Thursday, May 12, 2005


Right across Europe, the multiple fixations with "inclusion", with paedophilia, and with child-rights are robbing childhood of the uncertainties and the perils from which maturity and self-confidence result. In Britain, there is the further issue of litigation: a child merely has to fall in the playground, and the lawyers circling overhead are flapping downwards, confident in the carrion awaiting them in the farce that is now common law.

So that one way or another, the childhood of my childhood in the Leicestershire of the 1950s - of playing all day unsupervised, of making my solitary way to school over several miles, and of getting onto the bus, alone, at the age of five to go to the hairdresser (to whom I would then solemnly give a tip of tuppence) - could belong to the Stone Age for all the meaning it has to the children of today.

Liz Lightfoot's report in The Daily Telegraph last weekend about the children in Hampshire who can quote which articles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child were being violated in the story of Cinderella read like an enjoyable satire, except it was not: it was a grisly and terrifying insight into the corruption of childhood by reason, law and rights. Childhood should not be about logic and rationality, but of acquiring wisdom through experience to prepare for a horribly imperfect adult world in which reason, law and rights are often entirely absent. This is the very purpose of children's fairy tales. They are fables of injustice and random cruelty that tell us far more about the reality of life than any UN Convention.

One of Sir Digby's concerns is the removal of competition from schools, in exams and sports days. No one fails: all succeed. Now if Britain inhabited a planet called Hampshire, where children non-competitively studied the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, and could list the numerous violations in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, that would probably be fine. As it happens, however, Britain inhabits a planet called Earth, which it shares with - among others - 2.5 billion hungry Indians and Chinese, whose offspring probably made the Lego kit that the Hampshire children used to build their model of what they think a human right looks like.

At one level, the problems schools face today has been the victory of the ideology of rights over the traditional concepts of right-and-wrong; but another is the growth of parent-power. The school should be the empire of the teacher, whose rules govern all. Since the invention of formal education by the Ancient Greeks, a core principle is the absence of the mother. Once mothers are allowed to assert their authority in schools, as they increasingly have been in recent years, then maternal indulgence will inevitably prevail. The result is no longer an educational establishment, but the back seat of a family car on a very long journey.

The problem being faced by British state-run schools is part of a general, Europe-wide loss of vision about the future, not just for today's generation of children, but for the survival of democratic, tolerant society over the coming decades. That will require toughness, endurance, willpower and competitiveness, qualities that saved our civilisation 60 years ago, but which today are probably regarded as human rights violations in the schools of Hampshire. And history tells us that a society that elevates "rights" over the sterner values of life, is a society that will sooner or later simply have no rights worth defending

More here


Affirmative action produces no concrete benefits for minority students and actually has several harmful effects, according to a new report by the Cato Institute. "Recent research shows that college admissions preferences do not offer even the practical benefits claimed by their supporters," writes Marie Gryphon, a lawyer and policy analyst with the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom. Affirmative action does not significantly affect college access because most four-year schools are not selective, and will accept any student with a high school education. Preferences for minority students come into play only at the 20 to 30 percent of colleges where admissions are competitive, according to Gryphon.

But preferences at these selective schools have not increased college access for minorities because most minorities leave high school without the minimum credentials necessary to attend any four-year school. Political scientist Jay Green found that only 20 percent of African-American students and 16 percent of Hispanics leave high school with the minimum credentials. "Minority underrepresentation in college is caused by public schools' failure to prepare minority students," writes Gryphon. "It is a failure that affirmative action does not remedy."

Preferences also do not increase the earning power of students who attend more selective schools as a result of affirmative action. Recent research shows that when equally prepared students are compared, those attending less selective schools make as much money as those from more selective schools. Affirmative action in fact results in harm to the minority community, Gryphon found, due to the "ratchet effect:" Preferences at a handful of top schools, including state flagship universities, can worsen racial disparities in academic preparation at other schools by luring away qualified minority students who might otherwise attend those schools. "This effect results in painfully large gaps in academic preparation between minority students and others on campuses around the country," according to Gryphon.

Affirmative action also hurts campus race relationships. Thomas Sowell, author of "Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study," writes: "Even in the absence of overt hostility, black students at M.I.T. complained that other students there did not regard them as being desirable partners on group projects or as people to study with for tough exams." And the policy harms minority student performance "by activating fears of confirming negative group stereotypes, lowering grades, and reducing college completion rates among preferred students," Gryphon found. That is, minority students who are "bumped up" into selective schools for which they're ill-prepared show poorer academic performance and graduation rates than if they had attended a less selective institution. "Policymakers should end the harmful practice of racial preferences in college admissions," Gryphon concludes. "Instead, they should work to close the critical skills gap by implementing school choice reforms and setting higher academic expectations for students of all backgrounds."


No comments: