Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Susan Deacon and Dolly Parton

Last week Susan Deacon, ex-Labour health minister MSP and now a professor, was highly visible in the Scottish MSM with her wide ranging proposals for providing a better start to life for pre-school children in Scotland.  She states Scotland's child development and wellbeing is worryingly poor for the levels of investment that have been put into early years education (0 - 5 years).

Her proposals include the need for a new generation of family centres which should be set up across the country and these centres will be parent-focused, with the emphasis on the importance of the home environment, cuddles, bedtime stories and establishing sleep routines, rules and behaviour boundaries.  Her proposals are based on the previous Labour government's Sure Start centres in England, although her model suggests a different solution that would draw resources from private, public and not-for-profit fake charities organisations.

Ms Deacon doesn't suggest anything new.  Back in the 50s most parents had sleep routines and behaviour boundaries, although many didn't have the energy to read bedtime stories or afford the necessary books. Cuddles were given by any adult present but adults are now afraid to speak to a child in case they're accused of assault. In my own childhood I can't remember the number of times someone's mum comforted me when I skinned my knees or banged my head but they would possibly be accused of breach of the peace, if nothing more serious, these days: a sad result of the majority permitting the do-gooders achieve their aims of breaking informal child support systems.

Why are we, as a society, having to provide basic parenting skills?  Baby-boomers such as myself can't be blamed for not ensuring our children understood the role of the parent.  Why do today's parents need such formal guidance?  Is it because so many of their responsibilities have been removed by various governments - particularly the Labour government of the last 13 years - and parents are too frightened to parent?  In England it's reported some children starting school don't even know their name.

Scotland may not be as child-friendly a country as Italy, France or Spain, but children have always been valued here.  However, now we are importing Dolly Parton's Imagination library which promises every child in care a free book every month until they reach their fifth birthday.  Her initiative is superb and I understand it has been a success in various parts of the US, but why couldn't her idea be replicated by the Scottish 'great and good' who can well afford to spend a little on the least fortunate children?  Is there no one in Scotland who could initiate such a project?

Shame on us. More Scottish taxes have been given to the education of children (of all ages) than ever before yet we fail more children as the years progress.  If Ms Parton's books are to be given to wee ones in care, who is going have the time to read to them?  I understand only around 5% of children have some reading ability before they reach primary school and with social workers being under so much pressure, I cannot visualise them sparing enough time to read to a small child.

What would help is the addition of 'oldies' like myself who would have the patience and time to read stories, but we're discouraged from any such work because we're suspected of harming children; although we apply for a rather useless CRB check which could possibly cost £80.

There's something rotten in our society and we have to discuss how change for the better can be made.  Many parents feel the state own their children and that's not a healthy situation. A few parents are happy at the state owning their children because they have no wish to be parents.  We have to re-establish parental responsibilities and ensure our vulnerable children are given the highest possible standard of love and care.  It's not happening regardless of the amount of money thrown at their development.  Will family centres make a difference?  I doubt it because the families who attend will want to improve their skills and those who need guidance won't bother to leave the comfort of their settee.

Susan Deacon and Dolly Parton mean well I have no doubt whatsoever, but somehow I feel they're locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. The change has to be far more fundamental and with far less state intervention.


Edward Spalton said...

"A child not knowing its own name" -, just reminded me.

It must be 25 years ago. Some friends had a children's party for their little girl and her friends. There was one little boy whose mum called him "Gooey".

She was asked what the boy's real name was. "Gooey", she said blankly. "How do you spell it?" she was asked "G-U-Y" she said. I guess she had maybe read the name in Mills & Boon but never heard it said!

JRB said...

I fear that Susan Deacon and many others have just woken up to the fact that in our modern society we are now witnessing the passing of a traditional sense of family and sense of community.

In a desperate attempt to cling on to these passing values, Ms Deacon and her likes are now struggling to come up with any initiative that harks back to halcyon days.

The politically correct strictures imposed upon society and especially in its attitude to children are now coming home to roost.
No longer can a loving grandparent take their grandchildren and their little friends swimming without a current CRB clearance.
No longer can a concerned adult chastise a misbehaving child, for fear of being accused of verbal abuse.

I’m afraid SR that you and I, and others like us, are the last of a dying breed.
In our day there was no TV in every room; no playstations; no PCs; etc.
As children all we had was the wireless and the written word. Your parents talked to you; comforted you; encouraged you; and gave you a skelp when you were naughty – as did the local ‘bobbie’, or a neighbour, if they caught you misbehaving.

Perhaps it was an age of naive innocence, but it is sorely missed.

Demetrius said...

At the risk of being boring, what is critical is language. What it critical to language is vocabulary. What is critical to the communication of vocabulary is grammar. The accent or inflection does not matter it is the basics. They just aren't there any more.

subrosa said...

How sad Edward. Hopefully the laddie managed to get rid of it when he became an adult.

subrosa said...

John, thank you. You match my own thoughts. The radical left wingers with their insistence that family, marriage and religion are somehow unnecessary are now being found out and the same people are now desperate to return to our values. Good for Susan Deacon though - she's brave enough to stick her head above the parapet even though she was one of those who was most vocal about childrens rights some years ago.

subrosa said...

Demetrius, yes indeed, but I would include love too. Not material love but unconditional love which gives a child self confidence and belonging.

Apogee said...

Hi SR, I think every one would agree that the politically correct people of this world have just about totally ruined it.
They are now in denial trying to find others to blame for the damage they have caused.
The worst damage they have caused is the distrust of adults by children, and the extreme unwillingness of adults to go to the help of a distressed child, for fear of totally unwarranted and unjustified accusations.
And the fear that has been generated in the citizens of lawful authority and a suspicion that they will not be treated fairly and honesty.
The world is a totally different place to when I was a child. If you misbehaved, your parents would likely hear about it and retribution would be swift. You knew this, expected it and acted accordingly.
But no child thought they were "fireproof" like they do today.
The worst thing the do-gooders achieved was the removal of discipline from society.

subrosa said...

Can't disagree Apogee. I notice none of the younger generation have commented a yet. Are we hitting the nail on the head rather too accurately?

Discipline and trust Apogee along with honesty.

pa_broon74 said...

Two things.

Firstly, those halcyon days. I'm not so sure they ever really were, I mean experience is relative, you might be able to hark back at your own upbringing but thats your experience, its not to say way back when there weren't kids being ignored by their parents.

Secondly, I think people have been cynicised (a word I'm coining) by years of lies told not just by politicians but by the press, by TV by video games and by teachers. I think that cynicism has finally trickled down the generations.

I work with kids and find there are three types. The over protected, the over-empowered and the perfectly normal.

And I think that is as it ever was.

Finally, I suspect people hide behind the notion of being sued/accused of something horrid if you approach child. Deep down, due largely to being cynicised (there it is again) over the past couple of decades, its preferable to just move on and let them get on with it themselves.

Equally though (I'm going to digress slightly) I stopped my car because a wee boy had fallen out of a tree and bumped his head. He was okay, just a scrape, I didn't even have to get to close to come to that diagnoses. A woman turned up however and produced a 'lotion' from her vast and capacious handbag and attempted to rub it on the head wound.

The boy, myself and another concerned citizen managed to pursuade the lady not to apply the unguent in case he was allergic to what ever her bottle contained.

Sometimes its best that some people leave them alone.


English Pensioner said...

I blame a lot of the problems on all the child protection rules and the belief by many parents that all adults are dangerous unless it is proved to the contrary, and wonder if things really are more dangerous than fifty years ago. As a seven/eight year old, during the war, I had to walk almost two miles to school, by myself for most of the distance. My firm instruction was that in the even of the air raid sirens sounding, I was to knock on the door of the nearest house and ask if I could share their shelter. I can't even imagine them walking these days as the risk would be considered far too high, and I'd love to know what the child protection experts would think the idea of knocking at the nearest door for shelter!
In those days we tended to trust people unless there was some reason not to do so, these days we trust no-one unless they have a bit of paper saying they're safe. As a result children don't have sufficient contact with adults and are all the worse for it.

Joe Public said...

"In England it's reported some children starting school don't even know their name."

Sadly, that could be because they've been trained to respond to "Oi"

pa_broon74 said...


Also, the 'protection' that is supposedly offered by all the checks really is no protection at all since it only really catches out known offenders.

I remember knocking on a friend's neighbour's door and asking to use the toilet.* If you suggested that to a young person today, their wee head would implode at the thought.

Its all part of how cynical we've all become.

(* I also remember doing myself an injury on a new Racing Bike when I was about 11, I'm not going to gild the lilly here, while falling off it, I gave myself the most vicious wedgy possible; the pain was exquisite. A kindly man came out of his garden and asked if I was ok to which I made some wheezing squeeling noises (dogs heard it I think.) He then asked where it hurt, I motioned to the area of most pain at which point he became quite disinterested very quickly indeed. You'd be forgiven for thinking if an 11 year old did that now he'd be carried away never to be seen again by a predator thinking all his xmas's and b'days had rolled into one.)

I blethered again, sorry.

Anonymous said...

When our four children were at primary school in the 70s and 80s, my wife was a volunteer reading partner at our village school throughout. No CRB; no problem about hugging; no problem escorting kids on days out and to swimming .... everything helping to raise well adjusted kids who could read, write and add up. And not just our kids; all the kids in school.

Years later, I volunteered to take over as chair of governors to resolve some financial issues. What a change! PC with a capital PC. I couldn't even take up my post until I had a CRB check. The national curriculum was (is?) a joke full of stuff no-one needs to know, but short on reading, writing and arithmetic. It was all dumbed down and totally lacking any challenge. It was (is) all target driven with immense amounts of paperwork.

I also visited other schools on numerous occasions for meetings and forums and it was the same everywhere. As a result, and I know this as an employer, the kids applying these days are next to useless.

After many run-ins with officialdom, I resigned of course. I couldn't stand the uselessness of the school system.

Why is it like this? Social engineering and parents who do little to change it for the better - or even help their kids learn. "We pay our taxes so it's your job to teach Johnny how to read." I'd be very rich if I had a pound for the times I heard this or similar.

I do hope it's better in Scotland.

Kind regards Non PC Englishman

subrosa said...

Halycon days pa? Don't think I mentioned those. We had no money is those days and I never went to a sweetie shop until I was 6 because the rationing was spent on things for all the family such as sugar.

There was nothing halycon about them but at least most children had a large support network with neighbours and family friends.

I notice you don't mention wealth in your types but wealth matters. I too have had a great deal to do with youngsters in the latter part of my career and material possessions seem far more valuable than academic achievement. The latest trainers are more important than reading a book.

No I disagree people hide behind helping children. Certainly nobody I know does. We just don't offer assistance because we're scared of the consequences.

You mention the woman with the 'lotion'. How did you know she wasn't a medic of some sort or the 'lotion' wasn't Savlon? Therein lies the problem. That woman possibly never helped another person, far less a child, ever again because someone didn't trust her.

Aye, it's best that people leave them alone. That's the motto in Britain today. That's why we're in the mess we are too because nobody takes an interest.

subrosa said...

If the liberal do-gooders hadn't been listened to they way they were EP we wouldn't be in this mess.

Family mean nothing now or at least the definition has changed in the past 50 years.

subrosa said...

Or 'hey you" Joe.

subrosa said...

A gather you then formed the opinion that most adult men were wimps pa broon? ;)

subrosa said...

One of my dearest friends was a headteacher in a new primary school back in the early 80s superioranalyst. She had been headhunted from a BF school in Hong Kong.

After a few years she rebelled against certain changes to the curriculum and also the reduction in discipline demanded by certain governors etc and, it's a long story, but after one parent/governor complained she was doing a person out of a job by playing the piano for the school play, she decided to resign. She'd had enough.

She's been happily employed by the Royal Mail ever since and is still a proficient pianist today.

Anonymous said...


Strange you should mention the head hounded out. Another local school had the same thing happen. She is now - after 15 years - in South America teaching. Indeed our number 2 daughter called to see her a few years ago and she (quote) is "appreciated and happy".

Intersting remarks above about post war days. I barely remember but my Mum kept my ID and ration card, which prove I didn't see too many sweets at primary school! God that makes me feel really old.

subrosa said...

Superioranalyst, we're not old, we're maturing. :)

pa_broon74 said...

The woman with the lotion was no medic and it definitely wasn't savlon. Even if it was, you don't apply any medication without first knowing the back ground of the person your treating. Also, she had leaves in her hair.

On men being wimps? This is the thing these days, not even our predatory peadophiles have the courage of their convictions.


subrosa said...

Do you think the woman intended to do the lad harm though pa broon? That's my point. Or was she just like most of us used to be and doing what she thought was helpful?

I've witnessed a few folk trying to help someone in distress. Maybe they weren't first aiders and didn't do all the 'right' things but they wanted to help another human being. Yes, they could have cause further damage, but what would you prefer? People to walk right past and leave you until the professionals arrive or do their best to help you? I think far more non-professional help benefits than not.

pa_broon74 said...

Actually. I'd prefer people to keep on going, if they're not sure what to do and the injured party isn't in any real danger, they should just keep going or get someone who does know what they're doing.

Of course she meant no harm, but to me, being further harmed by someones stupidity is even more annoying than being harmed in the first place.

Beware the well meaning fool/know your limitations being two maxims that spring to mind, they're as valid now as they were 20 or 50 years ago.

Largely though, I do agree with you, people could be more caring of their fellow (wo)menkind.

Funnily enough, all the first aid training I've done (especially the youth orientated stuff) is designed specifically to work with no contact whatsoever. If you have to put a plaster on, you unwrap it and hand it to the kid. A reassuring hand on a shoulder is tantamount to rape.

subrosa said...

A pa broon, that's a real conundrum. You want folk to walk on by and not help yet you suggest we should be more caring of each other.

Your last paragraph says it all doesn't it? How are our children going to understand the meaning of caring for your fellow man?

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