Sunday, August 05, 2007

Boy Scouts banned from eating burgers and sausages - because of other people's religious beliefs

It was the glorious dawn of dibdibdobbing. A hundred years ago Lord Baden-Powell set out with 20 lads, his mission to teach them to hunt, light a fire and build shelter in the great outdoors. A century on, it seems the original flame of Boy Scouting is not burning quite so bright. For at a jamboree to mark the centenary of that original trip, there is no singing around the glowing embers of the camp fire - because there is no fire.

And you can't find a singed sausage for love nor money. However, there are veggie burgers aplenty. And a large potted plant, around which the Scouts of 2007 can gather and write down thoughts on how to achieve world peace. The location is Brownsea Island in Dorset, the starting point of Scouting where Lord Baden-Powell led the first expedition. Those young pioneers caught rabbits and then skinned and cooked them on an open fire.

Some 300 modern-day Scouts (the word Boy was dropped in the 1960s) settled down to a meal prepared in a 'kitchen marquee' and consisting entirely of vegetarian food - so as not to offend any religious faiths. Clare Haines, a spokesman for the Scout Association, said: "It was really to do with religion that we were not able to provide sausages and burgers and all that kind of food. "We have been very careful to make sure food is provided to everybody's tastes and beliefs, so no one feels left out. "They enjoyed their vegetarian meals, especially vegetable chilli, fresh salads and jacket potatoes."

She added that campfires had been banned on the National Trust-owned island after a massive woodland blaze 30 years ago.

However, Claire Barnes, a Scout leader from Rochester, Kent, said: "I can't believe anyone would have a problem with sausages or burgers. "I've been involved with the Scouts for 15 years and it's the first time I have ever heard anything like this. "We're proud of teaching our children about building fires - it's these basic survival skills which the movement is based on. "I can understand why they wanted to make everyone feel accepted but I think that's probably taking things a little too far."

The jamboree is one of many events being held to mark the Scouting 2007 Centenary. But for some, the Brownsea experience lacked the outdoors feel of a traditional camping experience. In the middle of the island stands a huge marquee fitted out with industrial ovens and fridges stocked with vegetarian food. Next to it is a large, covered canteen and stage where bands have performed in the evening during the five days of celebrations. There is also an Internet cafe set up with ten lap-top computers to allow home-sick youngsters to keep in touch with their families around the globe.

The Scouts sleep in single-sex tents scattered around the island and have the use of numerous wash tents and portable lavatories. Hundreds of solar powered lights line the walk ways across the island to avoid anyone tripping over tent pegs, and each cluster of tents is illuminated by strings of electric lights powered by generators.

David Massen, a Scout leader from Bradford, said last night: "A lot has changed with the way Scouting works since 1907. "The principles are still the same but society has changed. "For example, Baden-Powell could just take his Scouts out on a boat for a fishing trip, whereas if I want to do the same I have to take a two-hour training session and write a four-page risk assessment statement."


Middle-class teenagers made the 'whipping boys' of British education

British class envy is as poisonous as ever

Middle-class teenagers are being turned into "whipping boys" as ministers discriminate against them in favour of students from poor homes, teachers warned. Education is being "dumbed down" as universities turn their attention towards easy subjects like surfing studies, beauty therapy and knitwear to attract more working-class students, it is claimed. In a fierce attack, the Professional Association of Teachers called for the Government to halt its drive towards so-called "social engineering".

The comments come amid controversy over policies designed to increase the number of university students from state schools and deprived backgrounds. Ministers want to see half of all school-leavers studying beyond the age of 18 and have given dons tough targets to attract "hard to reach" students. But Peter Morris, chairman of the PAT in Wales, accused ministers of "creating barriers in education based on social class".

Addressing the union's annual conference in Harrogate, he said: "I am angry because this Government has interfered with my children and their children's chances of getting a good education in this country. "They have changed the ways that examinations are assessed, and clearly this has had a 'dumbing down' effect on the academic standards, in order to get more pupils to achieve."

Under new rules, teenagers applying for university will be asked to say whether their parents have degrees in an attempt to attract more students from poor homes. But Mr Morris insisted it amounted to discrimination against middle-class pupils. "This political interfering with university applications clearly is designed to reduce the chances of hard-working applicants getting places," he said. "How can any academic institution make a selection of candidates for university courses based on the perceived social class of the parents? "The middle classes are becoming the new whipping boys for 'New Labour'."

Criticising the Government's education record, Mr Morris, a retired teacher from Swansea, said exams had gone from being academically rigorous to posing "woolly, touchy-feely" questions with little intellectual merit to act as a leg-up to the working classes. Courses such as physics, chemistry and maths have been replaced with "non-academic" degrees such as "surfing, beauty therapy, knitwear, circus skills, pig enterprise management, death studies, air guitar, David Beckham studies and wine studies", he said.

The comments come just days after universities were accused of cashing in on soft courses by plugging degrees in subjects such as complementary medicine. It was disclosed that applications for complementary medicine are up more than 31 per cent this year, while there has been a 19 per cent fall in applications to study anatomy, physiology and pathology.

Speaking at the PAT conference, Nardia Foster, a psychology teacher from Enfield, north London, said that Labour had created a more "fractured, divided, selfish society". "There is a lack of consistency, stability, moral integrity and fairness in our society," she said. "To dumb down declares to the whole world 'British children are stupid'."

Geraldine Everett, PAT chairman, said universities should not set "quotas" for admissions. "It is wrong to manufacture reasons to put one group forward ahead of another," she said. "It is an invasion of privacy to take account of parental background. Places should go on merit - not your parents' education."

Last month it emerged that leading institutions were actually taking fewer students from deprived areas - despite the Government's drive to redress their middle-class bias. Teenagers from wealthier families and private schools increased their hold on places at half of the 20 most sought-after universities, according to official figures.

A spokesman for the newly-formed Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We are ensuring every child has the best possible start in life and the opportunity to succeed - nobody can argue with that. "New ways of raising standards in schools, such as progression and personalisation, will ensure that all pupils get the education they deserve to reach their full potential. And it is only right that we are also ensuring the opportunity of higher education is accessible to everyone who desires it." [Irrelevant waffle!]


NHS kills two more patients

Understaffing makes this sort of thing a certainty.

Two cancer patients died after hospital staff gave them an overdose of a drug used to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Baljit Singh Sunner, 36, and Paul Richards, 35, died within hours of each other after treatment in an oncology ward of Birmingham Heartlands Hospital on July 20. It is believed they were given up to five times the correct dose of medication.

The hospital confirmed that a “mistake” was made over the men’s treatment and said that it was carrying out a detailed investigation. A hospital spokesman said: “The doctor and two nurses involved have not been suspended but are currently not working within the area and are deeply upset by the deaths. “It has already been established that the two men received a higher dosage than normal. The coroner will look at whether the mistake made was directly responsible for the patients dying or a causational factor.”

In a statement, Mark Goldman, the hospital chief executive, said: “Following the deaths of two patients we are carrying out a detailed investigation into the clinical care given to them. This will be presented to both families and to the coroner, and it will form part of the coroner’s inquiries.”


Doin' the Raghead Rag: "By now just about everyone has heard about "Jihad: The Musical", the hilarious stage send-up of Islamic terrorists being performed this month in Scotland. If you haven't, go watch this video at LGF; it made me laugh until the tears ran down my cheeks. And now - surprise, surprise! - members of a certain religious group have taken offense. A satirical musical about Islamist terrorism and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has sparked protests in Britain, with critics blasting it as tasteless. "Jihad: The Musical", which features songs including "I wanna be like Osama" and is described as "a madcap gallop through the wacky world of international terrorism," is on at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this month.

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