Category Archives for "South Africa"

Progressive Education Has Failed

In the ’90s, South Africa got caught up in the ideological warfare of western education.

Progressive education has failed

We put in place a progressive philosophy of education – or, Outcomes Based Education (OBE) – and meaningful curriculum was subsumed in a storm of paperwork, group-work, child-based learning, all of which left the average working class kid completely bewildered.

As usual, the richer middle class did alright because they grew up in homes with books et cetera.

So why did this happen? The government basically wanted to make a political statement – a bold repudiation of apartheid era, teacher-centred, chalk and talk, authoritarian-style education (an understandable position).

But they went too far. They ended up throwing out the basics of teaching a solid curriculum. They realise this now – if one is to read between the lines of the new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). But CAPS does not go far enough.

It’s time to turn the page on our two most recent and failed eras of education.

Shut Down the Education Department!

Should government be trusted with shaping the citizenry?


Over the next week or so I am focusing on education. As a teacher and political writer, I have some ideas on how to fix our country’s shameful blight, and I am going to share three pieces on this issue over the next few days.

A few years ago, in the wake of hearing some shocking exam results from government schools in the Western Cape, I wrote a piece for the Cape Argus arguing that the Department of Education should be shut down, and the education budget handed over to school governing bodies as subsidies and to parents in the form of fee vouchers.

I still stand by that idea.

Can you really argue for bicycle lanes in your city when the poor don’t have proper services?

This is a guest post by Nicola MacPhail.

bicycle lanes

Nicola is a good friend’s sister and a really interesting person. She has experience being an investment banker in London, and a transport pilot in Africa. She is also an avid podcaster – see

She recently read this column and was stunned by the lack of economic engagement on the part of the writer.

Basically, the writer is arguing that new DA mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, was wrong to cancel the bicycle lane project in favour of more spending on basic services in Alexandra.

I, for one, can’t believe the politically tone-deaf thinking contained in the piece, while Nicola was interested in the lack of economic engagement by the piece, which instead bases its arguments on nebulous international ‘standards’.

I think Nicola’s argument below is a good example of the clear, big picture thinking our country really needs at the moment.

The Springboks Are Losing Their Story

We are wasting our failures.

springboks vs japan world cup 2015

There comes a time for any organisation when failure is the best thing that can happen to you. Every year needs a winter. But if you don’t learn how to fail well, and fruitfully, things can start to come apart.

That seems to be happening to our national rugby team.

Yes, I know I wrote a month back how much I am enjoying them at the moment. I still am. I don’t find narrow losses to other professional teams massively disappointing. But maybe I am not competitive enough.

But the vast majority of supporters are disenchanted. And the last few weeks of fixtures and news have not represented an upward curve. When you lose your supporters, and when you lose the sense of a hopeful narrative, trouble looms.

To understand how the Springboks have lost their grip on their own story, we do need some historical context. So let’s remember some other lowpoints.

How to Solve South Africa’s Crime Epidemic

Are we headed for a golden age in 2024?


I received a lot of vitriol for my piece suggesting some truths we as white South Africans need to remember.

I realised quite quickly that a lot of that criticism was based on the problem of crime. After all, it is pretty difficult to be positive when you fear for yourself and your family, even in your own home, because of high rates of violent crime.

I myself have written about my own experience with such crime.

So today I want to look more dispassionately at the issue of crime. (Next week, I’ll do education.) Obviously you can’t cover the whole subject in one blog post, but here are some of the ideas of how to prevent crime that people around the world are discussing.

Humans Will Always Be More Important Than Machines

‘People… people will never go out of business.’ – Michael Scott

we are not machines , big data, brandseye

Last week, I did a piece of analysis for social media analytics company, Brandseye. Their intelligence tool is based on big data collection – but also human insight, in the form of their signature Crowd.

Their success – in predicting Brexit, and coalition governments in the SA local elections – overturns some prevailing sentiment in the tech and business worlds – that machines are now cleverer than people, and might take over society, like something out of Terminator or The Matrix.

What their Crowd does is sort through big data, adding human insight, in the shape of an awareness of irony, narrative, and humour, to the evaluation of media information.

In my piece I just did for them, I showed how their system will always beat Watson, IBM’s super computer, in understanding political data.

Why We Never Solve the Poverty Problem

In politics, simplicity is elegance – and frustratingly rare.


First of all, let me say that I understand poverty will always exist in some form or another because we live in an imperfect world.

One of the misplaced keys to politics is, I believe, a sense of the tragic. We need to realise that we can’t bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. There will never be a utopia (after all utopia really means ‘no place’).

With that in mind, we need to take the world as we find it, and try to ameliorate the suffering that seems to be part of the human experience. We should do this not only because it increases human happiness, but because it is how save our own souls – by treating our fellow humans as neighbours.

So what big ideas can we use to try to alleviate poverty?

I want to throw out something radically simple.

Why don’t we just give the poor money?

Steve Biko and the Human Face

What is this blog all about?


I have been wondering how I would describe the unifying theme of my writing.

For a long time, I have considered myself a conservative. By that, I don’t mean the politics of George Bush, as some mistakenly think – but rather a politics that values tradition, the family, morality, and is sceptical as to how much a large government can achieve.

I think all politics is ultimately about an organic relationship between liberty and order, worked out in time and space by a people according to their own history and traditions.

I think when governments are too confident in their own ability to re-make society, to engineer society, disaster strikes. Think of the gulags, the social engineering of apartheid, the Terror of the French Revolution and its subsequent Napoleonic Wars.

But unfortunately, none of this amounts to a catch-phrase, a clear political style or theme.