Sunday, May 22, 2005

Even More Respect ...

I read Francis Gilbert's "I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here !" a few months back.

The author is a decent, idealistic liberal type - I remember his dislike of the Kenyan Asian teacher who hated his unruly class because he could do little about their insolence. On one occasion, Gilbert noted disapprovingly, he snapped and struck a child. But Gilbert is a fair writer - he noted without comment that in Kenya he would have had no discipline problems - because he waould have been able to beat any child who stepped out of line.

When even someone like Gilbert disses the Government's ideas on discipline, you know they're in trouble.

Also in the Telegraph, David Selbourne wields the bludgeon with tremendous style, although I'm going to have to look up 'meretricious'. I think the basic argument is "we once had a culture. Now we haven't". I agree.

The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have all squandered their moral inheritances as their policies have converged. In the take-over of Labour by meretriciousness, its nonconformist traditions, rooted in the world of work, in mutual aid and self-improvement have largely gone.

Conservatism's national and civic philosophy, which rested upon a different but equally powerful sense of the common good, has similarly been sacrificed to the thinnest notions of private interest. The mantra of "low taxes and a smaller state" shames the Conservative patrimony, while the nature of Liberal Democrat beliefs escapes identification. That the moral capital of all three parties has been dissipated is not lost on the public, whose contempt for the political process has grown.

On balance, the greatest damage to the body politic has been done under "New" Labour's rule. It has some excuse. The worldwide defeat of the "socialist project" left it without overarching purpose. The search for a replacement cause brought with it shallow opportunism, the honing of public relations skills and a ragbag of nostrums, some of them purloined from its political opponents. Even old Trotskyites restyled themselves - with rimless spectacles and fashionable haircuts - as cabinet ministers and Downing Street advisers in the new amoral dispensation.

Labour's traditional espousal of the virtues of public service, shared by old Conservatism, has given way to market demands. Its commitment to the virtues of self-elevation through education has been undermined by a retreat from fundamental pedagogical disciplines. Its old sense of the need for a social ethic has disappeared in its acceptance of a free-for-all in which each individual is his or her own legislator in matters of conduct. Meanwhile, an uncritical pluralism has devalued the concept of citizenship itself.

The dismantling of much of the public domain, a process started under "Thatcherism", has exacted a heavy toll on the fabric of civil society. Above all, "New" Labour has corrupted and debased most of what it has touched. It is a regime - rather than a government - which has profited and profiteered from office, practised nepotism on an extensive scale, sold peerages, packed the Lords with placemen, and shown a contempt for parliamentary democratic practice.

But the Sunday Times reports on an idea so good it would never be implemented under Labour - or, probably, the Tories. I think we'll have to wait for either a BNP or Sharia administration for this one :

Amitai Etzioni, a German-born American professor who advised Bill Clinton, has argued for humiliating offenders by putting them in a modern form of the medieval stocks.

The professor of sociology at George Washington University advocates making criminals wear signs confessing to their crimes and publishing newspaper advertisements “naming and shaming” drink drivers.

He believes it is more effective and cheaper than putting them in jail where they may become more skilled criminals.

Downing Street sources have cited Etzioni and another academic, Richard Sennett at the London School of Economics, as the inspiration for Labour’s respect agenda.

Sennett, as I noted the other day, doesn't seem to have a clue.

But Mr Etzioni sounds the business. Imagine young Kyle outside Tescos main entrance all Saturday, bearing a sign that said 'I stole money from my gran to buy drugs'.

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