27 June 2007

Mid-week review

  • The Sunday Times reports on developments in education. Apparently schools are starting to drop single subject lessons in favour of groups of classes working together in large halls on "projects". Looks like English lessons will be reclassified as “communication”. McDonaldisation or what? (Except that term sounds like capitalism is to blame, when it's really pseudo-egalitarian ideology.)

  • Sir Peter Lampl rails against lack of "mobility" in the UK, complaining that "in no other country is the link between a parent’s education and the cognitive skills of their children stronger". Well, if he thinks this is a bad thing, perhaps it's that in no other country is state education as ideologised and "anti-traditionalist" (= anti-intellectual) as in the UK. But why, Sir Peter, is such a link automatically bad? Incidentally, his claim that in the 1970s "around two thirds" of Oxbridge undergraduates came from state schools seems dodgy.

  • Are rules which meet the ideological requirements du jour exploited by people with destructive motivations? (See e.g. rape laws, discrimination laws, quotas, etc.) In particular, are notions of "child's best interests" — usually interpreted in favour of the mother in divorce cases, and sometimes also in putative abuse cases (at least when they are not interpreted in favour of social workers) — exploited by women who want to make life difficult for ex-husbands? It seems quite possible. So why the resistance to making these cases public, with the names disguised, so that the kind of ideology applied becomes visible? (Deborah Orr comments.) Our dear Lord Chancellor has apparently decided not only that family courts will go on being held in secret, but that family hearings held in magistrates' courts, which are currently open to the public, will be closed in future.

  • What, me agree with Billy Bragg? Well, a healthy dose of cynicism about "consulting with the public" never goes amiss. "Stand-up-speak-up" meetings? "Big Conversations"? Not signs of devolving power, just signs of intellectual vacuity, and/or the desire to provide your statist plans with phoney legitimacy.

  • "Sexual purity: go right ahead. I just don’t want it shoved in my face" says Martin Samuel. "Feel free not to do whatever it is you are not doing, but don’t advertise that you are not doing it. Don’t have as much sex as you don’t want, boys and girls: just shut up about it." Fine by me, provided we can also apply this to in-yer-face publicity for doing it, in all its manifestations. Otherwise, just a teeny bit hypocritical.

  • The Guardian is exploiting the current wave of hatred for the "super-rich". Ms Bunting points out that the middle class are nominally wealthy, but actually poor. The preferred solution, no doubt, is more egalitarian policies including additional redistribution — from individuals to the state. No one (except me) seems to argue that the concentration of wealth into an increasingly small group at the very top of the pyramid may have something to do with the fact that the masses now dominate global spending as never before, and that their tastes are, shall we say, on the homogeneous side.

  • Why do we dress children like tarts? asks Lesley Thomas. Can I offer the following hypothesis. Because (a) a mediocracy disapproves of the old-fashioned concept of childhood (too much privacy) and wants young people to join the society of washed-out dumbed-down clones as soon as possible, (b) because emphasising sexuality is a great way to enforce membership of this happy, "individualistic", grimly pseudo-hedonistic society. (Pseudo-hedonistic = you pretend to chase pleasure, except it has been degraded to the point where it is more like a social obligation.)
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