So far as is possible, the majority of John Kersey’s creative work is licensed under various Creative Commons licences and can be reproduced under the conditions provided by those licenses.

Some of John Kersey’s writings can be found at the website of the Traditional Britain Group. He has also blogged for the former Libertarian Alliance.

Posted in Uncategorized

Central School of Religion Reunion

Photo credit: © Mike Faherty (cc-by-sa/2.0)

At St Jude’s Free Church of England, Balham, on 23 September 2017, before an invited audience of members of the Central School of Religion, John Kersey performed Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata.

Posted in Romantic Discoveries Recordings

Private universities in Costa Rica – some observations on legal status and international comparability

According to a newspaper article published in 2012, “Costa Rica’s educational system is continually highlighted as one of the best in Latin America and it continues to produce quality graduates that are rapidly absorbed by private companies and state institutions.” (Tom Rosenberger, “A look at Costa Rica’s University, College, and School System“, Costa Rica Star, 2 May 2012)

Costa Rica is one of a number of Central American countries to have established a relatively large private university sector. As of 2017, the Ministerio de Educación Pública (MEP) included 54 private universities in its list of officially recognized institutions. This compares with a total number of universities in Costa Rica of 64, including 5 public universities and 5 international private universities. It can therefore be seen that the overwhelming majority of Costa Rican universities are private, although the public universities are all large institutions and some of the private universities are small. Since 2000, around 50% of Costa Rican students attend private universities and 50% attend public universities (Source: OECD, “Reviews of National Policies for Education: Education in Costa Rica”, 2017, p.5). Since at least the end of the last century, Costa Rican private universities have also sought to recruit students abroad, targeting both the Hispanic community in the USA and, increasingly, English speaking students seeking to study via distance learning.

All Costa Rican universities, both public and private, that currently hold government approval are listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO World Higher Education Database (WHED).

Universities in Costa Rica enjoy a high level of autonomy under the Constitution, and this autonomy is more generous for public universities. The public universities are self-governing under the umbrella of the National Council of Rectors (CONARE), which is the principal higher education representative body in Costa Rica. 38 out of the 54 private universities are members of CONARE.

The proposal to permit the official functioning and approval of private universities in Costa Rica was brought forward by CONARE, and given effect by CONARE at its Session on 31 October 1979. By Law No. 6693 of November 27, 1981, published in the Official Gazette, No. 243, dated December 21, 1981, the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada (National Council of Private Higher Education) (CONESUP) was created. Therefore under this law, CONESUP became the statutory government body in charge of regulating and supervising private universities. It is illegal for a private university to operate or enrol students without first having received CONESUP approval. CONESUP’s council includes the Minister of Public Education, and representatives from CONARE, private universities and community colleges, and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy.

The approval process of a new private university in Costa Rica includes a review of the proposed institution’s facilities, faculty, programmes and establishment, in which the Organic Law of the university (the statutes and regulations by which it exercises its functions) is an important component. CONESUP inspects private universities to ensure that basic standards are maintained. Institutional approval by CONESUP can be suspended or revoked altogether in the event of infringement of its protocols. CONESUP approval is available both to traditional campus-based universities and also to universities that offer education via correspondence or distance learning online. All programmes that are to be offered by a private university in Costa Rica must undergo programmatic approval by CONESUP.

Notwithstanding this, and the strengthening of CONESUP’s authority in 2000 and 2005 respectively, the degree of autonomy extended to private universities in Law No. 6693-81 is still high. Article 8 of that law establishes that “once its operation has been authorized, the private university shall have total liberty to develop its academic activities and curriculum as well as its study plans and programs…” Article 9 of the same body of law determines that “within the terms of this law, the private universities as institutions of superior education shall enjoy total liberty with regard to the curriculum, scientific research and the diffusion of culture…” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].

In 1999, Costa Rica established the Sistema Nacional de Acreditación de la Educación Superior (National System of Accreditation) (SINAES). SINAES is a voluntary accreditation body for both public and private university degree programmes. SINAES accredits only programmes, not institutions. As of 2015, only 12% (140 out of 1,165) of the degree programmes that are offered legally in Costa Rica have been accredited by SINAES, with 9% of private university and 15% of public university programmes being so accredited. In the Costa Rican civil service, preferential treatment is given to holders of SINAES-accredited degrees. Elsewhere, the value of SINAES accreditation is determined by the market, and its low take-up suggests that for the majority of Costa Rican universities and their students, it is not seen as significant.

The degrees that a private university may grant are established in principle under its Organic Law and Regulations which are part of its foundation documents. For example, the Organic Law and Regulations of the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, a private university approved by CONESUP since 5 November 1997, states in its first chapter:

“Article 45: The University shall grant the degrees Bachelor, Graduate Degree (Licenciatura), Master, Professional Specialization and Doctor. Article 46: In order to obtain the academic degree of Bachelor, it is required to have passed a minimum of 120 credits and a maximum of 144, for the Graduate Degree 30 to 36 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree need to have been passed when the career includes such degree. Otherwise, the student must pass a minimum of 150 and a maximum of 180 credits. For the Master’s degree, a minimum of 180 and a maximum of 192 or 60 to 72 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree must have been passed. For the Doctor’s degree, a minimum of 100 credits and a maximum of 120 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree need to have been passed. For the Professional Specialization, the necessary credits are not defined but ¡t is required to possess the academic Graduate Degree (Licenciatura).” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].

It is important to clarify that CONESUP’s approval of degree programmes extends only to those programmes which are offered in Costa Rica itself. The question of internationally-offered programmes and those offered in collaboration between private Costa Rican universities and overseas universities was dealt with by CONESUP in its official Circular Number 270-98-CONESUP of April 28, 1998. In that document, CONESUP states “In cases where the academic offer is being developed outside of the national territory CONESUP does not have any authority whatsoever.” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs]. Therefore such programmes are not eligible for CONESUP programmatic approval. The degrees that result from them are still, however, issued in Costa Rica under the legal authority bestowed on the universities by virtue of their foundation and the law on the granting of degrees.

Comparability considerations

In the majority of countries of the world, government agencies are responsible for the accreditation and approval processes of private higher education providers. Costa Rica conforms to this pattern. The unusual features in the Costa Rican system are firstly that the numerical majority of universities are private rather than public, and secondly that the regulatory system allows a high degree of freedom to all universities, mandating basic standards as compulsory under the law, and offering a further voluntary programmatic accreditation scheme for those who wish to participate in it.

The low take-up of the SINAES scheme even among the public universities means that while a SINAES-accredited degree can be taken to be accredited under a quality scheme that meets international standards, a non-SINAES-accredited degree cannot be dismissed out of hand without dismissing the vast majority of Costa Rican degrees, both public and private. Nor would it be reasonable to refer to non-SINAES-accredited degrees as “unaccredited” in a general sense, since such degrees not only are part of a governmental regulatory framework but are issued in full accordance with Costa Rican law and have full validity as such within that country.

In determining the comparability of such awards, it is necessary to have reference to reliable and established international sources that deal with the recognition of international credentials. One of the most useful of these sources is the European Area of Recognition Manual, published by a consortium consisting of a number of national recognition bodies from European Union member states.

The first question to ask is whether a private Costa Rican university can meet the definition of a recognized institution established by the Manual. This definition is set out as follows:

“Recognition refers to the official status granted by national legislation. Higher education is governed by national legislation in most countries. Laws on higher education lay down the framework for the system as a whole, stipulate general criteria that have to be met, define policies and procedures that should be in place and bestow official, degree-granting authority on institutions, both public and private. Institutions that fulfil the requirements set in national legislation and have official degree-granting authority are considered to be recognised, though a different term may be used.” (p.21)

In Costa Rica, private universities are granted official status by national legislation. CONESUP as a mandated government body under such national legislation approves private universities and bestows official degree-granting authority through this act of approval. Therefore, a private Costa Rican university meets the definition of a recognized institution.

Next, we should consider the more complex matter of whether such institutions can be considered both recognized and accredited. Here the Manual states the following:

Recognition/accreditation of an institution and recognition/accreditation of a programme.

Generally qualifications awarded by recognised institutions are considered to be recognised. However, in some countries recognition/accreditation of a programme is separate from the recognition/accreditation of an institution. In other words, it is possible for recognised institutions to offer programmes that are not officially recognised and for non-recognised institutions to offer recognised programmes.” (ibid.)

We have established that Costa Rican private universities are recognized institutions, and therefore the presumption in the first sentence above applies, that “qualifications awarded by recognised institutions are considered to be recognised”. Notwithstanding this, we should also consider the rest of the paragraph. It is not possible for institutions that are not officially recognized to offer recognized programmes in Costa Rica, and therefore this provision does not apply. But programmatic accreditation does exist in Costa Rica. In the case of private university programmes offered within Costa Rican territory, this takes the form of compulsory approval by CONESUP either with or without additional voluntary accreditation by SINAES. For such programmes offered outside Costa Rican territory, the option of programmatic approval/accreditation is not available.

In order to interpret this correctly, we should consider the matter in context. The legal status of the degree awarded is exactly the same, whether it is accredited by SINAES or not, and whether (for private institutions) the programme is internally delivered and thus CONESUP-approved, or externally delivered and thus ineligible for CONESUP approval. All are Costa Rican degrees issued by government-recognized universities.

Moreover, degrees issued by Costa Rican public universities that are not accredited by SINAES are routinely considered to be equivalent to accredited degrees from other countries; indeed, as the article quoted in our opening paragraph maintains, Costa Rica’s system of education is “continually highlighted as one of the best in Latin America”. And the Manual states, “No distinction should be made between qualifications or periods of study earned at private versus public institutions, as long as the private institution is recognised and/or accredited by competent authorities.” (p. 22).

The Manual offers an example of how to treat a degree from an institution that is recognized but where there is no accreditation system implemented. Note that while SINAES is extant in Costa Rica, its purely voluntary nature means that it is not “implemented” in the sense the Manual uses that term, since it defines accreditation as effectively a compulsory process (p. 21).

Example 2

An applicant seeks recognition of his master degree in law. This qualification was awarded by a recognised higher education institution listed on the website of the Ministry of Education. Since an accreditation system was not implemented in the country where the degree was obtained, neither the institution nor the programme was accredited. Both the institution and the programme were established in line with the national legislation on higher education. In this case the competent recognition authority should trust that the awarded qualification represents an accepted level of education and recognise it accordingly.” (p. 22)

Therefore, the basis of recognition in this case should be the recognized status of the university, where both institutions and programmes are established in line with the national legislation on higher education. That will be the case with all Costa Rican university degrees, both public and private, that are awarded by recognized universities.

Having established that such awards are recognized, the exact equivalency of any award will then depend upon a precise analysis, and the comparison of its requirements and contents to recognized awards in the system of education to which comparability is sought.

Key Sources

Posted in Education

Piano recital in Chingford

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Launch event of the Ludwig von Mises Institute UK

Speaking at “Liberty in the Age of Trump” alongside Jim Turney and Dr Sean Gabb; this was the inaugural event of the Ludwig von Mises Institute UK held in London on 18 February.


Posted in Mises UK

Traditional Britain Group Conference 2015

Education: reasserting our culture and values.

One of the curious things about education is that, having experienced it at first hand, everyone believes themselves to be an expert on it. This is particularly damaging in the case of politicians, whose record of interference in education during the post-war era has offered a prime example of the dead hand of the state going where it has no business to be. Meanwhile, those who supposedly are the experts – those who teach – have effectively presided over the decline of their profession through decades of mistaken ideology and a belief that their profession continues to offer the last resting place for the Marxist spirit of 1968.

It is difficult for us to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when our education system was largely independent of government. The universities, in particular, were held to be self-governing communities of scholars, which is the model of the university we inherited from medieval times. At Oxford, there was not even any formal government instrument that permitted the University to grant degrees; simply the acknowledgement that it had done so since time immemorial and should continue in a similar manner. The history of our schools begins with the grammar schools, established by the Church, and from these our great independent schools developed from collegiate foundations – Eton, Winchester, Radley – which were both closely allied to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and, because they were boarding schools, could accept their pupils without geographical restriction.

Grammar schools have been much in the news recently and it is worth analysing some of the motives behind the debate on them and its wider context within our education system. I must declare a personal interest here: I was myself educated at what was at that time the top co-educational grammar school in the country. It was an academically highly selective school that was tremendously successful and which gave its pupils an outstanding education.

The history of state intervention in the grammar schools begins in 1869 under Gladstone, with the Endowed Schools Act. This Act followed upon the Public Schools Act of the previous year and proposed to restructure the endowments of the grammar schools so that they were more evenly distributed around the country and so that there was better provision for girls’ education. The Act changed many of the grammar schools which had been endowed to offer free classical education to boys into independent co-educational schools teaching a broader curriculum. The 1907 Education (Administrative Provisions) Act then introduced a requirement that all schools aided by government grant must reserve 25% of their places as free scholarships for students from the public elementary schools. This reform effectively brought about the grammar school in its twentieth-century guise.

It is with the 1944 Education Act that we see a designated role for the grammar schools as part of the tripartite system proposed, under which they would educate the top 25% of pupils. At this point there were around 1,200 state funded grammar schools, including not only those of ancient foundation but many which had been founded in the Victorian era, with its strong emphasis on self-improvement. In addition, there were 179 direct grant grammar schools, at which between 25 and 50% of pupils were educated free of charge and the remainder paid fees. All these became the maintained sector’s response to the independent schools; academic powerhouses dedicated to the needs of the most able.

We should now consider this system in its wider context. The tripartite system – divided between grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical schools – was designed to ensure that educational resources were distributed according to the ability of pupils to benefit from them and the state to provide for them. It was predicated upon the assumption that academically selective education produced the best results in terms of educating future leaders of the country in all areas, and above all upon the assumption that a university education should place academic excellence at the forefront of its priorities and should be reserved for those who stood to benefit most from it. It was academically competitive and there were consequences for failure at any level of the process. If, for example, you failed the eleven plus examination, you were unlikely to go to university.

Until 1965, this resulted in a situation where the universities were almost entirely filled by the products of independent and grammar schools. Their reputation was extremely high and their independence in academic terms was unquestioned. In a 1969 contribution to the educational “Black Papers”, Professor Richard Lynn wrote, “British education has been designed primarily to produce an intellectual elite. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, such an elite is necessary to keep going the intellectual and cultural tradition of European civilisation.” There was no suggestion in those days that the universities existed merely to train students for a career. Rather, they provided an academic education and existed for the purpose of propagating academic virtues, of which scholarship for its own sake and teaching were chief. Their graduates were, of course, in high demand by employers, but outside the specific professions, this was as much because of their intellectual calibre and qualities of character as it was because of any specific knowledge they possessed. In those days, the attitude persisted within independent and grammar school teaching that if someone was of the intellectual calibre to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge they were capable of mastering and teaching any subject required at school level within reason. There were many examples of classicists who taught English Literature, or physicists who taught mathematics, and of course many academic staff also coached sport and music to a high level. Indeed, such breadth was viewed as a positive attribute.

We cannot pin the blame for the decline in our education entirely upon the Labour Party. It is quite true that many in the Labour Party have seen opposition to selective and fee-paying education as a cornerstone of their egalitarianism. But the Conservative Party has throughout the past fifty years signally failed to show support for academically selective education and as a result has been as willing a participant in our decline as its political rivals. The expansion of the universities during the 1960s took place under a Conservative government, which accepted the recommendations of the Robbins Report. The major expansion which followed during the 1990s and which is still ongoing has likewise been initiated by Conservatives. While the Conservatives introduced the Assisted Places scheme at independent schools in 1980, they have so far done nothing to bring it back since Tony Blair, himself an alumnus of Fettes, abolished it in 1997.

And yet, while our politicians can all trumpet that they have got more people into university education, what they cannot address is the fact that when you convert a selective education system into a mass education system you inevitably devalue the end product. In the 1960s it was extremely rare to see graduates working in non-graduate jobs because there was no graduate employment available to them. Nowadays it is commonplace. This transition has involved the creation of a deliberate untruth and its maintenance by an elaborate and costly bureaucracy. The untruth is that a British degree, wherever it is from, is a product of universal value. There is no end of quangos and interest groups – the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, Universities UK, GuildHE – all of which are dedicated to maintaining that premise of “quality assurance”, to continually expanding higher education seemingly without limitation, and ultimately to what amounts to a universal higher education system whereby all who go to school can be admitted to a university.

It is interesting to note that the funding of education has told the truth far more than have the pronouncements from the powers that be. Until the 1990s, it was generally true that if you were successful in winning a university place, you would not have to pay for your education and you could access a grant that would cover your living expenses. With the rapid expansion in higher education and the conversion of the former polytechnics into universities came student loans to replace grants. Now, as the university sector expands even further, students in England and Wales must pay tuition fees in addition to the debts they incur for their maintenance.

Higher education has changed from an experience that was due to our brightest as of right to a commodity which is now available to all if they wish to pay for it, and particularly to foreign students who will pay even more than domestic ones. It is hardly surprising that if higher education is presented as a product within a marketplace – albeit a marketplace that consists entirely of a state monopoly – that the public will assess its value shrewdly and in many cases will decide that it is not worth the price being charged for it. That, however, cannot conceal the fact that for those who can benefit from academically selective higher education, that kind of education is increasingly subordinate to the mass higher education system, in which the scholarly ideal has been replaced by that of the Research Assessment Exercise and the demand for research to result in tangible product. Moreover any higher education is now increasingly out of reach for those without significant financial means or who are unwilling to incur significant debt against an uncertain return.

Education is the visible casualty of these changes, but it is not the only part of the picture. One very practical reason why governments have embraced mass higher education is because our society no longer has a large number of unskilled or semi-skilled jobs available. Where they are available, there is an increasing expectation that they will be filled by cheap immigrant labour. This leaves the unskilled native population to exist on benefits and occasional appearances on Channel Five. The government takes the view that the answer to this is to subject all to more education, hence its raising of the school leaving age. But this ignores the plain fact that of our population, a large number are not capable nor temperamentally suited to continuing their education. What they need is jobs, not an artificial means of keeping them off the unemployment statistics.

One curious characteristic of the decline of British education has been the willingness of those who have benefitted from its excellence to implement measures that have effectively denied the next generation the opportunity to benefit from the same opportunities as them. The losers in this are the academically able but financially impecunious. Social mobility is not something that should be the preserve of socialist politicians. During the 1980s there was much talk of Britain as a meritocracy, and yet the opportunities for those born in poverty to rise through the education system nowadays are fewer than they ever have been. Our politics, law, media and even the Olympics are now dominated by former pupils of independent schools. Since the effective abolition of the grammar schools the number of state school entrants to Oxford and Cambridge has fallen. This is not merely because pupils are not reaching the required academic standard but also because their teachers in too many cases believe that the top universities are elitist and that pupils should instead go to their local university much as they do their local school. In believing this, they condemn their pupils to fail.

An expectation has developed that those who are successful in our society will either pay for their children to be educated at independent schools, or will, usually for ideological reasons where they oppose selective education, send them to take their chances at the local comprehensive. The former option is becoming more difficult, because independent school fees are now pitched at a level that attracts the children of foreign oligarchs, and increasingly international students are taking more and more of the independent school places in this country at the expense of those from our own population who could benefit from such an education if only it were more reasonably priced.

The way in which properties are now sold according to the catchment areas of good schools tells us another fundamental truth; the education system may have abolished selection officially, but another kind of selection – one far less fair and far less transparent – is going on behind the scenes. We should not forget that the grammar schools had no catchment areas; they took everyone who passed the entrance exam regardless of where they lived. If you decide school admissions on the basis of property prices, you will create schools that are segregated by class and you will ensure that the poorest areas have the worst-performing schools.

League tables and OFSTED inspections are the government’s chosen means of reassuring us about the standards of our schools, but they are selective in the story they tell. Some examinations count for more than others, and schools have effectively played the system by entering pupils for them accordingly. On the other hand, weaker candidates have been withdrawn from subjects lest their results should reflect badly on the school’s standing.

And this brings us back to the grammar schools. When the Labour government abolished the tripartite system in 1965, it largely forced the maintained grammar schools to become comprehensives. Only in a few local authorities – just imagine today, local authorities defying central government! – did the grammar schools remain. In 1975, Labour ended the direct grant system and forced direct grant grammar schools to become comprehensives or independent schools if they wanted to continue. This left what remains today: 169 grammar schools in England and Wales and 69 in Northern Ireland.

We should ask why seventeen years of Conservative government between 1979 and 1997 did not see a renaissance for selective education, and indeed why further grammar schools closed or ceased to be selective during that period. The answer is that by this point, our education system had become one of the firmest bastions of the Left in the country. Its official endorsement of comprehensive education has been unwavering despite the eminently visible problems that have resulted from it. Any measure of reform or any challenge to the comprehensive system has been shouted down by the teaching unions, the university departments of education and the quangos – a group which Michael Gove used to refer to as “the blob”. He has said that these people believe that schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics…the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance.” When I was at school, my teachers were drawn from all parts of the political spectrum. When I became a teacher myself, that was far less the case. My belief is that the comprehensive system exists to benefit one sector of society solely, and that is the teachers who find it ideologically to their liking.

By the end of my time in teaching it was axiomatic that whatever your politics, if you wished to teach, you would accept the Leftist orthodoxy that the profession had imposed and that you would not challenge it. That orthodoxy says, in essence, that all must have prizes and that the excellent are the enemy of the good. It sees education not as an academic pursuit but instead as a means of social engineering and vocational training, and as a means of reducing crime and social disorder. Over the years it has provided a happy home for all manner of Marxist nonsense and has enshrined teaching methods, particularly in basic English, that fail to achieve the same results as the traditional methods they replaced. It is not difficult to see the decline in the standard of written English in public life today compared to that of fifty years ago, and we have those teachers who promoted free expression ahead of spelling and grammar to thank for that.

Any education system will produce winners and losers. If we say that all must have prizes, then we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that those prizes will be of limited value. We cannot create their value merely by attaching government branding to them, for no-one believes that something is good simply because the government endorses it. Indeed, we had a situation in this country for many years where the products of the state monopoly, notably those of British Leyland, were regarded as markedly inferior to those of the private sector. The state can only win in education by deliberately retarding any perceived or actual competition. It does so through legislation – the Education Reform Act of 1988 effectively banned private sector universities – and for those entities that are private or independent in theory, it has devised a web of regulation and bureaucracy that in practice curtails their independence. OFSTED is one manifestation of this. Another is the devaluation that has characterized our exam system.

For many years, O and A level examinations were regarded as a gold standard. They were difficult to obtain and represented a high standard of achievement. They were unashamedly academic and required a high degree of factual recall. They could be taught in a way that stretched the most able and allowed for considerable extension activity. They were tested predominantly through timed examinations and not through coursework or continuous assessment. This was also the model of educational assessment maintained by the universities who were in turn responsible for the examination boards. While the CSE examination taken in secondary modern schools was not regarded as prestigious there is no question that it was a rigorous and well respected credential, as indeed were the awards of the former polytechnics. The fact that those awards were not degrees or were not O and A levels did not diminish their fitness for purpose, but it fostered a belief among egalitarians that they were second-tier qualifications and that they deserved the same titles as would be awarded to the more academically inclined. Unfortunately, this academic inflation has proved very costly. Because we no longer teach woodwork and metalwork in our schools, we end up importing our joiners and plumbers from Poland, and those who want to learn a skilled trade are unlikely to do so during their school years. The truth is that not everyone needs, wants or will benefit from an academic education, and when subjected to one against their will, it is unsurprising that many teenagers become disruptive and unco-operative.

It is interesting to note that while we have moved away from the academically selective model and from traditional modes of teaching and assessment, other former British possessions, notably India, have kept it and benefitted strongly as a result. The government determined to take the examination boards out of university control, to privatize them and to introduce competition. The result has been a race to the lowest denominator. The examinations are not invariably easier, but they have become increasingly turgid and reductive, with an emphasis on turning everything into something that can be easily and transparently assessed in simple terms. The GCSE examination, brainchild of Sir Keith Joseph and strongly opposed at the time by Baroness Thatcher, has been a misguided attempt to merge academic and vocational education, and the fact that a number of selective schools have turned to international examinations to replace it in recent years testifies to its limitations. It is also notable that many academically demanding schools now prefer the International Baccalaureate to A levels.

I believe that Michael Gove will come to be seen as the only Education Secretary of the past fifty years to have genuinely understood some of these problems and tried, in the face of overwhelming opposition from “the blob”, to address them. I hasten to add that this is not a general endorsement of Gove’s views or policy solutions, many of which I disagree with. He has, however, endeavoured to return rigour to our exam system and it may well be that he has, at least in some respects, succeeded. How lasting that success will be remains to be seen. Gove, after all, was replaced as Education Secretary because, so it is said, his approach was seen to be too confrontational; the opposition he had aroused included two votes of no confidence from three teaching unions, voodoo pincushions, anti-Gove T-shirts and an entire Twitter feed devoted to hating him. But the fact remains that we must confront the education establishment and we must win that confrontation if we are to achieve anything at all. The path of least resistance is to go along with the blob and do their bidding. The difficulty with that is that it fails those who lack a voice in this debate but whose interests need to be right at its heart: our next generation of pupils. Perhaps Gove, who was born far from privilege and won a scholarship to an independent school, understood this more than many of his colleagues.

I want to close by noting some aspects of the ethos of the grammar school. For all that academies and free schools may have some elements of it, they are still a long way away. The good grammar school is a highly structured and disciplined institution where academic values are at the heart of the life of the school and these are allied to an institutional endorsement of Christian principle irrespective of pupils’ own religious beliefs. It is formal in its rituals, encouraging teachers to wear academic dress, having a house system that is both pastoral and competitive, and maintaining high standards of uniform and behaviour. Often the school has an extensive history and distinctive, occasionally eccentric, traditions. What it teaches should be what the top selective universities demand. I well remember that my school did not teach certain subjects because those universities did not take them seriously at entrance, and that it disdained vocational studies altogether. Unlike the comprehensives, it is not a school where all are forced to study the same curriculum regardless of ability. Above all, it is a place where to excel academically is the norm and where to aim high is natural, with the expectation that the vast majority of pupils would go on to places at university and the best would go on to those which were rated most highly. If the grammar school is an elite, then it is not in my experience a complacent elite, but rather one where elite status must be earned anew by each generation of pupils and teachers. When such schools work, they offer a beacon of opportunity for those who, on merit, win a place at them. We need more of them. In 1997, John Major promised us a grammar school in every town, a phrase which has since been echoed by UKIP. It is time to restore our culture and values to our education system, and a strong grammar school system is the best way to do this.

Posted in Uncategorized

Traditional Britain Group Dinner 2015

With the writer on music Stuart Millson before the dinner

John Kersey was the invited speaker at the Traditional Britain Group Annual Dinner at the Royal Over-Seas League on 12 September 2015. Here is the speech given on that occasion:

My Lords, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address you tonight. I am going to address a few words on the current immigration crisis.

Let me begin with some considerations of principle. Freedom and civilisation are based upon a simple premise: that land should be privately owned. If we build a society based on the private ownership of land then there is no limit to our endeavour. For centuries, this was the foundation of the West; land was owned and managed by landowners who had a direct interest in its prosperity and an equally direct interest in the welfare of those who worked that land. If we seek the roots of the England we know and love, we find it most clearly in the private ownership of land.

In our time, this freedom has been challenged. Under socialism, and regrettably under governments that call themselves conservative, we have seen measures that have been designed to break the link between landowner and land, and instead to introduce a very different concept. This is the idea that sovereignty consists not in land but in the person. If the person is sovereign, then we will build a very different kind of society; indeed, we are unlikely to build a society at all, because individualism will cause that society to atomize into multiple and ever-changing identity groups.

Here, then, is the root of the immigration crisis. If we say that land is sovereign, then it follows that someone must exercise control over it. There are still substantial private landowners in Britain today, especially so in Scotland. But for our purposes, we should see land as it really is. There is no terra nullis in Britain today. Even that which is owned privately is subordinate to the Crown, and the Crown is effectively a surrogate for the people in its ownership and management of that land which is deemed to be held in common by the nation. I am not talking here of those private estates, such as the Duchy of Cornwall, which belong to the Crown, but instead of the vast mass of common land that we encounter every day of our lives and that is subject to the management of those who are, ultimately, servants of the Crown, whether as politicians, civil servants or local council workers. This is our land, and we are right to care about what happens to it.

This, then, is why as a propertarian, I find the immigration crisis so vexed by unclear thought. Land belongs to someone. If land belongs to the Crown, the Crown has a duty to manage that land in the best interests of the people of Britain, because it is on behalf of the people of Britain that the Crown holds that land in the first place. And that duty cannot be construed otherwise than to the people of Britain as they stand now. It cannot be a duty to foreigners or their governments, for how could that be in our national interest? Therefore we are faced with the prospect that the Crown and its servants believe that in permitting mass immigration to this country, they are actually acting in the best interests of the people of Britain. I believe they are quite wrong in this.

Let us now look more closely at what is going on at the moment. I believe that Janice Atkinson MEP has summed the situation up very well. Here is what she had to say,

“Let’s be clear about another thing: despite what the human rights industry and the massed ranks of taxpayer-funded charities and lobby-groups repeat, this is not a refugee crisis but a massive crisis of illegal immigration which must be resisted for what it is. A man who leaves Syria may be a refugee at the start of the journey. When he is illegally living in Calais and illegally attempting to enter Britain, he is an economic migrant and an illegal immigrant. The humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis are for the countries of the Middle East to manage. Not for Britain, not for France, not for Austria, not for Italy, not for the Netherlands, not for Poland, not for Romania. That cannot be said too often. Oil-rich, cash-rich petro-monarchies of the region must act. They claim to be our allies. Instead, some fund Islamic terrorism and allow hundreds of thousands to come to our countries against the wishes of our people.”

It seems to me that we have, since at least 1997, suffered a concerted political attack on our immigration system. The driving force behind that attack seems to be the belief that the person is sovereign; that anyone who wishes should be able to come to Britain regardless of the skills or abilities they would bring to our country or their cultural compatibility with it, and that the settled population of these islands should simply put up with it. We do not need to look far to find the cause of this. The Labour Party saw that immigrants and their descendants were among their core supporters. They believed that the more they opened our doors to immigrants the more they would create a Labour client state and effectively pack Britain with Labour voters. Others, influenced by the ideology of multiculturalism, saw mass immigration in the same way as theorists such as the Frankfurt School as a means of destabilising opposition to socialism and making the lot of conservatives a miserable one. In an interview in 2013, Lord Mandelson said “In 2004 when as a Labour government, we were not only welcoming people to come into this country to work, we were sending out search parties for people and encouraging them, in some cases, to take up work in this country.”

Now we are seeing the distinction between legal and illegal immigration further weakened. Having encouraged mass immigration, we cannot then profess ourselves surprised when people from countries where life chances are extremely poor decide that any chance to get across our borders is worth taking. We are told that if we send millions of pounds in international aid, and indeed if we intervene militarily in foreign wars, that we will help these people stay where they are and stabilise their countries. Don’t believe it. Those who are coming to Europe believe that the standard of living that their countries provide is inadequate by comparison with that of the West. They do not want mere safety, which is why they do not want to stay in Hungary. Rather, they see the prosperity that Britain and Germany represent, and they want to experience it for themselves.

What is happening to our immigration system is an erosion of its natural boundaries. Time after time, the Prime Minister assures us that we will get an immigration system that is tougher. When he says tougher, what he actually means is fairer; that is to say, fairer both to the immigrants and to those who are already here. And yet the changes made do not have the effect that is claimed for them, nor do they succeed in substantially lowering the numbers who enter Britain each year. I hear constant statistic-based arguments from both sides about whether immigration is economically beneficial. I do not believe that it is, because it artificially distorts our labour market. I certainly do not believe it is in anyone’s interest that we should have a class of super-rich international jet-setters employing an underclass of disenfranchised immigrants to do menial work that the existing population of this country is supposedly unwilling to do. But this is what happens when an aristocracy of land is replaced by an aristocracy of money. We should not think that Tony Blair and his colleagues are motivated by noblesse oblige or care for our society and our environment. Their motivation seems, by contrast, to speak all too plainly of short-term, materialistic, self-interested greed and tribalism in favour of their family and friends. Their interest is not so much in New Labour as in cheap labour. These are not the values we should have at the heart of our society and they are not values that have had any significant place in the Britain of the past.

But it is not the economic arguments that have the greatest impact on me, it is the cultural arguments. These are arguments that go largely unheard in the House of Commons. It is left to Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to voice them. He says “Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity. Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.” His is not the only country to say that it cannot accept more Muslim migrants.

Is it not sobering that our own Prime Minister cannot mount a robust defence of the Christian heritage of our country in this way? It must be admitted that were he to do so, he would not get a lot of support from the Church of England. But this is the crux of the matter. We cannot allow mass immigration by people, whatever their personal merits and humanitarian need, whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own, without a heavy price being paid. And the countries where those values are naturally at home – Saudi Arabia chief among them – are noticeable by their reluctance to assist in the present crisis, even though it is they who should be bearing the heaviest burden. As those rich Arab countries look at Europe, they must be reminding themselves of the old saying, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.

A further argument which is extremely important is that we must learn the lessons of the past when it comes to immigration. The character of Britain depends in large part on the fact that our country is relatively underpopulated. Even our cities, which have always been cosmopolitan in nature, are having to bear a burden that is far greater than they were designed for. The NHS, the transport system and local services cannot be stretched beyond their limit without breaking. We are seeing property prices being inflated by an artificial scarcity, and new housing being built not only on brownfield sites but often as infill development on greenfield sites as well.

As our towns and cities become more packed, our quality of life suffers. It also suffers from the failure to assimilate migrants by enforcing our cultural values. It should be the norm that the English language is spoken on our streets, for example, and it should also be used in commerce, so that we do not have shop frontages entirely in a foreign language. Immigrants should learn English, and we should monitor their progress until they can communicate clearly in the language. We should have the courage to ban the burka and thereby defend the rights and freedoms of women which were hard-fought in this country. We must ensure that immigrants do not jump the queue for council housing or other public services at the expense of our settled population, but that they wait their turn like everyone else. We should also ensure that British values are taught in our schools and that Muslim propaganda has no place there. One aspect of this that I came across recently is that music – singing or playing an instrument – is regarded as haram, or forbidden, by most Muslims. We should be clear that every child should be allowed the experience of singing and the opportunity to learn a musical instrument during their time at school, regardless of their religious beliefs. And we should not hesitate to deport from this country those who use our hospitality to argue against Western values and to encourage terrorism and armed jihad. That has no place whatsoever in this country. If people want to go to Syria to fight with ISIS, they should not be allowed back and should be treated as undesirable aliens. As recent experience has shown, it is very easy for the Home Office to keep people out of this country.

In short, where our cultural values and those of foreign migrants clash, ours should prevail and our national systems should enforce them. We cannot be equivocal about this. If we give in to cultural relativism, we are effectively signing our death warrant as a people and as a culture. We need to understand that the support of our culture requires its positive reinforcement at every level. It cannot simply be absorbed by osmosis,  and certainly not if we allow ghettoes to form.

I do not want to deny or diminish the human cost of immigration from the migrants’ point of view. We would not be human if we were not moved by the plight of dead children or desperate people. Those scenes rightly evoke an emotional response in us. But political policy cannot be subject to emotion; it must be made with a cool head and in a climate of calm and reasoned judgement. The decisions we make about immigration, whatever they may be, will always have a cost to pay. My belief, though, is that the balance of those decisions must always be firmly towards the settled population of this country, who look to their government to defend their interests. We cannot accept everyone who wants to come here, and if we do, we will have acted to destroy this country, not enrich it. We must have the maturity and the courage to say, as Hungary has said, that there are good reasons to say no.

Posted in Traditional Britain Group

Talk to the National Liberal Club

Photo credit: © John Lubbock (CC BY-SA 4.0)

On 2 September 2015, John Kersey was the invited speaker at a lunch at the National Liberal Club. Here is the talk given on this occasion:

NLC 2 September 2015 – Music in education

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this lunchtime. I am going to venture a few remarks concerning music in education. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to teach music at all levels from junior school to postgraduate, and have examined it for graded examinations, A level and degree level, so I hope I have picked up the odd point of value along the way.

I should begin by emphasising that music is arguably the most important subject that can be taught in a school. Why do I say that? Because music engages the whole person and not merely the intellect. It also calls upon the emotions and, where singing or playing an instrument are concerned, the body. Moreover, it requires us to balance and control all of these elements of the whole person at once. Some of those who encounter music in school will go on to make careers in music. But many more will continue to enjoy music as members of amateur choirs and orchestras, or playing for their own pleasure at home or with friends, or simply listening to live or recorded music as a means of enriching their lives. It is not difficult to be an evangelist for music, because its effects are so comprehensively beneficial. I believe that music is also an important way for us to process emotional and spiritual events in our lives, leading to greater well-being and fulfilment.

It is unfortunate that these benefits are not as widely acknowledged as they should be. That this is the case is due to a philosophical difficulty on the part of government. If we look back to a Liberal Party report of 1974, we find the following,

Once the basic needs of food and shelter are met, the individual’s greatest satisfactions are to be found in love, trust and friendship, in beauty, art and music, and in learning, none of which are served by the mythology of growth for its own sake.

We are no longer living in a society where politicians make statements of this kind. Indeed, they are afraid to do so. Education in the contemporary sense has become interchangeable with training, and as such it has one purpose only, and that is to produce workers who will aid Britain’s economic growth. The concern is no longer with individual development but instead with the subordination of the individual to the aims of the prevailing system through mass social engineering. Our government supports participation in higher education not because it believes that it is an aim of a civilised society that those who can benefit from a university education should have that opportunity, but because it holds that young people in higher education are less likely to commit crime and become involved in anti-social behaviour.

Furthermore, education and society in general have increasingly accepted the agenda of mass commercialism. Western art music fares very poorly when judged by commercial standards. It is expensive to perform large-scale works and difficult to turn a profit from those performances; most instruments are relatively expensive to buy and maintain; instrumental tuition costs money, and there is also the time cost involved in the many hours of practice required to gain proficiency. Against this, pop music in particular succeeds because it makes few if any demands on its audience and is designed and marketed for nakedly commercial ends. Its exponents, who rarely need to have an advanced technique, enjoy obvious success and fame, while a career in classical music, for all its greater demands, rarely garners such rewards.

Economic arguments for music education are, to my mind, doomed to failure. But for the first time in the post-1997 period, we have also lost the cultural arguments. It was bad enough in the 1980s where politicians asked why opera should receive a greater place in the nation’s cultural life than football, given that football was both self-supporting economically and demonstrably more popular among the electorate. Now we are in a position where the question is not even asked. Austerity politics means not only that Western art music has lost much of its central funding but – and I would argue more importantly – its lack of support from the establishment has led to its disappearance from our cultural agenda. When politicians and other establishment figures appear on “Desert Island Discs”, their choice of records nowadays generally centres on pop music, which is no longer regarded as the preserve of the young. And yet to experience music merely through the series of shallow three-minute formulaic commercial vignettes that constitute mainstream pop music is merely to scratch the surface of an art form that encompasses the entirety of the human experience.

This position has been accompanied by the adoption of an ideology whereby education is measured and assessed according to reductive criteria. Success or failure are subject to what is essentially a tick-box system; we see this through our public exams, and also through the league tables by which our schools are judged. This is driven partly by an emphasis on accountability and a desire to make clear that public money is being spent wisely. But it is also driven by a mindset that is fundamentally soulless. It rejects music, which is pushed to the margins in the national curriculum, because music is too hard to quantify, because music’s benefits are too difficult to assess in reductive terms, and because music, and particularly Western art music, is now culturally alien to those making policy. For years, a special case in education was made for Western art music because of its perceived benefits and cultural status. Now, a false parity is maintained in our education system between Western art music and other forms of music, where in reality there is no valid comparison.

Western art music is differentiated from other types of music, such as non-Western art music and Western and non-Western popular music by one particular aspect: it is written down, or codified. Our culture has, for centuries, regarded codification as important. It is an act of preservation, but it is more than that: it is the means by which a work of art enters the public domain. Through codification, a piece of music is replicable by others who may never have met the composer and may indeed be several centuries removed from him or her. It can thus be discussed with reference to a central written text that permits detailed analysis and comparison with other similar works. Codification matters because it constitutes a definitive statement, even if that statement may be subsequently revised.

Codification is fundamentally alien to Western popular music and those non-Western art and popular musics, such as, for example, Indian classical music, that rely upon improvisation for their source. It is also, incidentally, alien to those recent developments of Western art music that incorporate aleatoricism, or chance events. It is symptomatic of the malaise of our current culture that we too often confuse chance events with creativity, where in fact they are simply the random or idiomatic exploration of a sound medium. Why should we be confused in this way? Firstly, because we lack the critical apparatus to assess creativity, a default which is due to inadequacy in musical education. Secondly, because of our reliance on sound recording. We confuse sound recording with the process of musical codification via a score. In fact, sound recording is like a photograph of a bird in flight. It depicts a given moment in that flight, but cannot capture the mechanism by which the bird flies. By contrast, a musical score does just this. The mechanism of the given work is captured within its notation, enabling it to take flight again and again when presented to a performer of sufficient ability.

We are ultimately doing uncodified music a disservice through the way in which it is studied. Where works in a jazz or pop idiom are set for study in GCSE or A level, they are first notated into score by transcribers employed by the exam boards, and then subjected to the same kind of analysis as any other notated score. This is absolutely not the way in which jazz or pop musicians think about their music. It ignores the most fundamental element of that music, which is that jazz in particular is by essence of the moment and is dependent upon a living interaction between performers (often also composers) and audience. For all that jazz and pop are frequently recorded, they are essentially subordinate to the live experience; because they rely on improvisation, every recording is essentially a “live recording”. The decision not to codify substantial aspects of those musics is therefore entirely deliberate. As a result, all too often we are trying to understand an improvised art form not through a genuine encounter with that form itself but merely through an artificial and constructed description of it; we are re-living the dictum that talking about such music is like dancing about architecture.

I am not seeking to imply that uncodified music is not worth studying as a cultural phenomenon. Nor do I say that it cannot appeal to the emotions or provide a source of enrichment as composer, listener or performer. But I will illustrate my point with an example. What if we were to say that we would study English literature based not on books, on novels, poems and short stories that have been codified, but instead on improvised poetry, folk tales or hip-hop lyrics? Would doing so, and thus depriving the next generation of the time that would otherwise be spent studying Shakespeare and the Brontes, not be seen as the utmost folly? If that is the case, then it is the more unfortunate that we are depriving that same generation of the means to understand and to enjoy Bach, Mozart and Beethoven because we are giving them insufficient emphasis within the musical curriculum.

The reason why this dumbing-down is taking place is fundamentally because our politicians do not see the difference. They, and unfortunately some musicians who should know better, have jumped on the bandwagon that music knows no division other than good or bad, in other words whether you like it or not. This is a philistine’s approach to artistic endeavour. What you like and what is easiest to understand are generally synonymous. We do not teach mathematics or science on the basis of what pupils like about them, but on the basis that each constitutes a body of knowledge from which our curriculum selects vital information and techniques that are necessary to grasp the subject to the level concerned.

One thing that distinguishes the great works of the Western musical tradition is that they do not give everything up at first hearing. They seek to express something that requires concentration, analysis and contextual understanding. They require hard work to pick apart, and similar work if we want to write something that emulates them. It is easier to take a music lesson where the pupils are given percussion instruments and encouraged to make some noise than to teach them musical notation, structure and harmony. But if we do not emphasise those aspects that need to be taught in order to be understood, we are not teaching them anything of value, merely providing them with an extension of the playground. To return to my comparison, if we want pupils to write English and to genuinely express themselves, we must first introduce them to grammar and structure so that their writing is comprehensible and cogent. If we want to provide facilities for pop music on top of a sound foundation, all well and good. But it is worth remembering that most of our established pop musicians succeeded on the basis of a secondary education in Western art music, not in pop. Indeed, I think many of them would recall that grounding as having given them the best opportunity to succeed in their field.

Much of these developments are due to the flight from formality that characterized the past decade. Entirely wrongly, both politicians and educators have seen the formality of musical grammar and structure as a negative attribute. They associate it, and indeed they associate much Western art music, with elitism. But it is not elitist to want for our children the best of our culture and its values. In the 1920s, coal miners and their families in Yorkshire used to form amateur string quartets, choirs and brass bands so that they could hear and play the music that they valued. No-one forced them to do it, and indeed their actions were the ultimate in anti-elitism; they brought Beethoven to the working person. They said that the best things in life were rightly theirs to aspire to, and we today should be saying the same. We live in a world where commercialized music has become a mass market product. But when we teach music, we should not simply see our role in terms of producing fodder for a system that judges quality by the yardsticks of the media and the flashy materialism it promotes. We need to aspire to raise standards, not just within schools but within our society in general. As part of that process, we should not accept unquestioningly the commercial pressures placed upon our young people, often by global brands, to become consumers of a mass market product.

The irony of the current system is that because it is depriving pupils of the means to understand and appreciate Western art music, it is making that music and indeed the musical profession ever more the preserve of those educated at independent schools, where an emphasis upon classical music is seen as a very strong selling-point. Nor are those schools embarrassed to present classical music because of the cultural relativism that seems prevalent within the maintained sector. Independent schools, indeed, have an extremely diverse student body these days because of their overseas recruitment. Those students rightly view the experience and understanding of Western art music as an indication of what it is to receive an English education. We should take note of their view.

If we are to bring about a change in musical education, several things need to be done. Firstly, we need to ensure that the foundations are sound. That means teachers who are fully and properly trained in the history and techniques of Western art music. Sadly, at the moment, many are not, because some of our university music courses lack rigour and do not, for example, prepare their students to conduct a choir or an orchestra, which should be a basic requirement of a school music teacher. Secondly, we must ensure that it is part of every primary school pupil’s experience to sing in a choir and to learn to play an instrument that can be bought cheaply and played in a group. In my day it was the recorder. It could equally well be the ukulele. Thirdly, we must ensure that music regains priority at secondary level. Each school should have a good representative selection of recordings of Western classical music and offer pupils the chance to listen to them. There should be the opportunity for choirs and orchestras in which all can participate. And there should be the opportunity to learn an instrument for all who want to do so, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Posted in Talks

Review of John Kersey’s piano recital at Chingford

by Neil Lock

Originally published by the Libertarian Alliance

I was at John Kersey’s piano recital on Saturday May 16th 2015 in Chingford parish church, London E4. The size of the audience was disappointing; perhaps 50 or maybe 60. But I wasn’t disappointed by the experience.

Let me tell you where I come from (musically, not politically). I’m no pianistic expert, but I am a musician. I’ve played in a brass band for more than 40 years. For most of that time my main instrument has been the euphonium; but about 7 years ago, my band suffered a sudden shortage of bass players. So, these days I play the E flat bass tuba.

Oh yes, and I’m also, in my own small way, a composer and arranger for brass band. That tends to give me a wider perspective on the music I hear than most listeners.

Now to John Kersey’s recital. The echoing acoustic of the church, I thought, didn’t help the percussive effects in the opening Bach prelude and fugue. But maybe there was a bit of my own bias in play as well. For church music isn’t really my thing. And Bach, while I recognize his genius, is a little early for my taste.

I was on more comfortable ground with the late Beethoven which followed. There were moments, in the last movement of the Sonata in E major, when I felt briefly transported into another world. Few composers, and few performers, can do that to me.

With the Bagatelles, John Kersey showed us how good a technician he is. I particularly enjoyed the second and fifth of the six pieces.

After the very brief interval, two Fauré barcarolles were not my personal cup of tea. But they paved the way for what I expected to be the highlight: Alkan’s “Symphonie pour piano.” I’d heard this piece on recordings before, but never live.

In the first movement, John Kersey set himself a challenging tempo, and didn’t overdo the rubato. The result was spectacular. Even on its own, to hear that movement was worth going all the way to Chingford for. The third movement was even better. As to the last movement, just before the end I found myself writing in the little A6 book I carry with me what became the following words:

“John Kersey conveyed superbly to the audience the manic energy and sheer horror of the ride through hell on which Alkan takes us.”

I cannot praise John Kersey’s performance highly enough. And I recommend that all of you who enjoy 19th century music should look out for his next recital, and go to it.

Posted in Recitals

Piano recital at Chingford


Posted in Romantic Discoveries Recordings

Publication of “The Radical Traditionalist Today”

theradicaltraditionalisttoday“The Radical Traditionalist Today” is a collection of essays and talks by John Kersey. Deriving from his contributions to the Traditional Britain Group and the Libertarian Alliance (UK), they explore areas of culture, politics and law, as well as addressing the increasing ideological censorship of the modern British state.

Published by European-American University Press and available in paperback. 242pp. £17.95.

To purchase a copy, please follow this link.

Posted in Uncategorized