Notepad on Life

January 27, 2017

O Canada – sexual assault exposes West’s ‘terminal niceness’

Filed under: foreign,immigration,Kids,school — - @ 9:44 am

Pic courtesy of Harlow Heslop

Countless women descended upon Washington DC last weekend, determined to prove that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by the electoral college system. They’re not backwards in coming forward, women nowadays, be it the marchers, the breast-barers, or the actors with a cause.

I just wish they’d mobilise with equal fervour when it really matters. When a 14-year-old Canadian schoolgirl is sexually assaulted, for example, only to have it put to her afterwards that she needs to cut her assailant some slack.

This latest tale of bleeding-heart madness is said to have begun at what should have been a happy occasion: a high school dance at Fredericton High School, New Brunswick.

“Speaking on condition of anonymity, the girl’s mother said two Syrian students attempted to grind with her daughter at the dance, before one of them began groping her breasts and forced his hand inside her underwear, touching her vagina.” – from The Daily Caller

If the poor girl thought the worst of her ordeal was behind her once her attacker backed off, she could have been forgiven for wondering who was the villain here, once the school’s victim support kicked in.

“…vice-principal, Elaine Kilfillen, worried that the alleged attacker “will become a target in our student population once the rumor mill gets going.” The girl’s mother claimed that school officials encouraged her daughter to understand the alleged attacker’s perspective and consider the effect her clothing may have had.” – ibid. [point of order here – if she’s allowed to remain on school premises in unsuitable clothing, Fredericton High; that one’s on you]

The culprit, who denied the accusation, was suspended for one week. His victim, whose own ‘sentence’ will probably last rather longer, should the allegation be true,  is in therapy.

This account comes from just one or two secondary news sources (disturbingly, a possible reason for this is suggested at the foot of this post) so a cautionary note must be sounded. Should the story be solid, however, then it would be the latest recurrence of a familiar pattern. The Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens speculated for some time over what would happen when political correctness towards women collided head-on with political correctness towards Islam. Slowly but surely, we are beginning to find out. Islam wins.

Oh-so-enlightened Western civilisation makes all the concessions, and what passes for civilisation in parts of the Middle East presses on gleefully through the doors we hold open.

The school’s reported attempt at compassion ensures only that there will be more emboldened young men, more attacks, and more traumatised young women. Former muslim Nabeel Qureshi sets out here (starting at the 3:55 mark) exactly where this misguided approach is destined to lead us.

“I think the term that’s being used for it…is ‘terminal niceness’. We’re being so nice and politically correct, to things that are willing to rip us apart, that it will be the end of us.”

As I write, meanwhile, Emma Watson’s Twitter feed makes no mention of Fredericton, and the town’s edition of the Washington march appears to have had eyes only for a caucasian male with bad hair.

And on the theme of ‘familiar patterns’ – if this tweet is true, then this is another one…


July 22, 2013

End-of-term snapshot of the circle of life

Filed under: Kids,Nostalgia,school — - @ 9:00 am

English: College House Junior School and Playi...Out for my lunchtime walk on Friday, I pass a local junior school and through gaps in the perimeter bushes, I see flashes of the end-of-year festivities. Rounders on the playing field, cries of “Catch it” and “Well done, Jake…”.

And as with a short blast from an old song, I am carried back decades in an instant. The waiting in line to bat, hopping around in the field because your time for standing still is still 30 years off. The looming holiday thrill of what grown-ups call ‘six weeks’ and what a child would call ‘infinity’, if he only knew the word.

Some of those voices I hear will shout in new fields, come September, where the kids are bigger, the work is harder and life’s expectations of them will begin to move into focus.

Before they know it, playground games for them, too, will be just a snatch of glee they hear while escaping the office for a lunchtime stroll. They will discover how distance taints even the happiest memories with sadness, as what was your life feels increasingly like it was someone else’s.

And yet there will still be youngsters on the field. Life’s wheel beginning another turn.

Rounders suddenly seems highly appropriate.

March 27, 2013

“And how far up our own rear ends do you see us being in 10 years’ time…?”

Filed under: business,Education,school — - @ 9:00 am

A friend is ecstatic and rightly so.

Bucking the trend of graduate unemployment with some style, her daughter has secured a position that is hers the moment she graduates this summer.

Amid the congratulations, however, there is one slightly jarring note. She was apparently interviewed by a group of no fewer than five people.

For a teaching job at a primary school.

Interview panel or ego trip?

You decide…

January 31, 2013

Failed trips: a lesson in ugly…

Filed under: Education,school,sex — - @ 6:24 am

My school’s geography field trips used to involve us looking at escarpments or limestone erosion patterns on the Yorkshire moors.

My son’s apparently involve a walk around Peterborough, looking at a total of sixteen roadside condoms and seven abandoned pregnancy test kits, all showing positive.

That idea that you’re supposed to envy youth more the older you get? Not happening so far.

June 15, 2012

Fight for proper English now a guerilla war

Filed under: Education,school — - @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

My dismay over the collapse of the Queen’s English Society was brief.

The laptop and Internet have made it an individualistic world these days, so it seems apt that we should now fight our battles individually, coming together with like-minded souls only in a looser sense than in times gone by.

But rest assured, the fight will go on: in this case the fight to save the English language from the abysmal ‘anything goes’ mentality – bone idleness dressed up as liberalism – so treacherously endorsed by Professor of English Margaret Reynolds last week.

I don’t know how many right-on boxes you have to tick to get a comment piece in the Guardian these days but Prof. Reynolds clearly wasn’t taking any chances.

“English ain’t what it was, but we should celebrate its cultural diversity”

“Celebrate…diversity”. Check.

“But variety in speech and dialect is one of the delights of English”

Celebrate ‘difference’. Check.

“I care more that my students think for themselves, that they develop a critical understanding, so they can set up their own argument.”

Self-expression. So much more progressive than beastly rules and that ‘learning off by heart’ nonsense, as modern comprehensives so wonderfully illustrate. Check.

“The other thing that I value is a respect for the interests and feelings of others. Mispronounced or miss-spelt words worry me a bit. But stumbling over names, or failing to remember them, bothers me more.”

‘Feelings’ trump everything. Check.

“But cultural policing (even of this kind) is always dangerous, because it says that I am right and you are wrong”

And we can’t have judgmentalism, can we? Not at any price. Check.

And now, the counter-revolutionary agenda. From this small corner of the universe, Notepad on Life shall continue to fight for a language that reasonably evolves within parameters made known to all, for two reasons:

First, I happen to think that any Society that allows the small rules to slip will find the big ones crashing around its ears before you can say “split infinitive”.

Second, were I a plumber and found someone crapping in my toolbox, you wouldn’t expect me to let it ride. Well, I am a writer, the English language is my toolbox and when people like Prof. Margaret Reynolds…

I’ll let you complete the analogy.

September 7, 2011

Education? Its dun wunders 4 me

Filed under: school — - @ 6:43 am
Tags: ,

It will hopefully turn out to be the college course of his dreams but yesterday’s induction day sounded more like the stuff of nightmares, when Older Son relayed its content to me across the dinner table.

As if the morning wasn’t bad enough – the idea of just getting to know people naturally as term progressed replaced with one of those ghastly contrivances where the class forms a circle and everyone has to relate one fact about himself to the rest of the group – the afternoon contained a lecture of no less than two hours on those twin modern deities of Diversity and Equality, the counter-productiveness of which was encapsulated perfectly in Older Son’s reflection that he felt slightly more bigoted coming out of it than he had going in…

Sickly motivational and feel-good posters all around the college completed his initial assessment of the kind of people who run the place.

But then, in fairness, time must hang heavy on their hands when the impeccable calibre of British schools these days leaves them with so little to work on by the time their mid- and late-teen intake shows up for class.

Just scanning the timetable OS has been given for the rest of this week, for example, I note that one morning will include a welcome speech from the college ‘Principle’ [sic].

I think I’m starting to see what the goal is with education in this country. Utopia will be reached when everyone, regardless of colour, creed or sexual orientation, is just as thick as everyone else.

And we’re right on target.

March 10, 2011

The hollow ring of synthetic kindness

Filed under: Kids,school,sex — - @ 10:45 pm

It’s not like the bullying that made him change schools in the first place, he assures me.

This is the dripping tap variety. It doesn’t frighten you; it simply wears you down. As being the butt of countless schoolyard ‘paedophile’ jokes will do.

So much for coaching courses broadening your horizons. He’d taught rugby to under-12s about 18 months ago. Enjoyed it, because he’s always related better to those younger or older than him, than he does to his own age group.

The kids enjoyed it too and when one of them fell and hurt himself and his coach took him to the school nurse for some treatment, it was the most natural thing in the world for the younger child to take the older one’s hand as they walked.

Alas, the older one’s peers saw it. And so it began.


This much I already knew and I could just about imagine the dulling, wearying effect on the soul, of so baseless an insult somehow managing to run for 18 months and counting.

It’s what I didn’t know, however, that pains me the most.

“One of the teachers came up to me afterwards and said that perhaps I shouldn’t have held the kid’s hand,” he now tells me.

He was 15 at the time. Fifteen years old and your lesson for the day is How Not to Look Like a Paedophile.

A young child is upset, dazed and in need of comfort but you keep your distance. For appearances’ sake. The smart play.

I surely can’t be alone in seeing the irony of this. All the rules and protocols we’ve come up with – from health and safety to sexual propriety – supposedly designed to produce a kinder, fairer Society and what have they made us?

A people more detached, more reserved and more suspicious. An already selfish species now positively encouraged to cover its own back before covering for its neighbour.

I feel just about as desolate as he does.

March 1, 2011

Bedford book ban – facts and bluster don’t add up

Filed under: school,sex — - @ 6:52 am
Tags: , ,
Water for Elephants

Image via Wikipedia

Having raised an eyebrow at some of the content in books set for my own son’s English course, I’m not surprised to learn that some parents are kicking up a stink in New Hampshire, USA over the reading material being put before their kids.

“A second book has been pulled from the Bedford High School curriculum following complaints about its sexual content by the same parents who started the argument about “Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America,” which was removed from the high school’s personal finance course last month” – from The Nashua Telegraph, brought to my attention via

Nor am I exactly stunned by some of the high-falutin’ outrage of those commenting on the report, with ‘Nazi’, ‘tyrant’, ‘Victorian’, ‘censorship’ et al given a predictable airing.

First, the substance of the complaint – extracts of Water for Elephants can be read here, here and here. My understanding is that it was offered as optional reading (parental consent required) for 13-year-olds.

Second, the protagonist. I might stand shoulder to shoulder with Dennis Taylor in his dismay at what he read but his way of making his case would not be mine. His is but one voice, one opinion and he seems to have lost sight of that fact in the midst of his indignation. I’d also like to know what he has in mind when he talks of people behind the decision to incorporate Water for Elephants, being fired or terminated from the School Board…

This apart, and for all that I accept the argument that it is ultimately for parents to teach their children how to process anything they might read, I too am unhappy with material of this type cropping up in schools.

I believe it’s yet another aspect of a Society that is fixated upon the groin. Sex is a wonderful thing and as much fair game for discussion as any other facet of life but are we so incapable of finding fulfilment elsewhere that we have to keep coming back to it in debate, like fat kids to a sweetshop? The sexualised bombardment we endure from the media seems to have spawned a belief that we can’t engage properly with life, through art or education, unless there is a sexual element to be addressed in there somewhere. I’m afraid I don’t buy it.

Film directors can protest until they are blue in the face but I maintain that you can count on one hand the films that would lose anything whatsoever were their sex scenes hinted at instead of graphically played out. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the latter option being taken occasionally but its absence wouldn’t diminish the film as art. I’m also a little older than 13.

Similarly, there’s an idea out there, it would appear, that unless children are regularly addressing sexuality while at school, their education is incomplete and they will trip out through the school gates at 16, a bunch of naive, vulnerable Pollyannas.

Unfortunately, the full-on, candid approach favoured by some educationalists  is resulting in something as bad, if not worse; a generation of youngsters who reach puberty under the impression that sex is just another commodity, like cigarettes or a loaf of bread.

That they should be left in no doubt as to what it involves and its consequences is not in dispute but I question whether sex education goes much beyond that nowadays, or is it deemed unwarranted interference to teach young people about the emotional context in which sex most comfortably sits?

The fact is, sex needs a little mystique. Not ignorance, I grant you, but a little reverence, magic, call it what you will. It’s a big deal, not least because of the huge physical and psychological backlash that can result when it’s indulged in callously or irresponsibly. You’re most definitely not just buying cigarettes here and merely showing a 12-year-old how condoms function doesn’t come close to ticking the ‘sex education’ box.

When you present books like Water for Elephants to young- or mid-teens and passages involving strippers, erections and tongues sliding around nipples are read out in class, you take another step towards commodifying sex. Once again, it is reduced to the everyday, the humdrum. No big deal; we even talk about in English. I would question whether sex-as-routine is a great mindset for any young person to carry into adult life.

Point is, I don’t think schools lose any credibility if they rise above this and refuse of their own accord to put literature on their programme that incorporates sexual content. In fact, if they did this already, I doubt we’d have heard a whisper of complaint from any quarter, because anyone objecting to a school’s insistence on being an oasis amid 21st century culture knows he or she would get some very odd looks indeed.

And if Water for Elephants and its like are such vital reading for this age group, I’m sure the authors, as creative artists, would consider themselves duty-bound to write an edited version for the younger audience.

Of course teenagers will read the racy stuff out of school hours. I can still remember reading Sven Hassel‘s WWII novels in my teens and being shocked to learn that it wasn’t my generation that invented the f-word. But it’s for parents to monitor that and act as they see fit. And it’s for teachers to know how to guide – not terminate, guide – the ensuing discussion when such extra-curricular reading material is mentioned in class.

We lose nothing if the bar gets raised whenever our children go to school, by a syllabus that keeps minds above the waist and sex confined to biology lessons, where it’s presented as more than just an exercise in mechanics. For just a few hours each day, kids would get to study art, literature, history, philosophy and science and have their minds opened to the possibility that satisfied living revolves around so much more than just the genitals.

If that sounds ‘repressive’, some Nashua Telegraph commenters may be pleasantly surprised by its long-term consequences.

February 11, 2011

Liberty / apathy border goes up in smoke

Filed under: Kids,school,Tobacco — - @ 6:16 pm

“…and then he apparently rubbed his tobacco in the other student’s hair.”

Right at the end of a lengthy chat about my son’s progress at school and what needs putting right, his teacher mentions a skirmish that he’s supposed to have got into while on the school bus.

Even more than the fact that he hasn’t been smoking for the best part of a year, I’m struck by how the reference to “his tobacco”, is made purely in passing. Time was when it would have been item 1 on the rap sheet.

But now? A 16-year-old is supposed to have smokes on him and his school act like it’s a bunch of pencils.

I can imagine all sorts of reasons I could be offered for this.

Young adults needing their space.

Personal liberty.

And, of course, the overbearing imperative to avoid judgementalism.

No doubt I should rejoice that he and his generation are so free. So why is it I have this nagging sense of young people not being looked out for quite as much as they once were?

And why doesn’t it feel remotely like progress?

September 16, 2010

Teachers who’d be one of the gang – they still don’t get it

Filed under: Kids,school — - @ 11:07 pm

He’s in Sixth Form now and starting to see those who teach him for what they are.

The jokers who try to be so cute, they just become irritating.

The subtle bullies who harbour grudges just as fervently as any 14-year-old, apparently trained in every facet of child protection save for the blatantly obvious: that bad youngsters who’ve changed deserve some carrot to go with the stick.

Then there are the would-be cool cats, who think their disorganisation points to the child within instead of just an utter lack of professionalism.

This comes completely unprompted from his lips: “It’s the teachers who expect discipline but are fair with it: they’re the ones who get the best out of me.”

We might have to talk about ‘Year 12’  rather than ‘Sixth Form’ these days but it’s good to know that the important details remain timeless and imperishable.

Beware, as always, of the school teacher who would be ‘your mate’.

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