Be Kind, Not Condescending

If you have gathered nothing in your youth,
How can you find anything in your old age?
Judgment is like the beauty in gray hair,
And in elders it is to know counsel.

Wisdom of Sirach 25:3-4

This is just a meta-blog. Go read “The day I became my grandmother: Our writer dons a mask to find out what it’s like to be 90 in modern Britain” by Tanya Gold from today’s Daily Mail. It will take you a few minutes. Spend them.

Council-sponsored Muslim-only No-go Area

And they said there were no no-go areas.

In January, when Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali suggested in The Sunday Telegraph that some areas had become no-go zones for non-Muslims, he was excoriated on all sides. His fellow Anglican bishops distanced themselves from him. From Muslims he received death threats.

Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington has Muslim-only swimming on Sunday mornings. Actually, it is Muslim males-only swimming. I don’t have any problem with separate sessions for men. After all, leisure pools have long had some of their facilities set apart at times for women. And as long as there is equal access, I got no problem with that.

But Clissold Leisure Centre owned by Hackney Borough Council in north London doesn’t have a Christians-only swimming session.

So have Muslims created this no-go area? No. The Muslims don’t mind swimming with Christians. It’s the leisure centre employees who have done it. After David Toube and his son we refused admission, even by a manager, they went back several days later to speak to another leisure centre employee, who confirmed the Muslims-only policy.

Since this hit the news, the leisure centre’s tune has changed. Seems they don’t want to openly discriminate in the face of media exposure. The sessions may still be for Muslim men, but they now say that staff cannot ask about someone’s religion or refuse them entry if they don’t appear to be Muslim.

Heston’s Challenge

I’ve heard it rumoured now that Charlton Heston has passed away, Al Gore has decided to accept his challenge to come over and take the rifle from his cold dead hands.

I also have to give a H/T to Matt for the link to speech Heston gave at Harvard in 1999. It really is worth reading or hearing.

Family Matters

The most senior family court judge in southwest England has diagnosed the cause of the almost every evil in society today. Sir Paul Coleridge blames pretty much everything on the breakdown of the family, which he labels a cancer.

Though he is certainly an expert on these matters, this is not something that requires such a specialist to diagnose. But even though he is stating the obvious, it is something that the Government, with it’s family unfriendly policies, is ignoring. It is not just no-fault divorce. Mr Justice Coleridge includes the “meltdown” of the parent/child relations as well.

So you combine no-fault divorce with all-fault discipline (given the restrictions imposed by the law, compounded with the tendency to assume any discipline exceeds those restrictions) and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster is certainly what we have in this country. Disaster is what we see every day in schools – with a combination of kids who can’t draw their family tree and as they are shifted throughout the week from one parent to another, or sometimes a relative, or a former partner of a parent, with no consistent structure in their life.

If that’s what it’s like in relatively sedate rural areas, think about what other educators face each day in the more urban environments. Several years ago I taught in a city of about 70,000. I was talking to a head of year who was sending out congratulatory letters to parents of children who were performing above expectations in at least five subjects and also letters to parents of children for whom significant concerns had been raised in at least five subjects. As he was looking through the envelopes, he noticed that all of the former were sent to “Mr and Mrs” and all of the latter were sent to single parents or adults of two difference surnames.

This echoes Sir Paul’s statement, “I am not saying every broken family produces dysfunctional children but I am saying that almost every dysfunctional child is the product of a broken family.”

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.

It Could Be Much Worse

I may complain about the general unruliness with which I deal on a day-to-day basis. In my subject, even dealing with pint-sized atheists hour after hour and their same little arguments (though honestly, most of the time that is a very generous term) can be wearying.

A survey by one of the teaching unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, as reported in The Times, notes:

Most teachers said that pupil behaviour had worsened in the last two years and many said that low-level disruption – such as pupils talking, not paying attention and refusing requests to turn off mobile phones – was now the norm in classrooms.

I would say that this is true even where I am. However, there is much to said for teaching in the hinterlands.  Not only have we not had a teacher assault this year, I don’t think there is any pupil in the school who would dare such a thing.

Speaking ahead of the union’s annual conference in Torquay today, Ms Bousted [ATL general secretary] said that one in ten teachers had received physical injuries in the classroom.

Twelve per cent said that they had needed to visit a doctor and eight per cent had taken leave from teaching as a result of pupils’ aggression.

Three per cent of teachers said that they had been involved in incidents involving knives, two thirds had been punched, nearly a half kicked and a third had been threatened.

The Government has a unique approach to dealing with a norm of classes full of unruly children. Schools minister Jim Knight said that classes of up to 70 pupils are perfectly acceptable. All you need are a couple of teaching assistants.

Surprise Litigation

The crazy litigation bug has migrated to this country from the US. From the Daily Telegraph:

A home owner is being threatened with legal action after a woman claimed she trapped her hand in his letterbox while delivering unwanted junk mail. Joy Goodman, a cake decorator, is seeking damages for personal injury and loss of earnings, claiming the top of her right index finger was severed when she delivered the mail. She claims she needs compensation because she is now unable to carry out her intricate job.

But the home owner vowed to fight the case. Paul O’Brien, 44, a self-employed engineer from Leeds, said: “When I received a solicitor’s letter I thought someone was having a laugh. I actually told them they had sent it early. April Fool’s Day is still six weeks away.

“I just cannot believe someone who came on to my property uninvited, to put junk mail through my door that I didn’t want, can now sue me because they hurt themselves.”

Mrs Goodman declined to comment, saying only: “It is in the hands of my solicitors.”

A law expert said that householders had limited duties of care to people who went on to their property such as delivery people or postmen.

These duties of care include not having such things as bare electricity cables sticking out, but were not likely to extend to a letterbox providing it was a standard model.