Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'A story from the pre-health and safety generation': Swallows And Amazons to be adapted for 'timely' BBC series

For generations it has been the ultimate boys own adventure - free of the modern chains of health and safety. Now for the first time children's classic Swallows and Amazons is being adapted for screen by the BBC.

Arthur Ransome's hugely successful book, which is set in 1929, follows the four Walker children, who while on holiday in the Lake District with their mother, run in to local famliy the Blackett's.

The children from both families sail in dinghies and meet on an island on Lake Windemere and enjoy a series of adventures, which see them exploring, sailing, camping, and facing piracy.

It is billed as a celebration of a bygone time when children enjoyed more physical freedom and would spend much of their time playing outside and learning about the world through trial and error.

Head of BBC Films, Christine Langan, said the film and the book were the antithesis of today's health and safety obsessed world. She added: 'This story is from pre-health and safety generation. Modern parenting is fraught and complicated - worrying about what sort of society we live in. 'There is a danger we are physically infantilising our children. There is a sense of freedom in the book and a sense of innocence that people perhaps miss. The film is very timely.'

Swallows and Amazons features one of the most famous phrases in children's literature - but such a phrase could never me uttered by parents today. At the beginning of the book the Walker children write to their father – who is away at sea – to ask whether they can sail and camp on the lake’s island. He agrees with the reply: 'Better drowned than duffers if duffers won't drown.'

Executives said the film would remain true to the sentiment of the novel - and so the children will not be shown wearing life-vests.

In his heyday Ransom's books were hugely popular with thousands of children writing to him pleading for more novels. His style of writing and adventure paved the way for favourites such as Enid Blyton and C.S Lewis. Ransome wrote 11 other books in the series including Peter Duck and Missee Lee, which went on to become bestsellers.

If this film is a success it is understood that more of the books will be adapted for the big screen under the Swallows and Amazons banner.

Miss Langan said that with the culmination of the Harry Potter franchise this summer, she hoped it could help give children something new to capture their imagination. She said: 'I hope that Swallows and Amazons could draw upon that same audience. It is a very British film but it is universal in that it is about all [the dreams] of all children.



One of William F. Buckley's later books was titled simply "Gratitude," which is, when you think about it, one of the cardinal conservative virtues. The spirit of gratitude was amply on display this past week at a symposium jointly sponsored by the Bradley Foundation and the Hudson Institute titled "True Americanism: What It Is and Why It Matters." Spoiler alert: It matters.

Panelists took as their starting point an indispensable new book by Leon and Amy Kass and Diana Schaub called "What So Proudly We Hail," a selection of stories, songs, and speeches about "the American soul" which should become "The Book of Virtues" for patriots. From the Mayflower Compact to Flannery O'Connor, and from Ralph Ellison to George S. Patton Jr., this collection ranges across American history lighting upon the words that have shaped and reflected us.

Whether we continue to cherish the uniqueness of America was one of the questions tackled by the panel, which included Charles Krauthammer; Prof. Robert George of Princeton; Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal; and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., among others.

Though there were disputes on some points, the panelists were agreed that what makes America exceptional is our dedication to enduring principles, our willingness to confront and overcome failings and sins, and the great blessing of having been founded by a collection of political geniuses unequaled in human history.

Liberals always worry that a celebration of American greatness will descend into chauvinism, triumphalism, and/or denial of the mistakes and crimes of American history. Juan Williams, another panelist, mounted just such an objection.

The danger, at the moment, seems quite the reverse. Our national embrace of multiculturalism, grievance mongering, and internationalism, along with a distorted and biased version of our national story (such as can be found in nearly every textbook in America) threatens to blind us to the sources of our strength. We don't need a sanitized edition of American history in order to be proud of our heritage -- we can handle the truth. But we do threaten the survival of liberty if we fail to instill in those lucky enough to have been born here a deep reverence for what is unique about this country.

On that subject, it's worth quoting at length from one of the essays in "What So Proudly We Hail," by one of America's most thoughtful philosophers of government -- Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge was president when the nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and delivered a speech to mark the occasion.

He began by stressing that it wasn't the fact of seeking to break away from the mother country that distinguished the American Revolution:

"It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles that July 4, 1776 has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history."

It may surprise contemporary readers to learn that Coolidge upheld the principle of equality as the most important in the declaration. It sprang, he argued, from the religious sensibilities of the American people.

"They preached equality," he said, "because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man."

In words that could easily have been penned in our own generation, Coolidge defended the eternal validity of the founding documents:

"About the declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences, which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great chapter. If all men are created equal, that is final. ... If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

And finally, this, from the man who held the presidency during the Roaring '20s: "If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy."

Americanism matters.


An alternative to abortion

Take, for instance, the people of the Northwest Center in Washington, D.C., a pregnancy center and maternity home. They provide a whole host of services to women, children and men: material needs, job training, educational assistance and housing. Established 30 years ago by graduates of Georgetown University, with a modest budget and more demand than it can ever possibly meet, it has served more than 40,000 people.

At its fundraising dinner this year, the Center honored Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, for being a staunch defender of the most innocent human life. In his acceptance speech, Lipinski in turn honored the real heroes of the fight for life and family in a country beset by a culture of death: the volunteers and those who make Northwest Center and its services possible. But even more so, the mothers -- those parents who bravely say yes to the lives with which they have been entrusted. Who, whatever the circumstances that brought them to pregnancy, surrender themselves to service.

"I believed no one supported my choice to choose life," a very pregnant Sharnece Ward explains. Ward has faced most obstacles a single mom can have. The father of her child gave her a litany of reasons to abort. "Planned Parenthood was recommended." She lost her job and housing. But she managed to find the Northwest Center and its "effortless support," the help "my family wouldn't give me." She's living there, at no cost. Suffering from gestational diabetes, she is getting the basic and additional health care she needs through the Center's help. And in addition to the parenting skills, she's continuing her education. She was determined to be the mother she already was, despite the option so many around her were all too insistent she pursue.

No political party owns social justice. Every individual is called to serve and defend the cause of life. In the face of evil and confusion, we often just need to encourage one another -- help each other with the support and resources -- to answer the call. Bonhoeffer's example reminds us of this. A contemporary martyr in a far-off country reminds us. A mother reminds us. In service, in courage, there is peace. Be not afraid, as a wise, saintly man of the last century implored.


Government assistance for families bringing up children should not be denigrated as "Middle-class welfare"

Comment from Australia

Much of the post-budget discussion has turned on whether what is fashionably termed "middle-class welfare" should be curtailed or continued. The debate has centred on the Gillard government's decision to cease indexing certain payments to families earning more than $150,000 a year. But a more appropriate question, in terms of the budget debate, is whether such a phenomenon as middle-class welfare exists.

Take a husband and wife with two children who live on the north shore or in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and earn a family income of $150,000. If they send their children to a government school, use a bulk-billing doctor and attend the local public hospital when necessary, no one would then depict them as welfare recipients.

However, if a government decides to pay benefits for bringing up children whose parents earn $150,000, this is now classified as middle-class welfare. Is it? Not really. Successive Coalition and Labor governments have decided to assist families with children. Such payments increased during the latter period of the Howard government and have been wound back somewhat under Labor.

John Howard tackled the issue directly during his address to the Menzies Research Centre in April 2006, declaring: "Those who seek to denigrate what we've done constantly refer to family tax benefits as 'middle-class welfare'. They are nothing of the kind. They are tax relief for a universal reality - that it costs money to raise children."

It may be intellectually unfashionable to say so, but there are good policy reasons to encourage families - including men and women with a total income of about $150,000 - to have children. This is for two reasons. The best way to constrain the ageing of the population is for Australians to have children. Ageing societies have their limitations - as a glance at Japan, Italy and Russia demonstrates.

Then there is the matter of what used to be called the middle class - once positioned between the upper class and the working class. Such terminology is now out of date for numerous reasons, including the fact that most Western nations also possess a group of welfare recipients, many of them young, who cannot be depicted as members of the working class. There is also the fact that what was once the working class has merged into the middle class and many of the former group, commonly known as "tradies", now run their own businesses.

Australia does not want a situation to develop where it is primarily the rich and the less well-off who have children. This was the rationale for Howard's family tax benefits scheme, along with the baby bonus (which was a form of parental leave). Such schemes are best regarded as payments - not unlike contributions made by governments covering the education and health of children.

It is noticeable that most middle-income earners in the private sector do not sneer about middle-class welfare. This is very much the preserve of the well-educated middle-income earners in relatively secure employment in the tertiary sector. Journalists, academics, public servants and the like. Occasionally this can lead to a lack of self-awareness.

Take the Grattan Institute economist Saul Eslake. On May Day, The Sunday Age quoted him saying "there is little good done by giving people who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and their dependents money raised by higher taxes on other people". But where should the line be drawn? Eslake is perfectly capable of working in the private sector. But he is on the payroll of the Grattan Institute, which received $30 million in grants from the federal and Victorian governments.

Last week on ABC2's The Drum program, the lawyer Kara Greiner interrupted a statement by fellow panellist Julian Morrow on people becoming dependent on public funding with the telling question: "Isn't your entire income from public funding?"

There is good reason to be strict on welfare in particular and government spending in general. It's just that payments to assist in offsetting the cost of bringing up children should not be ridiculed as welfare, for whatever class.

More here


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.


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