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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.

13 comments to A Named Unperson

  • Paul Marks

    How very odd!

  • You would need a heart of stone not to laugh 😆

  • terence patrick hewett

    It is what you get when the cane and the tawse goes out of the classroom and politics comes in: the wonderful teachers of my youth have inspired me all my life and still inspire me.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Solider Aristotle played the taws [sic] / Upon the bottom of a King of kings….”


    Amazing, terence! Your comment is only the second time I have ever seen reference to “tawse,” and I never got around to Looking It Up. (One did, of course, gather that it was something along the order of corporal punishment.)

    This ignorance has now been cured.

  • … taws [sic] …

    Julie near Chicago (November 7, 2017 at 4:50 pm), although I, like terence, would normally write ‘tawse’, that spelling is probably an Anglicisation and recent. Old Scots-dialect poems typically write ‘taws’, just like your quote. (Also, despite your quote, the taws was usually used upon the hand of the offending pupil – though maybe that was only more recently than Aristotle’s/the quote’s day.)

    This ignorance has now been cured.

    While terence may well have a point, you need only read the Spectator article to see it is but one of many things that are no longer to be found in Scottish classrooms and whose combined absences are why ignorance there is not being cured.

  • JadedLibertarian

    The hunger those in power have to “get at” your children is downright creepy. The SNP are simply the latest iteration of a long trend. They frame it in terms of the amorphous concept of “wellbeing” which as far as I can tell means they won’t take my word for it that I’m not molesting my children even if there’s no evidence suggesting I am. No, they want to check, maybe try and get my children alone and ask them leading questions.

    That’s why I’m a homeschooler. The desire to keep my kids away from government types is often taken as an implication that I have something to hide. Rather like the TV licence man taking your refusal to let him in as “evidence” that you watch telly.

    It’s not all sunshine and roses, but on the whole I wouldn’t have it any other way. Trying to make your way as a single income household in UK property prices absolutely sucks though.

    I always tell people that I think governments have no business running schools at all, because the temptation to parent the children is more than bureaucrats can resist. I wouldn’t mind so much if they just taught kids to read and count and a bit of science, or even if they just prioritised that. But instead we have droves of kids leaving school functionally illiterate and innumerate, but who could give you a (verbal, naturally) essay on “gender fluidity”. It’s like some twisted intersectional Madrassa. You don’t learn anything useful but by golly you’ll learn to recite the “scriptures”.

    Our friends who use state schools regularly tell us of kids coming home saying “teacher says if dad thinks X then dad’s wrong – she says it’s just your generation”. My nephew got straight A’s in all subjects apart from “life studies” as they call it. I said to him “I hear you’re failing brainwashing – I’m proud of you”. He said it’s a class where they present opinions as if they were facts.

  • Sam Duncan

    Indeed, Paul. Very odd.

    But, on the Speccy piece, Scotland’s (state) schools have been in decline for decades. It’s the only country in the world where literacy rates actually fell over the course of the 20th Century (from, to be fair, an extremely high base: as near as anyone could measure, 100%). With their “Curriculum for Excellence” nonsense, the nats are simply dealing the killing blow.

    And, while I think there’s more to it, I wouldn’t argue too hard with terence. We’ve had government schools for a lot longer than the rest of the UK, but it wasn’t until they became a playground (heh 🙂 ) for crackpot politicial theories that things started to go pear-shaped. Much as it may go against the grain here, Scotland showed in the 19th Century that there really isn’t too much wrong with the state ensuring that kids can read, write, and add up. But if it tries to go beyond that, watch out…

  • Alisa

    But if it tries to go beyond that, watch out…

    But it always does, eventually – that is what’s wrong with state-run education.

  • Sam Duncan (November 7, 2017 at 6:01 pm), you are right about the longer term decline. My elder and younger siblings and I went through the Scottish school system many decades ago now. Our mother, who checked our homework, saw the slow but steady year-on-year decline in standards all too clearly. However that had its English parallels – after writing revision guides that required her to examine old and recent test papers, Natalie remarked, “Others suspect standards have declined; I know they have.” – whereas, as regards,

    The nats are simply dealing the killing blow.

    I think the natz activities add up to quite a powerful blow, so I’m not sure I’d say ‘simply’.

    As in the US, Scottish education was once under very local control, practically speaking, but – again, as in the US – that was long, long before any of us were born. There is state-mandated education and then there is education that is genuinely controlled by the state apparatus – genuinely able simply to override the locals’ wishes.

  • James Hargrave

    The only home-schooler I know is the wife of a teacher… In Oz.

  • Laird

    I hadn’t seen”tawse” used before, either, and according to the definition I found it is a whip or strap with a flayed end. Apparently the word is a corruption of “taws”, which is the plural of “taw”. Interestingly, however, another definition is “square dance partner” (in my experience, it refers only to the female partner) which, while shown in Merriam-Webster as only the third preferred definition is actually in quite common use among American square dance callers. I have no idea how it came to mean that, but perhaps the wife as one’s “whip” has something to do with the etymology!

  • fcal

    Originally ‘tawse’ seems to have meant a thong of a whip. It is very similar to the Dutch “touw”, which is translated to rope, cord or string.

  • Mr Ed

    As a lad, the impression I got was that whereas in English schools the means of delivering corporal punishment (if at all) was the cane, or increasingly, the slipper (on the backside), in Scotland it was on the outstretched hand with ‘the strap’, whixh sounds like the tawse.