Friday 31 October 2008

Poisonous tolerance

If you want to understand how our society and particularly our schools, have been largely robbed of the ability to transmit any sense of order, meaning and respect to the young, you need to look at the work of Carl Rogers and his like. These are the psychologists who brought non-directive (later called client-centred) therapy into the school system. So disastrous were their theories that they practically destroyed a large teaching order of nuns, and resulted in the closure of schools.

But the ideas are very seductive., and have been imported wholesale into our thinking about education, particularly in areas such as drug awareness, and sex ed. I got excited when reading Rogers’ Freedom to Learn: it seemed so humane and tolerant. But it is actually a poisonous tolerance that robs children of their ability to benefit from the knowledge, experience and accumulated wisdom of civilised society (and particularly, the Church). I discovered, thanks to The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog (link in sidebar) an interview with Wiliam Coulson, who worked with Rogers as his right-hand man for many years. This reveals how the approach works in practice and is fascinating, if tragic reading.
You will find the article at

Thursday 30 October 2008

Half term

This week is half term and the kids have been having a great time. Charlie and Dominique have been on a retreat on Lindisfarne for a few days (their first) and enjoyed it immensely. Meanwhile, Ant and Bernie, along with Anna and I, went to visit another countercultural family we know who live in the Lake District. We walked up Blencathra which was stunning, with a dusting of snow on top, and fantastic views of the Lake District under a crisp blue sky.

Now we are all back together, Ant led the kids on an expedition today: I dropped them off a few miles away, they climbed a local hill, set up camp (including a tent for wind protection!) and cooked lunch - only slightly impeded by having left the can opener behind (they used a tent peg). Then they walked home with all the kit on their backs.

They are now all practicing their various instruments before curling up with hot chocolate beside the fire.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Pro LIfe Doctor Talks

This morning our local pro-life group were priviliged to have a talk by an eminent doctor. He was filling us in on the reasons for celebration and for concern following the weeks’ events in Westminster.

On the one hand, the government lost its nerve with regard to amending the Abortion Act, which saved us from an even more pr0-death set of policies (only one doctor required to certify the need for an abortion, abortion on unlicensed premises (ie every GPs clinic an abortion centre), nurses able to prescribe abortifacient drugs etc etc. This was probably due to the controversial nature of any changes, the Labour party’s current fragility and impending local and general elections, exacerbated by effective pro-life pressure.

On the other hand, with regard to embryonic research we now have in practice no real restrictions - as even the tentative one proposed lack substance as terms are undefined. So the creation of admixed (human animal hybrid) embryos is now legal. as is the creation of embryos as training tools for doctors wishing to learn IVF techniques and so on.

moreover simple concepts like parent have been so mixed up and complicated as to undermine any real meaning. Thus two lesbians may be the 'parents' of a child who may be genetically related to neither, and so on.

One of the key points was that this confusion is inherent in an approach that 'drives a coach and horses through the natural moral law.' So Aristotle, Plato and Hippocrates would all have been aghast at what we are doing: it does not take Christian revelation (or Moslem teaching) to enable any person of good will to see that we are embarking on foolish ways...

Thursday 23 October 2008

Compulsory Sex Ed

The UK government is to announce its plans for compulsory sex education in schools in England today.

This is a great case of: the policy's not working so let's do more of it!

Despite (or because of) pushing condoms down our kids' throats at every opportunity, STDs in teenagers are soaring catastrophically, under-age abortions are up 10% and every other indicator is that the policy doesn't work.

Moreover, localities targeted for specific sex ed drives have fared worst (see my previous posts on the sex ed tag for details).

And of course it will be non-judgemental (again see my previous posts for analysis of the dangers of that).

Interestingly a BBC survey (BBC mark you, who are very pro sex ed etc) found that the vast majority of parents think sex ed should be done in the home: a totally healthy and correct perspective. That can be found here:

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Plan to live chastely?

Sign the pledge (in the side bar).

And have the additional satisfaction of telling those simple folk at CAFOD and their friends what's really important - even more so than energy saving lightbulbs...

Monday 20 October 2008

Non Judgemental or plain dishonest?

The BBC reports ( that the Scouting movement in Britain will be offering information and advice on sex to Explorers (older scouts) who ask for it.

Ant is an active Explorer scout: and we both reckon that what will be offered is advice on how to obtain an abortion (for example) and where to get condoms, but not all the research data on the poor physical and psychological health consequences of early and promiscuous sexual activity.

This is because the unquestioned wisdom is that we must be non-judgemental.

I remember working for a student counselling organisation which had a non-judgemental approach. We were not allowed to take any kind of a stance on drugs, sex, cheating etc etc However, we did take a stance (including calling the police) if someone was about to, or in the process of, committing suicide.

From which it is easy to see that we judged suicide to be wrong - and therefore implicitly accepted illicit use of drugs, any kind of sexual behaviour and so on as acceptable.

An Australian poet whose name I can't remember (or trace - any clues?) once wrote: 'What we omit, we teach will not be missed.' (But see Update below)

Most research on children's development stresses the need for clear boundaries. By denying them these, the non-directive approach is gravely damaging - and when it comes to not telling kids about grave and immediate dangers implicit in a proposed course of action (such as sleeping around) it is downright dishonest.

UPDATE: It was James McAuley, A Letter to John Dryden)

Friday 17 October 2008

Dawkins: pot or kettle?...

I've now finished the God Delusion, and it left me feeling underwhelmed.

In fairness, Dawkins is more coherent when describing what he does believe than he is in (as he sees it) demolishing what he doesn't.

Nonetheless, he can't hide the fact that he is guilty of precisely what he accuses the typical theist of, including:

1) dismissing over-simplified arguments of things he doesn't fully understand,

2) believing in a hypothesis as an act of faith with inadequate data to support it

3) being disrespectful of those who hold opposing views.

His cavalier treatment of many issues, his question-begging assumptions and his naivety about big philosophical questions make this a very inadequate argument from an eminent scientist.

Sunday 12 October 2008

The Dawkins Delusion

I have been reading Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', and I have to say I am disappointed. I thought I would find an intellectual argument against God, which would sharpen my thinking. Instead, it is, so far, a very poorly argued set of prejudices. As a work by a serious scientist, it is very unscientific, both in approach and argument.

There are some things I like about it: he speaks highly of P G Wodehouse, so he can't be all bad. And I like his robust and intemperate approach - very refreshing in these times of political correctness: at least you know precisely where he stands.

But where he stands is such a silly place. He ridicules theists for assigning to 'mystery' things which are beyond our comprehension, but then does exactly the same thing himself, with the pseudo-scientific term 'singularity'.

I will return to this theme as I read - and reflect - more.

But one thing is clear to me: Cardinal Newman was right when he wrote:
“We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.”

Friday 10 October 2008


It's now two months since grandma moved in with us, and it has not been uneventful.

She and Anna have a somewhat stormy relationship - all seems smooth on the surface but every now and then there is a major row.

I hate this, but neither of them seems to mind it. One of the dynamics is that grandma has to feel useful, so spends a lot of time cleaning, ironing, etc, and pointing out to Anna that if it weren't for her we couldn't cope (never mind that we coped perfectly well before she moved in).

Anna, of course, resents the implication that the house would be a tip but for her mum (though there is a little truth in that), and that she can't cope.

Also, grandma is very pro-Antonia, which can lead to her being unnecessarily critical of one of the others. It used to be Bernie who got the brunt of that, but now it is more frequently Charlie or Dominique. That's partly because Bernie has worked very hard at building her relationship with grandma - and showed great maturity in doing so.

So it's not always easy, but Anna and I are convinced it's the right thing to do - and when we step back and look at it, it is clear that grandma is much happier with us than she was on her own: she just doesn't always remember that herself...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Optimist or pessimist?

The week running up to Dom's 10th birthday party was funny. Every day grandma would point out that the weather forecast was for heavy rain on Saturday. Every day I would answer that the forecast was not always right and we could well have a sunny afternoon.

In the event it rained - and we feel back on plan B - to hold the party indoors.

It was less than ideal, having 16 ten year olds in a relatively confined space - but Ant worked wonders to keep them all busy and happy.

Afterwards I reflected on the fact that grandma had had a miserable week expecting rain to ruin everything, while I'd had a hopeful week, knowing that even if it rained we would survive.

I remain an optimist, even though she was right this time...

Saturday 4 October 2008

Dominique's 10th birthday

It was Dominique's 10th birthday today, so we had a party. All her friends had been invited to come dressed either as a cowboy or an india, and Ant ran a series of games and activities for the two teams. Anna had made a wonderful cowboy wagon birthday cake, which went down very well and all the games had cowboy or indian themes. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain so we had to stay indoors for most of the afternoon - just one outside trip for a tug of war, which the cowboys won.