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]

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.

It was a bad career move to be the first one to object

“Parents’ disgust as Labour council hires actor in rainbow coloured monkey costume with fake penis and nipples to appear at library event encouraging children to read”, reports the Daily Mail.

Parents have voiced their disgust after a Labour council hired an actor in a rainbow-coloured monkey costume with a fake penis and nipples to appear at a library event for children.

The Redbridge Libraries Summer Reading Challenge run by Redbridge Council in east London set up the event but the library has since apologised for the ‘inappropriate’ costume.

A full investigation has also been launched by the council to get to the bottom of how taxpayers’ money was used to hire the actors.

Labour councillor Jas Athwal has apologised and tweeted: ‘I was appalled by the incident in Redbridge Libraries on Saturday.

‘Completely inappropriate and deeply offensive performers were hired by independent contractor Vision who manage Redbridge libraries and leisure centres.

So it was just a mistake, then? The actors’ agency mixed up the booking for the children’s library with the one for the Pride parade? Not quite. Early complainers were blocked on twitter and told off for “lecturing”. It seems the same performers in the same costumes have appeared in other libraries. The Labour council can repeat the words “independent contractor” all they want but nobody is under the impression that this would be equally likely to happen under a Conservative council. The SNP, however…

I was haunted by one of the pictures in the Mail story that shows a woman in a burka walking by in the street while the rainbow monkey man moons her. He thinks performance, she thinks insult. I do not think that woman is likely to take her kid to the next Summer Reading Challenge. That is a pity: it concerns me that so many British Muslim children do not read well. However my opinions about rainbow monkey man strutting his stuff in the public street are difficult to summarise and are not the topic of this post. I talked about some of the friction that arises when groups with very different mores exert their right to parade in a post from two years ago called ‘If you want Pride you must allow the cry of “Shame!”’ which concerned events in Walthamstow, which like nearby Redbridge has a substantial Muslim population.

What I wanted to talk about this time related more to the events in the library, specifically the question asked on Twitter by Janice Turner of the Times: “I would really love a detailed breakdown of the commissioning process whereby Redbridge council commissioned the Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey as a means to teach children to read.” How did this happen? Why did no one question it? Someone looked up Mandinga Arts on the internet and ticked the box saying yes they want that costume for an event aimed at children of primary school age. The actor got into said costume, arranged his dildo, and set off for the library. Did someone direct him to the children’s section? At the library the staff no doubt shuffled their feet a bit (the staff member at the earlier event at Exeter library seemed to have been taken aback by the full frontal) but so far as I can tell the eventual complaint came from a parent, not a librarian, despite the fact that it should have been obvious that many of the ethnic minority and working class parents and children libraries say they want to reach most would be repelled by this. No one spoke up. Why not?

My guess as to the answer is the title of this post.

How long will the doctors be in loco parentis?

Thirty years? Women of childbearing age should not drink – WHO

How about forever? Face masks should continue ‘forever’ to fight other diseases, says Sage scientist

The point is that anyone can do this to anyone

Don’t like what someone says on social media? Don’t worry, with just one phone call you can arrange for whoever said it to have to tell their autistic kids that mummy has to go away and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to come back.

“I can’t sleep, says accountant Marion Millar in trans tweet row”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was told to report to a police station over allegations that she had posted “homophobic and transphobic” tweets.

Her account of her ordeal has been viewed by millions of people on social media. Millar, who works for For Women Scotland (FWS), a feminist group, wrote: “On April 28 I received a call from a PC Laura Daley from Police Scotland requesting I attend an interview under the malicious communications act. She told me I had to attend East Kilbride police station so I could be then transported to Cathcart station in a police car because I would have to go to a station where there are holding cells.”

Millar was told that social workers would be sent to look after her young twin boys, who are autistic, while she was questioned.

“This nonsense has been hanging over my head for a month,” she said. “I still don’t know what the offending tweet is. Anyone who knows me knows I am not homophobic or transphobic. ”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We received two complaints regarding comments made on social media, enquiries into this are ongoing.”

To comply with human rights legislation interviews have to take place at a station with custody suites, which East Kilbride does not have.

I cannot but admire the elegance of using the supposed protections offered by human rights legislation into a vehicle for twisting the knife a little more. Shame if you aren’t allowed to return home, love. But don’t worry, we have a nice custody suite.

Some of you might think this is an example of what a oppressive place Scotland is becoming now that the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill has been passed. If so, you are wrong. It is an example of what an oppressive place Scotland already is under existing law. Ms Millar was summoned for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. And before English, Welsh or Northern Irish readers feel superior, let me say that as far as I know that same 1988 Act applies to the whole of the UK. As I said in a post from 2012 called “The kraken wakes”, despite its obvious potential for oppression, for the first twenty years or so of its existence the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not seem to do much harm … but you are not safe just because a monster sleeps.

Safely under supervision every minute of the day

“School almost ‘eliminates bullying’ with break-time ban on games”, the BBC reports.

A school claims to have almost eliminated bullying by banning games like football at break times.

Instead, students at Hackney New School participate in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals and other activities, including chess and choir clubs.

The school says there have been only five reports of bullying, including cyber bullying, in the last year.

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”

I do not doubt that it is achievable. Greater safety from ever having a bad experience is always achievable – at the cost of being cut off from experiencing anything much at all.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised.

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving,” Ms Whelan said.

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

At certain times when I was a schoolgirl I would have been glad to escape the cruelty and cold of the playground. It was nice when I got to the Lower Sixth and we were allowed to spend the lunch hour in a common room. Unprompted, we literally did have a phase when our favourite activity was to quiz each other on capital cities (Mongolia – Ulaan Bator, Botswana – Gaborone), and I would have welcomed a little more Shelley and Tennyson and a little less depressing modern poetry in my English lessons.

To give children the choice to engage in indoor and/or structured activities in their free time, whether because such activities are a safe harbour from bullies or just because these are the things they enjoy, is good. To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

It is not just unplanned social activities between groups of children that Ms Whelan wants to put a stop to; she also says she wants to be “doing more for pupils” in terms of preventing them from “aimlessly wandering the playground”. Heaven forbid that they have time to walk and think.

Edit: Several commenters have rightly said that to suffer bullying in childhood is a terrible thing that can have lifelong effects on the victims. But surely that is best answered by giving children as far as possible the chance to follow their own judgement as to where they are safest and happiest. The lunchtime club ceases to be a haven from bullies if the bullies are forced to be there too.

Back in 2003 Brian Micklethwait wrote about how well the children behaved in a voluntary karate class he observed.

What struck me, so to speak, about these “martial arts” classes was that although the children present may have supposed that all there were learning was how to be more violent, what they were really learning was no less than civilisation itself.

The children were all told to get changed into their Karate kit in an orderly fashion, and to put their regular clothes in sensible little heaps. They all lined up the way he said. They all turned up on time. They left the place impeccably clean when they’d finished, all helping to make sure that all was ship-shape and properly closed-up when they left.

Were these children being “coerced”? Certainly not. They didn’t have to be there, any more than The Man had to teach them Karate if he didn’t want to. If they wanted out, then out they could go, with no blots on their copybooks or markings-down on their CVs.

Portugal has a socialist education policy

“Portugal blocks remote lessons at private schools to help state pupils”, the Times reports.

Portugal has blocked private schools from offering remote learning for at least a fortnight amid fears that more privileged children will gain an unfair advantage over their poorer counterparts after the closure of state schools.

The minority Socialist-led government of António Costa, the prime minister, had said this month that schools would remain open. However, political pressure over soaring Covid-19 infections forced it to announce last Thursday that schools would be closed from the next day.

A decree forced all schools to take a two week holiday, with the government saying that allowing private institutions to teach remotely would put state-school pupils at an unfair disadvantage.

As a commenter, “Mr N D” says, “The headline is misleading. This isn’t helping anyone at all, it’s making sure that everyone is held back.”

Enraged is not a good way to end the year

So I will post this without comment:

The New York Times Helped a Vindictive Teen Destroy a Classmate Who Uttered a Racial Slur When She Was 15

May better times lie ahead for all reading this. It is a relief that Brexit is done. Boris’s deal is far from ideal, but there were times during the last four years when I would have counted us lucky to get the referendum vote honoured at all.

Happy New Year!

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.