Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Deja vu, it would seem.

January 20, 2009

The DCFS is going for another round of consultations on home education policy. Technically, as we’re in Scotland, this isn’t immediately relevent. That said, we’re not likely to be north of the border forever and how homeschoolers are viewed is something that everyone should be concerned about, particularly as I’ve heard that this particular review is inspired by cases uncovered by the Crown Prosecution Service of children being listed as homeschooled when in fact they were forced into marriages. Here is my response:

Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

No.

Comments: I don’t think it is acceptable that home educators do not necessarily have to make themselves known to the government. I also believe it is a mistake that, as far as I’m aware, the identities of home educators are kept by councils–there should be a centralized database that councils pull information from. Beyond names and addresses, I don’t believe the government is entitled to further information as 1. the government cannot ensure that the level of safety and education is sufficient within its own schools and 2. home educating parents are entitled to the same assumption of innocence and competence that parents of schooled children enjoy until there is evidence to the contrary.

Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

Be healthy

Yes

Comments: Parents are in the best position to monitor and ensure good health, and the government should assume that the vast majority of parents will do so.

Stay safe

Yes

Comments: It stands to reason that as parents tend to have the keenest interest in keeping their children safe, having more contact with them can only lead to increased safety. The thrust of questions relating to safety seem to be a veiled attempt to assess opinions on the degree to which home education is or can be used as a cover for abusive practices. I think, however, this is the result of faulty logic. There is no reason to assume that more abuse occurs in home educating households. Just as the government doesn’t uncover pockets of illegal activity in schools by turning the entire student population upside-down and shaking them, neither will Orwellian monitoring of home educators be an effective means of revealing child abuse. This mindset and the actions that follow from it only damage the home educating community and make them more distrustful of the government and its policies.

Enjoy and acheive *it makes me warm inside when education reps can’t spell ;)*

Yes

Comments: Again, parents can best assess the interests and abilities of their children and in the majority of cases will work to satisfy their needs.

Make a positive contribution.

Yes

Comments: While the desire to make a positive contribution has a great deal to do with intrinsic motivation and personality, home educating families are just as likely to provide the kinds of role-models that inspire such activities as schooling families. It is hurtful to home educators to imply otherwise.

achieve economic well-being

Yes

Comments: The ability to have economic well-being, whatever that is, is subject to so many factors and varies so widely across the entire population that I really don’t think this question merits a response, as indeed it cannot be answered honestly or in an informed way.

Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

No

Comments: I think the focus is misdirected. The government can hardly ensure that these goals are achieved in its own schools. Rather than focusing so keenly on intangibles like testing in schools and endless home education policy reviews, time and resources should be spent in making the country a friendlier and more supportive environment for families generally.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: A home educated child should be entitled to the same level of government financial investment in learning materials and experiences as a schooled child. This should be a policy across the education system. More should be done for children who are being home educated because of failings on the part of the school/s. Certain community investments in the education of all children would be helpful. For example, children should be provided with free or deeply discounted public transport to encourage more outings. Policy-makers tend to overlook the fact that parents with children in school as well as homeschooling parents often find it difficult to find suitable work arrangements. In fact, the government ought to swiftly reverse the overall trend of encouraging work over family life.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: Once a child is identified as being home-educated, there should be no monitoring unless there is evidence to suggest his or her rights are being breached.

Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Answer: Abusive parents likely exist in similar proportion across all the spectrum of educational choice, and certainly many abuse in ways that are not readily detectable, even with monitoring. The government needs to accept that it is not wise nor is it even feasible to isolate a particular population with no proven increased risk of abuse and subject them to undue scrutiny. There needs to be a point at which the government can accept that it cannot read the hearts and minds of its populace and does not allow itself to engage in civil rights abuses simply so it can feel proactive.

*****

Saying that kids should all get funding is a tricky issue, I know. Basically, I don’t think that money should be the main entitler to a good education. Neither should testable/assessible ability! A poor child who doesn’t test well is left to the postcode lottery, which, from what I understand of government schools in this country, he’s unlikely to win. Some will argue that many private schools have bursaries, etc., but what if the child lacks parents who have the necessary awareness and wherewithal? And a bursary doesn’t alleviate the stress of having to compete to be able to attend a school. Does it seem right that a child is tested to be allowed his education, tested repeatedly while he’s receiving it, and then tested hugely at its completion? Is the stress associated with simply growing up and being deemed as having a proper chance at a successful life worth it? Is it not in itself a kind of human rights breach?

It’s simply unacceptable that there is such variance in school quality and that the bad ones are truly dire. If the government cannot find a solution, then it really is sort of left with the idea that keeps getting thrown around by US Republicans–the voucher system, which assumes that competition heals all. It seems to me that what is needed is a policy U-turn with regards to working with children, as I mentioned above, and a clear vision of a family-friendly culture. I’d say a good starting point would doubling the number of people working in education, and ensuring each of them, even those in support roles, earn a meaningful wage. You cannot change a nation of failing schools with endless policy consultations, particularly the pointless finger-pointing sort. Most people understand the importance of happy, educated children. What we need are lots more heads and hands on the ground assessing real problems and creating real solutions. As a society we generally need to be more friendly and responsive toward children, while at the same time challenging them to be good people. I get the general sense that children just really aren’t looked after very much. We plop them in front of a Disney film at the first holler when they’re tiny, and we continue keeping them disengaged thus until we deem it’s time they did something with their lives. I feel very bad for today’s teenagers, because now they also have to step into an adult world that is very badly off, because the grownups who were meant to keep the economy strong were similarly tuned out..

I dunno. It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the only reason I’m awake is because I have heartburn. 😛 I’m sure most of what I wrote will seem nonsensical after I’ve slept a bit. Yeah truly, I should definitely do my part for a child-friendly world and get enough sleep such that I’m not beastly to the kids tomorrow. 😉

On copping out..

October 26, 2008

..at election time.

If you read what I write, listen to my drivel, etc., it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t found a home in either of our two major political parties. It’s also been hard to place myself amongst some of the alternatives. Some parties would have us eschew centralized government completely, which I think is unrealistic and would merely have us governed by the corporations that provide the services we crave. Others would have us so dominated by Washington D.C. that we would be completely at the mercy of TPTB (if indeed we aren’t already..). I’ve also aged into a sort of distaste for the mindless lefties that have appeared, noisily and with dred locks whipping in the wind, as liberalism has become ‘on trend.’ They’re almost as obnoxious as the equally asinine folks on the right who persist in laboring under the delusion that the general election is the meaningful time to vote the moral(istic) line, and then wonder why the neocon Republicans have a carte blanche to do whatever the hell they like with the vast American ‘moral majority’ bolstering them up. The Democrats don’t represent folk like me, and the Republicans no longer represent their supporters either. What an interesting situation. This is our two-party State, my friends.

I should point out that I have nothing against non-progressives. You don’t have to share my superb political insights for me to like you ;). I also have nothing against dred locks. Indeed, I endeavor to have an enviable set in 40 years time or so.

A couple months ago, I managed to corner John Taylor Gatto at a home education conference in Arbroath. I was keen to quiz the guy on the relative merits of voting for a less horrid candidate who has a chance of getting in or voting for who I believe would actually do the sort of work I believe needs doing. He thought there was great value in voting for the alternatives. He cited the example of Perot making people nervous when he managed to get a chunk of the popular vote in ’92. Of course there’s also the still-debated effect of Nader on the Florida race in ’00. Then he brought up Ron Paul as an interesting possibility. I think the man is fairly charming, with his Dr. No moniker and his actually attempting to adhere to the constitution, but..oh dear. I’m way too much of a cynic to believe that the sort of deregulation and governmental non-interference his sort of libertarians propose would see the average poor person treated very well. You can build more community autonomy without corporate laissez-faire. In that sense, I lean much more toward the Green Party.

There is also the issue of my home state. I come from Idaho, a state that hasn’t voted in a Democrat since ’64, and then only by a thin margin. In this case, given that McCain is projected to win 2 to 1, do I vote ‘not republican’ or ‘not any of this status quo nonsense’? Do I dare hope the enthusiasm that Obama has stirred up will reach the hearts of my beloved compatriots? Or do I make a statement vote for a party I actually believe in?

In the end, for better or worse, I admit that I fell for the glamour. I did ‘cast’ my absentee ballot for Obama, and for every other Idaho non-republican nominee I could color in an oval next to. I did feel quite awkward voting for positions other than president. I haven’t lived in Idaho for more than 4 years–do I really have a right to help determine the direction of a place that isn’t my home? After giving it some thought, I decided that, if anything, I’m a more informed voter now than I was when I did actually have a Moscow zip code. It is also a right afforded to me, when it comes down to it, and perhaps it’s a bit self-indulgent to worry myself over it.

As I get older I am more determined that it is the day to day living out of one’s political and social views that makes the difference. As I live and speak and write, hopefully I will have a positive influence and people will associate those influences with the ideals I try to embody. This is the hard graft of being a good citizen, but it’s the meaningful bit and I’m suppose I’m happy to give it a go. In the meantime, y’all remember to go cast your ballots!

‘Let’s be clear’…

October 23, 2008

…to quote an Obamaism.

I am going to do my part for election-season clarity. Not many people read this blog, and not all of the people who do agree with my positions on things. I’m really sick, however, of reading homeschooler propaganda about Obama opposing their education choice. In case there is any doubt amongst my friends here, I invite you to google ‘Obama position homeschooling.’ The gist is, you will quickly find, he considers it a choice to be honored.

There. People who have visited my site will no longer be able to use homeschooling as an issue over which to hate Obama. Of course people can get all hinky about the issue of degree of approval, but they can’t say he’s looking for a blanket ban and to march 2-year-olds into the schoolyard at gunpoint. I’m feeling very patriotic now.

Hello, my friends

October 8, 2008

Right, should comment on the last two debates. Tonight’s was, well, boring. McCain should consider using the surplus imagination he has for coming up with phantom Obama policies to come up with some of his own that actually make some sense. The debate quickly became an irritating ‘you said this’, ‘no I didn’t’ match. The most reasonable thing at that point was to come up with a McCain drinking game. I wasn’t drinking, tbh, feeble teetotaller that I am. James was doing fine though, drinking when he heard key words like reform, maverick, ‘reach across the aisle’, Petraeus, and surge. He quickly ran out of beer when we upped the stakes by adding the phrase, ‘my friends.’

The Palin-Biden debate was shocking. I had not seen the infamous Katie Couric interview at that point, and failed to understand the supposed mass exhale of relief of McCain campaigners when she finished without any major gaffes. I was completely boggled–the woman was only impressive in how she managed to sound simultaneously patronizing and ill-informed, all whilst talking by the seat of her pants as she clearly had no intention of staying on topic. I nearly fell in love with Biden for his inhuman patience and measured tone of voice. Doggone it. (Good god, that the word ‘doggone’ should go down in the history of vice-presidential debate transcripts…) Anyway, I was compelled to go look online for that interview and came up with the following:

Link

Granted, it’s a Saturday Night Live spoof, but just watch. About halfway through you’ll see the Palin original.

FFS.

By the way, I’m a bit concerned that I might have sprained my middle finger, what with all the gesturing at the TV on James’ behalf in response to the repeated claims of America’s superiority in all conceivable arenas of life.

McCain vs Obama

September 29, 2008

So I watched the last half of the debate..because you have to be an insomniac in the UK to be up-to-the-minute with US politics. Of course by the time I’ve gotten around to posting this, it’s really old hat. Ah well. Some noteworthy things were said.

Most surprising was the number of commentators who thought that McCain did really well. I thought he was both patronizing and nervous, and was much too emotive for proper debate. Then I remember that I’ve lived in the UK for four years and have forgotten that that sort of BS works back home.

Some extra-bollocksy ideas from McCain:

“What I have proposed for a long time, and I’ve had conversation with foreign leaders about forming a league of democracies, let’s be clear and let’s have some straight talk.” Super Democracy League! Basically the UN, but without the annoyance of having to have anyone agree with us. This is unsurprising really, as he comes from the party that founded the Ramrod School of Evangelistic Democracy.

“..the fragile sacrifice that we’ve made of American blood and treasure, which grieves us all.” Let’s be honest–it’s been chinese treasure that we’ve spent. (Obama: “They now hold a trillion dollars’ worth of our debt.”)

“I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes, and I saw three letters, a “K,” a “G,” and a “B.” And their aggression in Georgia is not acceptable behavior.” Whether or not his assessment of the Georgia situation is correct, is that sort of talk really helpful? Does Putin publicly say, “I look into Senator McCain’s eyes and I see 4 letters–PTSD!”?

“My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat..” Hmm, existential..is it not then the French who are really behind our nuclear crises? I mean we already know that they’re the unspoken point on le axis of evil, wantonly disagreeing with us as they are apt to do..

Some less bollocksy points from Obama:

“And the problem, John, with the strategy that’s been pursued was that, for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic. We had a 20th-century mindset that basically said, “Well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he’s our dictator.”” Hahaha..Thank you!

“He would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain.” Enough said, really.

“You’re absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, you know, coming from you, who, you know, in the past has threatened extinction for North Korea and, you know, sung songs about bombing Iran, I don’t know, you know, how credible that is.” He shares my bad habit of profusely scattering ‘you know’s throughout sarcastic commentary, but the point stands. Bomb-bomb-bomb..bomb-bomb-Iran..

“I — I don’t think that Senator Obama understands..” followed by only vaguely related name and event dropping. It’s funny for him to imply that Obama lacks experience. Twenty-some-odd years of making dodgy decisions in government don’t uniquely qualify a person to make good decisions as president. One might be forgiven for assuming the opposite. I also have to say that it disappoints me a great deal that Obama is accused of coming across of professorial. You mean coming across as studied and composed, and, dare I say, intellectual is considered a flaw in the US? God help us..

Following on from that was the bit about the bracelet. He’s got a special one from a mom wanting one thing. Obama has one from another mom wanting another. McCain touts himself as being the champion of the veterens–condescendingly, if you ask me, like they are so many orphaned puppies–while Obama is the one to have said that no soldier ever dies in vain, period.

McCain: “And I love them. And I’ll take care of them. And they know that I’ll take care of them. And that’s going to be my job.” Look, this is going to sound really bad, but whenever McCain talks about veterans that Charlie Daniels ‘Still in Saigon’ song plays in my head. Nobody doubts his connection, but I think that sort of emotionalism makes a person fairly myopic in a job that requires a level of detachment. The republican party is not known for investment in social issues, even veteran-related ones. Maybe this is where the ‘Maverick’ bit is supposed to kick in? Sheesh..

Obama: “And one last point I want to make. It is important for us to understand that the way we are perceived in the world is going to make a difference, in terms of our capacity to get cooperation and root out terrorism. And one of the things that I intend to do as president is to restore America’s standing in the world…we, I think, are going to have a lot of work to do in the next administration to restore that sense that America is that shining beacon on a hill.” Wouldn’t that be something? I mean, I’m not going to hold my breath, but it is nice to hear someone talk as though we are citizens of the world and not simply out to play King of the Mountain on a grand scale.

I could go back and read the first part of the debate, which apparently focused on the economy, but I don’t have the energy. I will, however, share my new life goal–to get a presidential candidate to wear my toe ring.

Voting Overseas Adventure

September 10, 2008

Because I was such a bad, bad person 4 years ago, I did not vote for ousting Bushpresident in the last election. I don’t intend to make that mistake again. My excuse ran something along the lines of my hailing from Idaho, an overwhelmingly red state (see wikipedia article with map of red and blue states) and there really not being any point in submitting anything other than a statement Green vote. I understand that’s really irresponsible of me. It’s hypocritical to rant about representative government and not participate in elections.

That said, it’s only today that I’m filling in my request for an absentee ballot. My memory doesn’t always keep up with my good intentions. Anyway, if there are any other stragglers living abroad, this is a useful website to check out: Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Now, to decide whether to vote by conscience, or by pragmatics…*sigh*

Girl you know it’s true..

June 30, 2008

ooo..ooo..ooo..my friend is so rad. Seriously, have a look at my birthday present from K!

She has fashioned a bowl and plate and gift box out of a Milli Vanilli double album–that she had in her attic! I’m just so overwhelmed that not only did she make something so freaking cool for me herself, but she would have remembered whatever random conversation we had in which I would have indicated the influence of this band in my formative years. 😀

Lots of other random things, beginning with:


an instance of cute..


..followed by an instance of WTF McGyvering. Any ideas what this is? The yarn should be a clue. It’s a ghetto DIY yarn swift! How to make: get a camera tripod, a drill, and a gently sloping circular laundry basket. I think you can figure out the rest. Because the tripod is so short, I did also need a small end table. It works stupid well.


I told Joseph to make an ‘unimpressed’ face.

Speaking of unimpressed, I know it’s unhealthy to fan the flames of resentment that ever burn within me, but I need to vent. You’ve all been bowling, you’ve all strategically placed your shopping bags and children to help conceal from the staff the fact that you’ve refused to wear their funky-ass shoes (right? have I become too OCD?), and I know you’ve all latched on to the one special ball they have that is a reasonable weight, doesn’t pop all your fingers when you bowl, and doesn’t smell of mystery grease. Well, you can imagine my ire when the wee boy in the following photo stole my ball! Let’s forget for a moment that the combined children of our party had hoarded 20 or so on our own racks. Why did he have come and take mine?!


Just to rub it in, Turd Boy’s mum handles my ball! Later she had the gumption to come ask for one of our ramps. I plotted ways to save my ball, but alas I’m only inwardly nervy. So instead I creepily took photos of them.


My ball..

So, on to less insane things..

Or not..this cake makes me weep with squee:

Your initial impression of this tool may be as mine, that it looks fairly lame. But pick a couple colors and see what eye candy comes up. It generates a selection of flickr photos that have been labelled as ‘interesting’ that include your choices. Pretty fun. Found a good wallpaper that way anyway.

This article, posted by the Humanist Society Scotland on the positions of various political parties with regard to education, is interesting. I can sum it up fairly quickly. It covers issues such as secularism, religious practice, diversity, ethics, and creationism. Scottish Government’s position: how quickly they’ve learned to speak cop out! Greens, Liberal Democrats, and Socialists: thank you for being mostly reassuring that all in government is not insanity. Conservatives: predictably, ugh. Labour: ha, didn’t bother to comment at all. Telling? *sigh*

It’s almost 3 in the morning and I have a full day of shopping tomorrow. Not the fun kind. The ‘oh shit, this is my last free day before the move’ kind. Where we’re moving everything must be mail order or acquired with the help of public transport. That said, our new ‘shopping town’ is going to be Perth, a definite improvement I’m hoping.

Organic = world starvation?

March 17, 2008

Further to my blathering about trying to eat ethically..which in itself seems a bit rich, pardon the pun, given that I’m part of a scant percentage of the world population that’s privileged enough to be able to give over the time and money to doing so. Cynical consumer guilt is fun. So, I was reading some criticisms of organic farming. There were some decent points, assuming their facts were accurate. I had always assumed that the state of the world food supply was that we produce enough, but are woefully inefficient at distributing it. Apparently, that’s not the case. The exploding population has, according to some, pushed the need for food to a point that only intensive mono-culture farming can provide enough sustenance. Organic farming comes into an obvious clash with this reality in that it is lower-yield. The proponents of intensive farming argue that by using existing land more aggressively, we are actually preventing deforestation. Organic farmers would counter that they are protecting biodiversity and keeping toxins in the environment to a minimum. I honestly don’t know what to think. Population needs to be managed somehow, but in the meantime people need to be fed. On the other hand, what’s the point of perpetuating the species in the way that we do if our grandkids are to be handed a toxic planet to manage?

From a consumer point of view, I suppose what makes sense is to minimize inefficiency by buying locally-produced food where possible. From a political/social/etc. point of view I don’t know that organic farming will ever be achievable world-wide, but certainly it should be encouraged where practical. I think that ameliorating the myriad issues relating to population will produce the positive gains necessary to make widespread organic farming feasible. For example, people should perhaps consider eating less meat, as the land and water it will free up for feeding other humans will be substantially increased. Where it is not necessary to have large families, more ought to be done to provide access to birth control. Maybe we should be more critical of food pornographers who equate quality of life with meals prepared with ingredients that must be sourced from all over the planet. It also wouldn’t hurt for governments to legislate such that food is treated less as a commodity that is tied to profit and more as a resource that no one should be denied access to, but that requires much more optimism than I’m comfortable with :P.

Was reading the news..

January 9, 2008

..about the primaries, as one does. There was a bit about McCain, as seen below…

…which gave me a bit of a fright. Not because he might become president (well..that’s another story), but because of this:

…does he not look like Ad’har Ru’afo from Star Trek Insurrection? Well doesn’t he???

Speaking of primaries, I need to get this off my chest–I can grin and bear my loved ones voting republican, and in fact am happy to do so. That said, I will smack anybody in my family or social circle that votes for Huckabee or Thompson. I could follow on with a rant or I could just leave it, and I think I’ll show an uncharacteristic grace and go for the latter.

I’m not totally disappointed!

November 8, 2006

Some key excellent points from the election-
-First female House speaker: Nancy Pelosi
-First Muslim congressman: Keith Ellison
-First socialist senator: Bernie Sanders
-First black northern governor: Deval Patrick in Massachusetts

Of course gaining the house is fantastic news. By gaining, I should say wresting from the republicans, since I’m certainly not a democrat. South Dakota’s near-total ban on abortion has also been overturned, which is a victory for, um, consistency? As much I couldn’t personally tolerate the notion of having an abortion, I’m not going to pretend that the cultural trend isn’t leaning heavily towards considering certain kinds of human killing ok. Indeed, it’s some of the already fully sanctioned forms that should concern us more–the death penalty, warfare, poverty…

It will be interesting to see who ends up running for the 2008 presidential election. Perhaps even more interesting will be seeing how Bush ends up tip-toeing around/stomping through the ranks of opposition for the duration of his term.