Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Boys turning to action-packed video games because books are 'too girly' for them, says award-winning children's author
Boys are being put off reading because of the influence women have on children’s literature, says an award-winning children’s author.
Jonathan Emmett warned that children’s books were too girly because of the influence of mostly female panels of editors, publishers, reviewers and judges.
One publishing company’s research suggested women bought 95 per cent of picture books for children, he added.
The writer believes boys are being starved of what they enjoy in books, such as swashbuckling pirates, battles, or technical details about space ships and so are driven to more action-packed video games instead.
'It is a really difficult argument to make because 99 times out of 100 it is women that are under-represented,’ said Mr Emmett.
‘But there is a literacy gap - boys are underachieving, boys do not like books as much as girls.
‘I am arguing that this is because the industry is dominated by female gatekeepers.’ The author and illustrator, a former winner of the Red House Children’s Award for ‘Pigs Might Fly’, looked at 450 reviews in five national newspapers.
He found 41 per cent of children’s fiction books were by men but more than two-thirds of reviews were by women.
Men were responsible for 47 per cent of picture books but more than 80 per cent of reviews were by women.
And he found for the past two years, every one of the 13 judges of the prestigious children’s book awards, the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals, has been women.
He also drew on personal experience, explaining how only two of the 50 editors he had dealt with were men.
One publishing company told him it carried out research which suggested women bought 95 per cent of picture books for children.
‘Mums and grans buy books - that’s what’s driving the market,’ he told The Times. ‘They read the book also and then there’s a tendency for the book to reflect their tastes as well. So there may be a pirate but that pirate will not be engaged in a battle.
‘The number of times I have tried to get technical information into a book and it is deemed inappropriate.
‘It is one of the things that leads boys and girls with boy-typical tastes, to say “I am not really interested in that kind of content, I am more interested in the content of video games”.’
A gap in reading ability is already apparent between boys and girls by the time they are five, according to a parliamentary commission report.
This translates into a year’s difference in reading skills as they go through school.
This new breed of militant atheists are as intolerant as any religious fundamentalists
When David Cameron agreed to write a mild piece in favour of Christianity for last week’s Church Times, he can hardly have expected that he would stir up a major controversy.
A collection of 55 writers, broadcasters, scientists and academics have penned a furious letter to the Daily Telegraph accusing the Prime Minister of fostering ‘alienation and division in our society’ by asserting in his article that we live in a ‘Christian country’.
They claim that ‘repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities’, and suggest that Mr Cameron is in danger of fuelling ‘enervating sectarian debates’.
Wow! You would have thought he had called for compulsory church attendance, whereas he wrote a harmless piece that will surely have offended no one except for a few metropolitan liberal atheists who reveal themselves as being astonishingly intolerant and — to borrow their word — divisive.
Mr Cameron’s declaration that we live in a ‘Christian country’ is irrefutable. Our constitutional arrangements are bound up with the Anglican Church — a fact dismissed by the angry letter-writers as being of little importance.
The Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, 26 of whose bishops sit in the House of Lords.
But the connections go far deeper than that. This country — and here I mean Britain, not just England — has a Christian heritage. In common with other Christian countries, our laws are largely based on Christian values.
Much of the painting, literature and music of our nation and continent has been profoundly influenced by the Christian story.
I am not referring here to antiquated works of art that may seem to have no relevance, but to those which still offer joy and enlightenment, and can only be fully understood in a Christian context.
You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate an oratorio by Handel or John Milton’s Paradise Lost or a painting of the Crucifixion, but you do have to grasp that they were inspired by Christian faith. They are part of a Christian culture.
Of course, it is perfectly true that in recent years church attendance has fallen sharply in Britain — more so than almost anywhere else in the Christian world. But it doesn’t follow that we have suddenly become a non-Christian country.
The 55 signatories are wrong to say that polls and studies have all shown that those with Christian beliefs are now in a minority. According to the comprehensive 2011 census, very nearly 60 per cent of the population in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian.
Admittedly, this marks a decline of some 10 per cent from the 2001 census, but it still represents not very far from two-thirds of the country.
I could offer a few tentative explanations for the drop in church attendance and decline of Christian belief: poor or non-existent religious education, the virtual disappearance of religious broadcasting, and the failings of the Church of England, which can sometimes appear introspective to the point of self-obsession.
Yet notwithstanding these powerful developments, the fact remains that around 60 per cent of people in Britain still regard themselves as Christian, even if most of them seldom or never go to church.
Scientists are meant to respect facts. The letter’s lead signatory is the Iraqi-born scientist and President of the British Humanist Association, Professor Jim Al-Khalili, while the distinguished Nobel prize winner Sir Harold Kroto also put his name to it.
Much of the painting, literature and music of our nation and continent has been profoundly influenced by the Christian story
How can men of science solemnly declare that Christians are now in a minority in this country when by far the most authoritative recent survey indicates that they remain, by a significant margin, in the majority?
The only explanation I can think of is that some at least of the signatories are zealots who, despite their scientific training, can be far more emotional and extreme in their thinking than the religious believers whom they hold in contempt.
Their explosive response to Mr Cameron’s gentle musings is proof enough. In several ways they exaggerate or distort what he wrote. For example, he was at pains to show respect to other religions, and stressed that ‘many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code — and there are Christians who don’t’.
Yet despite his article’s even-handedness and the absence of any notion of exclusiveness, the letter finds it necessary to emphasize that we are ‘a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives’. That is exactly the point the Prime Minister was making.
The truth is that there is a new breed of militant atheists who are capable of being as unreasoning as the most bone-headed creationist. Their intolerance is a strange mirror reflection of the bigotry of religious extremists.
I do not say this applies to most of the 55 signatories, many of whom are unknown to me.
But I do recognise some habitual anti-religion diehards such as the philosopher Anthony Grayling, the writer Philip Pullman, the journalist Polly Toynbee, and the ex-Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris.
The wonder is that the biologist Richard Dawkins — the most devoted anti-religious crusader of all — was not signed up.
Such people are almost unhinged in their relentless excoriation and unceasing hatred of religion — which is why Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and others of religious persuasion should feel no less threatened than Christians by this dishonest little letter.
The atheistical zealot makes no distinction between Christian, Muslim and Jew in his denunciations of all religion as irrational and destructive. Christians simply make up a larger target because there are more of them in this country, but all people of faith should feel under attack.
Atheists are as entitled to their beliefs as the religious are to theirs. But they are not entitled to misrepresent the views of the Prime Minister, or to be tricky in their use of statistics, or to deny that our culture and law are steeped in Christian values.
According to the comprehensive 2011 census, very nearly 60 per cent of the population in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian
The 55 signatories have the gall to accuse David Cameron of divisiveness, yet it is they who are being divisive. Read his original article, and examine the letter, and decide which of them shows more signs of reasonableness and tolerance.
I’m sure he didn’t realise he would provoke such a storm, or find himself opposed by the kind of people whose support he might normally covet. The irony is that he is by his own admission an irregular churchgoer, whose faith is hardly rock solid. In that sense, he almost certainly shares much in common with many of his fellow countrymen.
Fashionable though they may be, and feted in certain quarters, the militant atheists, by contrast, constitute a small minority. However, they make a great deal of noise, and are extremely sure of themselves.
It’s evidently painful for them to live in a Christian country, but they do. However loud their cries, they can’t re-brand the one they inhabit, which has been shaped by the Christian faith in countless ways, and continues to be influenced by it.
Another British social worker b*tch
The nasty "social worker"
A father was arrested and banned from seeing his daughter after a social worker falsely accused him of abusing the little girl.
Jonathan Coupland, 53, was handcuffed in front of his neighbours, thrown in a cell and interrogated for ten hours after Suzi Smith claimed she saw him sexually assaulting his daughter Jessica, then six.
The social worker is said to have made the allegation in a fit of pique after the single father criticised the way she was handling a custody battle with his former partner.
Mrs Smith, 53, later retracted her claims and Mr Coupland has been paid £86,000 damages by her employer, the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass).
The public body - accountable to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and funded by his department - has sacked Mrs Smith and apologised to Mr Coupland.
But furious about his ordeal, the father-of-one has taken the matter to court, pushing for Mrs Smith to be prosecuted for misconduct in a public office.
He is also taking action against the police for false arrest and false imprisonment.
Last night, he told the Daily Mail: ‘I was manhandled by three policemen and dragged out of my house in handcuffs.
‘It was humiliating. My neighbours saw and parents at Jessica’s school turned on me.
‘It was a completely false story of lies but my daughter could have been fostered and I could now be in a paedophile wing of a major prison because of this social worker. I won’t rest until she faces justice for what she has done.’
Former painter and decorator Mr Coupland has raised his eight-year-old daughter alone. Jessica’s Thai mother, Kajchi Jiraekkaphob is an illegal immigrant.
He was granted custody shortly after Jessica was born in December 2005 but Miss Jiraekkaphob fought him through the courts for seven and a half years.
Cafcass worker Mrs Smith became involved in January 2012, when she visited the family at home in Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Mr Coupland claims her initial report, read out during a custody hearing the following week, was glowing. But four months later, she reported Mr Coupland to the police, saying she saw him touch his daughter inappropriately.
Mr Coupland believes she did this because he had accused her of acting unprofessionally by contacting one of his character witnesses during the custody proceedings – and he had asked for her to be removed from the case.
The father was arrested at his home a week later, on suspicion of sexual assault. He was handcuffed and dragged into a police car in front of neighbours, put into cells and interrogated for around ten hours.
His daughter was visited at her school by social services and interviewed by police.
Officers told Mr Coupland that Jessica would be put into temporary care but he begged them to allow her to stay with her grandmother. He was bailed but told he could not contact his daughter at his mother’s home.
A day later, police said they were taking no further action against him as Mrs Smith had retracted her allegation. He reported the social worker to police and she was interviewed, but the CPS decided not to take action against her.
Mr Coupland, who has finally seen off custody challenges from his former partner, plans to contest the decision not to prosecute Mrs Smith at the High Court.
She was sacked by Cafcass, the largest employer of social workers in England, for gross misconduct, but only left work six months after making the false allegation.
Mr Coupland said: ‘In the meantime she was still working in the courts, affecting children’s lives... It is disturbing that this person is paid to look after the welfare of children. She has done the opposite and got away with it.’
He said he is still viewed with suspicion by other parents at his daughter’s school and that many will not allow Jessica to visit their children at home. ‘Friends have turned on me... I’m still being treated like I’m a paedophile,’ he added.
‘I thought the law in this country was “innocent until proven guilty” but I feel like I have been branded guilty until I prove myself innocent. It will be that way until Suzi Smith is taken to court and proven to be a liar.’
Mrs Smith confirmed yesterday that she was dismissed by Cafcass six months after making her allegation against Mr Coupland. She added: ‘Jon Coupland is a very complicated individual who I believe feels a great injustice has been done to him.’
A Cafcass spokesman said of the incident: ‘We regret that on this occasion our practice procedures were not followed.’
An internal investigation by Lincolnshire Police found its officers were justified in arresting Mr Coupland.
Detective Chief Inspector Nigel Storey said police were ‘duty bound to investigate’ Mrs Smith’s allegation, adding: ‘It later transpired that the allegation was not as originally reported to us. The male was released without charge.’
Muslims must accept Britain's Christian values, says former Labor Party Home Secretary
Muslims must accept that Britain is built on Christian values, a former Home Secretary has said, in the wake of mounting evidence that a group of schools have been taken over in a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by radical Islamists.
It is “inevitable” that many Muslim communities will not integrate with the rest of British society but it must be made clear that attempts to isolate Muslim pupils from the rest of society are unacceptable, Jack Straw said.
The alleged plot by Islamic radicals to take control of a series of schools in Birmingham is the product of a little-understood power struggle between Muslim denominations, Mr Straw, the MP for Blackburn said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, is to take personal charge of the schools watchdog’s probe into allegations that radical Islamists had sought to infiltrate the governing bodies of secular schools.
It is claimed head teachers were pressurised into segregating pupils, abandoning “un-Islamic” sections of the GCSE biology syllabus and neglecting non-Muslim pupils.
An anti-Semitic preacher who sympathises with Al-Qaeda was invited to address students at Park View school, Department for Education inspectors found.
At least six of the 18 schools said to be involved in the plot will be failed by Ofsted, a measure which normally leads to them being placed in special measures and their leadership team replaced.
Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, has also been asked to investigate the claims by Michael Gove, the education secretary.
Mr Straw said Muslim parents must accept that their own beliefs cannot supplant the Christian values that underpin British society.
“The parents have to accept… that we also live in the United Kingdom and that alongside values that are religiously based, there has to be a clear understanding that this is the UK, and there are a set of values, that are indeed Christian based, which permeate our sense of citizenship,” Mr Straw told the BBC.
Society must “spell it out to them” that it is not acceptable to teach that non-Muslims and women are inferior.
He added: “We have a large Muslim population in this country, and it’s almost inevitable that people will tend to live in areas next door to people like themselves.
“We already have a number of areas where most of the children, and in some cases 100 per cent of the children, in the school are of the Muslim faith. That’s something we have to cope with.”
He added: “We have to understand that within the Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Muslim-heritage community, there are a lot of tensions going on. They are very different from those that affect Christianity, particularly in the last century and the century before that. There are power struggles which are badged and labelled in reference to different denominations.”
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the allegations of a plot were credible.
“There is most definitely a plot by a small group of individuals and the plot actually affects the majority of the Muslim community in Birmingham,” he said.
Park View Educational Trust said it had received “hate mail” after details of the DfE inspectors’ report were leaked to the Sunday Telegraph. It welcomed Sir Michael’s intervention, adding: “We do not recognise the accounts we have seen in the media as accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools.”
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.