Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Happened?

What happened? I've absolutely no idea. Like the rest of you I was unable to get onto this hallowed corner of the blogosphere for the past 36 hours and more, during which time I was of course seething with stuff I wanted to get off my chest. The story that really got me - and, I imagine, many others - going was that of a council in Dorset using anti-terrorist-style surveillance to check that a couple weren't trying to get their child into the 'wrong' primary school - here's a local take on it. The story's still going, with the council defending their actions and apparently bemused by the fuss - and they even have a degree of suport from the 'public', God help us.
Well, we shouldn't be surprised really. Such deformations of reality are the inevitable result of state control of education, driving down standards and creating scarcity, so that the remaining decent schools have to be protected by any means from parents who might want to send their children there. Things could be so much better. Thirty yers ago, Frank Field (one of Britain's few decent politicians - hence his failure to rise) was proposing the Danish model, whereby if 300 parents decided they wanted to start a school, they were given the money the state would have spent on their children and left to get on with it (with a minimum of oversight). This has led to an enviable situation where there are enough schools to satisfy virtually all parents, and, because of the competition, standards are high. A similiar situation pertains in Sweden and, happily, the Tory Michael Gove (also, I think, a decent man) has proposed the Tories adopt/adapt it when, eventually, power can be grasped from the cold dead hand of Gordon. Well, let's hope they mean it... (Field also proposes a school leaving certificate for 14-yr-olds who have acquired basic literacy and numeracy - no mean feat in many a 'comp' - with the state money for their remaining schooling being diverted to training in something useful. Again this seems very sound - certainly a better idea than driving them towards 'university'.)
Meanwhile, I see that shaggy-haired, doom-voiced popster Mark E Smith of The Fall is in trouble with the squirrel lovers. Unfortunately he seems to have picked on the wrong kind of squirrels, i.e. the real ones, rather than those grey tree rats. Perhaps he'll have better luck with the seagulls.


  1. That people in Poole don't rise up to a man and condemn the council is the most depressing aspect of this business. Just look at some of the comments following the local 'take' on it.
    There is something chilling about the English sanctimonious and inhuman desire to obey the rules - any rules. It's everywhere now. People seem to range around waiting to catch someone breaking the rules so they can vilify them. Look at 'road rage' as an obvious example.

  2. Yep, we're all Nazis now!

    >Slaves are as guilty as tyrants. It is hard to say whether freedom can more justly reproach those who attack her than those who do not defend her.<


  3. Using the power of a sledgehammer to crush a clove. Is anyone struck by the schools name, the Dean must be spinning like a top.

  4. Nige, its GCHQ, Jaquie told them to "put eyeballs on that blog, people, eyeballs on that blog.
    Infostat was redirected from its current mission, locating the subversive elements who put cardboard in the bag marked plastic, to monitor the Bryanblog.

    Then "further assets were deployed around a four block radius."
    Polonium was then injected into the USB2 socket.
    One of Malty junior's German friends was a distant relative of Honeckers
    I asked her once had any of her family ever met him, she said that her father had known him and that the best way to describe him was "like a bland, innocuous local government official, but with eyes like a cobra". Sound familiar ?

    There is a brilliant, clinical analysis of Sauron by Matthew Parrish in Today's Times online.

    Bad news on the bird front I'm afraid, flycatchers have been huddling in the Scots pines all morning, avoiding the hailstones, well, the rugby sevens are on today, hence Arctic conditions.

  5. Ah, the N word has appeared after only one post I see. Still, one can imagine the kerfuffle were it announced that citizens' committees were forming to monitor our council officials - how often Alderman Boggett retires to stroke his Chain of Office, the back-street drinking dens favoured by the Planning Committee, etc. To the extent that folks moan about this they are casting themselves as victims and therefore powerless. Not a good way to live. I suspect it's better just to say "no" to the whole rotten thing; and if you're out driving and happen to see Alderman Boggett crossing the road in front of you, press the accelerator.

  6. When my daughter was taking the 11 plus there were many cases of parents sending in cleverer children instead of their own kid(unfortunately, I didn't have one to hand at the time) to pass the exam for their less academic sibling or cousin. If this is still happening, given the current pnechant for surveillance of parents, I am surprised that no one has yet suggested DNA testing of children to make sure the one who took the exam was in fact the child who subsequently passed and attended the school. This will no doubt now be on the cards along with CCTV checks to verify school-catchment area addresses. How very spooky everything is getting.

    It comes to something when in order to get your children educated properly people feel the need to resort to this type of subterfuge and deviousness and subsquently find themselves the star of a surveillance video. But who is really at fault here - the providers or the consumers of our "education" system? Every parent wants the best for their child and when the best is so rationed, it's inevitable that all manner of scams will emerge in order to get it. Maybe if less time and money were spent on trying to catch parents out and more resources used to improve the standard of schools across the board, children would be able to go to their local schools once more and be happy with it.

  7. On a lighter note Bryan, could I just say thanks very much for your piece about the Rolling Stones/Scorcese film, Shine a Light. Because of your article I got some tickets for the preview night, which was absolutely fabulous.

    Thanks for that!

  8. According to one story I read, there have been 19,000 such investigations by local authorities within the past year. My favorite thus far is the extensive ongoing undercover operations one local council has embarked upon to identify who isn't picking up their dog's excrement.

    How many cameras are there now watching your every move in the name of promoting public safety? 3 million? 4 Million? And are you any safer? Is crime any less? (I hear not, but maybe it is.) Now local authorities are spending countless tens (if not hundreds) of thousands more on things like this while at the same time no longer able to pick up trash on a timely basis, thereby endangering public health. How long before it is discovered that some local authorities are spying on their critics?

    /shudder/ In matters such as these, the American government is a follower - what is being done there eventually becomes policy over here (see cameras in parks "for safety").

  9. Randy, cameras in parks are nothing; see "The Patriot Act"!

    Phil W.: Are there no women in Poole?

  10. Susan, they are , most of them are poole dancers.

  11. Oh, I agree, Susan, but I was confining myself to the increasingly sinister aspects of local government surveillance, not the well-established propensities of national governments.

  12. Susan Balee, what's the matter with you? Why do you never miss an opportunity to score some pointless feminist egalitarian point?
    We are discussing something more serious here than your silly outmoded preoccupations. You have to decide which side you're on in this, you can't forever behave like an adolescent in pointless rebellion against some imagined authority. Grow up and make your mind up!

  13. Hee hee hee -- Phil, you are the first Briton I've ever met with no sense of humor. You can't bear to be teased, though you're dying to not only tease, but curb stomp (as my kids would say) people who annoy you. Grow up, boy!