Thursday, July 10, 2008

ADHD as a reaction to feminized schools

If you were an energetic nine-year-old boy who loved school, did your best but also loved charging about, trying to beat your friends at every game possible, imagine the hell of our currrent state school system where ball games are banned from the playground in case someone gets hurt, there is no outside play in bad weather and you are constantly in trouble for being too competitive because winning is not what it's about. And, worse, Jamie Oliver fruit smoothies have replaced sponge pudding in your school dinner, so you're starving by two o'clock.

Sue Palmer is a former head teacher, literacy adviser and the author of 21st Century Boys. She says it is a biological necessity that boys run about, take risks, swing off things and compete with each other to develop properly. "If they can't, a lot of them find it impossible to sit still, focus on a book or wield a pencil," she says, "so their behaviour is considered `difficult', they get into trouble and tumble into a cycle of school failure."

Boys are three times as likely as girls to need extra help with reading at primary school, and 75 per cent of children supposedly suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are male. "We are losing boys at a rate of knots, particularly in literacy," Palmer says, "because at some point in the past 30 years, masculinity became an embarrassment."

Research by Simon Baron-Cohen, a respected Cambridge professor, that began as an investigation into autism, puts a solid case for biological male/female differences in the brain, with boys tending to be "systematisers" and girls "empathisers". This explains why boys generally are less keen on reading and comprehension, and lag behind girls in literacy. A lot of boys find it easier to explain the workings of a watch than to discuss how a character in a story is feeling. "But now," says Palmer, "apart from the very bright ones, boys aren't even doing better at maths and science."

Some people blame this nosedive, first noticed in the mid-Nineties, on the "feminisation" of education - too many women teachers, girl-friendly classroom environments and modular exam systems that suit girls' study skills but disadvantage risk-takers. "Geniuses are much more likely to be male," Palmer says, "but if you don't tick the right boxes, you fail."

There are seven times as many women primary school teachers as men, but Christine Skelton, Professor of Gender Equality in Education at Birmingham University, argues that there have always been far more female teachers than male. "Obviously there are some women who understand active boys, and some men who don't, just as there are energetic girls and inactive boys," she says.

The current generation of teachers, though, were born and raised in an atmosphere dominated by women's liberation and "non-gender-specific" education that began in the Seventies. Barbies were banned, most protagonists in books were female and there was no tolerance of war or superhero play. As a head teacher, Palmer remembers making her reception teacher remove all the cloakroom pegs that depicted tractors for boys and bunnies for girls. "The belief was that you were shaped by your environment, and it was the teacher's responsibility to `socialise' boys away from their natural inclinations and to encourage girls to study traditionally male subjects such as physics and technology," she says.

Palmer would never deny that some of it was absolutely necessary - but with movements such as Reclaim the Night, Greenham Common and Gay Pride, groups that offered an alternative perspective to the traditionally dominant male view taking centre stage, masculinity became suspect. "I really think," she says, "that the almighty cock-up of the sisterhood in the Seventies was that we believed we could turn boys into girls."

Palmer says that most women are not natural risk-takers, so for teachers who have not helped to bring up brothers and who don't have sons, boys' behaviour can be frightening. "Play-fighting, for example, reaches a peak at age 7 or 8 but is not actually aggressive," she says. "It's social - it's the way boys get to know each other and see how the other one ticks. A lot of women teachers are horrified when I suggest that they should let boys get on with fighting and shouting because eventually they'll come out the other side and start negotiating."

Another problem for boys seeking adventure is that, because we live in an increasingly risk-averse society, children are rarely allowed to play unsupervised. When did you last see a group of boys climbing a tree? "There is a rational fear of increased traffic but also an irrational fear of stranger danger, fanned by media reporting of child abduction," says Palmer. "Parents are worried about being considered irresponsible, so they never let their children out of their sight." And because we are not used to seeing boys playing outside, when we do it feels hostile even when what is going on is not particularly boisterous.

Dan Travis, a sports coach, argues that it is very important for boys to muck about on their own. "Coaching is formal and necessary but should only take up 20 per cent of the time they play," he says. "The informal 80 per cent is where most of the learning and practising occurs - away from adult supervision." Travis is running a campaign to bring competition back to school sport. "The Sport for All ethos took hold in the Seventies and never let go," he says. "Games are only about inclusion, with no winners allowed." This is disastrous for boys, who need to compete to establish their place in the hierarchy, which is how they organise their friendships and something that they understand from nursery age onwards. It is also bad for sport. Palmer adds that "self-esteem" arrived from America and now no child is allowed to "lose" at anything.

Palmer is not suggesting that boys should be allowed to behave in any way they want. What we need, she says, is to celebrate what makes them boys and help them to understand the things that don't come naturally to them. That means getting them outside more, particularly as space gets squeezed in urban schools. "Not letting boys be boys is not only detrimental to them but also to girls, many of whom become overcompliant with what is considered `good' behaviour and could do with a shove outdoors to take more risks," she says. "I certainly wish that had happened to me."

Palmer is especially enthusiastic about the few "outdoor nurseries" that we have in this country, and about the Scandinavian system that puts off formal learning until the age of 7 or 8, concentrating instead on playing outside and the development of social skills. In the ideal Palmer world, everyone would go to a Scandinavian-style school. What we are doing instead is bringing in the Early Years Foundation Stage, a new government framework that becomes law in September. It says that by the age of 5 children should be writing sentences, some of which are punctuated. "That would be impressive for a seven-year-old," says Palmer. "So rather than tackling the imbalance in the way that we have treated boys for too long, we are going to make them sit still and learn even younger. I'd call that little short of state-sponsored child abuse."


Another dubious "racism" conviction in Britain

Sadie Frost said yesterday that she was "deeply upset" that her fashion label has been drawn into a race row. She and her business partner, Jemima French, made the statement after a black sales assistant was awarded $10,000 by an employment tribunal. Aba Yankah, an assistant and stylist with a 14-year career in the fashion industry, claimed that she was sacked from a FrostFrench boutique after less than a day because she was black.

Miss Yankah, awarded the sum for injury to feelings and loss of earnings, claimed that the only thing to have changed on her arrival at work last November was a manager's change in attitude at the discovery of her race and colour.

The London employment tribunal heard that Miss Yankah, who was born in Germany but is of African origin, was hired through a recruitment agency to work at the label's temporary Burlington Arcade store in Mayfair, London. FrostFrench denied the allegations of racism. The panel said Miss Yankah had not proved race discrimination outright but FrostFrench had offered no satisfactory explanation.

A FrostFrench spokesman said: "FrostFrench is a multicultural company with a strong commitment to racial equality. We would like to wish Aba Yankah every success in the future. "FrostFrench won't appeal the decision and cannot comment further due to legalities. "I must stress that Sadie and Jemima are deeply upset that the FrostFrench label has been drawn into something like this. Both are huge campaigners for racial equality."

She also pointed out that Miss French has two mixed race children and Miss Frost works closely with a number of African charities.


Burglary now not serious in Britain

These "panelists" might change their tune if THEY were burgled

Burglars and other "less serious" thieves should normally be handed community punishments rather than jail terms, sentencing advisers have recommended. Unpaid work or a curfew could be a better way of punishing such offences, according to a Sentencing Advisory Panel review of principles, which could influence the way that criminals are dealt with. The panel also stated that while the law does not allow the court to take into account the feelings of victims or bereaved relatives when they demand a harsh sentence, judges may listen to them if they are calling for leniency.

A consultation paper published as part of a wide-ranging review of sentencing said: "The panel has . . . concluded that a presumption in favour of a community order is most likely to be appropriate in relation to the less serious offences of theft and dishonesty, burglary and motoring offences, where there may be clear advantages in requiring an offender to serve a sentence in the community."

The risk of an offender committing further, non-serious offences should not automatically lead to jail, the paper added. It said that there was a school of thought which suggested that employed offenders should not be able to avoid jail on the ground that they would lose their jobs, because this would "work against those who are already disadvantaged by being unemployed".


Your Carbon Ration Card: Lessons from Britain

While American politicians mull a carbon cap-and-trade system for industry, our British cousins are already contemplating the next step: personal CO2 rations. A Parliamentary committee in May proposed giving all British adults "carbon allowances" that they would be required to spend - along with, you know, real money - when buying gasoline, airline tickets, electricity or natural gas. Britons who wanted more credits than they were issued could try to buy them - again, with real money - from those who hadn't spent their allotment. All of this is supposed to give people a financial incentive to reduce energy consumption and thus their carbon "footprint."

The Labour government, already in a precarious political state, isn't dumb enough to support the rationing plan, which Environment Minister Hilary Benn calls "ahead of its time." Instead, it favors a climate-change bill that Parliament is on the verge of passing that would lay much of the necessary groundwork. But eco-eager Britons don't have to wait for Westminster. A private test program for personal cap-and-trade began recently with 1,000 volunteers keeping tabs of their gasoline use.

It would cost a country like Britain billions of dollars a year to run a personal cap-and-trade system nationwide, but set that aside. War-time-like energy rations are a clear illustration of the extent to which environmentalists hope to control every aspect of modern life. Do you really want to blow much of your annual "ration" on that long carbon-spewing jet flight to Florida, or should you swap that summer AC for weekend drives in the country?

The global warmists want you to sacrifice for their cause. And the duration of their war on carbon will make the decade-and-a-half of British rationing during and after World War II seem like a fleeting moment. The pending climate-change bill calls for a 60% cut in carbon emissions from their 1990 levels by 2050. Once 2050 rolls around, who exactly will declare the end of hostilities?

The prospect of personal CO2 rations should debunk the idea that the cost of curbing carbon emissions would fall on the owners of dirty old factories. That notion was always a green herring: Like corporate taxes, the business costs of carbon reduction will be passed on to consumers. In that sense, we should be grateful to the Brits for showing us where this anticarbon crusade really ends up.


British menus to list carbon footprint of dishes. Chinese and Indian food both bad

And French food too, no doubt. The nonsense is coming thick and fast today

BRITISH restaurants may have to identify the ''carbon footprint' of their dishes, possibly listing those items that are airfreighted to the country. The plans were outlined on Monday in the Cabinet Office report on the food strategy Britain should adopt for the 21st century. The document examines rising obesity rates, spiralling prices and the problem of millions of tonnes of good food going to waste.

Backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it outlines far-reaching plans to improve the nation's diet. Fast food outlets, curry houses, kebab shops and even Michelin-starred restaurants will be given guidelines on how to deliver healthy food. They will come under pressure to list the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar included in items on the menu.

Britain could follow the example of New York, which has brought in laws to require chain restaurants in the city to list the calorie count of dishes. Restaurants may even be asked to follow the "traffic light" system of red, amber and green logos on dishes, used on supermarket ready-meals. The report recommends that food served by public bodies, from prisons to army barracks and hospitals, meets minimum nutrition standards. The Food Standards Agency would ensure restaurants deliver healthier dishes.

Recent studies have warned that single takeaway curries or Chinese dishes can contain more saturated fat than an adult should consume in a day.


That pesky woodpile and inhabitant again

"David Cameron was dragged into a race row last night after one of his frontbenchers made an unfortunate remark during a House of Lords debate. Lord Dixon-Smith, the Tory spokesman for communities and local government, referred to concerns about government housing legislation as the "nigger in the woodpile".

The phrase described fugitive slaves who hid in piles of firewood as they fled persecution in the American Deep South in the mid-19th century. In November a Tory councillor in Bedfordshire resigned after using the same words.

Mr Cameron said last night that the remark - which is recorded in Hansard - was "not appropriate" but he refused to dismiss him. Instead Lord Dixon-Smith went twice to apologise to Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords. He told The Times afterwards that the remark had "slipped out without my thinking".

He said that he had realised his mistake when in the chamber and apologised. "It was common parlance when I was younger, put it that way," he said. He emphasised that he now considered the matter closed.


No comments: