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OpenLearn Live: 19th October 2015

Updated Monday, 19th October 2015

The curious case of the Ford Pinto, Edward Lear's poetry - then more free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is the bridge between the worlds we live in, and the worlds of learning and research. You can also follow us on Twitter.

In our last full edition on Wednesday, we celebrated biology week, visited the Red Road flats and started understanding numbers

On Friday, we rounded off a week exploring Black European trailblazers


Today's posts


BBC Four, tonight, 9pm: The Great British Year

The portrait of Britain's natural world reaches summer, and it's a time of activity for all as they strive to feed and thrive while the weather is good. No creature wants to be told it failed to mend the roof while the sun was shining. It's also time for some creatures to burst from the ground...

Flying ant day. When first the floor is covered in ants, and then... they're everywhere.

See more about Summer


The Wilson Doctrine

As the rules of what our spies can and can't do are debated once again in Parliament, the phrase "the Wilson Doctrine" keeps coming up. But what does it mean? We've got a one minute guide to The Wilson Doctrine.


Young men's mental health

Young men are suffering from serious mental health problems in increasing numbers - and it's not a problem restricted to the west. Will Storr hears some stories, and some explanations about what might be going wrong:

As we talk, I confide in O’Connor about the time, perhaps a decade ago, that I asked my doctor for antidepressants because I’d become worried about myself, only to be sent away with the instruction to “Go to the pub and enjoy yourself a bit more.”

“Jesus!” he says, rubbing his eyes in disbelief. “And that was only ten years ago?”

“I do sometimes think I should be on medication,” I say. “But, and this is awful to admit, I worry about what my wife would think.”

“Have you discussed it with her?” he asks.

For a moment, I’m so embarrassed, I can’t reply.

“No,” I say. “And I think of myself as someone who’s very comfortable talking about this stuff. It’s only as we’ve been talking that I’ve realised. It’s just typical crap man.”

“But you see it’s not crap man,” he says. “This is the whole problem! The narrative’s become ‘men are crap’, right? But that’s bullshit. There’s no way we can change men. We can tweak men, don’t get me wrong, but society has to say, ‘How do we put in services that men will go to? What would be helpful to men when they’re feeling distressed?’”

Read: Why are men worldwide experiencing mental health crises?


BBC Four, tonight, 8pm: The Secret Life of Books

Tonight, the sceret life of Edward Lear's Nonesense Songs is unpicked by Nicholas Parsons.

Watch clip: Nicholas Parsons with art collector and Lear aficionado, Derek Jones, discussing Edward Lear’s travels and sketching

See more about The Secret Life of Books

Try our free course What is poetry?


FutureLearn this week

Our friends at FutureLearn press a giant button marked "go" every Monday, and set free into the world a bunch of new courses. Here's what's been released this morning:

If you're anything like us, one of those would have caught your eye - here's the trailer for the Hans Christian Andersen course.


Breaking cars: The Ford Pinto

This week, the OU and the BBC are teaming up to bring you Building Cars Live, following a brand new Mini along the production line. As a companion, we're going to be using our start-up segment to bring you some stories of the time the motor industry got things wrong. Today, we're starting with the Ford Pinto.

1971 Ford Pinto Creative commons image Icon Joe Haupt under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license

The Pinto was a subcompact sold by Ford in its home US market between 1971 & 1980. It's history wasn't a glorious one - although the claims that it failed to sell in Brazil because its name was slang for small male genitals isn't true, the Pinto had a more serious problem. A nasty design flaw which, should the car be involved in a shunt from the rear, made it possible the fuel tank could rupture. What makes the Pinto case more notorious is that Ford executives were aware of the problem, but, in a rush to get the car into a market where they were being challenged by Volkswagen, they went ahead with design.

It was a fatal decision - literally so; the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed 27 deaths to fires caused by the fuel tank rupturing. Ford's image took a further battering when a memo was made public which appeared to apply a cost-benefit analysis to the issue - in effect, suggesting that it'd be cheaper to compensate anyone affected by the flaw rather than fix it on every memo. Eventually, in 1978, Ford recalled the Pinto and made adjustments to the tanks.

Today, the Pinto case is often cited in classes on business ethics - most notably because, as the Harvard Business Review explains, the executives who were taking decisions didn't perceive themselves as making choices with an ethical dimension. They thought they were making just simple business decisions.

It's possible, though, that things aren't quite as simple as that. In a 1990 lecture, Gary Schwartz argued that Ford, and the Pinto, had been given a rough ride. His case was that the Pinto was no more dangerous than any comparable car, even taking the fuel tank flaw into account; and that the damning memo hadn't been talking directly about the risk of rear-ending.

See more about Building Cars Live

Listen to a podcast on business ethics

Discover more about engineering at the OU

 

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