02 April 2007


FINAL UPDATE October 2007
This post mysteriously still seems to get about 10% of my daily page views. How do blog visitors get to it? The only thing which distinguishes it are the title in capitals, and the fact that it had about ten times as many comments as any other post. Anyway, please note: the debate about this issue has moved to the dedicated blog set up to oppose "educational conscription".

Latest update
We need more ideas and action for purposes of organising a little bit of counter-agitprop. C'mon people, take it seriously. "It's no game", as a man by the name of Bowie once put it. We are, in effect, being punished by the Left for the failure of their asinine policies to achieve equality of outcome. And the punishment will not stop with this one.
Surreptitious Evil has come up with three good ideas, so can those who care about liberty help to take these further please:
  • Write to leaders and education spokesmen of the other parties, asking them to condemn the proposals. As Paul points out, this is UKIP's chance to shine — if their website is to be believed, they ought to be on the side of liberty on this one. Someone feel like getting the ball rolling by drafting their own letter and sharing?
  • If you have a blog, regular posts of outrage until this thing is killed. If you don't, comments of outrage on other people's blogs or newspaper online comments whenever you get the opportunity. Once a week please, at least.
  • Collective blog or website. I think this is an excellent idea. Ideally, someone other than me to run it, though I'm happy to contribute. But I definitely can't set such a thing up, not techy enough. (Update: S-E has now set this up. Feedback please.)
  • See also Paul's suggestion (in the comments) for a meme hack, i.e. animated banner. I'm thinking about wording/graphics for this but suggestions welcome. (Update: Paul has now kindly drafted a GIF, see above. It may need some tweaking, but the basic concept is there. Feedback welcome. Should we have a gloomier picture? Is the word “dump” too irreverent?)

  • I use capitals very very rarely. So you can be sure I am being deadly serious. "You people" is not aimed at anyone in particular, just the population in general. Or those who can still think straight.

    The proposed scheme to force 16-18 year olds to go to school is a TOTALLY IMMORAL infringement of civil liberties.

    A person aged sixteen is certainly old enough to make up their own mind about education, never mind the utilitarian arguments for or against.

    Whatever next, curfews for the 18-21 age group?

    But where is the outrage? Apart from Not Saussure*, and Celia Green, I haven't seen much out there except the usual "oh well, it's NuLabour, what do you expect". Can't see anything on libertarian first-port-of-call blog Samizdata, nor on Devil's Kitchen. (Some f-ing and blinding would be really useful round about now, DK. Especially now that you have an explicit channel to the mainstream media.)

    Come on, people, stand up for our liberties before it's too late. If you let them win this one, it'll only encourage them to go for the next one. And seventeen-year-olds cannot be expected to stick up for their own rights by themselves — for one thing, they're not allowed to vote.

    Someone please start a petition website or something. Better still, organise a rally. You start it, I'll promote it. There's a new slot in my sidebar for stuff.

    This is not just a minor issue for moral philosophers or libertarians to debate. This is real and it's serious.

    * whose nose I may have put slightly out of joint, because I picked up on a throwaway remark of his rather than praising him for being critical — apologies, NS.

  • Thanks to NS for pointing out these other articles critical of the proposal. I still haven't seen one, though, which expresses outrage about the principle of the thing, rather than about the stupidity of the scheme.
  • MSM-watch: Minette Marrin talks of an "unjustified assault on teenagers' freedom" — the strongest MSM criticism I've seen so far. She uses the term "incarceration" which seems to have been borrowed from Celia Green's post via the Guardian.
  • There is more discussion of the issue at Tim Worstall and Stumbling & Mumbling.
  • Samizdata are on the case.
  • More anger here from Jonny Newton, and here from NeueArbeit Macht Frei (love the blog title).

  • Originally published 24 March 07.


    not_saussure said...

    No need for an apology; my nose wasn't affected one way or the other, I assure you.

    I agree there's been surprisingly little comment on this deeply sinister idea, though I have seen good pieces by, on the right, Reactionary Snob and The Thunderdragon and, on the left, Obsolete.

    I suppose it's only a Green Paper as yet, and is unlikely to come to anything in the near future, but it's deeply worrying that such ideas are even being canvassed.

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Glad to hear your nose is fine. Thanks for the links, I had seen Thunderdragon but not the other two. Still, while they sound cross, I don't know they sound any more cross than they might about, say, road pricing or some other goverment stupidity.

    What we need, in my opinion, is concerted outrage of the kind you'd get if (say) the BNP proposed some discriminatory piece of legislation. Anything else will probably just be dismissed as the usual angry mutterings from the great unwashed blogosphere.

    Paul said...

    "But where is the outrage?"

    I wondered about that, too: I thought this dreadful idea would get slated up hill and down dale, and thus would die a swift death. WRONG!!!

    No-one with a jot of sense would table this proposal, unless for some reason they actually wanted to wreck things further. That's not beyond the realms of possibility, of course.

    Though I have no blog or website (nobody'd read it), I've been chuntering on about this looming disaster since December...

    First shot (under the name of "Paul H.")...

    ...And my more recent rants at Samizdata. Plenty of swearing, there (though not by me, I hasten to add).

    However, ou're probably right: indignant outbursts are ten-a-penny on the blogosphere --- something extra's required here. Your suggestion of a petition website sounds good. Maybe not this one, though. ;)

    By the way, Fabian --- what (as an economist and CIOT member) did you make of the budget? In particular, our socialist Chancellor's decision to jack up the income tax burden of lower earners --- whilst simultaneously giving the better-off an income tax cut?! What's his game?

    not_saussure said...

    The Green Paper is available on line and the DfES invite people's responses, either by snail mail or online (same url), by some time in June. Might be worth our while giving them our views direct as well as through our blogs. I see, though, the questionnaire one's invited to fill out rather expects you to agree to the basic idea behind the proposal, though perhaps not the detail, but it's certainly possible to register more profound objections despite this.

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Well, you've probably gathered my views on government consultation exercises, though expressing your opinion in this way is probably better than nothing. One problem is that they suffer from the tick-box approach - every view becomes just another statistic to be fitted into an often crude framework, and this can bias the end result in a particular way. "Please give your views on whether torturing people to death would be good for the economy." - "I think it would not be as good for the economy as has been suggested."

    I don't believe this government takes any notice of individual people's views, they only take notice of the mainstream media - and even that not much. I ask myself, which of the following is most likely to have a useful effect on the media:
    a) large number of signatories to a Downing Street e-petition,
    b) large number of negative comments in response to a Green Paper,
    c) synchronised storm of blogosphere outrage,
    and reckon (c) is way ahead.

    Paul, thanks for the links. Do see if you can get Samizdata interested. I don't have any proprietorial feelings about any putative campaign - anyone else is very welcome to annex the idea, though a link would be nice.

    Paul said...

    I've been sniffing around and found a possible ally. From its website:

    "The Campaign for Real Education was formed in 1987 to press for higher standards and more parental choice in state education. The Campaign is not affiliated to any political party..."

    ...On the subject of political parties, it might be worth lobbying the only sane one --- judging by their education manifesto, they'll be up for it. (Perhaps DK would be the best channel for this.)

    I am on board 100%, Fabian, but I do have one worry about protesting: does it mean I have to grow knotty dreads and learn to juggle?

    Jonny Newton said...

    I got pretty outraged back in January when this was floated: http://www.jonathannewton.net/blog/_archives/2007/1/12/2642899.html

    Still the most hilarious bit for me is the Alan Johnson quote:
    "It should be as unacceptable to see a 16-year- old working, with no training, no education,......"

    11 years already, nothing to show for it, and they admit it.

    Roger Thornhill said...

    Well, I posted my views here "School Leaving Age Raised to 67" and I am outraged!

    Paul said...

    What about meme hacks? If they're good, they'll get around the blogosphere and remain in prominent positions long after the thread's been archived. Anyone tried doing one? Can't be all that difficult, surely? This guy's done a fair few. Mind you, he could be deceased, looking at the date of his last posting...

    "...seriously. "It's no game", as a wise man by the name of Bowie once put it"

    Another music reference? Low yesterday and now Scary Monsters? Wouldn't call him wise, though --- sharp-eyed and rich, maybe, but that ain't quite the same thing. Mind you, the track you refer to does feature that superb line about what children around the world put on the walls. And some nice Frippery (I half imagine you with a a lovely Dorset burr like him).

    Fabian Tassano said...

    First usable suggestion, thank you. Now are there any web-heads out there capable of fashioning an animation? Meanwhile I will put the little grey cells onto the matter of content.

    The rest of you, please continue to address yourselves to the problem. A meme hack is a good start, but it's not enough.

    Offending word removed.

    Surreptitious Evil said...

    Wow, for the first time I am glad for the Scottish Parliament (education thankfully being a devolved matter).

    This proposal is illiberal nonsense from the usual bunch of mendacious statists and meddlers.

    Ranting about it - will do so, in a bit.

    Doing something about it. Well, I suggest that somebody formally writes to the leaders and Education spokes-weasels of all of the other political parties to elict whether or not they are in favour of the compulsion element. That gives us the proverbial line in the sand.

    We then need to start making loud noises. Given that there is an election coming up, some of our governing class may be in more of a receptive mood than is their want.

    On the basis of having been recently involved in all three e-petitions are just window dressing, consultations do get listened to by the civil servants but their ability to make their political masters see sense is often limited to technical matters, and blogospheric rage is invisible to the people whose opinions we need to form or change. So let's all complete the consultation and start shouting (reasoned, sensible, evidenced arguments. Loudly.)

    Do we want a separate collective blog for pointing out illiberal legislative proposals? It gives the MSM a convenient aiming point. TerryWatch has sort of worked (at a much lower level - but still egregious New Labour stupidity. And it has been fun.)


    Fabian Tassano said...

    Thanks S-E, exactly the kind of suggestions I was looking for. Will comment more on this later.

    Marlin Knight said...

    Does one have to sign up with the Google thing in order to see a better editor than this one?

    (In Missouri)

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Do you mean the comment editor? As far as I know it makes no difference whether you're signed in or not.

    You should be able to put in HTML link tags in the normal way. Not sure what other commands will work. If you want to email me something, use "ftassano at yahoo.co.uk"

    Bill said...

    One of the best blogs for the documentation of the egregious efforts of the government to change the nature of our country into a 'police state', which I wonder if you are aware of (it is not in your blogroll) is:
    - the thing I admire about that blog is the dedication and detailed analysis over a prolonged period; my own particular focus tends to shift between the use of torture in the so-called 'war on terror' and the increasing documentation of citizens and their lives - all these strands are part of what is excercising you, I imagine, about the recent efforts to document citizens from childhood as a way of performing a fait accompli in its efforts to introduce 'voluntary' ID Cards; another shocking aspect is that anyone ever questioned by the police, even if not charged with anything, now has their DNA taken and this data is stored indefinitely; as the PM put it recently, and despite parliamentary responses by a Minister when it was introduced, this can be used to match up DNA found at crime scenes with anyone whose data has ever been added to the database.

    Although a lot of the more sinister steps have been introduced under this government it is not clear to me that any other Party in power would voluntarily relinquish any of the new measures labour have put in place to 'protect' (i.e. 'control') us.

    Fabian Tassano said...

    SE, are you saying these proposals will not affect Scotland?

    Paul said...

    "SE, are you saying these proposals will not affect Scotland?"

    I recall reading that they apply only in England --- so Wales is off the hook, too. Thank Heaven for small mercies...

    Fabian Tassano said...

    An excellent reason for moving to Wales.

    Bill, thanks for reminding me about Spyblog. If they feel like giving me a link, I'd be happy to link back.

    Bill said...

    De Nada!

    If they feel like giving me a link, I'd be happy to link back.

    I never link to blogs which make it a condition that one links to them first, I've usually found it necessary to de-link such blogs shortly thereafter on the few occasions when I have broken this rule; I link to blogs which interest me whether they link to me or not and if a blog links to me I am duly flattered - usually I link back, but not always. I tend to be wary of blogs which fill up their blogrolls like some kind of mutual admiration society - I prefer to blogroll a range of well-written blogs with a wide spectrum of viewpoints and I often disagree fundamentally with the views some of them express.

    Bag said...

    Err... I don't think it is right either. just another way of covering up one of the biggest screw ups in education and manipulating the employment figures.

    But I have a question. If it is classed as slavery then what about the kids up to 15 who are in this? It sounds like it is OK to enslave them?

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Bill, I don't do automatic mutual links either. But a link back tends to be a precondition for me to en-roll even those blogs I like (which includes yours). This may seem a bit snooty but it helps to keep my list short. I think long blogrolls are kinda tedious too.

    If I happen to notice you've linked me, because you happen to want to, then I'll give you a link back.

    Bag, I briefly refer to the more general question of compulsory education in the "Conservative Party Reptile" post. I don't find compulsory education acceptable at all. But I think this campaign should be careful not to get bogged down in that issue, because it's not necessary and because it will make it easier for opponents to dismiss the question at hand:

    "Why should people who are currently considered old and responsible enough to lead conventional lives (have jobs, rent lodgings, get married, drive, etc.) suddenly be considered young and immature enough to have their liberty taken away from them?"

    Mister Anonymous said...

    If someone is going to make a good internet meme/slogan may I suggest that it explicitly links this with conscription.

    On another note may I add "let the individual decide" may be what has led to this state of affairs anyway.

    What if I want to chuck a load of toxic waste into a reservoir? Someone's got to stop me.

    It's not so much a case of "we must conscript young people into education" but "why are they not interested in education"?

    Young people today don't see themselves in the future: the novelty is long gone.

    "the continuing degradation of European/American culture turned [them] into industrialized nightmares of ugly cities, boring jobs serving mass tastes, void culture and directionless, anti-creative "consumers" who poured into any new region with no regard for natural beauty, tore down the trees and left concrete and endless stores catering to the lowest tastes imaginable."

    (Taken from my synopsis of 'Hotel Amerika')

    And they want us to defend this in Iraq?

    Bill said...

    Hi Fabian

    This may seem a bit snooty

    Naturally I am flattered that you like my little blog [blush] and if you choose to link to me that will be great. I'll be reading your blog for a while yet, though, before I decide whether to link to yours; I like your blog a lot, but the pre-condition of reciprocating a blog link is (so far as I am concerned) a 'warning sign' which I don't care to ignore lightly. I have a page on my blog which explains pretty clearly my whole attitude on linking:

    Meantime, take care :)

    Surreptitious Evil said...

    Yes, absolutely, I was saying that this will not affect Scotland - the Scottish educational system has been devolved, in practise, before there was an English educational system. And Paul is correct also - not Wales (nor Northern Ireland.)

    Executive Summary, Para 29:

    29. This Green Paper relates to England only.

    ? Rise up and be a Nation again ?

    Sorry, it's late.


    Roger Thornhill said...

    How about "School leaving age raised to 67...then you are on your own"

    Threefold swipe: raising the age to 18, the general infantilising of the population and the abandonment of and theft from pensioners by Grabber Gordon.

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Roger, yours is certainly wittier.

    One problem is, we've temporarily lost our widget engineer Paul, who has gone on an Easter break. So it looks like we're stuck with the banner we've got for the time being.

    What do you think of the new blog at appallingstupidity.blogspot?

    Roger Thornhill said...

    What do you think of the new blog at appallingstupidity.blogspot?

    Good - but why did SE spawn off the thread? Or is it part of the means to create a multi-contributor beam of light?

    Fabian Tassano said...

    See updates at the top of this post - the idea is to have a collective blog to focus just on this issue.

    Would you care to be a co-contributor? See new post "We have our first hammer".

    Roger Thornhill said...

    Fabian, I would very much like to, thanks.

    Fabian Tassano said...

    Great. I need your email address to invite you from Blogger. Email it to me if you like, at ftassano at yahoo.co.uk