Thursday, February 08, 2007


But lots of other bumf as well

Teenagers will be taught to speak properly, and recognise how to use standard English in formal settings, under an overhaul of the school curriculum for 11-14 year-olds. The proposals will place strict emphasis on teaching children to banish expressions such as "they was", "I done", "them books" and "I ain't" from use in debates and presentations and to use colloquial language such as "anyway" and "okay" only where appropriate.

Sue Horner, head of development at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), said that since this part of the curriculum was revised in 1995, demands from employers for schools to emphasise skills in spoken English had increased. According to research by the QCA, young people in their first jobs said that one of the biggest challenges they faced was speaking confidently on the telephone to a stranger. "They were very clear that they didn't really know how to do it. They were crying out for help," Ms Horner said.

Under the new proposals, students will continue to study Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but will also be taught to correct their English using spell-check programs and to use an online thesaurus to expand their vocabulary.

Learning about the British Empire and key dates in history, as well as how to draw up a spreadsheet and speak Mandarin, are also proposed in the new curriculum for secondary schools in England. The new focus on broadening knowledge and communicating it effectively is part of a wider attempt by the Government to drive up the basic skills of school-leavers.

The changes are intended to give teachers greater flexibility while retaining core elements of learning. But critics gave warning that far from allowing greater freedom, the proposals were packed with advice for teachers to cover everything from social diversity in the Middle Ages to the Holocaust and "political and cultural achievements of the Islamic states from 600 to 1600".

In history, the 21st century focus is away from a thematic treatment and back to learning dates and facts in chronological order. There will also be emphasis on promoting cultural and ethnic diversity through the study of the slave trade and the British Empire. "Pupils should learn that people and societies involved in the same historical event may have different experiences and views and develop a variety of stories, versions, opinions and interpretations of that event," the review states.

There will also be a new emphasis on life skills, such as healthy living, cookery and financial literacy. In modern languages, the watchdog suggests that students should learn Urdu and Mandarin as well as European languages. In science, the review suggests "a shift away from content towards the scientific process or how science works". Students will study drug abuse, psychology and the implications of developments such as in-vitro fertilisation. The new curriculum will also introduce a new system of peer assessment.

Susan Anderson, director of human resources at the CBI, welcomed the emphasis on mastery of basic skills. Employers are crying out for numerate, literate and IT-savvy youngsters who can work as part of a team, make decisions and take on responsibility." Teaching primary school children philosophy and the thinking skills of Socrates brings a lasting gain in intelligence, according to follow-up research, published yesterday, into pioneering teaching techniques in schools in Clackmannanshire, Central Scotland.



Leftists are today's absolute monarchists

On January 30, 1649, King Charles I was executed; soon afterwards Eikon Basilike, his partly ghost-written apologia, was published. It rapidly became a bestseller, running through some 50 editions in the first year; no doubt that played its part in building public support for the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The Eikon can be described only as a High Tory document, arguing that a king and a subject have quite different functions. Whatever else may be said of him, Charles I was neither a liberal nor a democrat.

If one looks for the first recorded example of the use of the word "discrimination" in its modern political sense, one finds it in a rather tortuous sentence in Eikon Basilike. "Take heed of abetting any factions, of applying to any public discriminations in matters of religion." King Charles always did believe in uniformity in matters of religion; that was the policy of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Charles's enthusiastic supporter. Charles was a "no discrimination" king. That was his advice to his successors.

It has been surprising to find Charles's doctrine rising up again in the present dispute over the Catholic agencies' refusal to organise adoption for same-sex couples. It is even more surprising that Charles's doctrine has been adopted by the Left or liberal wing of politics. Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, seems to be deciding this adoption issue. He has said that he would never agree to discrimination; "no discrimination" has been echoed by the Government front bench in the House of Lords.

It seems to be the policy of the Liberal Democrats. David Cameron has told The Daily Telegraph that "we shouldn't put up with this discrimination on the basis of race, age or sexual orientation". If interpreted literally, that would eliminate the age of consent, which involves discrimination on the grounds of age, and would raise the awkward question whether paedophilia constituted a "sexual orientation".

Almost all law is concerned with discriminating between different cases that receive different treatment. Even the Civil Partnership Act itself is avowedly discriminatory. Same-sex couples gain substantial tax advantages, equal to those of a married couple. Members of the same family are not allowed to enter into civil partnerships with each other; nor are unmarried heterosexual couples. These seem to me to be unfair discriminations, but that is not the point. They undoubtedly are discriminatory and the exclusion of heterosexual couples is undoubtedly a discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is a matter of same sex, yes, but different sexes no.

Mr Cameron is a thoughtful politician, which makes his views on the adoption issue particularly interesting. He said: "It is time to sweep away failed multiculturalism. I don't think it would be right to allow carve-outs for Muslim groups or Hindu groups or whoever, so that means one law that everyone has to obey. And that's why I don't think a block exemption for Catholic adoption agencies would be right." Mr Cameron understands that he is attacking multiculturalism. He does not seem to understand that multiculturalism is the basis of liberalism.

If liberalism has a core of meaning, it is that different people, different groups, different churches, different religions, have a right to hold different views. Society has the overriding right to protect itself against anarchy and terrorism, but so far as possible society should leave people free to make their own judgments and decide on their own actions. All voluntary agencies could and should have been left to make their own rules for adoptions. The State could decide the rules for state agencies.

Mr Cameron is in company that would regard itself as liberal. He has most of the Liberal Democrats with him, and most of new Labour with him. He sees himself as a liberal Conservative. But his view that there should be no exceptions in law to allow for differences in religious beliefs is neither liberal, nor workable. It is illiberal because liberty depends on pluralism and therefore has to accept multiculturalism. It is unworkable because Britain has no way of imposing our belief systems on Islam. Other religions may give way, like the ocean; Islam is like a rock. Wise sailors do not steer into the rocks.

Society has no choice but to act against a church or religion that attacks social order, as some Muslim groups do. In the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I or King James I the English Government was justified in acting against Catholic plots, though many Catholics were unjustly punished and were pushed into extremism. British policy in Ireland has never been forgiven.

When Mr Cameron argues that Catholic adoption agencies should be given "time to find a way through the new rules", he does sound condescending to most Catholics. The Catholic Church has had a doctrine of marriage, as an indissoluble union between two people of different sexes, taking priority over all other relationships, since the time of Christ, endorsed by his specific words.

The Catholic Church believes that doctrine would be prejudiced if Catholic agencies arranged adoption for same-sex couples. After 2000 years, the Church is not going to change its mind because of a vote in the House of Commons. In matters of faith and morals, the Catholic Church sees itself as sovereign, because it is teaching the doctrine of Jesus. The Church may not break British law, but it will certainly not break its own law.

Harold Macmillan is said to have observed that a prime minister should avoid taking on three bodies, the Brigade of Guards, the Roman Catholic Church and the National Union of Mineworkers. Ted Heath was indeed destroyed by the mineworkers, Margaret Thatcher eventually defeated them. A prudent prime minister knows the limits of his own authority. He can pass laws, but he cannot enforce consent. The great religions command strong loyalties. It would be a great mistake if the British Government decided to take them on, and a pity if the Leader of the Opposition supported a policy of compelled uniformity.


'Heroism' of marriage praised: "The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the "commentating classes" for damaging marriage and destroying the "moral geography" of society. Dr Rowan Williams, speaking at the House of Commons at the start of National Marriage Week, criticised opponents of marriage for failing to recognise the "prosaic heroism" of people in long, successful unions and said that they were blinkered by their own familiarity with fluid, transient relationships. He said: "What we're up against at the moment is a society that has painfully and disastrously low expectations of relationships." The latest statistics show that the message of the churches on the importance of marriage might be getting through. The number of marriages in England and Wales that ended in divorce fell by eight per cent in 2005 to 141,750, the lowest annual total for five years."

Maoism? Church of England to have its own disruptive "cultural revolution": "A century or more ago, the Church of England sent missionaries to Africa with instructions to convert the heathen. Now, with attendance figures in sharp decline and the Anglican Church in turmoil over homosexuality, bishops are to be told that they must start converting the heathen closer to home. New mission orders are being drawn up to rebuild British faith, and in an ironic reversal of history, some of the missionaries could be from Africa and Asia. The orders form part of a new church law that will create a more flexible parish and diocesan structure. Under the new rules, bishops would be able to fly in a new priest to turn around a flagging parish while the incumbent is still there. The measure would allow evangelical bishops to assert their beliefs over liberal clergy by sending in like-minded evangelicals. Similarly, liberal bishops could defy parishes that were hostile to gays in the Church. Missionaries would also be sent to thriving parishes to offer a fresh perspective. Each mission would be assigned a monitor who would report on its activities to the bishop".

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