14 November 2007

Truant child's mother is fined

From the Oxford Times of 12 October:

A mother has been given a £1,000 fine – the maximum penalty – for not sending her child to primary school in Abingdon ... after her six-year-old child missed almost 50 per cent of classes between February 19 and July 13 this year.
Barry Armstrong, Oxfordshire County Council’s manager for attendance and welfare said: ’This is not the first time we have brought court proceedings against parents who persistently fail to ensure their child attends school. In previous instances the penalty has been a spell in prison. If we are to continue to raise educational standards, we need the children to be at school. It is as simple as that. The law should be obeyed.’ …
Michael Taylor, headteacher of St Edmund’s Primary School – not the school that the six-year-old was attending – said: ‘I do feel we need to make a stand on this. Children’s education is suffering through absence from school. … I think this fine is just and necessary if we are to send out the right message.’

When we were based in North Oxford, we had various part-time voluntary workers, among them the Japanese wife of a Japanese DPhil student. Her daughter was going to a primary school in Oxford. This Japanese lady was a highly intelligent and very efficient person, and was concerned that her daughter learned very little at school. The little girl seemed to spend most of her time painting pictures, watching videos and going swimming. She was not unhappy, her mother said. Her daughter enjoyed doing all these things; it was just that she was not actually learning very much.

The mother had bought some books for home-teaching parents and made sure her daughter did some sums from them every evening, to make up for what she was not doing at school.

The little Japanese girl about whose life at school we were told was a few years older than the girl whose mother has been fined. It seems even less likely that a six-year-old was missing out on anything much in the way of gainful education when she stayed away from school.

Perhaps, for all one knows to the contrary, the girl was slightly precocious and was learning nothing at school on the days she attended, even if anything was being taught, because she was slightly in advance of her age group. In modern schools, a child would not have to be very remarkable to be in this position.

When I reached the school going age of five, the local primary school entreated my parents not to send me. There would be no way, they said, that they could explain to the other parents how it was that I could already do everything.

11 November 2007

Detective dramas and centralisation

Centralised psychology is territorial psychology; it depends on having a territory within which you are free to act on your own criteria. Socialism is opposed to centralised psychology, or to what one might call individualism. Ultimately the aim of socialism is to deprive the individual of any area within which he is free to know his own mind.

Recently I saw parts of a couple of detective dramas on the television; normally I avoid all television dramas, but I went on watching in order to see how the ideology expressed itself.

The first drama was relatively old-fashioned, it was ‘Cover Her Face’ by P.D. James, supposedly set in the 60s. It was pure class warfare. That is to say, anyone who had any freedom of action, i.e. aristocrats, people of independent means, statusful professionals, etc., was regarded as discredited and to be treated in decentralising ways by the police.

The second drama, part of the Taggart series, was called ‘Double Exposure’ and supposedly depicted modern life. The hero (Jim Taggart) was a working-class police inspector who clearly enjoyed his role of dominating and tormenting everyone with whom he came in contact, particularly middle-class business people, very much as the more middle-class police inspector in the P.D. James drama had done.

Everybody, of every social class, was more or less on tenterhooks about what other people, be it criminals or the police, might think about them, suspect them of, find out about them, or do to them. People who were trying to make money were automatically villains, and doing voluntary work with no pay was a sign of virtue.

It is scarcely possible to think of anyone in this drama who was free from anxiety of social disapproval; Taggart himself was hauled over the coals by a superior for saying the wrong things in the wrong way to the Press.

Not even the working class were nice to one another; they hung one of their number upside down over a motorway in order to extract a confession from him.

The police, enjoying their power to invade and threaten other people’s lives, were the goodies and the only people who seemed to be getting anything positive out of it.

07 November 2007

Reflections on being a philosopher

It is true that few of the best known philosophers had university appointments, but that does not mean that a philosopher (or any other sort of intellectual) can do without one in the modern world. The great revolution has happened, which has virtually destroyed intellectual and cultural activity outside of state-funded universities. All the philosophers I can think of had private incomes of some sort and also had, in effect, a hotel or at least boarding-house environment, which it was then much easier for middle class or upper class people to have regardless of social recognition. (Working class or poor people could be, of course, and occasionally were, supported by the aristocracy.) And, of course, there was not at that time the same social stigma which now leads to the oppression and censorship of those who are having to function outside of socially-recognised academic institutions.

The idea that scientific research and other intellectual activities should be carried out under the auspices of collectivist institutions has arisen along with the idea that what is done in socially-recognised universities should only be done in them. The suppression of scientific and intellectual activities outside of universities has been much more successful than the encouragement of such things within them.

I have been and still am at a great and almost prohibitive disadvantage to those with university appointments in having to finance my own hotel environment from scratch with no means of livelihood. Of course being a woman has made it even harder. Modern ‘feminism’ has not eliminated the advantage which men have of being able to provide themselves with at least a minimal hotel environment by getting a female partner.

* * * * *

Regarding the idea that I am a 'sceptic'. I don’t actually want to advocate philosophical scepticism. If you have been forced into the position of an outsider, as I have, people are always trying to ascribe to you belief systems, whereas in fact you are primarily critical of their belief systems.

Any belief system is occlusive (I mean, it reduces awareness of hard-edged reality). But, of course, if you are trying to get a philosophy DPhil at all you cannot say anything you mean very directly. I would much have preferred to write my thesis as an attack on, say, modern moral philosophy, which is very pernicious and depends on unexamined assumptions that are never questioned. But it would not have got me a DPhil, and even what I did write was too near the bone as an implicit attack on modern philosophy of mind, so that I could very easily not have got the DPhil at all.

So it has got around that I ‘advocate’ philosophical scepticism. It is a bit better than being accused of believing in spiritualism, but not really what I would want to be supposed to be trying to put across.

Anyone working here and having contact with us would become aware of references to the 'existential uncertainty'. Actually this is very integral to my ideas about realism in psychology, but is a little more complicated than simply having a blanket scepticism.