29 April 2014

From heredity to genocide?

Today there was a programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled:
Intelligence – born smart, born equal, born different
According to the Radio Times,
The analysis of inherited intelligence is something of a moral maze ... [does research on this topic] really threaten all our utopian ideas of equality?
Francis Galton
(1822 - 1911)
In 1869 Francis Galton published his book Hereditary Genius, exploring the possible genetic basis of high ability. The idea of hereditary ability had already been of long standing when Galton’s book appeared.

The concept of an ‘intelligence quotient’ (IQ) as a measurable predictor of academic success only started to become of serious interest with the rise in state education. However, IQ soon became unfashionable again, perhaps because studies such as those of Cyril Burt suggested there was a significant inherited component to it, which did not fit with the politics of the time. And so research on IQ was gradually expunged from academic awareness.

IQ began to be referred to as ‘the false hypothesis’, as if it had been intrinsically bound up with the assertion of hereditary ability, whereas in fact the heredity idea had been around since well before the nineteenth century. Dismissing the concept of IQ as dubious also made the idea of heredity per se taboo in academic circles, and it now appears to have become something that is not even ‘talked about in polite society’.*

According to the Daily Mail** preview of the programme, Galton’s ideas
were taken up with lethal enthusiasm in many countries in the early 20th century, leading to the theory of eugenics, sterilisation of the ‘unfit’ and, ultimately, Nazi genocide.
This of course is the standard way in which the concepts of heritability and innate intelligence are nowadays made to seem controversial, to the point that it supposedly becomes reasonable to suppress discussion of them. The argument is that they are somehow responsible for the Holocaust, as well as other atrocities.

An alternative line of argument, which seems no less plausible, is that what made the Holocaust, the Gulags, and various other genocides and human rights abuses possible is the notion that the collective has a right to invade the individual’s territory, provided it is done for the benefit of society.

Accepting this line of argument would make concepts such as ‘the interests of society’, the ‘right of the majority’, ‘social justice’ or ‘state planning’ seem ethically dubious, and would point towards such concepts being strenuously avoided in discussion.

However, in practice this line of argument is never applied.

* David Willetts, The Pinch, p.198
** Weekend Magazine, 26 April 2014

My unfunded independent university, which could be publishing analyses of the complex issues involved in the areas of intelligence and heredity, has been effectively censored and suppressed for decades. Meanwhile, misleading and tendentious material on the topics continues to pour out from socially recognised sources.

13 April 2014

Invitation to members of the Oxford and Cambridge Club

My colleague, Dr Charles McCreery, has been a member of the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London for a
Oxford and Cambridge Club
at dusk
number of years, the membership of which is confined to graduates of the two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.

Charles recently spent the night there after attending a launch party in the City for Hugo Williams, a contemporary of Charles at Eton, whose latest book of poems, I Knew the Bride, has just been published by Faber & Faber.

We would like to issue an open invitation to any member of the Oxford and Cambridge Club to consider moving to Cuddesdon or nearby, either immediately or on their retirement, and becoming associated, in any way that appealed to them, with the work of Oxford Forum.

They might consider investing in a property, either in Cuddesdon or nearby, for use at the weekends or for living in permanently if they were retired.

The village of Cuddesdon is within 3 miles of the M40 to London, and 20 minutes from the Haddenham & Thame railway station which is only 50 minutes by fast train to Marylebone station.

Cuddesdon is on a hill, 3 miles outside the Oxford ring road, so has clean air and good views to the Chilterns, ten miles away.

There is an ancient church in the village, and an Anglican theological college, Ripon College, which can provide conference facilities and accommodation. The village pub, The Bat & Ball, is notable for its excellent and reasonably priced food, and has overnight accommodation.

07 April 2014

Emotional abuse – by teachers and social workers

It seems the government is planning to update the law on child abuse to include ‘emotional cruelty’ as an imprisonable offence.
Changes to the child neglect laws will make ‘emotional cruelty’ a crime for the first time, alongside physical or sexual abuse.
The Government will introduce the change in the Queen’s Speech in early June to enforce the protection of children’s emotional, social and behavioural well-being.
Parents found guilty under the law change could face up to 10 years in prison, the maximum term in child neglect cases.
The change will update existing laws in England and Wales which only allow an adult responsible for a child to be prosecuted if they have deliberately assaulted, abandoned or exposed a child to suffering or injury to their health.
The new offence would make it a crime to do anything that deliberately harmed a child’s ‘physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development’.
This could include deliberately ignoring a child, or not showing them any love, over prolonged periods, damaging a child’s emotional development.
(Daily Telegraph, 30 March 2014)
It is of course ludicrously vague to define a crime in this way. The existing reference to physical health is vague enough, and results in such appalling instances as children being snatched from parents because of supposed risk of obesity, exposure to cigarette smoke, or refusal to let surgeons perform operations of dubious value. The mind boggles at the various ways a definition of emotional harm might be interpreted by zealous and ideologically motivated police or social workers.

We may assume that, whatever suffering a child may be undergoing at home, the intervention into the family and the coercive break-up, involving forced separation of parent from child, is liable to be highly traumatic and cause long-term psychological damage to the child. This aspect of intervention is surely obvious, but is rarely mentioned in such discussions. Nor is the damaging psychological effect on parents discussed.

The analysis being offered in support of the proposed change is highly asymmetric. There is no suggestion that social workers themselves might face prosecution under the new law if their actions damaged the child’s psychological well-being; or that their actions are already doing so in many cases, and that they would therefore have to modify their behaviour if the new law came in.

It seems likely that, after an initial period, a law as vague as this would come to be used to express all manner of disagreement with parental behaviour, and as an excuse for agents of the collective to behave in a destructive manner; not merely in ways which fit with the current image of preventing psychological cruelty, such as deliberate humiliation.

There are many parental practices with which ‘expert’ views on child rearing disagree. Why should all these not also be conveniently classified, in due course, as ‘cruel’? Particularly in a climate where activists such as the Child Action Group (apparently the main driving force behind the current proposal) are constantly pressing for change, in the direction of more activities being recognised as things the legal system should prevent.

For example, it is commonly held to be good for children that they be ‘allowed to fail’. Rather like the phrase ‘emotional cruelty’, this can be interpreted in an almost infinite number of ways. The American Enterprise Institute, describing the book Real Education by Charles Murray (author of The Bell Curve), says that the aim for educating America’s elite should be ‘not to pamper them, but to hold their feet to the fire’. Oxford High School for Girls was recently said to have introduced tests in which it is impossible to score 100 per cent, in order that the girls ‘understand it is acceptable not to be “little Miss Perfect”.’

I would myself regard educational policies such as these as abusive and damaging. Yet ironically, with a law as vague as the one proposed, parents could conceivably be accused of abuse if they fail to adopt such policies themselves. Once it is seen as acceptable for the legal system to adjudicate on the psychological aspects of parenting, one might easily find that nebulous concepts such as ‘allowed to fail’ are being used to attack individual parents’ approaches to child rearing, and hence to break up families.

The idea of blaming parents (but not agents of the collective) for emotional abuse is only making explicit what has been going on, in practice, since the onset of the Oppressive (‘Welfare’) State in 1945.

My parents were accused at various times of ‘not letting me’ meet enough people, or have enough social life; of ‘pushing’ me to get on with taking exams fast, which was actually what I wanted to do, and suffered from being prevented from doing; not compelling me to join the Girl Guides, and so on.

The pressure placed on them – to force me to become a different person, and appear reconciled to arrangements made against my will – successfully ruined my prospects in life and their lives as well, since my father’s health broke down and he was forced to retire early on a breakdown allowance. There was no law at the time of the kind now proposed, or perhaps I might have been taken into care, which would no doubt have been extremely damaging both to my parents and to myself.

I would certainly describe as emotional abuse – or, indeed, as persecution – the pressures placed on my parents, and on myself, by agents of the collective. I would also describe the attitudes of the schools and education authorities involved as sadistic and abusive.

My unfunded independent university, which could be publishing analyses of the complex issues involved in the area of social policy, has been effectively censored and suppressed for decades. Meanwhile, misleading and tendentious material on the topic continues to pour out from socially recognised sources.