Apparently, astronomers have found another candidate for a habitable planet and, in relative terms, it is not too far away.
The unnamed planet was hiding near a star known as HD40307 and is seven times the size of our earth. Astronomers interested in upgrading are drawn to the planet’s period features, refurbished bathrooms and apparent capacity to produce liquid water, which is a good sign in a prospective planet.
Should we be too quick to abandon the planet? And should we take stuff with us? Such as fish, vegetables or clinical psychologists? While there may be many reasons, from coastal erosion to Nick Clegg, for wanting to build a spaceship, perhaps we ought to stay a while and help sort things out a bit. If only until after Christmas.
I was reading recently about the leaking of the new national curriculum. What was striking was the lack of expertise implicit in it. Teachers asked to comment on it had to stop laughing before noting that, for example, we might want to aim a bit higher than teaching 13-year-olds how to write “business letters in the correct form”. “Depressingly predictable,” they said.
Documents like this are an attempt to shape social policy and the culture that emerges from it in a way that reflects government values, but they also demonstrate a disinvestment in expertise. Culturally, we appear no more inclined to ask teachers about education than we are to ask nurses about healthcare provision.
It’s interesting that when it comes to policy development, nurses appear to be something to be managed rather than a resource to benefit from and it seems that nursing has grown so used to that it expects nothing more.
I suppose the obvious reason for that is the perception that nurses will oppose change and therefore cannot be included. Or it may be that nursing is so poorly represented politically it is hard to consult them meaningfully. But I can’t help wondering if maybe it has something to do with gender, still.
In the public eye, nursing remains a female profession and it seems an insidious and deeply ingrained institutional sexism prevents any form of real consultation, partnership or mining into the expertise of nurses. It was telling (and went widely undiscussed) that, when the BBC chairman was asked recently when the new director general would be in place, he replied: “I think he will need to be in place quite soon.” It’ll be another bloke then. The same day, a report into public appointments revealed not only a massive disparity between men and women being appointed to top jobs continues (14 men to one woman at the Department of Energy, for example) but also that women in high-flying jobs will earn £500,000 less in their working lives than men with identical careers. Luck? Irrelevant? Of course not.
Creating the illusion that sexism is a thing of the past is one of the cleverest things men have done in years and, ironically perhaps, it is the stoic attempts of modern nursing to demonstrate it is more than equal to any profession in its capacity to adapt, develop and respond to demand that has compounded the apparent political powerlessness of the profession. Nursing doesn’t confront. It is still too busy proving how capable it is.
I could be wrong - maybe it has nothing to do with gender. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. Sexism is a thing of the past; I understand the Spice Girls put an end to it; move along, nothing to see here. Or, if it is about sexism, still, maybe we might need that other planet after all.
Mark Radcliffe is a senior lecturer and author of Gabriel’s Angel