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Saturday, January 28, 2012

School reform

While at state school parents' evening recently, I happened to be chatting to a friend who is a teacher at a nearby private school. At the state school parent evening, you get a five minute slot to chat to each teacher. This stops it from being boring, but it does make things chaotic because some of the parents run over and the timetable doesn't last more than the first few minutes. Then it turns into a weird survival of the fittest, whereby the parents with the most tattoos and piercings, get to jack the queues and you end up having to wait for ages. Anyway, he told me that he has to prepare for every child at his school and all of the parents show up (of course, because they are paying something like £18,000 per year for each child) and they have 20 minute slots, during which the parents grill him about why the children aren't achieving A* in everything because a mere A isn't worth the money. (I once met an advisor to a hedge fund, someone considerably richer than me -- he has four kids at private school -- who told me, entirely seriously, that if his kids didn't get in to Oxford or Cambridge then he would get them in to a foreign university and help them to emigrate because they would have no future in the UK.)

Anyway, my point is that my friend who is a teacher was bemoaning the fact that he couldn't afford to send his daughter to the private school he wanted her to go to, and said that she was now going to get worse GCSEs. I didn't ask why, but maybe the discipline, rather than the teaching or the facilities is the key. I remember one of my sons complaining to me about the poor discipline at the state school I had condemned him too. I tried to comfort him by explaining that it made perfect sense to let the less academically-minded smoke pot on the far playing field instead of bringing them in to disrupt lessons, but he wasn't persuaded. This is why I've decided to lend my support to the Archbishop of Canterbury's campaign to bring Sharia Law to Britain after reading about the 13-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was sentenced to 90 lashes and two months in jail after she was caught using a mobile phone at school. This is the sort of clear and direct policy that would have a very positive impact on most state schools.

This is not the only improvement that might be imported. Apparently under Sharia Law schoolchildren can get between 300 and 500 lashes for assaulting a teacher. Not only "can", in fact, but "do".

Three years ago 16 schoolchildren, aged between 12 and 18, were each sentenced to between 300 and 500 lashes for being aggressive to a teacher.

[From Saudi girl, 13, sentenced to 90 lashes after she took a mobile phone to school | Mail Online]

I can see why the Archbishop said (a year after his initial call for this much-needed reformation of our legal system on religious lines) that, despite all of the whinging from the Liberal media, public opinion is coming round to his view.

"So I think there is a drift of understanding of what I was trying to say, perhaps I like to think so."

[From Archbishop of Canterbury: Society is coming round to my views on sharia - Telegraph]

The obvious next step, in my opinion, is for the Archbishop to introduce Sharia Law into Church of England schools. This farsighted move would simultaneously drive up parental demand for places at those schools and deliver significantly better exam results for the community. Using the new structures set up by Michael Gove, it ought to be straightforward to begin setting up the first Sharia-based Academy Schools and put this country back on its feet again.

Incidentally, if you're curious as to why I was reading a two year old newspaper article about girls being lashed at a Saudi Arabian school, there is an innocent explanation! When I was pottering about in London last week, I found myself on a tube station platform. On the opposite platform was a party of schoolgirls with a couple of teachers. The girls looked to be about 11 or 12. I suppose about half of them were wearing Muslim headscarves, but there were a small number (three or four) who were actually wearing full burkhas. I couldn't stop myself from wondering… how does anyone know that they are schoolgirls and not agents of a foreign power about the kidnap the daughter of some British PSP (politically-significant person, a phrase drawn from anti-money laundering legislation), perverts who had sneaked into the classroom or illegal immigrants who were operating incognito until such time as they could get a pet cat and use this in order to obtain the right to say in the UK.

This gave me a great idea for a book, and so I googled to find out whether girls where burkhas to school under Sharia Law.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Honourable mention

As the only person in Britain, apparently, who genuinely doesn't care whether Russell Brand gets divorced or not, I ended up buying the Sunday Times at the petrol station on the way home. It is full of depressing stories -- HBOS bad debts approaching £60 billion while the guy in charge of racking them up has retired on a £344,000 per annum pension, and that sort of thing -- but the one I settled on was the one about the New Year's Honours.

David Cameron faced an honours row today after it emerged at least four Conservative Party donors were given awards in the New Years list.

[From Cameron faces New Year honours row as four Conservative donors are given awards | Mail Online]

I'm using the Daily Mail link because the Sunday Times link is behind a paywall. But the point is that it's time we had a more open and transparent Honours system instead of the current system of handing out honours to speculators who correctly guessed "heads" and then split the loot with the governing party, near-randomly selected "ordinary people", some deserving cases of people who've done a lot for charity and celebrities who are friends of the elite. So I propose setting honours tariffs. A tariff of X means that you have to either have paid X in income tax or donated X to registered charities to qualify. But where to set the thresholds?

I think it was P.J. O'Rourke who said that the biggest contribution that the average person can make to society is to get a job, and he is surely correct. So therefore, the honour tariff should be set so that the first step on the ladder of honours should be above this basic threshold. Fifty years at work on the average salary means about a million quid of income, so let's say £300,000 in tax and national insurance (i.e., tax). So set the first rung on the ladder, the CBE, at £500K. Once you've paid £500K in tax or donated £500K to charity, then you get a CBE. Say a million for an OBE.

Obviously, at higher levels, the number of honours should be smaller and the club more exclusive, so it should take £100 million to get into the House of Lords.

The merit of my system is that everyone can see exactly where they are in the great scheme of things and that if property developers or currency speculators or famous actresses want to get honours then they will have to pay the tax or make the donations in the UK and then we call all applaud them for their contributions. I'm not sure why someone should get an honour for being a dinner lady or whatever for 50 years, because having a job for most of your working life should be the minimum we expect from people, right?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]