Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nonperforming SEAL

The Times did not allow me to "have my say" by printing my comment concerning this article, in which the author, Magnus Linklater, explains that trainee gangsters in British schools can be lured back to the straight and narrow by "an imaginative curriculum – the kind that gives every child a sense of self-worth and an opportunity to join in, rather than an arid exercise in exam passing."

Such as? Such as:
I spent an enthralling afternoon at Dog Kennel Hill School, then a struggling primary in an unpromising part of Southwark in South London, where the majority of pupils did not speak English as their first language and where there had been a history of truanting, ill-discipline and rock-bottom academic standards.

It did, however, have one advantage. It was within striking distance of various art institutions, notably the Globe Theatre, which its headmistress, Pat Boyer, roped in to help the school to stage its plays. When I visited, they had just finished presenting The Merchant of Venice on the Globe stage, to a rapt audience who could not believe that the bad boys of the neighbourhood had been transformed into Antonios, Bassanos and Lorenzos. I was introduced to a Moroccan boy called Ahmed. He was tiny and he had learning difficulties. But he had just experienced the greatest day of his life by standing triumphantly on a London stage receiving the wild applause of his peers. “This is the Duke of Venice,” said Ms Boyer. “He speaks three languages: Arabic, English – and Shakespeare.” Ahmed beamed happily.

Something tells me they didn't put on Othello.

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The article actually begins promisingly, with a few digs at the notion that a debased and criminally inclined youth culture can be made good by "teaching happiness, wellbeing and good manners to secondary school pupils" through a "programme known as 'Seal' — social and emotional aspects of learning — which has been a success in primary schools and is said to help academic performance and instil discipline by teaching children to understand their emotions."

Melanie Phillips, in an article of her own in the Daily Mail, begs to differ:
But now — surprise, surprise — a new report suggests that the SEAL programme may instead leave children depressed and self-obsessed. Drawing on the findings of more than 20 international academic studies, it says there is little evidence that the programme produces any long-term improvement in emotional well-being or academic success and may lead to psychological problems instead.

Meanwhile, turning education into a branch of therapy like this hugely increases state control over children’s lives. For with children’s capacity to learn and develop in a healthy way having been destroyed, armies of professionals then decide that they alone can give it to them.

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Not even the American educational bureaucracy, as flaming loony as it is, would inflict a program like SEAL on helpless schoolkids — or if it did, parent groups and politicians would slap it down. The U.K., however, which in my very own lifetime was widely considered buttoned-down, conservative, and commonsense driven, is now straining at the leash to adopt every desperate scheme imported from the moon's backside to try to restore order in its anarchic social environment.

There are still times when I think I'm going to wake up and be grateful that I was only dreaming all this.

The gist of my unpublished letter to The Times was that, while it's fine and dandy to involve schoolchildren in Shakespeare performances, the notion that this would engage their nascent creativity so much that they'd start reciting soliloquies and forget to murder their chums like the unfortunate 11-year-old Rhys Jones, is (in Orwell's famous formulation) so ridiculous that only an intellectual could believe it. Or a journalist.

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The reason The Times felt my letter was too far beyond the pale to print, I assume, was because I suggested that the cause of Britain's mean streets was at its most basic a failed policy: multi-culturalism, rammed down the country's gullet by several generations of mostly Labour politicians. Leftist Utopians don't care about the actual, real-world results of their fantasy governing principles, or if they care, they blame the results on someone or something else. The idea is what matters for them.

How did anyone expect benefits from ripping apart the social and ethnic fabric of a nation, rooted in a thousand years of history, in a couple of decades through unconstrained immigration of people with utterly different traditions, languages, and values? Maybe there were fools who actually believed that back in 1960, but once the race riots began in the '80s it was obvious that the plan was not working and was not going to work.

Was some of the trouble caused by racially prejudiced, white skinhead types? Without a doubt. Are plenty of today's yobs white Anglo-Saxons and Celts? Absolutely. Does that mean multi-culturalism should be forced on everybody in Britain? No. Despicable people can be right, even if for the wrong reason. The right reason is that multi-culturalism doesn't work. At least, not when it's introduced through massive immigration in a very short time, without the consent of the indigenous population, by political ideologues with brains full of contemporary-Marxist rubbish.

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I'm not sure the British government has ever been very much in tune, or sympathy, with the majority of its citizens. First, for hundreds of years, it was led by monarchs; then an aristocracy; then rich factory owners. Now, most Britons must bend the knee to a political class that knows how everyone should live and uses the law and police to see that they do, and social worker parasites whose government jobs depend on keeping social problems going strong, by importing them if necessary. If the schoolkids at Dog Kennel School Hill actually do learn their Shakespeare, they may find themselves saying along with Hamlet: "O, what a rogue and peasant slave
am I."

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David said...

The idea that anything good can come out of endless focus on one's own emotions is a strange one. C S Lewis spoke of the "ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self, which is the mark of Hell."

Also, G K Chesterton:

"Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Anyone who knows anybody knows how it would work; anyone who knows anyone from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon -- anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within."

Rick Darby said...


Great quotes. I didn't know you were a Chesterton fan.

I'd slightly disagree with him: it's fine to worship the God within; that is progress on the soul's journey. What rouses the barking dogs of Hell is worshiping the Ego within.

David said...

Yes, Chesterton is thought-provoking and tends to look at things in unexpected ways.

I can't resist one more quote. This is also from CSL, in "The Preface to Paradise Lost"..

"Adam talks about God, the Forbidden tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve…Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace ‘all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.’ Satan has been in the heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan.."

And that “one thing” is, of course, Satan himself…his position and the wrongs he believes have been done to him. “Satan’s monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Santanic predicament…”