Monday, November 26, 2007

A petition, a game and some thoughts

I've signed this petition against the imminent Contact Point database, which plans to correlate many details about every child in the country and their families and make them freely available to any 'practitioner' - which essentially means anyone having contact with a child in a professional capacity. The idea, ostensibly, is for the various professional bodies within health, welfare and education to be able to pool and share information about children so that fewer problems are missed. But as the recent loss of 25m child benefit records (including names, addresses, bank account details, children's names and dates of birth) proves beyond all doubt, it is not safe or sensible to gather and store information in this way.

I don't believe in the motives for the child database anyway. Like many other ideas which pretend to be from central government (but which are, I think, actually generated by international business interests) it seeks to override and distort the natural functions of people, communities and societies. Most people instinctively care about children. This instinct is hard-wired into us to enable our species to survive. Yes, sometimes this mechanism fails, but I fundamentally disagree with the purported reasons for its failure.

If we didn't have a system of education and employment which focused primarily on training, by stick and carrot, people to do things they didn't really want to do - if, instead, we allowed educational freedom across the board then would people come to childcaring posts with their instincts and integrity intact? I suspect they would.

Also, if we didn't have multinational programmes of economic migration in the interests of facilitating the global economy instead of simply enabling people to live happy and healthy lives in strong home-based communities, then maybe we'd be in a situation where no children slipped through the net.

I'm being idealistic, I know. I am optimistic - perhaps not always realistic - about human nature, though I do realise that there will always be people who want to abuse children. But I think the Laming Inquiry went (as per its brief, no doubt) completely along the wrong track. We cannot and should not be relying on a collection of paid professional strangers to be responsible for children's welfare. Laming's report sought to strengthen this reliance instead of seeing it as the fundamentally flawed concept it is, and concentrating on finding the real reasons for Victoria's tragic death. Because Victoria Climbie was killed by her "aunt", not by her social workers, doctors and schoolteachers.

If I was Laming (which, of course, I wouldn't ever be, because this would require ethical contortions which are well beyond my capabilities) I would have been asking why Victoria was placed in the care of strangers, and why it was in this woman's interests (who wasn't exactly her aunt, I gather, but some kind of distant relation who had previously brought other children to the UK) to assume care of the child. Surely the fault and the blame lies in the underlying causes for this kind of child trafficking? Because if a child is a commodity to be bought and sold, the chances of that child coming to harm must multiply exponentially.

What kind of global economy is this, which tempts poor African families to send their children to the UK with strangers? Do they think our streets are paved with gold? Could they be seen as being correct in this belief, relatively speaking? Why do they think (or know) their children have no chances of improvement in their own localities, so that sending them here is seen as an opportunity for them? Wouldn't a responsible global economy which existed for the benefit of the masses want to get to the bottom of this phenomena and sort it out? But this one doesn't. Instead, it sees the solution as an opportunity to create more employment, therefore generate more spending - and as a licence to remove any remaining obstacles that prevented it from mining (and trading) our personal data.

In our grief for Victoria, numb with shock about the horrors of her short life, we allowed this deliberate distortion of logical process to go largely unchecked. Laming is a lord, so he must be right, we reasoned. And: what do we ordinary people know about the protection of children? we asked ourselves. Not enough to save Victoria.

I think we were wrong about that. Yes, The System did fail Victoria - but it was a much deeper, widespread, malevolent and more pervasive system than the one pertaining only to childcare professionals.

Which brings me onto this game, brought to my attention by Paula over at Aspie Home-Education (whose blog is an amazing mine of enlightening information). Opinions about this game are divided. It's meant to be for school children at Key Stage Three level - aged 11-14. But what is its purpose? Is it meant to encourage further acceptance of and compliance with an already corrupt system? Or dare we hope for the involvement of a secret subversive intent? Because playing the game through to its conclusion would certainly impact on anyone's thinking and assumptions.

Please, play it for yourself and decide. I'd be really interested to find out what more people think of it. You can access the game on this page. It's the one called 'State of Debate' - second in the list.

7 Comments:

Blogger Pete said...

I played through state of debate last year... and I'm putting it under the label of satire, despite my misgivins about the news writing part of it.

11:38 am, November 26, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh, ok :-)

2:35 pm, November 26, 2007  
Blogger Schuyler said...

I enjoyed the post. I'll play
State of Debate later, have guests now and a hot tub that is just hitting its temperature stride. I started to and realized it was something I'd actually have to pay attention to. But I want to feel obligated to give it a go and give an opinion, so I'm prefacing my later post with this post, if that makes any sense...

1:47 pm, December 01, 2007  
Blogger S said...

Do you happen to know what kind of database it will be?

There are very good databases which are FOSS, and then there are databases which cost a lot of money to buy a license for.

For instance there is mySQL, for free, and there is SQLserver, for which the govt will have to pay microsoft.

Any kind of database will take money to maintain, but proprietary solutions cost a lot of money, and thus there is the potential for bribery. ('Buy our databse, and we'll...xyz')

good article

2:17 pm, December 03, 2007  
Blogger Schuyler said...

Damn, I still haven't played that game. And now I've got guilt going on. Damn...

12:28 pm, December 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL, don't worry about it Schuyler! *Waves magic wand, throws guild-busting fairy dust* There, you're exonerated. :-)

3:44 pm, December 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

S, I don't know what kind of database it will be. I dread to imagine actually.

3:45 pm, December 16, 2007  

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