontroversial to write that the NCH is not the answer to this country’s higher education problems. As Dennis Hayes very convincingly argued, it is barely even the question. And we must, of course, wait until it’s actually been open for a while before we can properly judge its merits. In the meantime, the corroding effect of educational bureaucracy may well constitute a more substantive target for debate.

Educational aspirations

Freedom, Education and the State: Is Mediocrity for All Preferable to Excellence for Some?, Voices of Freedom debate, London, 20 June 2011

Toby Young argues that children shouldn’t be given easier options, but that they need to be challenged. Taking up the suggestion that parents might not go for an academic education for their children, he argued that we should give parents a bit more credit, that his school was attracting children from every walk of life, and that the majority of Free Schools have generated a better curriculum that that on offer in comprehensives.

Should the United States help drive global development?

Delivering Meaningful Results in Global Development’, a lecture by Dr Rajiv Shah, LSE, London, Tuesday 14 June

USAID is currently undertaking several projects around the world, two of which Dr Shah spoke about in considerable detail. One of them is helping impoverished places in Africa, and elsewhere, to decrease the percentage of malnourished people while aiming to stimulated their economy at the same time.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Why don’t you read my books instead?

VS Naipaul in conversation with Geordie Greig, Intelligence Squared, London, 31 May 2011

A sharp-eyed and consistent defender of Western intellectual culture at heart, Naipaul has always thrived on picking apart the self-loathing tendencies of the liberal intelligentsia: the erudite colonial always ready to upstage his masters.

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