There has been a lot of hand-wringing today about new polling by the Chance to Shine cricket charity which found that children are increasingly competitive when it comes to sport.
The charity itself speaks critically of a “pressure cooker” environment in school sport and a negative-sounding “win at all costs” culture.
But why is anyone worried? The return in recent years to competitive sport in school – and the corresponding move away from “prizes for all” policies – is without doubt a good thing. Sport is meant to be competitive, and for children in particular it is a useful channel for other pressures. When schools shied away from exposing children to what the educational establishment considered to be the trauma of losing they were betraying their pupils instead of preparing them for life.
Learning to work together as a team in order to succeed, learning that hard work and commitment comes with rewards and learning that sometimes in life you will face defeat and disappointment are essential processes to ready any child for the grown up world.
Consider the famous scenes played out on the X-Factor, Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and so on over the last decade. Someone auditions. They are awful – perhaps even troublingly awful. The judges predictably say: “You are awful at singing/dancing/training dogs”. The candidate bursts into tears, stamps their feet and – occasionally – attempts to assault the judges. How could this be? My family all told me I was great? I know I’m brilliant and you don’t have any right to tell me otherwise just because you are an expert blessed with ears that work.
It’s a pathetic sight, to see someone who can’t accept and learn from failure wailing like a toddler. Sadly I suspect that many of the people in question had never been told “that isn’t good enough” or “try harder” in their lives. Simon Cowell and “Nasty” Nigel before him did our country a service in smashing the illusions that prizes for all had built up, but it should never have been allowed to evolve in our schools in the first place.
It is interesting that when the charity’s pollster asked children what the source of the pressure was, the options were only “me”, “other children”, “teachers”, “parents” or “coaches”. There was no option to acknowledge that it is in the nature of competitive sports that there should be a desire to win – ie that it is a stupid question. When 46.9% of respondents say “other children including team mates” exert pressure to win and 21.9% say the pressure comes from themselves, they are in fact acknowledging that the whole point of competitive sport is your team working together to succeed.
The results do find that large numbers of children have experienced cheating, which is more troubling. But if kids were perfect when they emerge from the womb, we wouldn’t need school at all – it is the job of teachers, coaches and parents to teach them that cheating is wrong. Even with the doom-laden headlines, the polling shows that over 90% of children already recognise that winning by cheating is unfair.
Again, the choice of possible answers to the questions on cheating is revealing. The pollster pre-supposes that cheating is due to pressure exerted on children by those around them and fails to even give them the option of identifying cheating by famous sports stars as a factor in how their peers choose to behave. How accurate are the results which supposedly prove the existence of a so-called “pressure cooker” in school sport if they don’t even acknowledge that kids watch Premiership Football?
Sadly it seems that someone designing this poll set out to tell a negative story about what is in truth a good thing. I for one am delighted that 9/10 children feel pressure to win at sport. That means 9/10 children are starting to learn how the world works in a safe environment, rather than being brought crashing down to earth as pampered, fantasist adults. They are being educated, rather than lied to – at last.
I’m very excited to announce that I have accepted the role of Executive Editor of Conservative Home.
As Paul Goodman, the new Editor, writes today, I will be joining the site in a few weeks as part of the new team following Tim Montgomerie’s departure to The Times.
ConHome has always been a huge influence on my political campaigning and blogging, as I know it has for many others on the centre right around the country, so I’m very much looking forward to making my own contribution to its future at an important time in British politics. Over the last eight years, Tim has had a huge impact on many people, me included, and we have a big job on our hands to live up to his example.
All of you as readers of CrashBangWallace have made this possible through your support, your feedback and your (constructive) criticism, so I would like to thank you. When I started this blog I did so to communicate libertarian ideas and to have some fun – both of which I hope I’ve achieved.
I never anticipated the reach and readership this site would secure, and I certainly never imagined political blogging might one day become my job. Now that it is going to, I hope you will continue to read my writing over at ConHome whether you’re a capital-C Conservative, a small-c conservative, a libertarian or just interested in politics and ideas. I’ll still be writing on fundamental issues of freedom and the political topics of the day, as well as exploring new, wider topics.
I will maintain this site as an occasional outlet for non-ConHome political writing, a resource linking to my work elsewhere and an archive of CrashBangWallace blogposts. I will of course still be tweeting at @WallaceME, too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the last two and half years of blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them – and that you’ll continue to follow my work at its new home.
Thank you again – keep on fighting.
The story of the Philpott children, killed by their parents in a deliberate house fire, is appalling. Kids who were born to a chaotic household, whose father and mother reportedly showed no remorse after burning them to death.
It’s right, therefore, that we should look for ways in which this might have been prevented. While the Mail’s assertion that Mick Philpott was made into the monster he is by the welfare state goes too far, Guido is right to point out the uncomfortable truth that the benefits system coddled him, funded his abusive lifestyle and ultimately played a motivating part in his sickening decision to start the fire.
But to focus on the distortions and failings of the welfare system is to miss other, crucial points. How does this case reflect on our social care and criminal justice systems?
By all accounts, Mick Philpott had a decades-long history of predating upon, taking advantage of and violently abusing vulnerable young women. It is hard to imagine his repeated abusive relationships with teenage girls over the course of the last 30 years had gone unnoticed – and impossible to believe the relevant authorities still didn’t pick it up when he became a minor celebrity in the papers and on the Jeremy Kyle Show. With catastrophic results, they were aware and they decided it was not important enough to address.
Even worse, this case reveals an obvious and disastrous failure in our criminal justice system. In 1978, Philpott’s fiancée dumped him. In response, he broke into her house at night and stabbed her 27 times, slitting open her stomach and telling her: “If I can’t have you, no one will”. He then turned the knife on her mother and left the two of them for dead.
He was caught and convicted – and sentenced to seven years in jail. It is hard to think of a more comprehensive demonstration of wickedness and willingness to act upon it than what he did in 1978, and yet he was released a few years later, giving him decades to build up to the atrocity daubed over today’s newspapers.
This is a simple fact in a complex mess: if Mick Philpott had been sentenced to life (real life) in prison, he would not have committed his later crimes. Our criminal justice system could and should have stopped him – it did not.
Shami Chakrabarti has never been loathe to appear in the media. At every conceivable opportunity, up she pops to the extent people joke about her omnipresence.
That’s fair enough – after all, it is her job. But such constant coverage on so many topics also makes it easier to spot issues on which she and Liberty have maintained a peculiar silence.
Last year, it was striking that despite the range of threats to freedom and civil liberties that arose in the hosting of the London Olympics, Liberty had almost nothing to say on the subject. At the same time, Big Brother Watch dealt with a large number of different freedom issues directly related to the Games . There was no shortage of things to be concerned about.
Then, during Danny Boyle’s brilliant Opening Ceremony, Shami appeared – not to protest against the DNA database or the proliferation of CCTV, but to carry the Olympic flag as a “champion” of the Olympic movement. Suddenly the uncharacteristic quiet of the previous months made sense.
Now it’s happening again.
With Leveson’s proposals being mashed into law in a late night stitch-up, 318 years of British press freedom is coming to an end. Exemplary damages are hanging over the heads of bloggers and journalists alike, as a punitive means of forcing people into a supposedly voluntary system. Pens are being blunted for fear of state-backed punishments. And where are Liberty?
Well, they were in the media back in November – welcoming the Leveson plan, including the oppressive exemplary damages and explicitly supporting the idea of regulating the blogosphere.
Then Shami released a statement in December clarifying that, despite speculation, she was still supporting Leveson’s proposal for state-backed regulation of the media. While she opposed compulsory membership of a regulator, she restated her enthusiastic backing for exemplary damages to ensure anyone who did not voluntarily join would be at risk of ruin.
Since then, nothing. Literal silence from the group whose website claims they believe that:
Human rights are indivisible. You cannot pick and choose which rights you want to honour. Many rights depend on each other to be meaningful – so, for example, the right to fair trial would be meaningless without the prohibition on discrimination, and the right to free speech must go hand in hand with the right to assemble peacefully.
They’ve talked about secret courts. They’ve tweeted to raise funds. But they don’t appear to have given a damn about the prospect of three centuries of a free press going down the drain.
Why could that be?
To find an answer, we need to look back to 20th July 2011, when Liberty reported that:
Today it was announced that the director of human rights group Liberty will be one of the panel members of the judicial inquiry into phone hacking.
What happened to human rights being sacred and indivisible? What happened to Liberty’s self-declared status as a fearless group speaking out against any attack on freedom? For that matter, what happened to the meaning of the word Liberty?
It seems Liberty has become a brand, not a concept to fight for. The indivisible has become the malleable – and all those principles have been sold for a scrap of establishment prestige.
If you’re interested in real civil liberties and real freedom, I’d suggest you lend your support to Big Brother Watch and The Freedom Association (on whose Council I am proud to sit). They, at least, won’t sell their souls – or our freedoms – for a moment in the spotlight, or a seat on a prestigious panel.
The new Pope’s PR people are doing a good job for him so far – his practice of going on unexpected walkabouts has been much acclaimed as showing a new, reformist papacy.
His message at today’s inaugural Mass was also one of moral zeal:
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
But ultimately successful PR has to be built on hard reality – there’s little point in making good noises if your behaviour fails to match them.
So Pope Francis’ pronouncements ring hollow when you consider that right there in his congregation as he spoke was Robert Mugabe. It’s hard to think of a tyrant who better fits the Pope’s description of a “Herod”, and he has plotted much death and wreaked much havoc in his murderous rule over unfortunate Zimbabwe.
Why did the Vatican invite a brutal dictator to their most prestigious event, giving him VIP treatment and a free pass through Italian territory in defiance of the EU travel ban? This is the Catholic Church, not known for its tolerance and famous for excommunicating monarchs who get divorced – and yet they seem comfortable to welcome Mugabe just because he calls himself a Christian. I hope they are able to get the bloodstains out of his chair.
For those who argue that they should bring sinners in, preach to them and hope for their repentance, the message should by now be clear. This is the second or possibly third Papal inauguration Mugabe has attended, and his boot has yet to lift off the face of his people by so much as an inch. Instead, he basks in what he considers to be the validation of his Church, and continues with his campaign of terror. Preaching isn’t working.
If Pope Francis wants to show a real change in the Vatican’s administration, he could do worse than excommunicate Robert Mugabe.
The EU’s latest step to “solve” the Eurozone crisis is the pillaging of the savings stored in Cypriot banks. It’s not hard to see the various harmful implications – a collapse of confidence in bank saving in Cyprus itself, a blow to the already miniscule levels of confidence in banking elsewhere in the EU, further reductions in bank capitalisation as savers realise the mattress is the safest place for the cash and so on.
One aspect of the affair that has yet to be widely considered, though, is the opportunities this offers to Russian foreign policy. Russians are the largest group of foreign savers in Cyprus (some legitimately, others less so), and the Russian government has loaned billions to keep the faltering Cypriot state and banking sector afloat.
Now, with Cyprus plunged into a new crisis, Putin’s Kremlin is reportedly “considering” the generous step of extending the existing loans and possibly offering more. The question this raises is simple: what will the Russians want in return for their kind helping hand?
The answer is disturbingly self-evident. Only this morning, the Russian navy announced it was to establish a new, permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean – the first since the post-Soviet retreat of the early 1990s.
At the moment, the Russians have a naval facility in Tartus, a port in Syria. Their shameful solidarity with Bashar al-Assad has been motivated at least in part by the desire to keep a foothold in the Med, but their ally’s position of power is now in doubt. At any time the Syrian regime could fall, and be replaced by a government of rebels who are unlikely to look kindly on hosting a naval base for the chums of the dictator they have just unseated.
So the Russian Mediterranean Naval presence needs a new home. Cyprus seems the natural place – it’s at the Eastern end of the sea, close to allies in Syria and potential enemies in Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran. Most compellingly of all, Cyprus is broke – and evidently ready to do just about anything for cash.
When the Eurozone’s fans say the single currency protects our security, I’m not sure a new Russian naval base on our doorstep was what they had in mind.