We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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

Ne laissez jamais une crise se perdre

As President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

The Daily Mail reports,

French parents are to be BANNED from home-schooling their kids as part of Emmanuel Macron’s fight back against Islamic extremism

Parents who home-school their children could face up to six months in prison under new measures to combat Islamic extremism in France.

The bill, which was unveiled on Wednesday, will make it a crime for children to be taught at home.

It is an attempt to stop children from being influenced by religious radicals, the Times reported.

It comes after the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded last month after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class during a lesson on free speech.

Samuel Paty was murdered by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Muslim Russian refugee of Chechen ethnicity.

Not home schooled then. Certainly not home schooled in France. But what about the perpetrators of other Islamic terrorist attacks in France? The relevant Wikipedia article does not make it easy to tell, since someone has decided to remove the names of the terrorists. But so far as I know none of the perpetrators of the biggest terrorist outrages in France were homeschooled. Like their counterparts in the UK they were typically products of their country’s state education system who first turned to petty crime and then were “redeemed” by Islam.

Definitions of what is shameful differ

A human interest story from the Daily Record:

‘Kalashnikov councillor’ running for seat in Scottish Parliament after machine gun shame

A shamed politician – dubbed the Kalashnikov councillor after being captured on video coaching his young children how to use a machine gun – is campaigning for a seat in the Scottish Parliament.

Former SNP councillor Jahangir Hanif was forced to apologise after footage emerged of him training his young children to fire an AK-47 assault rifle during a visit to Pakistan.

The SNP condemned his “inappropriate conduct” and suspended him for two months while his his own daughter wrote to the party demanding his expulsion, claiming she had been terrified on the gun-toting trip.

On the ukpolitics subreddit, where I saw this story, a commenter called “ragnarspoonbrok” says,

No ear defenders isn’t a good start. Only one hand on the rifle as someone else is holding the fore grip. Rifle not shouldered correctly. No one has their eye anywhere near the sight meaning it’s not aimed correctly with their bugger hook on the bang switch.

It’s not a small caliber it’s a 7.62

Wouldn’t really class that as safe.

Discussion point: can children consent to puberty blockers? What about other drastic treatments?

Before you weigh in, please read both the Guardian articles.

“UK court hears children cannot consent to puberty blockers”, reports the Guardian today.

In a statement in the submission, Bell said she had been left with “no breasts, a deep voice, body hair, a beard, affected sexual function and who knows what else that has not been discovered”. She had to live with the fact that if she had children in the future, she would not be able to breastfeed. “I made a brash decision as a teenager (as a lot of teenagers do) trying to find confidence and happiness, except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected,” she said.

On the other hand, the abstract of this medical study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics records that the study found that

There is a significant inverse association between treatment with pubertal suppression during adolescence and lifetime suicidal ideation among transgender adults who ever wanted this treatment. These results align with past literature, suggesting that pubertal suppression for transgender adolescents who want this treatment is associated with favorable mental health outcomes.

Another Guardian article published on 28 September raised similar issues of principle regarding a treatment that must be given to children if it is to work at all:

‘There is a fear that this will eradicate dwarfism’: the controversy over a new growth drug.

Two extracts:

Samuel Gray is very brave about his daily injections. At six-and-a-half, confident and happy, he was a boy who knew his own mind and made a big decision about his future. His parents had asked him if he wanted to take part in a clinical trial for a drug that could improve some of the conditions associated with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, with which Samuel was born.

[…]

In 2015, BioMarin Pharmaceutical, the company that developed vosoritide, released the results of phase two of its study. At the time, Leah Smith, a spokeswoman for Little People of America (LPA), the largest organisation in the US for people with dwarfism, said: “People like me are endangered and now they want to make me extinct.” Recently, the actor Mark Povinelli, who is president of the LPA, told the New York Times that the drug “is one of the most divisive things that we’ve come across in our 63-year existence”.

Please, gentle Nicola, will you bless a little child?

Please, gentle Eva, will you bless a little child?
For I love you – Tell heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed

Please, mother Eva, will you look upon me as your own?
Make me special, be my angel
Be my everything wonderful, perfect and true
And I’ll try to be exactly like you

Santa, santa Evita
Madre de todos los ninos
De los tiranizados, de los descamisados
De los trabajadores, de la Argentina

Why try to govern a country when you can become a saint?

*

STV’s deleted ‘Thank you, Nicola’ video

Cute kid A: The children of Scotland…
Cute kid B: …would like to say thank you…
Cute kid C: …to Nicola, our First Minister of Scotland.
Cute kid D: We are so grateful, thank you for always…
Cute kid E: …keeping us safe,
Cute kid F: working so hard,
Cute kid G: for being strong for us.
Cute kid H: Thank you for caring for every individual life…
Cute kid I: …and for always thinking about the children of Scotland.
Cute kid J: Thank you Nicola.
Cute kid K: Thank you.
Cute kid L: Thank you.
Cute kids M & N: Thank you.
Supremely cute toddler: Dank yoo.

STV launches inquiry into ‘North Korea’ children’s video

STV has launched an internal investigation after the broadcaster released a video of children praising Nicola Sturgeon for “keeping them safe” during the coronavirus pandemic.

A series of clips from the video were posted on Twitter yesterday before being taken down following a number of complaints.

Some compared it to the sort of brainwashing media typical of totalitarian countries such as North Korea.

(Want to see what these complaints are getting at? Here are a couple of examples: “North Korean children sing ode to Kim Jong Un”, and “Tearful schoolchildren salute Kim Jong-un in North Korea”.)

Apparently reading from a script, they say: “The children of Scotland would like to say thank you to Nicola, our First Minister of Scotland. We are so grateful, thank you for always keeping us safe, working so hard, for being strong for us. Thank you for caring for every individual life and for always caring about the children of Scotland. Thank you Nicola.”

Who in STV decided this was a good idea? Who made this video? Who wrote the script, who hired the children, who filmed it?

Who was paid to show it and who paid to have it shown?

Edit: Mr Ed comments,

“Someone please do a mash-up of all the women saying ‘Thank you‘ to Nicola’s predecessor, provided that reporting restrictions are not breached.”

Bryan Caplan on homeschooling

Homeschooling is in the news a lot these day, for reasons that you already know all about. So, it makes sense to give a plug here to a video interview that Amy Willis of econlin.org did recently with Bryan Caplan, which I just listened to. I got to know Caplan a bit better than before when I attended a lecture he gave last December in London about Poverty and about who’s to blame for it.

This homeschooling conversation, which lasts just under forty minutes, is very commonsensical, I think. Caplan is no zealot for snatching his kids out of school. His one big doctrinal disagreement with regular schooling of the sort his kids were getting is that he reckons maths is more important than schools generally, and his kids’ school in particular, tend to assume.

For Caplan, homeschooling began when his two older sons, twins and introverts, declared themselves to be unhappy with the school they were at. Caplan reckoned he might be able to do better, so they gave it a shot. And it would appear to have worked out well.

His younger and only daughter seems now to be happier going to school, because she likes meeting up with her friends, and because the arts-skewed curriculum appeals to her a lot more than it did to her brothers. She must be suffering a bit now. His younger son, on the other hand, is liking the new stay-at-home regime.

That being a particular thing I take from this conversation: how female-friendly and male-hostile regular schooling of the sort Caplan is talking about seems to have become. Is there a bias in homeschooling numbers between boys and girls being homeschooled? I don’t know, but I bet Caplan does.

Towards the end of their conversation, Willis and Caplan talk about Caplan’s book on education, which is entitled The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. I guess the guy’s somewhat more doctrinal than he had earlier seemed.

On the other hand, both those twins want to be college professors, and Caplan doesn’t seem to be doing anything to try to stop them.

“Possible equity issues”

“Coronavirus in Scotland: Parents and children left to struggle after councils ban online teaching”, Helen Puttick of the Times reports.

It seems many private schools in Scotland are using video conferencing and other internet tools to continue to educate pupils while they are in quarantine. Some state schools are doing likewise. But fear not, Scotland’s ever-vigilant local councils have been alerted:

However, a number of councils in Scotland have banned state education via live video interaction. East Dunbartonshire council said: “Streaming live lessons is not recommended at this time due to safeguarding and possible equity issues.” East Renfrewshire said they were “not advocating” the approach. East Lothian and Stirling also cited safeguarding issues. Midlothian council told headteachers: “No platform is considered suitable for interactions involving young people at this time.”

You may send any enquiries as to what “Possible equity issues” might mean by letter or postcard* to:

East Dunbartonshire Council
12 Strathkelvin Place
Kirkintilloch
G66 1TJ

*Enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope if you wish to receive a reply. Please note that the council does not accept owl post as not everyone has owls.

East Dunbartonshire council thanks you for your ongoing understanding and co-operation as we put measures in place to support our children and their families during this difficult time.

Heresies of our time: that children should be taught to read music

As Trotsky never said about war, and only maybe said about the dialectic, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”

Richard Morrison is the music critic of the Times and writes for BBC Music magazine. A man at the heart of the arts establishment, one might reasonably think. But he had an unsettling experience not long ago:

Do I talk rubbish? The thought crosses my mind frequently, but with particular force as I chaired a discussion at the annual conference of the people who run Britain’s orchestras. The talk turned to education and I expressed my fervent belief that teaching children to read music is the key that opens up everything.

First jolt: the music director of Arts Council England (ACE), no less, vehemently disagreed with me. Musical literacy doesn’t matter much, she declared. Second jolt: in the ensuing discussion not a single person spoke in my favour. More than 100 people were in the room, all engaged in running orchestras that depend on instrumentalists who can sight-read to an incredible level, and not one agreed that teaching children to read music was a good idea.

After the event I had coffee with someone in the audience. “Of course nobody sided with you,” she claimed. “Everyone here depends on ACE subsidy. Nobody will contradict publicly what the ACE music director says.”

This was not a singular event. As Mr Morrison writes in his Times article, “The arts world is tolerant, as long as you’re left wing and anti-Brexit”,

I wouldn’t recount this small personal trauma except that it suddenly seems so relevant. Today the excellent website ArtsProfessional published Freedom of Expression, a report based on a large survey it conducted last autumn into censorship and self-censorship in the cultural sector. By promising anonymity to participants, it has lifted the lid on a shocking state of affairs.

Here’s a sector that prides itself on tolerance and free speaking. In reality it seems that the opposite is true. Nearly 80 per cent of participants agreed that “workers in the arts who share controversial opinions risk being professionally ostracised”. You can speak freely within your arts organisation, it seems, only if you conform to a narrow set of political and social views.

Take Brexit. I knew that most arts people were fervently against it, but I didn’t realise how much pressure was put on pro-Brexiteers working in the arts to, basically, shut up. One participant claimed that “in our organisation those who voted to leave the EU have been ostracised”. Another noted that “17.4 million voted for Brexit”, but that “most of the opinions of these people, on many subjects, would lose them employment in the publicly funded arts sector”.

The “ArtsProfessional” survey he mentions was introduced here and the findings can be read here (subscription required).

I did wonder why teaching children to read music has come to be regarded as a bad thing. I suspect it is part of the same phenomenon that has caused the Oxford Classics faculty to propose dropping Homer and Virgil from the first part of an Oxford Classics degree.

The Oxford Student newspaper reports that it

…has been notified about a proposal by the Classics faculty to remove the study of Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid from the Mods syllabus, a decision which has surprised many across the faculty.

This proposal forms part of a series of reforms aimed to modernise the first stage of the Classics degree, known as Moderations (Mods), which take place during Hilary term of second year for all students taking Classics courses across the university.

The Mods course, which is assessed by a set of ten exams at the end of Hilary, has been increasingly criticised in recent years, due to the attainment gaps found between male and female candidates, as well as between candidates who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-Level (Course I) and those who have not (Course II).

The removal of Virgil and Homer papers, which take up two out of the ten Mods papers, have been marketed as a move that will reduce the attainment gaps and thus improve access to the subject.

Educational “attainment gaps” between the official oppressors and the officially oppressed are to be avoided at all costs, except that of providing teaching of a high and even standard to all. What are they afraid of? When the Victorians saw an attainment gap between the upper and the labouring classes they did things like build a University for working people, funded by contributions from the meagre paypackets of quarrymen and farmers. When the early feminists saw an attainment gap between men and women they attained to such effect that the gender gap in the universities is now the other way round. They closed educational gaps by pushing upwards. We don’t even have the honesty to openly push downwards.

“With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out.”

From the Times:

“Police chief: we ignored sex abuse of children”

Race fears stopped us acting, victim’s father told

A senior police officer admitted that his force ignored the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani grooming gangs for decades because it was afraid of increasing “racial tensions”, a watchdog has ruled.

After a five-year investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) upheld a complaint that the Rotherham officer told a missing child’s distraught father that the town “would erupt” if it was known that Asian men were routinely having sex with under-age white girls.

The chief inspector is said to have described the abuse as “P*** shagging” and to have said it had been “going on” for 30 years: “With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out.”

His incendiary language features in a confidential report by the watchdog that upholds six complaints against South Yorkshire police by a former child victim of sexual exploitation.

But it did come out.

-*-

Some earlier Samizdata posts that are relevant:

If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right

Politically correct evasiveness fails on its own terms

Want to blame someone for Rotherham? Lets start with the Guardian…

Grooming gangs in Rochdale and Rotherham raped with impunity and you won’t believe why!

Elf surveillance

Getting the next generation ready for the surveillance state.

That Which Shall Not Be Named

It waits. It hungers. In its tenebrous embrace all memories, all identities, all names are lost. What was once known becomes unknown.

And a jolly good thing too, that’s what I say.

The Scottish government’s creepy Named Person Scheme has been fed to Azathoth, the BBC reports.

An earlier post of mine called “Sixty pages” described one father’s experience of the pilot scheme:

The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.

Rob Fisher also wrote about it here: What the GIRFEC?

Discussion point: which little Guardian to believe?

Cartoons depict a character wrestling with his conscience by placing a little devil on one shoulder whispering sweet temptations into one ear while a little angel urges rectitude from the other side.

The Guardian says,

The Guardian view on 16-year-old soldiers: armies are for adults

But as Guido points out, the Guardian also says,

The Guardian view on the voting age: time to lower it to 16

Which little Guardian is the angel, which the devil?

I could have just asked you at what age you think children should become adults, but the two little Guardians united to demand their moment of fame. Perhaps both of them should be ignored and there should be no fixed age of adulthood. History provides no guide. From the twelve year old boys who served as “powder monkeys” during naval battles in the age of sail, to the Roman man who remained under the authority of his father for as long as the latter lived, every extreme of custom has seemed natural to those that lived under it.

Are there any oddities of law relating to the age at which young people can first do a given activity that particularly annoy you?

Can you see any way in which fourteen year olds could be stopped from buying hard drugs without the use of law? Or do you dispute that they should be stopped at all?

Games and money

The BBC is breathlessly reporting cases of parents whose bank accounts have been cleared out by their children playing games with in-game purchases.

We are technically savvy but didn’t think to put a password on and my son, who was 12, ended up spending around £700.

It was on his own phone and he managed to download Clash of Clans through a Google Play account, enter his own children’s bank card details and buy lots of in-game items.

It is possible to prevent this. My own children often ask to buy in-game items, which tells me I have somewhat succeeded in training them to ask first. Steam has a PIN code that only I know. The iPad requires my fingerprint before it will take money. And Google Play is set up to require a password. So far, so good.

I installed Mini Golf King on my phone for my son who is five. He knows he’s not allowed to spend money in games, yet this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases.

[…]

People will say “well, you should be supervising him”. I was! I was in the room.

But the game is a children’s game, rated PEGI 3 [suitable for players aged three and above].

I would allow him to watch a U-rated film and I assumed PEGI 3 games were safe to play with casual supervision.

Now things are getting tricky: user interfaces are hard to get right even when you are trying not to confuse people. I can remember a handful of occasions where I have done something daft with a computer, have been met with no sympathy at all from support staff, but objected that the problem is that the user interface was misleading. There are worthy complaints here.

Now politicians are taking an interest. There is always this instinctive call: The Government should Do Something! I do not see the need. Complain instead to marketplace. Google Play, the Apple App Store and Steam are in a position to enforce user interface standards and they can probably do better with default settings, spending limits, and better-designed family accounts.