My comment the other day about a rather imperfect – if interesting – article about the late F.A. Hayek suddenly turned into a comment thread argument about whether religious parents have the right to have the genitalia of their children adjusted (as in the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc cultures). Now, I am not all that interested in the specific health or medical arguments here, although I would be interested if those with actual medical knowledge could give some ideas on the value or otherwise of said. What interests me, as a defender of liberty, is what should be the boundaries on what parents should observe when it comes to raising their children when it comes to actions that actually affect the bodies of their kids. For example, suppose a parent of religion/ideology X decided that he or she really wanted to put a small tattoo on the forehead of their son with the symbol of their family faith? Suppose the operation to do this was painless. Would it be justified? (In my view, no).
I put this point because in the comment thread attached to my post about Hayek, one commenter called Gabriel argues that banning such operations on children done for religious reasons constitutes discrimination against his faith. Such an argument is, I think, an example of multiculturalism gone mad.
On a related theme of protecting kids, David Friedman – son of the great Milton Friedman – has thoughts.
It may be disgustingly authoritarian, but it is risibly incompetent too. It appears the Home Office has just spent a very large amount of UK readers’ money making a vast online advertisement for NO2ID. We’d despaired of reaching ‘the youth’ ourselves, too expensive. I’m very glad they decided to do it for us.
With audience participation. Which embarrassingly for the Home Office shows ‘kids’ not to be quite the suckers they’d hoped. Enjoy.
Up to a quarter of all adults are to be vetted to ensure they are not kiddie-abusing maniacs, as part of an effort to protect youngsters under the age of 16 in cases such as voluntary organisations and so on.
And people wonder why there is sometimes a shortage of volunteers for things like youth clubs and the like. The destruction of civil society, of the bonds of trust that are vital to such an organic, grass-roots cluster of non-state institutions, is remorseless and deliberate. This government, in its totalitarian way – I use that word quite deliberately – wants to make all human interactions subject to its tests. The consequences for the long term health of civil society, and of the ability of people to grow up normally, are ignored.
None of this is to say that the issue of child abuse is not serious, nor deserving of legal action to protect children from child abusers, who deserve the strongest punishment. I really do wonder, however, whose interests are served by the sort of vetting processes that the state is embarking upon. One hears examples of how adults are sometimes reluctant to help a kid because they are frightened they will get some sort of complaint later on. That cannot be good.
It is sometimes lazily assumed that this present Labour government is not “radical” like its predecessors. But that is only a superficial issue. In substance, this is arguably the most dangerously radical government in modern times in terms of its view of how individuals interact not just with the state, but with each other.
A story here which says that fans of computer games are not all weird. I have never quite understood this whole media fixation with games just because they are on a screen rather than face-to-face. A lot of games draw on all kinds of creative energies and are arguably far better for cognitive development than just passively watching TV. As for the arguments about various social pathologies, well, this book is an excellent corrective to the social scolds, pointing out that games involving superheroes and vanquishing monsters is actually a very healthy thing.
Coming next, research shows that people who like to play poker with their mates on a Friday night, play tennis on a Sunday afternoon, do the Times crossword, are also normal. (Sarcasm alert).
Of course, by some yardsticks of social behaviour, gamers, or other hobbyists, are “weird”, but then what counts as normal, exactly?
Personally, I think the world could use a bit more eccentricity, not less.
In a piece of character assassination on Cherie Blair in the Observer (one so comprehensive that she would almost certainly describe it as ‘misogynistic’, if it came from a male writer), Catherine Bennett makes at least one palpable hit. Forget the inane boastfulness and obsessive self-justification against every suggestion of venality:
She complains how the Daily Mail ‘ratcheted up its attacks on me’, demanding to know – though Mr Blair could have answered just as well – if Leo had had the MMR. Doctors were also keen for the Blairs to help subdue a scare which threatened public health. Now she discloses that Leo had, indeed, been vaccinated, though she would not save lives at the time if it gave ‘the press chapter and verse’.
I wonder, though, whether it is not even worse than that. It is possible that the Blairs might have withheld the information, not out of genuine concern for their family’s privacy (effectively discounted by the present revelation, as Bennett points out), nor out of pique at the press, as in Cherie Blair’s current account, but for political reasons: that they preferred to keep silent, and thereby to encourage the spread of dangerous infectious diseases against which they had quite properly protected their own infant, in order not to cross the noisy anti-vaccination lobby.
Since we saw them use family events to political purpose at much the same time, it would be entirely consistent with their known behaviour. The Blairs have never avoided telling other people what to think when they stood to get a tactical political gain, or when they believed it necessary for their great projects for the world. But concealing an actual belief in vaccination looks like sacrificing other people’s children to calculation of the most self-regarding kind.
Every child should have authoritarian parents, because then they’ll grow up to be libertarians.
-Oddball Australian journalist Paddy McGuinness, as recounted at his funeral this week by Bill Hayden.
A long time ago, when I was a wee nip of a lad, my parents would keep me quiet by turning on the television and having me watch such classics as Sesame Street. Little did they know that what I was watching was not suitable for children! I know that now, because the early seasons of Sesame Street have come out on DVD and they have been given a parental advisory, no less.
The first few seasons have just been released and come with, of all things, a warning.
“These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grownups and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child,” the warning reads.
“Sesame was created in the ’60s, and it was a bit edgier, if you will,” said Sherrie Rollins Westin, executive vice president of Sesame Workshop.
What parent today would want their child to see kids running through a construction site or jumping on an old box spring? Scenes like the ones included on the new DVD would probably not make it into today’s program now.
“We wouldn’t have children on the set riding without a bicycle helmet,” Rollins Westin says.
And what’s that little girl doing with that man?
“In the very first episode, Gordon takes a little girl’s hand who he’s just met on the street, befriends her and takes her into his home to give her ice cream,” Rollins Westin said. “That’s something we wouldn’t do on the show today.”
And rightly so. You wouldn’t want your kids to turn out like us dreadful Generation X old fogeys, after all!
I am prepared to believe that there may be some things (though not many of them) that are of such public benefit that they should be provided at the general expense. That is not to say that I think that if something is good it should be compulsory. Let alone that if it sounds like a good, that is justification for its being compulsory.
But when you are dealing with the state, “free” does not mean ‘free as in free speech’, nor does it mean ‘free as in free beer’. It means ‘compulsory’. If the government is advertising free beer, it wants everybody drunk; prepare to have your head held under if you don’t feel like a tipple just now.
Hence this Guardian headline, a classic of pusilanimity against spin:
Plan to give every child internet access at home
The actual story is somewhat, er… more nuanced:
Parents could be required to provide their children with high-speed internet access under plans being drawn up by ministers in partnership with some of the country’s leading IT firms.
The initiative is part of a major push which could also see the parents of every secondary school student given access to continuous online updates on their child’s lessons, performance and behaviour as early as next year. So-called “real-time reporting”, which was first mooted in the government’s children’s plan last month, could be extended to primary schools within two years.
A sub less versed in the cult of the benign state might have abstracted that as:
“Big business bonanza: Parents must pay for children to be watched at home by online officials.”
Further to my recent post about new measures from our Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Foreign readers may be surprised that we have a department for children schools and families (sic). I, on the other hand, am alarmed: even the name indicates the totalitarian intent of the New British state.
Prompted by a clip on TV news, I have now found the full text of Ed Balls’s speech given to the Fabian Society yesterday. Didn’t the resolution to announce new policy to parliament, not outside bodies – in this case a para-Party body – last a long time? It bears close reading:
Our ambition must be that all of our young people will continue in education or training.
That is what our Bill sets out to achieve – new rights for young people to take up opportunities for education and training, and the support they need to take up these opportunities; alongside new responsibilities for all young people – and a new partnership between young people and parents, schools and colleges, local government and employers. ….
But it is important to make clear that this is not a Bill to force young people to stay on at school or college full-time. They will be able to participate in a wide range of different ways through:
* full-time education, for example, at school or college
* work-based learning, such as an apprenticeship
* or one day a week part-time education or training, if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering more than 20 hours a week.
But the Education and Skills Bill is a bill of responsibilities as well as a bill of rights.
Because if young people fail to take up these opportunities, there will be a system of enforcement – very much a last resort – but necessary to strike the right balance between new rights and new responsibilities.
Phew – not necessarily locked up in schools then, but on probation otherwise (as will of course any employers be – they’ll have to have enhanced CRB checks, of course). This is enlightening as to what Mr Brown means when he talks about a Bill of Rights and Duties, “building upon existing rights and freedoms but not diluting them – but also make more explicit the responsibilities that implicitly accompany rights…”. It confirms what many listeners will have guessed: you have the right and freedom to do exactly what the big G tells you to. This is the traditional line of Calvinism and Islam, is it not?
Don’t you love that “our young people”? Völkisch, nicht wahr?
The second building block [after mucking around with exams and the curriculum some more - GH] is advice and guidance – so that young people know and understand what is out there, and can be confident that they can make choices that will work for them.
First, this means local authorities taking clear responsibility for advice and guidance as part of the integrated support they offer to young people – making sure that youth services, Connexions and others who provide personal support to young people come together in a coherent way.
Second, clear new national standards for advice and guidance.
Last week my colleague Beverley Hughes set out clearly what we expect of local authorities as they take responsibility for the services provided by Connexions.
Third, a new local area prospectus available online, already available from this September in every area – setting out the full range of opportunities available, so that young people can see the choices available to them clearly in one place.
So not only will whether you do something state-approved be checked, but what you do will be subject to state advice and monitoring and made from a menu provided by the state. For the uninitiated Connexions is a formerly semi-independent, and notionally voluntary, database surveillance scheme for teenagers set up under the Learning and Skills Act 2000.
Exciting news for British schoolchildren. Early leavers ‘will not be jailed’ (PA). Except of course they will be under control orders, in effect; incarcerated and enslaved part-time. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” ran the old slogan. This policy is pretty clear evidence that what’s offerred to many in the state school system is not education. If you have to force people to take something, then it is not plausiible that it is of use to them. There is no problem selling education and training to those who want it. Even very poor parents in London often find money for extra lessons or private day-schooling on top of the taxes they pay to imprison other people’s children. The prison function of the system reduces its value to others.
Put aside for the moment whether it should be paid for from taxes or not. How much more cost-effective would state education be if it were voluntary, and the classes were full of eager participants and even the grumpiest teenagers present were those whose parents or peers had persuaded them it was worthwhile? How much better would the curriculum be if it had to attract an audience by being interesting or useful, rather than prescribed by bureaucrats? How much better would teachers feel about their work if it didn’t include the roles of commissar, bureaucrat and gaoler?
Teenagers who refuse to stay in education until they are 18 will not face jail, Schools Secretary Ed Balls insisted ahead of new legislation to raise the leaving age.
The reform – hailed as one of the biggest in education for half a century – will be included in the first Queen’s Speech of Gordon Brown’s premiership on Tuesday.
Mr Balls said the legislation, which will raise the age to 17 by 2013 and 18 by 2015, will be backed by a “robust regime” of support and sanctions including spot fines and court action.
Since if you are at school you are barred from employment without the permission of the authorities, I imagine they will pay the fines with the proceeds of robbery and prostitution. Well done, Balls!
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is like a compass-that-faces-south… always wrong but useful nevertheless because as long as he is dependably wrong, he can still be used when plotting a course.
His latest pearl of wisdom is the solution to reducing the numbers of children acting irresponsibly by engaging in violent crimes: Stop holding them responsible. His logic is hard to fault. If you deem than a child cannot be responsible for their actions, clearly they cannot therefore be irresponsible… voila… less children acting irresponsibly. In fact by definition no children can be said to have acted irresponsibly because the very notion of judging responsibility is disallowed. In a political and law-enforcement culture in which ‘that which is not measured never happened’, I can see the attraction of this approach. But then again Britain’s welfare state treats everyone regardless of their age like an irresponsible child, incapable or unwilling to look to their own pensions, medical care, etc. etc, so perhaps there is a bigger meme at work here.
It’s not to weaken the seriousness of what they do
… the Archbishop says, and then promptly weakens the seriousness of what they do by suggesting a child can cause the death of someone and get away with it, whereas an older person cannot. So how is that not weakening the seriousness of what the child has done? Also I am curious, how is taking away responsibility going to encourage more responsibility? Perhaps the following is what the Plod will be told to do:
PC Dixon of Dock Green: “Now look here, Little Timmy, it is very bad throwing rocks at people and killing them. If you do that when you are older, we will be very cross.”
Little Timmy from the Bedlam Estate: “Oh, okay then, I’ll just get it out of my system now while it doesn’t count.”
PC Dixon of Dock Green: “It’s a fair cop, Timmy, just don’t do it after you turn sixteen, okay?”
Little Timmy from the Bedlam Estate: “Nice hat, Copper. Hand it over.”
Oh, and mothers too, they also should not be held responsible for some reason. It is all down to too many bad movies and Britain’s ‘gun culture’, whatever the fuck that means in a country which probably has less civilian guns in total than almost any single US state other than the very smallest ones. I wonder of God’s Idiot would describe a nation without much in the way of musicians or musical instruments as having a ‘musical culture’?
However would we manage without the Church of England to guide us, eh?
The plans by the state to extend the period of educational conscription in Britain could well be the issue that helps radicalise future generations in a most useful way, at least if you see the world the way I do.
“Here is a Government that has toyed with the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 in order to promote a greater sense of citizenship amongst our young people. Yet it proposes to extend compulsory education or training to 18, to compel the already disaffected to, in their perception, prolong the agony.”
She said that making teenagers “conscripts” was likely to “reinforce failure, leading to even greater disaffection. Enforcement could lead to mass truancy, further disruption to other learners and staff, maybe even needless criminalisation if ‘enforcement measures’ are imposed,
I am also delighted to see someone in the mainstream media making the self-evident point that state education is indeed conscription. The absurdity of trying to teach children who are determined to not be taught is evident at sinkhole schools across the country so why the state thinks digging the same hole deeper is going to solve anything is not obvious to me. Still, never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake as there is a clear upside to all this. What the government intends to do will engender disaffection and hostility to the impositions of the state at an early age, and without doubt mischievous political activists will fan the flames by pointing out to the internet savvy blog reading schoolyard conscripts of the future that they are not wrong to feel angry and they are not wrong to refuse to cooperate. Excellent.