Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In life, so much of what we do is a question of balance. If you eat too much and exercise too little you are likely to get fat and fat is baaaad in the current climate, very bad. But if you eat too little or exercise too much you are likely to get thin, very thin and that, too is bad. The ideal is a balance where you exercise enough, and eat the right amount for your level of exercise to maintain a healthy weight, although what that is seems to vary pretty widely from person to person. The most up to date research on elderly people seems to indicate that's a lot heavier, even into the overweight/obese category, than we thought it was.

If you spend too much time in bed you'll find it hard to hold down a job; too little the same, as you'll be falling asleep on the job. Too much time on your appearance is vanity, too little is slovenliness. Too much time cleaning is obsessive compulsive disorder; too little, a health hazard.

Unfortunately our current government seems to have shipped in a few expert advisors who don't see both ends of the spectrum. They seem to have tunnel vision about the causes of social decline and disorder, and be unable to see that there is a continuum in most areas, which needs interpretation, isn't absolute. For example, they see children out of school as a "thing", and a bad thing at that. Children out of school are children missing from education, children missing from education may slip into criminal behaviour, and are a baaaaad thing. It should be stopped.

The fact that many children out of school are electively home educated, and that this group of children is at the other end of the spectrum from children truanting or missing from school, just doesn't seem to compute. They have a marker for abherrant behaviours and that marker is not attending school and so they lump us in with all the others.

I think the recent child poverty markers are along the same lines: we know that families in which there is a low income are more likely to abuse their children, so let's round up the low income families. They're ignoring the fact that some people make a choice, a literal choice to downsize their income in order to exchange it for quality of life. To give up the commute to the city and spend the time digging the potato patch instead. Not that I think people who have a low income in general should be stigmatized as people neglectful of their children. I would fall into the alert category of low income families, and I strongly resent the idea that I am more likely to abuse or neglect my children.

If you look through the biographies of the rich and famous and their offspring, it seems that very often having more money than sense is a road to disaster, drugs, loss of purpose and a life of aimless addiction. Many of those who grew up in poverty would say that they were poor, but happy. Had little, but loved much. It's a continuum, where you cannot draw conclusions by the simple fact of a family's income.

It seems to me that the people in charge of children's services are looking for easy answers... actually, they'd be much happier if they could tattoo the potential criminals, the families who were about to fall by the wayside... they have become obsessed by identifying them, finding them, being seen to be doing something about them.

The trouble is, you can't categorize people like that. And even if you do identify a risk factor, and separate all the people who demonstrate that they fall into that category, it still isn't going to help the powers that be take a decision in the case. In the end, they have to have good judgement about whether an individual family is in crisis and needs intervention, or is doing ok.

The state makes a very bad parent. You only have to look at the group of children for whom they are the parent - those in the care of the local authority - to see what a very bad job they do of it. The children in care are less likely to achieve academically, more likely to descend into criminal behaviour. The care we offer the children who are removed from families by the state is very poor indeed. Radio 4 reported a couple of years ago that the state has lost track of many children by the time they reach 16 - children for whom they are responsible.

I feel we need to regain a balanced view of this, and see that, actually, we need social workers and social services departments who are doing their jobs properly. We can have as many identifying factors, trends and alarm bells as we (or the government) like, but in the end, what is going to matter to a child at real risk, is whether the adults responsible for ensuring their safety can actually do the job.

I know my opinion is controversial, but the other thing I would do is to recognise that the risk of a child being sexually abused by a woman is infinitesimally small, and put women in charge of good loving children's homes where they aren't afraid to hug and kiss the children. The current situation, where people are afraid to be alone with a child, and the child gets no loving touch at all from the adults in their lives is just as damaging, I do believe, as the sexual abuse such safeguards are designed to protect children from. And though it is uncomfortable for good, loving, non-abusive men to hear, it is true that most of the sexual abuse of children is committed by men. To a quite considerable degree. Please do research this yourself if you doubt me.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I don't usually read a real paper copy of the Daily Telegraph, but the children were seduced by a promise of free chocolates, and so we bought one.

On the letters page was a suggestion by a reader that the possibility of water shortages in warmer summers, combined with the possibility of colder and snowier winters and a shortage of road grit salt, suggested to him that the installation of desalination plants might be a good thing.

It would be good if we had some joined up thinking about the future, really. Floating hydroponics farms may need dragging to warmer climes if the gulf stream diverts away from the UK and we descend into a new ice age. Tethered water-borne housing to replace flooded towns.
Be alarmed. Be *very* alarmed. Be especially alarmed if you have downsized, decided that seeing the children is more important than earning lots of money, and have therefore an income which is less than £29K a year.

The government thinks you are neglecting your children. I am indebted to fellow home educators for the link, which was on this blog post: Prudence is a criminal and will be suitably punished.

My poor MP, the sainted John Randall, has been in receipt of more diatribes and rants from me in the past month than... well I've never been a slacker in the writing-to-your-MP-to-tell-him-what-I-think department. But this is getting ridiculous. I am a law-abiding, caring, upstanding member of society, and I am beginning to feel like an outcast.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Still can't manage to get headlines on the posts on this blog. I have no clue why.

Tom sent me a link to colour changing tiles. These are so wonderful, I want them! Not sure what for, just because they exist and change colour.

Eelco started this morning complaining about the level of sensationalism in the UK press... just as I was thinking that it wasn't too bad because it compares well with Australian levels of journalism. There's a really dire article on global warming which I stumbled upon, which is SO bad, I couldn't believe it was a professional site I was visiting.

I'd got to that site following a link for an online test, which claims to tell people whether they are right or left brain dominant. Despite the blurb on the test saying that most people see it going anti-clockwise, a totally unscientific poll of people I know led me to believe that was untrue: most can see it going clockwise, alternating between clockwise and anti-clockwise or can change it at will.

That led me to wonder what sort of science the claim that it indicated your left or right brain dominance, but I could see no support or references, and following the link to the news site on the Australia website to see if they had more. They don't. I saw the global warming will save lives headline while I was drifting about the site.