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OpenLearn Live: 23rd June 2016

Updated Thursday 23rd June 2016

Did Harold Wilson get 'arold and Albert shifted to win an election? How did Britain become an island? Can you trust an ethicist? Free learning from across the day.

OpenLearn Live dips into the world of free learning and shows how it connects to the things you care about. This page will be updated during the day.

Yesterday, we considered the dietary cost of social jetlag, tried to make sense of statistics, and heard about life after a cancer diagnosis

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


Should ethicisits be more ethical?

You would probably think twice before taking fitness advice from a bloke necking a kebab and sucking down on a Lambert & Butler. So would you expect a expert in ethics to be that creature of cliche, a paragon of virtue? Inspired by claims of sexual misbehaviour on the part of an American philosopher, Judith Stark has considered the question for The Conversation:

Researcher Eric Schwitzgebel at the University of California at Riverside is one of the philosophers currently working on these issues by conducting empirical research into how ethicists actually behave. His work shows how flimsy this relationship can be between views held and real-life moral choices.

Schwitzgebel has done an empirical analysis of what ethicists actually do – not only what they teach in ethics courses. In his analysis, he does not find that ethicists are any more ethical than most other professionals.
As a result of a survey he conducted in 2009, Schwitzbebel argues that even though ethicists in the survey showed strong ethical knowledge, their moral behavior was not significantly more stringent than academics in other disciplines – both within and beyond philosophy.

In other words, he shows that knowing about ethics did not make them any more ethical in their choices. 

Read the full article at The Conversation: Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behavior? 

Explore ethics with Ethics Bites


Unitarians thinking again over Thanksgiving

In the US, Unitarian Universalist congregations have their roots in the communites started by the first European settlers, and as such have tight links to the traditions of Thanksgiving. Now, they're thinking about how they should rework the occasion:

On the agenda at this week’s national General Assembly for this liberal, inclusive faith: “Thanksgiving Day Reconsidered.”

“Thanksgiving is a holiday that many families celebrate without awareness of the pain that causes our First Nation neighbors we live among. In Massachusetts, Thanksgiving Day is marked in the Wampanoag community. It’s focused on the genocide that occurred. It’s a day of mourning,” said Laura Wagner, one of the proponents of the rethink-Thanksgiving resolution that Unitarian Universalists will vote on this week at their meeting in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about boycotting Thanksgiving, but raising that awareness to stop the perpetuation of the story, the myth that’s told around Thanksgiving, that the colonists were welcomed and they celebrated this lovely meal together.”

The resolution doesn’t ask anyone to give up their turkey dinner. Instead, it calls for a national education program for all Unitarian Universalist churches and camps about the real history of early America, particularly about Native Americans.

Read the full article at The Washington Post: Unitarian Universalists helped start Thanksgiving. Now they have second thoughts.

More from OpenLearn on religion


BBC Four, 9pm tonight: Nietzsche

Tonight on BBC Four, Bettany Hughes turns her attention to Nietzsche, the next subject of Genius of The Modern World.

See more about this programme

See more about Nietzsche from OpenLearn


Lunchtime learning: Britain rocks

Want to pick up some knowledge in your lunchtime? However long your break is, we've got something geological to tantalise you...

If you've got an hour, watch Imperial's Jenny Collier explain the process of flooding which turned the British Isles into... well, islands:

Only got a thirty minute break? Ray Mears joins a team from Sussex Wildlife Trust to explore how the chalky South Downs provide a unique wildlife habitat:

Just got time to grab a sandwich and a few minutes? In this British Geological Survey video, Professor Jane Evans explains how isotopes can help us understand geology - and even genealogy:

See more from OpenLearn about geology

Discover how to study geology with The Open University


Between you, me and the ballot box: Harold Wilson v Harold Steptoe

Today, of course, is a day of destiny for the UK - the long-demanded, long-promised EU Referendum is upon us. The polling stations are open, and the choice is now yours. To mark this week, we've been starting off each day with stories drawn from the margins of political activity. Yesterday, we heard about the most fraudulent election result in history. Today, we're going back to 1964 and the curious influence of two rag-and-bone men on the general election.

Harold Wilson photographed by Allan Warren Creative commons image Icon Allan Warren under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license Harold Wilson

In 1964, the Labour party was hoping to chase Alec Douglas-Home out of Downing Street. An election had been called for October 15th, but during the campaign, Labour had seen its poll lead start to ebb away. Every vote would be critical.

And then - at least according to popular myth - Labour planners heard something that chilled their bones. The BBC had scheduled an episode of Steptoe And Son during the last hour of polling. Afraid that their core working class vote might decide - after a hard day toiling, and perhaps an quick pint or two - to slump in front of the sitcom instead of trotting down to the polling station, weight was put on the BBC to shift Steptoe later in the evening.

But can this really be true? 

Amazingly, it's true that Harold Wilson was afraid Steptoe could cost him the election, and raised it with then Director General Hugh Green:

 "Polling then ended at 9 o’clock and a lot of our people – my people, working in Liverpool, long journey out, perhaps then a high tea and so on, it was getting late, especially if they wanted to have a pint first.

“I said I didn’t want a popular programme between 8-9 o’clock. It was the equivalent of bringing Morecambe and Wise back. Hugh didn’t think much of this argument. He said what would you prefer to put on between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock? I said ‘Greek drama, preferably in the original’."

Even more amazingly - Hught Greene agreed:

The next day I discussed the matter further with the controller of BBC One and we thought a good idea would be to shift it from early in the evening until 9 o’clock, when at that time the polls closed.

“I rang up Harold Wilson and told him about this decision and he said to me he was very grateful – it might make a difference of about 20 seats to him.

“He won, I think, by four and I’ve sometimes wondered what effect my decision had on British political history.”

The BBC Election history site has both tell their side of the story:

The Radio Times for the day shows that rather than Greek drama, BBC One opted for a US import starring David Niven - The Rogues. (Effectively a proto-Hustle). Steptoe started as the polling stations locked their doors - and, astonishingly, it turns out to be a repeat. This was before video recorders and iPlayer, though.

You can watch the full episode of Steptoe And Son - The Bonds that bind us - on YouTube. But, please, before you settle down - make sure you cast your vote first.

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