Monday, April 04, 2011
British Fascist is ready to use shock and awe to force social change
Those who think Nick Clegg [Leader of the Liberal party] has got a raw deal out of this Coalition should pay attention on Tuesday as the Government’s social mobility strategy is, at last, given its formal launch. Elements of the plan have already been unveiled: the appointment of Alan Milburn as the Government’s independent reviewer on social mobility; the £430-per-head “pupil premium” given to schools which educate the poorest children; and the new “access agreements” for universities which propose to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 per annum. This week, the Deputy Prime Minister will join up the dots and – more to the point – seek to demonstrate the political will that underpins the rhetoric.
All governments say they are in favour of “social mobility” and issue appropriate platitudes. But this one seems to mean business, thanks in large part to the fire in Clegg’s belly. The ministerial committee exploring the issue has come to be recognised as a forum where important decisions are taken: Michael Gove, though not a formal member, has made a point of attending some of its meetings alongside his colleagues David Willetts and Iain Duncan Smith. The Education Secretary is wise to do so: the policies and governing strategy that are being formulated under this rubric will be deeply controversial, and (in Clegg’s eyes, at any rate) they are meant to be.
As a curtain-raiser, it was disclosed last week that the Government is to publish an annual “report card” on seven key indicators, ranging from babies’ body weight and the skills learned by five-year-olds to GCSE results and adult earnings. These, Clegg insists, will not be targets but “a series of dials”, a dashboard used to check on the nation’s social wellbeing and to “trigger a reaction” when things go wrong. Without apology, he makes government sound like a giant Heath Robinson contraption, monitored by ministers in white coats with clipboards. A politician who talks about “dials” can scarcely complain if he is accused of “social engineering”.
Those involved in the formulation of this strategy – Lib Dem and Tory – insist that it will not involve quotas or US-style “affirmative action”. Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that a line is about to be crossed in social policy. Already, Clegg has made clear to university vice-chancellors that the rules of the game have changed. How they go about broadening their undergraduate intake is for them to decide, in collaboration with the Office for Fair Access. But he wants to see results, especially in the proportion of state school pupils going to the best universities. It is hard to exaggerate the level of unease this has already spawned in Oxford and Cambridge common rooms – which is exactly what Clegg wants.
Private school heads seethe about a new era of “differential offers”, in which their pupils will have to clear much higher hurdles than rival candidates from the state sector. Again, Clegg has no problem with parents beginning to doubt that they can buy social advantage for their children by paying exorbitant school fees. The gradualist approach, he believes, has failed, and it is time for a spot of shock and awe. Either the top higher education institutions deliver change, or they will lose the right to charge increased tuition fees.
In Cabinet, the Prime Minister makes a point of presenting Clegg’s social mobility plan as “Coalition policy” – rather than a Lib Dem wheeze tolerated by reluctant Tories to hold the Government together. Nor is the Conservative leader averse to forcing the pace of social change when it suits him: it was Cameron, after all, who imposed the A-list of candidates upon deeply sceptical Tory associations. Conservative politicians often accept the practical necessity of social intervention from which they ideologically recoil: as President Obama has noted approvingly, it was Nixon who launched the first federal affirmative action programmes for black Americans.
That said, it would be absurd to deny the tensions between the two parties on this most contentious issue. Last week, even as Clegg unveiled his seven indicators, Willetts declared that he still believed in “a liberal labour market that doesn’t try to achieve social objectives”.
There is agreement on the DPM’s cradle-to-grave approach to social mobility, his insistence that it amounts to more than the alleviation of poverty, and his introduction of multiple metrics to monitor progress. But Tories are much more comfortable with “supply side” measures than they are with threatening universities over the numbers of state school pupils they admit.
For Iain Duncan Smith, the heart of the problem is the broken society that breeds poverty of aspiration. For Gove, it is the culture of expectation and excellence within state schools that needs to be addressed. The point of difference is that Clegg and co are willing to go much further, to use the power of government to compel change, rather than simply to nudge and nurture it and hope for the best. The DPM’s message to universities, for a start, might be called a Nike strategy: Just Do It.
I take an old-fashioned view, which is that grammar schools were the most effective engine of social mobility ever devised, and that the reintroduction of academic selection in the state sector remains the best hope of repairing the wrecked ladder of opportunity. But where I agree with Clegg is that, in this particular endeavour, you really do have to break a few eggs to make the desired omelette. There is no painless path to social change.
If, like me, you want the 11-plus back, you have to accept the impact upon those who do not pass (John Prescott still hasn’t recovered, more than 60 years after he failed the exam). Likewise, the fight that the DPM has picked could be extraordinarily bloody.
Eleven years ago, Gordon Brown’s intervention in the case of Laura Spence, a high-achieving state school pupil turned down by Oxford, caused a national furore. That was a story about a single candidate, with no implications for policy and no prospect of redress. Now imagine the Laura Spence row nationalised, so to speak, and every non-compliant university facing stiff punishment.
Imagine litigation, human rights cases going all the way to Strasbourg, top higher education institutions threatening to go private and charge what they like. The 7.2 per cent of parents who send their children to independent schools (paying average fees of £10,100 a year) are a minority, but they are disproportionately noisy. Good luck to any politician who declares war on them.
Even so: it remains astonishing that Clegg has persuaded a Conservative-dominated Government to undertake this project. Labour MPs whisper their congratulations to Lib Dem ministers, and express justified amazement that a Coalition led by products of Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s has embarked on this social crusade.
In 32 days’ time, the nation will go to the polls in the first UK-wide referendum in 36 years and decide whether to adopt a new electoral system. The stakes for Clegg are vertiginously high. But it is the battle he is launching on Tuesday that he really wants to win.
Why rich families today were probably rich 1,000 years ago
This is an odd finding, best explained by genetic inheritance. Not all descendants of the rich remain rich but there appears to be an overall tendency in that direction nonetheless
Surnames which indicated nobility and wealth in medieval times are still richer even today, research has suggested. 'Moneyed' surnames, such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville continue to have more cash than those with 'poor' names, such as Smith, Mason and Cooper.
The research, which uses university admissions, probate records and official information going as far back as the Domesday Book, tracked what happened to those whose surnames suggest their forebears were either aristocratic or 'artisans' from the working class.
Researcher Gregory Clark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, found that in the group with rare names he studied from the 1850s until 2011, the gap between rich and poor narrowed.
However, those with 'rich' surnames left estates worth at least ten per cent above the national average, and also lived three years longer than the average, according to The Observer.
That's rich: Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, in a scene from Pride and Prejudice. Research suggests that people with certain names such as name Darcy have always been better off
Such names indicated a descent from nobility who came to England after the Norman Conquest and are found in the Domesday book of 1086. They drew their name from the surrounding Normandy towns and villages, the Observer says, whereas other 'poor ' surnames - such as Carpenter, Shepherd or Baker - indicated an occupation.
In his paper - which is due to be presented at the Economic History Society's annual conference - Prof Clark says: 'Despite the social and political changes in England since the Industrial Revolution and the extension of the political franchise, if anything the rate of social mobility is slower now than in medieval England.
'The huge social resources spent on publicly provided education and health have seemingly created no gains in the rate of social mobility. 'The modern meritocracy is no better at achieving social mobility than the medieval oligarchy.'
And while rich and poor in general may eventually become 'average', with 'no permanent social classes', those from the 1850s may take another 'two to four' generations to get there, he finds.
Prof Clark added a warning for the current poor in Britain: it may be many generations 'perhaps centuries' before they achieve equality.
'The children of groups of recent immigrants to the UK – specifically those from Bangladesh and Pakistan – have levels of wealth, income, and education that are substantially below those of the general population,' his paper says.
Australia: Ban on childcare naughty corner, Easter parades
This is just a feast for lawyers and the people paying for it will be the parents -- as fees go up to cover liability insurance. Isn't childcare dear enough now?
CHILDCARE workers who send tantrum-throwing toddlers to "time out" risk hefty fines under national childcare laws to come into force next year.
New regulations will expose childcare centres to penalties if children are required to take part in religious or cultural activities, such as Christmas tree decoration or Easter hat parades hunts.
Childcare supervisors risk personal fines for the first time, under the national legislation being adopted by state and territory governments.
Centres could be fined as much as $50,000, and supervisors $10,000, for failing to ensure children are adequately supervised, or for using "inappropriate discipline" to keep order.
Centres will be banned from using any form of corporal punishment, as well as "any discipline that is unreasonable in the circumstances".
The Education and Care Services National Act, which has been passed by Victoria as the "host jurisdiction" and will be replicated by other states and territories, does not define "unreasonable" discipline.
But draft regulations with the legislation show childcare supervisors risk $2000 fines for "separating" children.
Supervisors must "ensure that a child being educated and cared for by the service is not separated from other children for any reason other than illness or an accident", the regulations state.
Children cannot be "required to undertake activities that are inappropriate, having regard to each family's family and cultural values, age and physical and intellectual development".
The childcare industry yesterday demanded greater clarity, warning that staff could be fined for putting a toddler in "time out" or asking a child to help decorate a Christmas tree.
The Australian Childcare Alliance, representing private centres, called for a definition of "separation", noting that each state and territory could interpret the law differently.
Childcare centres had banned smacking, and no longer used the "naughty corner" technique of isolating children who were violent or disobedient, alliance president Gwynn Bridge said.
But the regulations left the way open for a supervisor to be fined if a litigious parent objected to a child being taken out of a group for hitting other children, or throwing sand.
"There is time out but naughty corners went out years ago," Ms Bridge said. "You move a child a short way from the group and talk to them about their behaviour.
"But we don't know the meaning of the word 'separate' - is it distance? This needs clarification, otherwise people will be in breach without realising it."
The regulations also require family carers, who normally look after a handful of children in their homes, to ensure regular visitors are "fit and proper persons".
Criminal checks would have to be carried out on any neighbours, friends or relatives who visit while children are present on more than three days in a month, or seven days a year.
Former Australian Labor Party leader says that present leader has no empathy because she's childless
For once I actually agree with Latham but politics is more than emotion. Cost-benefit calculations are more important and with her hugely expensive boondoggle of a fibre network that will be obsolete as soon as it is built, Gillard is a major failure there -- not to mention her witless carbon tax that will achieve exactly nothing -- JR
MARK Latham has renewed his attack on Julia Gillard's personal life and character, questioning her ability to empathise and experience true love because of her decision to remain childless.
After derailing her election campaign last year, the former Labor leader today resurfaced to critique the Prime Minister once again.
In an interview to spruik a re-release of his 2005 book The Latham Diaries, Mr Latham said the ability to empathise with small children was a good test of character.
“I think having children is the great loving experience of any lifetime. And by definition you haven't got as much love in your life if you make that particular choice,” he told ABC radio.
“Choice in Gillard's case is very, very specific. Particularly because she's on the public record saying she made a deliberate choice not to have children to further her parliamentary career.
“One would have thought to experience the greatest loving experience in life having children you wouldn't particularly make that choice.”
Mr Latham said the proof Ms Gillard had no empathy was her “very wooden” performance during the Queensland floods.
“I'm not the only one saying that. I've also had some experience where around small children she was wooden. And I think the two go together.”
Mr Latham has previously attacked Ms Gillard's decision to pursue her career over children, saying in February: “Anyone who chooses a life without children, as Gillard has, cannot have much love in them.”
He's not the first politician to attack the Prime Minister on such grounds.
In 2007 Liberal senator Bill Heffernan said that “anyone who chooses to deliberately remain barren ... they've got no idea what life's about”.
And last year opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis questioned Julia Gillard's ability to “understand the way parents think” about virginity because she didn't have children.
Defending Tony Abbott's right to discuss the advice he gave to his daughters on virginity, Senator Brandis said Ms Gillard was a “one-dimensional” person who had “chosen not to be a parent”.
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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.