Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Layer 447 . . . The Rights of the Child, Education, Michael Morpurgo, Schools, the Dimbleby Lecture, Lessons in Hate and Violence, and the Need for Apologies.

Continuing with yesterday's economics theme, the following articles are very good summaries of the case for Keynesian approaches, and the case against Friedmanite economics:

The Economy: We Are All Keynesians Now

Friday, Dec. 31, 1965,9171,842353-1,00.html

from 2008

The End of the Age of Milton Friedman


Children and Education

The wellbeing of children, the brainwashing & indoctrination of children, the education of children, and the abuse of children, are subjects that every one of us should be concerned with and pay attention to.

I'm still seething about that insane 'Tiger Woman' and her abuse of her own children. [see last blog] I'm even more seething about people like her who encourage other parents (and teachers) to put extreme pressure on children to achieve academically at the cost of their overall wellbeing, at the cost of their right to a proper childhood, and their right to a proper education.

I'm now seething at a programme that was broadcast by Channel 4's 'Dispatches' team this week -

Lessons in Hate and Violence

Dispatches goes undercover to investigate allegations that teachers regularly assault young children in some of the 2,000 Muslim schools in Britain run by Islamic organisations.

The programme also follows up allegations that, behind closed doors, some Muslim secondary schools teach a message of hatred and intolerance.

The programme is presented by reporter Tazeen Ahmad.

Dispatches: Lessons in Hate and Violence will not be available on 4oD at this time, due to an ongoing police investigation concerning subjects featured in the programme.

There are clips of the actual programme on the website, where Salahuddeen Ali has commented:

Great documentary. I am a muslim and I find this issue of muslim teachers/schools abusing children worthy of broadcast and investigation. As a muslim child growing learning the Quran, I was beaten and whipped. This is a fact. I read many muslims comments saying they're unhappy about this report. Well I hope they realize that when abuse is applied to children in their faith schools it will not be hushed down in respect to their image. Children's rights are above any faith, group or agenda. Thank you for this brilliant work.

Mohammed Abdullah commented:

Although I have not watched the full program I believe it is right to bring these issues to the forefront just like one would do with racism. Indeed there are preachers in Mosques and Madrasa's preaching Islam without the proper knowledge of the subject. We can deny the truth much as possible but these problems do exist I myself have experienced this. Those preachers only have a tunnel vision of religion and do not have a broader knowledge of this world. Those preachers who spread hatred, corruptions and mischief in the land they need to be bought to Justice. Al Quran Surat Al-M?'idah: Chapter 5: Verse 33: gives clear punishment for those who Spread hatred, Corruptions and Mischief on the land. I would like to praise TAZEEN AHMAD for this brilliant work.

The programme had used hidden cameras to film teachers and teachers' assistants barking at children and indoctrinating them about the vileness of non-Muslims - shouting at children who weren't concentrating hard enough on their Koran-reading. Worse than this, they were shown kicking and slapping children for not working hard enough.

The children worked in isolation - not speaking to or collaborating with any of their peers in their learning.  During unsupervised break times some of the children were aggressive and abusive to one another.

But let's be clear - this model and this pattern of learning exist in many other schools throughout the country, where children learn through didactic instruction, learn by rote, learn in isolation, and have an unbroken diet of uncreative, meaningless cramming.

It's a disgusting fact that more and more children learn in ghetto schools of one sort or another - instead of learning alongside children of all backgrounds and abilities. This is something the 'free schools' idea is meant to promote. The Tories have been searching for ages to figure out a way of giving public money to private and independent schools in order to reduce private tuition fees, and this a perfect wheeze for doing it. These people really do have a sense of entitlement to exclusive schools which are subsidised by public taxation, and which are run by the parents whose children benefit from them. People like Toby Young want control of the curriculum, the management, the recruitment of staff, and the style of teaching - and they don't give a toss about what more enlightened people say about the learning and wellbeing needs of children. Their sole aim is to have a neighbourhood school for their own children, run by the parents, which doesn't charge fees, and which will guarantee 'rigour' and a smooth passage to the Oxbridge college of their choice.

These schools may be less hate-filled than those shown on the C4 documentary, but just as negative in their effect through causing fragmentation of the system, entrenching privilege, promoting ghettoisation and destroying the rights of children to a proper childhood and an enjoyment of school and of learning itself.



Michael Morpurgo is an exceptional human being, and a great champion of the rights of children. He was rightly given the honour of delivering the Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV this week.

In this year's Richard Dimbleby Lecture, Michael Morpurgo explores the increasingly urgent issue of children's rights, and investigates the wrongs that young people have to endure.

One of Britain's most popular children's authors, Morpurgo has written over 120 books and more recently he has become a campaigner on behalf of children, both at home and abroad. In this role he visited the Middle East where he witnessed, first hand, the difficulties children face in times of conflict.

His most well known book, War Horse, was recently dramatised to great critical acclaim and it is now being made into a Hollywood feature film by Stephen Spielberg.

Related Links

    * Wikipedia: Michael Morpurgo (
    * Michael Morpurgo: Home (
    * BBC Scotland: Authors Live - Michael Morpurgo
    * BBC News: Entertainment & Arts: Michael Morpurgo on War Horse and beyond
    * BBC News: Entertainment & Arts: How to operate a War Horse puppet
    * IMDb: War Horse (
    * BBC News Magazine: How children's war fiction has changed

Seven days left to view this.

The Rights of Children - summary of the lecture

UN Convention on Children's Rights - do we live by it?

Only two countries have yet to ratify this convention - Somalia and the United States.
The right to survival, access to healthcare, liberty and education

These rights are woefully neglected.

3.5 million of our children in the UK are mired in poverty.

Some of the most vulnerable have been appallingly treated.

We must tackle the impoverishment, neglect and exploitation of children.

The Yarls Wood detention centre - a deeply shameful institution - injustice was done to children put in this prison.

"Motherland" - a play by Natasha Walters.

"12 big men banged on our door. They took us to a police station."

We lock up asylum-seeking children, even though they are innocent of any crime.

The rights of children are flagrantly ignored.

"Are we doing the best for our children? No - and we are all to blame."

Librarians are the unsung heros of the book world. Unglamorous
people like this make a real difference to children's lives.

The younger the children, the less status for the people involved. Primary school teachers are the worst paid.

We have a short-term target-driven mindset. We need to go back to the needs of children. We need children to burn brightly and shine.

What we actually do is corral them and stifle them - we put them in places where success and failure [in tests and exams] is all that counts . . . Fear of failure is what does the most damage. We're like Mr Gradgrind in Dickens' 'Hard Times', whose notion of education was to ram 'facts' into children's heads . . .

We may not beat children any more, but I wonder how far we've moved on since Gradgrind . . .  We still have classes that are twice the size they should be - far too big for teachers to make proper relationships, particularly with children who are already disengaged and alienated.

New Zealand ranks 4th in the OECD education rankings, and doesn't have league tables. Finland ranks 2nd, and children there don't begin formal schooling till the age of seven. Britain ranks 20th.

We must remember that we are preparing children NOT simply for employment, or for the common good, but for the difficult decisions they will have to make in their personal lives, for the moments when they will have to take responsibility for themselves and for others, when they will be tempted to have inappropriate sex, or to take drugs, or to bully someone, or carry a knife, or throw a brick through a window . . .

There is no league table for mature behaviour, for the quality of relationships, for self-worth and for self-confidence.

The quality of their relationships is the most important factor in any child's life.

We must allow children to go 'off-piste', and we must trust them.

Forget the league tables and the targets, and let's break free of the shackles of a narrow curriculum - it's time to focus on the commitment and the talent of the people who touch our children's lives.

But we can't leave it all to the teachers. People from all walks of life can make a contribution.

Let's have more trips, visits and outings, more time in theatres, concert halls and museums, and let's get them out into the open air, tramping the hills . . . all this should be an integral part of their education, a right of every child - not an extra. It will pay dividends in the end.

What we absolutely do NOT need is to be closing down our libraries, cutting down our youth services and our provisions for special needs . . .

Let's give children the time to dream, to listen and to learn.

Too many of us, and too many children, are disengaged and alienated.

I shall continue to speak up for the rights of children as best I can.

"I hope you understand the enormity of my fury."

"One day we will apologise for Yarls Wood, and for the bureaucracy of neglect."

Very well said, Michael. 


One day we, the English - not the Scots or the Welsh, since they don't have them - will apologise for SATs, for league tables, for bureaucratising and micro-managing teaching and learning, for national 'strategies', for the narrowing of the curriculum, for depriving children of their right to learn in a stimulating and creative environment - learning at their own pace, pursuing their own interests and passions, finding their own voices, developing all their intelligences, developing the habit of joyful lifelong learning.

How many of us have continued to speak up for the rights of children, in spite of the pressures to ignore them, in spite of the pressures to return to Gradgrindism? How many  have kept their heads down, for fear of government agents and inspectors, for fear for their futures in their careers and in education? How many have been bullied and cajoled into silence, and how many have been converted willingly into the education Newspeak, and the language of attainment, SATs, value added, strategies, NLS, NNS, targets, payment by results, monitoring, challenge and all the rest?

How many parents and how many paid professionals have even a half of Michael Morpurgo's vision for children, and even a tenth of his determination to stand up for children's rights?

How many need to hang their heads in shame?

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