Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Snooping on teens reduces their American individualism

Downtown D.C.'s booming Gallery Place corridor has lately been plagued by disruptive, loitering teens. Two weeks ago, after meeting with District officials, business owners hit on a novel solution: installing the latest in crowd-control technology outside the Chinatown Metro entrance.

Like a reverse dog whistle, the "Mosquito" emits a piercing beep at a frequency only young ears can hear. "Cool stuff," brags a spokesman for the British company selling the device. "Drives kids crazy."

Nobody likes getting jostled by unruly punks, but there's something a tad creepy about "fixing" the problem with a human "bug zapper" — a machine that harasses guilty and innocent alike.

Kids are getting used to this sort of thing, though. This generation has been poked, prodded, monitored, and controlled more than any other in American history.

When you look at our public schools, which educrats are busily turning into high-tech dystopias, you wonder how the regimented teen is supposed to grow up into an independent, free-thinking citizen.

Several school districts have begun tracking students' whereabouts with radio-frequency chips in student ID cards. "Information from those sensors is displayed on a map of the school," explains a Richmond, Calif., administrator, letting school officials, like counterterror agents on 24, pinpoint the students' location at any time.

Earlier this year it emerged that a Pennsylvania school district used "anti-theft" software in school-issued laptops to surreptitiously take thousands of webcam snapshots of students in their own homes. The federal government recently declined to prosecute the administrators, but such programs clearly bring enormous potential for abuse.

Public education is increasingly coming to resemble a 12-year shuffle through a giant TSA security line, with drug-sniffing dogs and "zero-tolerance" policies that make pocketknives and aspirin grounds for arrest and expulsion.

Children raised in this atmosphere grow up far more deferential to authority than their elders. William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of Millennials Rising, call the generation born after 1981 "America's New Conformists," favoring "political order" over individualism.

Millennials' confidence in the federal government is 14 percent higher than older generations', according to a new report from the Obama-phile Center for American Progress. That study purports to explain "why and how the Millennial Generation is the most pro-government generation and what this means for our future." I can answer that last bit. It means: Be afraid; Be very afraid.

Generational changes in parenting philosophy have surely contributed to Millennials' pro-authority bent. Gone are the days when mom shoved you outside in the morning, telling you to get home by dark.

Howe and Strauss document a rapid decrease in unstructured free time for kids growing up in the '90s. But even if government policy isn't the only factor driving the new conformity, the schools shouldn't strive to make it worse.

Britain has been a pioneer in building a school system that conditions students for life in a cradle-to-grave surveillance state. It's no surprise that the "Mosquito" is a British import.

That may be changing, thanks to the civil-libertarian-leaning Cameron-Clegg government. Among the coalition's first moves were revoking schools' authority to demand children's fingerprints, and shutting down Labor's ContactPoint database of personal information on all 11 million Britons under 18 (slogan: "every child matters.") "The culture of snooping and mistrust has become so ingrained that we must tackle it with renewed vigor," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Too often today, our schools actively promote that culture, quashing independence in the name of student security. The good news is, as our cousins across the pond are showing, that trend can be reversed.


Socialism vs. God

Sanity vs Honor? Socialism vs God? The debate is not new, hip or modern. It is a centuries old debate.

1790, France, the revolutionaries tried to establish the cult of Reason as an attempt get rid of Christianity.

The National Assembly took over the responsibilities of the Church, which included caring for the poor and the sick. The revolutionaries proceeded forward to take care of everything in France. They did such a wonderful job that four years later the Guillotine was working really hard to instill order in the country, spreading terror instead of love.

The print, according to the US Library of Congress, shows monks and nuns enjoying their new found liberty, some are loading possessions onto horses and wagons, some embrace, one couple kisses while another rides off together on horseback.” Translation: “Decree of the National Assembly which dissolved all orders of monks and nuns. Tuesday, February 16, 1790.

Fast forward to 1873, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky is reflecting on his past relationship with the famous critic Belnskiy, whose work for ‘Westernizing’ the czardom was inspiration for future communists. 1873 was decades before the Reds toppled the crosses and the bells of the Russian Orthodox churches.
“He knew that the moral principles are the basis for everything. He believed in the new moral principles of socialism (which to date, however, has shown nothing but vile distortions of nature and common sense) to the point of folly with no reflection at all: here there was only enthusiasm.

But as a socialist he first had to dethrone Christianity. He knew that revolution must necessarily begin with atheism. He had to dethrone the religion that provided the moral foundation of the society he was rejecting. He radically rejected the family, the private property, and the moral responsibility of the individual. Certainly he understood that in denying the individual moral responsibility he was also denying personal freedom; but he believed with all his being … that socialism would not only not destroy personal freedom but would, to the contrary, restore it to unheard-of grandeur, but on a new adamantine foundation.

There remained, however the radiant personality of Christ himself, which was most difficult to contend with.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Writer’s Diary, Old People

The debate is really about what are the common moral values.

‘Personal responsibility’ vs ‘government that cares’. Individuals taking care of themselves, their family and neighbors vs. cesars, kings, emperors, popes, presidents and general secretaries taking care of individuals.

Socialism gaves the people the perfect excuse to blame somebody else for their problems. Here is the socialist principle that was circulating in 1850s in the Russian Empire (as explained by Belinsky debating Dostoyevsky on the role of God in society):
Do you know that man’s sins cannot be counted against him and that he cannot be laden down with obligation to turn the other cheek when society is set up in such a mean fashion that a man cannot help but do wrong; economic factors alone lead him to do wrong, and it is absurd and cruel to demand from a man something which the very laws of nature make it impossible for him to carry out, even if he wanted to…

Socialism gave the people the green light to blame somebody else for their own wrongdoings and to fight those who they blame for their misfortune (about 80 million folks were killed in the process).

Today America is debating again the moral values of personal responsibility vs. victimhood. It is amazing that for hundreds of years the same debate is still alive. It is so much easier to blame somebody else. It is so easy that if it was working we all would have been socialists by now.

Unfortunately for the socialists after they get rid of the people who they blame (and run out of their money) comes a time when there is nobody else to blame. This is the time when, out of necessity, everybody goes back to personal responsibility and starts rebuilding… until they find somebody new to blame.


Australia: Woman charged for false rape report

False rape claims are common in Britain. Is that cathching on in Australia? Feminists used to say that false rape claims don't happen and they probably still do

A 21-YEAR-OLD Melbourne woman who claimed she was raped on a beachside track in broad daylight will be charged with making a false report to police.

The woman told police she was jogging on a dirt track beside The Esplanade in Mount Martha, south of Melbourne, when she was attacked just after 5.30pm (AEST) on September 13.

Police today said detectives had completed their investigation and were now satisfied no such event happened.

"Police wish to allay community fears and reinforce the fact that this incident did not occur and there is no one sought in relation to the matter," a police spokeswoman said. "The 21-year-old woman is expected to be charged on summons with making a false report to police."

The woman had told police she was startled by a man standing on the dirt track exposing himself. She said the man tackled her to the ground, removed her pants and then sexually assaulted her on the track. She told police the attack only stopped when she bit him on the neck. She then fled to a nearby house to raise the alarm.


Everyone is special in the therapy culture

A new report blames teachers for overdiagnosing kids with special needs. But the whole of society is playing this game

There are currently 8.5 million schoolchildren in England. There’s nothing particularly startling about that. What is incredible though is this: 1.7 million of them – that is, nearly a quarter – have been diagnosed as suffering from a special educational need (SEN).

Though there are varying gradations of SEN, from the severely disabled to the merely hyperactive, that is still a remarkable number of children with needs considered special. Indeed, given that so many are now requiring extra support, special needs are ceasing to appear quite so special.

What’s more, the number of kids with learning disabilities is rising. In 2003, there were 1,169,780 diagnoses of the less severe level 1 and level 2 SEN. This year, the figure had risen to 1,470,900. Those with more severe impediments are also increasing, with a three per cent rise in level 3 SEN diagnoses in the same period.

Now, if it seems improbable that English children are increasingly afflicted with learning diabilities, especially given the concomitant year-on-year improvement in GCSE and A-Level grades, then last week’s report from Ofsted calling for schools ‘to stop identifying pupils as having SEN’ and concentrate on teaching might seem welcome. As Ofsted’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: ‘We felt that schools and teachers were well intentioned but they were over-diagnosing the problems - teachers in the classroom weren’t confident they could deal with the problem. We feel teachers and schools need to have more confidence about looking at what are the barriers to learning.’

This is surely a positive recognition on the part of officialdom that too many surmountable problems are being passed off as special needs - right? After all, as the Ofsted report points out, to diagnose a pupil lacking the motivation to revise before his GCSEs as suffering from an SEN sounds more like an abdication of pedagogic responsibility than pastoral concern. But there are problems with Ofsted’s report, and they lie in its diagnosis of what is behind the problem of ever-expanding special needs, its examination of why this is happening.

For Ofsted, or at least those interpreting Ofsted’s report, it seems that it is all the schools’ fault. They are seduced by the extra funding that comes with SEN diagnoses and their teachers are glad of the extra help that the funding provides. Not only that, expanding SEN diagnoses tap into a ‘culture of excuses’. That is, according to the Ofsted report, some schools are passing off their poor academic performance as a consequence of having a high number of special needs pupils. No wonder Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers considered the report ‘insulting’.

Can everything really be laid at the feet of cynical and opportunist schools? Aside from the fact that there is no actual money to be made from getting a kid with poor concentration diagnosed with a SEN, the phenomenon of medicalising, of pathologising, many everyday behaviours is hardly limited to schools. And it is this broader therapeutic culture, where many social and individual problems are increasingly turned into diagnostic categories, that lies at the root of the rapid expansion of SEN in schools. Schools may be playing a game, but the terms of that game have been politically and socially determined. Given the attempt to pin the blame solely on schools, it is little wonder that the Lib-Con coalition’s solution of ‘overhaul[ling] the system’ and ‘improv[ing] diagnosis and assessment’ is so underwhelming.

That the root of the problem lies not within schools but within the society in which they acquire their meaning and purpose becomes clear with the example of that increasingly common SEN diagnosis: dyslexia. Back in 2007, as reported by James Panton on spiked, Durham University education professor Julian Elliott made the news by saying that there was little scientific evidence for dyslexia. This was not to suggest that certain people are pretending to have difficulty reading and writing. Rather, he was arguing that the criteria for diagnosis was so variable, so broad – from mentally inverting letters to untidy writing – that it was, well, meaningless. Hence the diagnosis could proliferate so rapidly.

So, if dyslexia is not a medical phenomenon, then what accounts for the fact that it is being more commonly diagnosed? Elliott’s explanation is key: ‘[The condition] persists as a construct largely because it serves an emotional, not a scientific, function.’ That is, in a society in which we, as its increasingly isolated, individuated members, pale before big social or, in this case, educational problems and challenges, it becomes easier to turn them into facts of life, of nature. It is emotionally reassuring that there is nothing that can be done about the challenges we face.

No doubt the emotional benefits of this trick of the light are great. If your child is struggling at school, it’s a relief to know that it is not because he is lazy or thick. And if you yourself have trouble with your spelling, it is a weight lifted to know that it is not your fault. So while the Department of Education might not be able to solve any large-scale educational problems, it can certainly make people feel better about these problems.

But the problems with hyperactive diagnoses of this type are twofold. First, they devalue the existence of genuinely inhibiting conditions. So, for children suffering from a severe mental disability, for children struggling to overcome a genuine impediment to learning, their travails are rendered equivalent to those of a child who makes a lot of noise while running around, or as they’re otherwise known these days: an ADHD sufferer.

Secondly, the expansion of SEN diagnoses does a disservice to those children tagged with a mild condition. It doesn’t encourage children to strive, to improve their reading, to develop their mental arithmetic skills; instead it reconciles them to their troubles. It explains failure, even makes children feel good about these failures.

In the context of expanding SEN diagnoses, poor spelling or a lack of concentration cease to be problems to be overcome; they are just the way things are. The prospect of low achievement ceases to be a spur to doing better - it becomes an SEN-diagnosed child’s destiny.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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