Sunday, December 31, 2006

MORE education? Just what we don't need!

The Labour Party chairperson, Hazel Blears, totally misses the point in this news item about alcohol drinking in the UK.

"The 24-hour drinking was supposed to be the end of life as we know it. That hasn't happened," she said.

"The health implications worry me. People are getting quite serious health conditions earlier, things like liver problems in their twenties and thirties that perhaps before only came out in their forties and fifties.

"I think we've got to do more education now - that has to be the absolute priority."

I think most people do understand, by now, that if you pour copious amounts of booze regularly down your throat, get drunk and fall over it's not all that good for your health. Seems obvious to me and, if she has a brain, it should also be obvious to Ms Blears, that the people who do it don't care about that!

It's not that they need MORE education, it's that they need less! Or, preferably, none! Patronisingly pointing out the health risks is not going to make people want to drink less, it's going to make them want to drink more! They get drunk because they're so stressed out, nagged, coerced, criticised, educated and generally manipulated every way they turn, that getting out of their head on whatever is the only respite.

The full-time compulsory schooling laws we have in this country are the major contributor to that - the main cause of all our social and health problems, including binge drinking.

MORE education is not the answer. Quite the opposite, please.


Blogger Tim said...

It does seem to me very odd. While on the one hand there is a body of opinion that the voting age should be lowered to 16, so these are presumably educated, informed young people who are equipped to make such important decisions, whilst the day prior to their sixteenth birthday they are apparently not able to decide if they want to have sex or not. They are unable to enter into legal contracts or drink until they are eighteen. Really, I think we need to step back some time and give some serious thought as to where young people stand.

I am inclined to feel that from maybe around twelve onwards we should not be thinking of them as children at all. Precisely how you deal from there is a little more complicated than just picking random ages at which they can do various stuff. But, I would go for an approach which recognised that young people are, for a large part of the time, perfectly capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, but, maybe, sometimes need to be protected having their inexperience exploited.

I have not really thought this through though, that is all a bit off the cuff.

(Oh yes, I don't think anyone under 40 should be allowed to stand for Parliament.)

5:59 pm, December 31, 2006  
Blogger Tech said...

Hallelujah to that Gill!

Can't agree that no one under 40 should be allowed to stand for parliament Tim, it's the over 40s who have forgotten what it is like to be a child, and in fact have no idea what it is like to be a child in this day and age, who come up with appalling legislation that impinges on children's lives. We need a better balance of young and old, male and female MPs IMO.

6:28 pm, December 31, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

My reasoning for not having under 40's is simply to attempt to prevent career politicians - people who have no experience of anything except schmoozing at political cocktail parties - from getting legs up into safe seats. Which is what happens now, on both sides of the House.

MPS are required to exercise judgement on a huge range of matters and, quite frankly, I can't see that a fifteen year old has sufficient experience, nor a thirty year old who has spent their working life brown-nosing on Millbank nor, for that matter, someone like Bliar, who is qualified as a barrister but has negligible experience as such. If he had been obliged to spend 10 to 15 years working at the Bar before standing as an MP his enthusiasm for half-baked legislation might have been moderated.

Go off, prove that you can do something useful in the real world, not just token work to fill your cv, have a family, then think about being an MP.

It isn't age which is my objection, just that I think we need people with loads of experience.

As to male/female, for myself, I couldn't care less what gender someone is. I was totally in favour of having lots more women, but then Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears came along......

I can't see why you think I have forgotten what it was like to be a child, any more than any other adult.

7:06 pm, December 31, 2006  
Blogger Tech said...

I can see your point about experience, but I don't think that that experience necessarily needs to be of the professional kind which you seem to imply. Personally I think that being an MP should be akin to jury service. That way you would get people from all walks of life, and ages, coming along and giving their very different life experience to the country. I don't think that being *educated* or *qualified* or even *experienced* means that a person will make a person better able to represent a constituency. This is probably a highly impractical idea, so at the very least I think that there should be a limit to the number of years a person is allowed to be an MP, because, IMO, it is very dangerous to allow those who have become institutionalised by Westminster to make legislation which affects the people on the street.

**I can't see why you think I have forgotten what it was like to be a child, any more than any other adult.**

I'm sure you haven't forgotten what your childhood was like, anymore than any other adult will have, but I can honestly say that the vast majority of adults I know and have known do forget what it FEELS like to be a child. We do have the benefit of hindsight to look back on, and whether we believe that makes a difference or not, it has to. You have only to look at the way children are treated to see that those who make the laws can't possibly be looking at life through the eyes of a child. There was a lot more I had to say, but a small child is demanding I go and finish making the banoffee pie!

7:44 pm, December 31, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

I can't see that being "educated", "qualified" or "experienced" could make someone a worse MP, so, other things being equal, they are qualities I would look for.

The main things I think an MP should have is the will to help and serve the people in their constituency, the courage to stand up for what they believe and honesty.

Our former MP, Harry Barnes pretty much exemplified the kind of person I think we need. But they need to be drawn from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Incidentally, I didn't mean to imply that experience had to be gained in any particular area to be useful, although I can see that I did imply that. In fact I meant the exact opposite. A House comprised of people with a wealth of very diverse experience would IMHO be of most use to us.

I do agree with you about the way children get treated... particularly when they seem to be treated as their parents' property.

1:19 am, January 01, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Just catching up with the debate...

YES we're getting our treatment of teenagers wrong, totally. I've been talking to my 3 teens about it a lot, and remembering my own teenage years.

They need to feel needed, trusted and as independent as possible. From the age of puberty upwards, they are not children and treating them as if they are is damaging for them.

So all the age restrictions above - say - 12, should be removed IMO. The lot. Schooling, working, earning, marrying, fags, booze, sex, movie certificates, voting, driving, legal culpability - everything. A 14 year-old is as capable of doing everything as a 24 year-old is and to pretend otherwise is unfair discrimination.

It's not only unfair and damaging to the teenagers - it damages society. We need these people to be psychologically healthy and fully-functioning. They're a huge section of the population. And how they conduct their teenage years has a big effect on what kind of adults they become.

Fostering this artificial dependence and childhood status makes for less effective, independent, useful older people. It creates completely justified mass resentment of the rest of society on the part of the teens and it ties up a huge 'workforce' (I use the term laughingly) to perpetuate and enforce it.

The infantilisation of teenagers is something that really only started happening in the last century. I suspect it was an answer to the problem of what to do with hordes of idle people in a mechanised world, because idle people have time to think, question and revolt.

8:42 am, January 02, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

I must admit that makes me feel rather nervous.

I see the logic in what you say, but you are way outside my comfort zone.

You mention legal culpability.

Do you think that a case involving a 12 year old who,say, assaults a 28 year old should be handled in exactly the same way as an assault by a 28 year old on a 12 year old? And the same question w.r.t. sentencing?

2:14 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, but either way I wouldn't use sentencing as a punishment, because I don't think a fixed incarceration works as a deterrent either to individual perpetrators or to potential criminals generally.

If someone assaults someone it's society's job IMO to find out the real reason why and to work out a solution to the problem it allowed to develop in the first place.

4:52 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

Gill, I don't think that is good enough. I think, as adults, at whatever age we become adults, we have to take responsibility for our actions. That is what being adult means, to a large degree.

Blaming your parents, or saying everything you do is society's fault is not good enough.

Also, you imply that your response to a Peter Sutcliffe would not be to sentence him. So what would you do?

6:08 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

That's exactly what I meant by legal culpability: a teenager is just as responsible for its actions as an older person and should be held to account in the same way. But 'held to account' is indeed the correct phrase - not given a statutory sentence in a prison cell before being automatically released without any other action being taken.

In the case of serious damage to people, there should be no release until people are convinced that a change - hopefully a solution - to the person's problems have been found.

I'd like to see probation boards involving victims' families as well as a cross-section of society, people of all ages, and psychologists etc.

No crimes are not society's fault - everyone chooses their actions. But a healthier society would cause people to make better choices.

When violence takes place there should be deep and long enquiries to find out exactly why. I don't accept the 'some people are just bad so we'll threaten/punish them until they become good' argument. It's too simplistic and it's not effective.

6:43 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

I think we agree then. Looking at some very nasty cases last year it struck me that maybe we are missing a category.

While ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse, which is fair enough...

It seems to me that a criminal is someone who does something knowing that it is morally wrong out of greed or malice, expecting through guile not to be held to account. In other words, a criminal is someone who basically shares society's values, but breaks the law anyway. Norman Stanley Fletcher, for example.

There do seem to have been quite a few cases where extremely violent crimes have been being committed by people who do not have a developed concept of right and wrong. They have been caught before and released and the only benefit of having them in prison has been that they are not on the street. The punishment is meaningless, because they don't understand that they did anything wrong.

My view would be that we should treat these people as effectively socially ill, and treat them differently as we do people who are mentally ill. In other words, it may be that society needs to be protected from these people until they are cured.

Our present Government will probably want to add a category of politically ill to this as well. :-)

7:24 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Gah - don't give them ideas! LOL *covers govt's eyes* ^^

Hmm.. not knowing it's wrong to hurt people - some kind of autism? I wonder if anyone's done DNA or brain scan studies into this.

One of the most striking things I ever learned about this was the result of the dyslexia survey into the male juvenile prison population. Over 90% tested positive.

Having a severely dyslexic son it was easy for me to see the pattern, because it started in him before he was deregistered:

Boy appears bright and eloquent but appears to 'refuse' to knuckle down to pen & paper work. Confrontational, authoritarian school system perceives this as deliberate insubordination. Boy is labelled and punished accordingly. Label follows him through school while his inability to do the work required is exacerbated as the work gets more complicated with each school year.

School eventually becomes unbearable, so boy starts truanting and puts his intelligence into crime/gang life, or just evading the authorities as much as possible, probably depending on his environment and the situation at home.

Tom was lucky and sadly unusual, I guess, in having a parent who recognised the dyslexia, refused to accept the school's denial of this and deregged him pretty quickly, otherwise he *might* be doing a prison sentence now.

To a young man who has been labelled a bad boy and a criminal from the age of 6 or 7, who lives amongst criminals in a violent world, I can see how hurting people as a 'normal' part of life might seem like a reasonable thing to do.

Yes, he has a choice, but society conspired to lead him towards certain choices.

Funny how govt inquiries never explain the above like that, even though the statistics bear it out undeniably. Much easier to say: Yup, they did it and they're bad. Bang the hammer, give them 5 years. Problem solved. - than it is to look critically at the adversarial compulsory school system. That's without even taking into account the effects of pesticides, drugs, chemicals, poor nutrition, etc.

I think everything possible should be discovered about the reasons for violent crime and, most crucially, learned from. But I think a certain amount of violence is expected and accepted by the powers that be as a necessary side effect of the status quo, in the same way as side effects from pharmaceutical drugs are accepted.

Our so-called 'justice' system is very similar to our medical system, actually. They both serve the interests of people in power rather than the ordinary masses - quite deliberately, IMO.

7:57 pm, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

I am a big fan of common law. Every Act of Parliament is IMO an attempt to serve the interest of special interest groups by overriding the common law of England.

We have ended up with a system which provides a lot of laws but little in the way of justice.

And of course it is lawyers who have the most clout as a special interest group.

12:47 am, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I don't know much about common law in relation to statute, but your comment makes me want to find out about it. Got any good links to pages that might teach me more? Actually I've got some law books somewhere, I might have a look at those too.

11:26 am, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

Common Law (wikipedia) is a good start.

11:28 am, January 05, 2007  
Blogger mamadillo said...

may I chip in here as a 'survivor'?

My belief is that punishment doesn't work in the way it's meant to (or the way it's publicly meant to ;) ) much in the way formal education doesn't work how it's publicly meant to. *but* at some point we have to say 'this person's actions make the risk from them to others unacceptable' and remove them from the others. Not as punishment, in any way, purely a safety thing for everyone else. And I totally agree with the rest. I doubt dh would see some things the same way, particularly about sexual activity though.

10:20 am, January 13, 2007  

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