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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Get them while they’re young

The Courier reports:

Scottish Government asks eight-year-olds to reveal their Brexit views

The Scottish Government is appealing to children as young as eight to share their views on Brexit.

Critics branded the Twitter plea for youngsters to “work with” the government on a Europe panel “creepy”.

But the SNP administration defended the move as giving those who will be most affected by leaving the EU a “voice in the Brexit negotiations”.

The call by the Twitter account ScotGovEurope said: “Are you aged 8 – 18? Children and young people in Scotland are going to be affected by #Brexit, so we want your views!

“Apply to join the @cisweb Children & Young People’s Panel on Europe to work with @scotgov.”

It sparked claims that SNP ministers are trying to indoctrinate children on the constitution.

The charity says that young people have a “right to be heard in the discussions about Brexit”, which they say is backed up by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Brexit is the single biggest threat to our economy and future prosperity, and children and young people will be most affected in the coming years.

“We are therefore supporting Children in Scotland to establish the children and young people’s panel on Europe and enable them to have a voice in the Brexit negotiations.”

Here’s where you can apply to join the Panel, but first they recommend that you ask yourself

Is the project for me?

This project might be for you if you like standing up for the things you believe in, and
talking about:
• What Brexit might mean for your family and friends
• What people in charge should be doing to help children
• What rules people in charge should follow when they make
decisions about Brexit

I think we can safely say that most Samizdata readers qualify. However this one might be more tricky:

• Why children should have their say on Brexit

The question of whether those who think that children should not have their say on Brexit could or should join the Panel is left for the reader. Oh, I nearly forgot, to be eligible you do have to be aged between eight and eighteen. Reassuringly,

You don’t need to know much about Brexit to apply. We will share information with you to
help you to take part.

Definitive Texts: 1984 as PC’s self-stupifying how-to manual

I get the question, in another form, from teachers, who suggest I should write about ‘real’ things like racism and unemployment. Sometimes the teachers claim that fantasy is too difficult, or ‘beyond the average child’, but a lot of them complain that it doesn’t give them opportunities enough for class discussions of important modern issues.     (‘Why don’t you write real books?’, Diana Wynne Jones)

In Orwell’s 1984, one of the many acts of the IngSoc (English Socialist) party is to write garbled versions (called ‘Definitive Texts’) of books whose message undermines the totalitarian ethos but whose titles are too well known just to repress. A review (h/t instapundit) shows that the recent film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has given it this treatment. Meg and her mother are now black, and the child actor chosen to play Charles Wallace adds so considerably to the rainbow effect that the film makes him adopted, lest even the most woke viewer notice the impossibility of his being the offspring of Meg’s mixed-race parents. The twins are missing entirely

which may be a blessing, considering that political correctness probably would have dictated they be played by a Native American dwarf and a disabled transsexual

etc. And all this merely serves as a distraction from the ruthless gutting of the Christian resonances that are as much a part of L’Engle’s books as of the Narnia stories. (The numerous other incoherent plot changes may reflect the scriptwriter’s wokeness or their poor memory or both.)

The review presents all this well enough. I’m not writing here to repeat it, but to reflect on how it hurts the PC themselves, not just us. To explain, I have to provide a worked example (so this post is longer than mine usually are).

Sadly, I missed the chance Natalie once had to meet the late Diana Wynne Jones, so I never asked her the questions I had. One of the more trivial was about her third reason why her early books all had male leading characters. (Her first reason is by far the more worth discussing – but that is another story.) Her third reason was she wanted to write a book that her children (all boys) would read and “in those days, boys would not read books with a girl as lead character.”

Obviously, Diana knew that was not literally true. Swallows and Amazons (written long before “those days”) stars twice as many girls as boys, and a later book in the series has thrice as many girls as boys. However she could have replied that none of those girls ever think a thought that would bring a blush to the cheeks of a young boy. When Nancy and Peggy are obliged by their great-aunt to dress in party frocks rather than the sailing gear they prefer, their reaction is almost as horrified as a boy’s might be. Susan’s femininity is strictly practical – boys know that when children camp or sail, someone has to manage the cooking. Perhaps Dorothea, with her dreams of Dutchmen bringing her tulips across the north sea and her yearning to be a writer, gets closest to thinking girlish thoughts: one can just about imagine her writing “The Tale of the Twin Princesses” if there were the slightest chance any of her friends would read it – but since she knows they wouldn’t, she writes “The Outlaw of the Broads”, which is clearly a swashbuckler.

So what I would have asked Diana was, “Did you ever try ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ on your sons?” (It was published in 1963 – their ages suit). I read it at age seven or eight and could not put it down, so I think she could have got her sons to read it – despite the fact that Meg, for all her mathematical genius, is not at all like the Amazon girls. Page one of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ finds Meg angsting away in her bedroom. The next day she meets a boy and, after a shamefully brief period of caution, goes gooey over him. She’s embarrassed when her mother accidentally reveals she still plays with dolls – but that’s nothing to what a small boy identifying with her would feel.

Now part of why that boy keeps reading is because if small boy reader gets as far as page 2, he may think for a bit that the book will be about Charles Wallace. Adoring elder sister Meg knows Charles is a genius, despite the neighbours thinking he’s an idiot. Every small boy relates to this. Every small boy knows he’s a genius but, for some strange reason, the people around him treat him as if he were an idiot. Maybe this book is really about the amazing deeds of superboy Charles Wallace, as chronicled by Lois-Lane-like sister Meg?

If this brief mistake were in any way contrived, it would be a huge turn-off to re-reading. “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler” was praised by all the usual suspects. Aided by deceptive cover art, its writer works hard in the first half of the book to persuade you that first-person-narrator Tyke is a boy. Then she reveals Tyke is a girl. It’s as easy as ringing a doorbell and running off. “Yes comrade, this proves you too still suffer unconscious gender micro-stereotyping. Report to your assigned gender deconstruction re-educator immediately.” I assume some boys with feminist mothers read it once. I’d guess fewer read it twice. (Of course, these days, the making of those fixed binary assumptions about Tyke’s she-it-he gender identity would be the verboten thing. It is so hard for the woke to stay ‘relevant’.)

In a ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ however, this initial impression is wholly natural and innocent. It is close to how Madeleine L’Engle really does see Meg’s and Charles’ later relationship. (In the later books of the series, more-grown-up Charles is usually pointman, with Meg in a supportive role.) In the first third of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Charles takes the initiative in trying to rescue their lost father. Meg is the observer of the action but also the weakest: the slowest to recover from multi-dimensional travel, the slowest to learn the lessons their guides teach, the least patient (though the value of this is slightly more ambiguous). In a character-displaying scene the children confront the wall that sucks in the forms which define everyone on the totalitarian planet of Camazotz. The two boys each reach out a hand to touch it – “Ugh!” says Charles, “It’s like ice”, says Calvin – while Meg, between them, is intensely conscious she has no desire whatever to let go of their other hands to touch this vile wall herself. The boys can explore the wall; her job is to give (and receive) moral support. Already however, we’ve had hints that Charles is too young, too confident, more at risk than he realises. When he first attempts a dangerously overconfident move, Meg, terrified, temporarily saves him by almost knocking him out but when he recovers the two resume their relation of Charles taking the lead. Assuring her he can handle it, he advances open-eyed to his doom. The first third of the book ends with Meg, her rescued father and her boyfriend fleeing in the nick of time from Camazotz, where Charles is now far more enslaved than his father was.

In the middle part of the book, Meg is desperate to rescue her beloved baby brother – and her plan for doing so is that her father and boyfriend should come up with a plan for doing so and carry it out. Her job is to motivate them, so she gets angrier and angrier as, despite their best efforts, they make little progress at the impossible task before them. Finally, they manage to contact the guardians who have guided them, only to be told that both father’s plan and boyfriend’s plan are pure suicide. In the awful silence that follows, the unbelieveable idea occurs to Meg (for the first time) that she is expected to do something. Her immediate reaction is to shout, “I can’t go”, and when the cuttingly dismissive response shows her that in fact that is the idea, she has a tantrum. Only after that can she face the facts. It is Charles mind that is enslaved. Her boyfriend has known him for less than a day. Her father has been a prisoner since before Charles could speak. Only Meg knows him well enough to have any chance of freeing him. An impossible task for them, it is only almost impossible for her. Father and boyfriend protest vigorously against sending her – and it is clear both Meg and Madeleine L’Engle would be immensely unimpressed with them if they didn’t – but there is no escaping the logic to which the plot has naturally led her (and the small boy reader). If anything defines Meg, it is that she loves her brother, and to this, everything else she thinks about herself must give way.

Thus we reach the final part of the book, and it is Meg who must “do the hero bit”, as Dianna Wynne Jones puts it. She is the one who must walk, alone and terrified, towards the dark tower, armed only with the usual cryptic clue – that only a single weapon can save her “but you must find it for yourself”. I won’t spoil it for you by telling whether she wins through or not – but I suspect you can guess.

So (for those who have managed to endure reading this far) not only could ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ be made the subject of “classroom discussions” but I have (I hope) demonstrated that a lefty teacher with at least two brain cells to rub together – and, much more important, the ability to set their inner PC censor temporarily to a low enough setting while reading it that they can think about it – could make remarks about roles and expectations and all that stuff they like to go on about. But “you can’t say that” silences their ability to think more than our ability to speak. Gross crude effects – make Meg black, replace the Christian themes – plastered onto the tale like Pollock-style paint blobbed onto a Rembrandt, provide the ‘definitive text’ for a socially-aware classroom discussion, a woke review, an idiocy of political correctness – but nothing that relates the actual work to their actual (supposedly) concerns.

Exposing your children to peril: then and now

Children in peril! Save them!

Children in poor areas exposed to five times as many fast food takeaways,

reports the Guardian, not that you needed to be told that. (Fun fact: the Guardian‘s name was originally understood to mean “Guardian of our liberties”.)

Increasing numbers of fast food take­aways are springing up close to schools in England, with pupils in the most socially deprived areas exposed to five times as many outlets as their richest peers.

Data provided to the Guardian by Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research (Cedar) shows more than 400 schools across England have 20 or more fast food takeaways within a 400-metre radius, while a further 1,400 have between 10 and 19 outlets within the same distance.

Public health experts have warned that heavy exposure of children to fast food outlets and increased consumption of high-fat nutrient-poor food leads to greater risk of childhood obesity, as well as heart disease and stroke in later life.

Read it in conjunction with an essay by Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt that I found via Instapundit called “The Fragile Generation: Bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed”.

Having saved the children from the perils of walking to school and active play we are surprised that they are fat. In fact I suspect that half the appeal of fast food joints to schoolchildren is not the food per se; rather it is the chance to hang out with their friends and make minor decisions about what they want to do next without adults looming over them.

Naming no names for the present

The Telegraph reports that the inexorable progress of the Scottish National Party’s “Named Person” scheme has proved exorable after all. That’s two pieces of good news. One, with any luck its opponents will now be able to wear away at this horrible scheme until it falls apart. Two, there is such a word as “exorable”.

SNP ‘state guardian’ plan delayed for months after Holyrood committee withholds approval

The SNP’s controversial plans to assign every child a ‘state guardian’ have descended into chaos again after a cross-party Holyrood inquiry concluded that it could not recommend that MSPs give their approval.

The Scottish Parliament’s education committee said it was impossible to scrutinise how the Named Person scheme would work in practice until John Swinney, the SNP Education Minister, provides an “authoritative” code of practice for those filling the role.

In a move that threatens to delay its implementation by at least six months, its members said the code should reflect changes in data protection law being made by the UK Government in April or May next year.

A Named Unperson

Mark McDonald was the Scottish National Party’s MSP in charge of delivering the Named Person initiative for Scotland’s tiny tots (despite its troubles in the courts, the natz are still pushing it). He was in charge of it until, very suddenly, he wasn’t. His opaque resignation statement hints coyly at the possibility he’d watched one too many Harvey Weinstein films, but an article in the Scottish Review is sceptical that’s the real cause. The writer finds the opacity of Mark’s resignation statement as nothing compared to his prior attempt to explain how Named Person should work:

It is excruciatingly bad. It shows no feeling for the English language or even for the meaning of words.

but he tries to be charitable

It may have been written by a civil servant

Welcome to Scotland today, where political observers rationally speculate whether the plea of Harvey-esque behaviour is just the cover-up for the real reason why the man literally in charge of the wellbeing of the young must resign in haste.

Meanwhile, the Spectator seems to think that another brilliant idea of Scot natz educators has run into problems

… a fellow secondary school teacher who, due to unmanageable stress, now tutors young offenders rather than return to the classroom. A once enthusiastic primary teacher who said to me, ‘I’d rather do anything — anything — than go back …’

The intersection(ality?) of maths pie charts with Shakespeare’s plays is, I confess, one I did not see coming.

“Bringing that choice into the equation”

“Ban smoking at home, say Scots campaigners”, reports the Sunday Times. This headline is followed by the breezy standfirst,

Move to save kids from second-hand exposure

That’s “kids” like wot the Times is down wiv.

Anti-smoking campaigners in Scotland are seeking to stop people lighting up at home as part of a drive to reduce the harmful health effects of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke.

Last week, Dr Sean Semple, an academic from Aberdeen University, said restrictions on smoking at home may have to be imposed to protect children.

Odd how campaigners against passive smoking so often seem fond of the passive voice. Dangerous things, these restrictions imposed by nobody in particular, you can breathe them in without realising it and then you get cancer.

Meanwhile, Ash Scotland, the charity that helped to bring about a ban on smoking in public places in 2006, believes more could be done to protect residents in social housing.

There is concern that despite existing laws, hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland are still at risk from exposure to secondhand smoke in their homes.

Each week, dozens of children across Britain are taken to hospital through inhaling secondhand smoke, which is known to increase the risk of asthma, as well as ear and chest infections.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Failing that, as the Times does, any evidence at all for the claim that “dozens of children a week” are taken to hospital through inhaling second hand smoke would be nice.

Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of Ash Scotland, said the charity was seeking a meeting with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to discuss the possibility of a smoking ban.

A smoking ban in social housing has proved immensely popular in the US, in California and cities such as New York and Philadelphia.

So a ban on Group X getting the limited supply of rent-controlled social housing proves immensely popular with social housing tenants not in Group X, not to mention potential social housing tenants for whom the chances of getting it have just increased. Colour, or as they say in the US, “color”, me surprised.

“Tobacco companies often talk about choice in smoking. However, for many people the choice to live free from breathing in tobacco smoke is just not there,” said Duffy.

“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.” One day soon we will have a Ministry of Choice so Sheila Duffy can concern herself with giving everyone the choice to live in a world free from choice.

“We are keen to explore ways of bringing that choice into the equation for new social-housing tenants and increasing protection for those living in buildings with shared common spaces.”

This poor guy

What could possibly go wrong?

Businesses such as hotels, licensed premises and taxi companies are being provided with awareness training to help them recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation. They are directed to call 101, quoting ‘Operation Makesafe’, should they suspect suspicious behaviour or activity on their premises or in their vehicles.

What if this sort of thing blows the problem out of proportion and makes people deeply suspicious of each other?

A widower who checked into a Travelodge near Thorpe Park in Chertsey said he was horrified when hotel employees called police over fears he was a paedophile.

Craig Darwell and his 13-year-old daughter, Millie, checked into the hotel near the theme park on Thursday (March 30).

Charming.

However, he said his and Millie’s short break had been “ruined” by the incident

No shit. Not to mention every other interaction with any stranger he has while out with his daughter for the next few years under constant fear of suspicion.

When does a child become an adult?

Milo Yiannopolous seems to have got himself into a spot of bother over remarks about homosexual sex with teenagers. The gist of it – especially if you read his clarification – seems to be that he was ready to take it up the bum at 13 and if it was OK for him then it would probably be OK for others. I suspect – given the little I know about him – that Milo at that age would have been capable of weighing up the pros and cons of such a decision. But not many others.

Milo raises – albeit indirectly – an important question: when does a child become an adult? As it happens, I drafted an attempt at an answer to this some time ago but lacked the guts to publish it. It’s time I did:

As the law stands if a man has sex with a female of 15 years and 364 days he is a scoundrel who should be imprisoned for a very long time. However, if he has sex with a female of 16 years and 0 days that’s just fine and dandy.

Or to put it another way, in the opinion of the law all women undergo the transition from young, innocent child to responsible, rational adult in a split second at exactly the same age.

That’s absurd; but, for the law, hardly uncommon. Similar rules apply to all sorts of aspects of growing up: when you can drive a car, enter into contracts, vote, marry, drink alcohol, leave school, get a job etc. And in each case the state’s answer is some arbitrary, one-size-fits-all number. And often it is a different number: 17 for driving (I am referring to English law here), 18 for drinking, 16 for sex. That can’t be right.

Could there perhaps, be a solution that is – to paraphrase H. L. Mencken – simple, neat and not wrong? The argument for numbers is that you have to draw the line somewhere, meaning: the law has to draw the line somewhere. But why should it be the law drawing the line? Why can’t it be the child? What if when the child comes to the decision that he is old enough to take on the rights and responsibilities of adulthood he just does? Obviously, he would have to tell people but that implies some sort of arrangement not unlike marriage with documents, ceremonies and cooling-off periods. Hardly beyond the wit of man.

I’ve been trying to think up some drawbacks. One might be that a girl’s declaration of adulthood might look awfully like a declaration that she wanted to have sex. And women are a bit coy about that sort of thing. Another might be that some children would decide to become adults at an absurdly young age and then proceed to ruin their lives, perhaps by driving the car into a bunch of passers-by. Or drinking themselves to death. But how likely is that? My personal experience of childhood is that I was perfectly well aware of my unpreparedness for taking on the responsiblities of adulthood. Perhaps we should be more worried about the other end of the age scale. Would some people choose to extend their childhood into their 20s and beyond?

Perhaps one way to look at this is to consider when we might ourselves have felt ready for the transition. In my case I think it was about 14-15. The only issue for me at that age would have been the predatory homosexuals who made up the school’s English Department.

Concerning “concerning” opinions

A story in today’s Sunday Times provides a practical lesson in how our freedom is being whittled away. The story is paywalled, but I will quote the most relevant part:

Adoption banned in ‘gay parents’ row

A husband and wife have been prevented from trying to adopt their two young foster children after the couple said a child needed a “mummy and daddy” rather than gay parents.

Social services said it would not consider the couple’s request to adopt the children because they had aired “concerning” opinions about the possibility of a same-sex couple being chosen as the adoptive parents instead.

Campaigners said the treatment of the couple was disturbing because it meant people could be penalised by the authorities simply for expressing support for traditional parenting.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting them, said: “This couple’s viewpoint is lawful and mainstream.”

There are several matters which I could address in this post but will not. The priority placed by the social workers on the interests of two formerly neglected children in finally having a stable home, for one. Or the fact that we now have “lawful” opinions in Britain, which is another way of saying that we now have opinions that are unlawful.

I will content myself with saying that this is the most effective control technique currently in use. You are still free to express dissent. It is just that if you exercise your freedom to express your dissent you and yours had better give up on wanting to do anything else with your life which requires the goodwill of officials, a category which grows ever larger. Our rulers are cannier than those of the Soviet Union. They have dispensed with the labour camps but kept the strategy that actually worked. As Andrei Sakharov said,

“Everyone wants to have a job, be married, have children, be happy, but dissidents must be prepared to see their lives destroyed and those dear to them hurt. When I look at my situation and my family’s situation and that of my country, I realize that things are getting steadily worse.”

Discussion point: is there any good reason why Momentum shouldn’t have a children’s wing?

From the Guardian:

Momentum to start children’s wing to boost ‘involvement in labour movement’

Momentum, the social movement set up to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, is launching a children’s wing called Momentum Kids.

Momentum is organising a fringe festival, The World Transformed, alongside next week’s Labour party conference in Liverpool and Momentum Kids will launch with a creche for parents attending the event.

Momentum claims it will then spread nationwide, aiming to provide cooperatively run childcare, including breakfast clubs, for parents who want to get involved in political activity but find it hard to fit around their caring responsibilities.

The new group is also aimed at “increasing children’s involvement in Momentum and the labour movement by promoting political activity that is fun, engaging and child-friendly”.

A delaying action

The SNP’s majestic advance to state surveillance of every child in Scotland has been slowed.

The Guardian reports:

Scottish plan for every child to have ‘named person’ breaches rights

Judges at the supreme court have ruled that the Scottish government’s controversial “named person” scheme for supporting children risks breaching rights to privacy and a family life under the European convention on human rights, and thus overreaches the legislative competence of the Holyrood parliament.

The supreme court has given the Scottish government 42 days to correct the defects in the legislation, which has been described as a snoopers’ charter by family rights campaigners, but said that it recognised that the aims of the scheme were “unquestionably legitimate and benign”.

The Scotsman has a slightly different, and I regret to say more realistic, take on the story:

Court rules against Scottish Government’s named person policy

The Scottish Government insists controversial new measures to appoint a named person for every child will still go ahead despite the UK’s highest court ruling the legislation at present is “incompatible” with European human rights laws.

[…]

The court ruled that information-sharing provisions proposed under the 2014 Act may result in disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a family and private life.

Note that the European Convention on Human Rights predates the European Union and its predecessors and is adhered to by several states outside the EU.

You can not carry that

Today I learned that Stansted Airport security will make you put your child’s comforter through the Xray machine. And before you get it back, if the beeper goes off, ask him to stand still on his own to have a wand waved at him.

My two year old boy sat down and screamed at the man. I was very proud.