December 10, 2006

"Parents could be forced to go to special classes to learn to sing their children nursery rhymes."

That's the idea of UK Children's Minister Beverley Hughes -- who looks remarkably like Ross Perot in a wig:
Those who fail to read stories or sing to their youngsters threaten their children's future and the state must put them right, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said.

Their children's well-being is at risk 'unless we act', she declared.

And Mrs Hughes said the state would train a new 'parenting workforce' to ensure parents who fail to do their duty with nursery rhymes are found and 'supported'.
Amusing quotes on "supported."
The call for state intervention in the minute details of family life followed a series of Labour efforts to reduce anti-social behaviour and improve educational standards by imposing rigorous controls on the lives of the youngest children.

Mrs Hughes has established a national curriculum to set down how babies are taught to speak in childcare from the age of three months.

Her efforts have gone alongside a push by other ministers to determine exactly how parents treat their children down to how they should brush their teeth.

Tony Blair has backed the idea of 'fasbos' - efforts to identify and correct the lives of children who are likely to fail even before they are born - and new laws to compel parents to attend parenting classes are on the way.
Fasbos? Apparently, these are "Foetal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders."
This autumn is likely to see an extension of parenting orders that can force parents to attend parenting classes so that they can be used on the say so of local councils against parents.

For the first time, parenting orders are likely to be directed against parents whose children have committed no criminal offence.

The threat of action against parents who fail to sing nursery rhymes was unveiled by Mrs Hughes as she gave the first details of Mr Blair's 'national parenting academy', a body that will train teachers, psychologists and social workers to intervene in the lives of families and become the 'parenting workforce'.
How utterly alien! That could never happen here, right?

I refrained from singing to my kids because I believed that I sang off key and that I would cause them to have a poor sense of pitch. Was I right or wrong? I don't know. But I used my judgment. I also refrained from playing children's songs after I got the idea that rock and roll songs from the 50s and 60s were kind of like children's songs but were much more appealing. I can just imagine how I would have flipped out if some government functionary had tried to instruct me that I was wrong.

Of course, the government agent would have no intellectual depth about what was good and bad and no ability to discuss it. She -- it would be a she, don't you think? -- would only insist that I follow the instructions. And if the day comes when the experts decide that children need to learn how to think for themselves, will there be anyone around who even knows how to do it?


Peter Hoh said...

Okay, this is going too far. But I want to be on record as being pro-nursery rhymes and singing to infants and toddlers.

reader_iam said...

This instantly brought this discussion to mind, among other posts here and elsewhere, in the past and recently.

People keep telling me that slippery-slope arguments are stupid and shallow, but--damn!--is it my fault that real-life keeps providing such excellent examples of why they may have merit???

Anonymous said...

One wonders which nursery rhymes the government will approve for use, which will have to be sanitized by a government committee, and which will cause the immediate incarceration of the parents should they be caught reciting them to their children.

Josef Novak said...

Ridiculous. No one 'knows' how to 'correctly' rear a child. Why are people in positions of authority so often easily convinced that they know something? Shouldn't they be the most skeptical of all?

reader_iam said...

'It is now clear that what parents actually do has a huge impact on children's well-being and capacity to succeed, both at the time and in future.

Now? Now? Now??!


I'm going on record here: I wouldn't want anyone this late to the party of common sense within a mile of my kid.

What an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Within a generation, the government will no doubt decide that parenting is far too important to leave to amateurs and require around-the-clock supervision by experts in a proper setting chosen by the state, with visitation rights granted to the birth parents.

A generation after that, government studies will show that children with specific genes and other markers make better (read: more docile) citizens and breeding permits will be required, in the interests of "the children," of course.

Unknown said...

"Why are people in positions of authority so often easily convinced that they know something?"

Because they are not elected and hence have no fear or even awareness of any other opinion but theirs.

So, in the UK you will be forced to sing to your babies but will apparently be allowed to stuff them with trans fats? I'm appalled. Let's enact another regulation!

Anonymous said...

Reader_iam bringing up that earlier discussion caused me to think of the more recent one about trans-fats. In the end, not much difference between the two ideas" "We're the self-appointed experts. We know what's best for you and you will follow our orders. Until we reverse them."

It probably goes without saying that this all rather Orwellian, so I should apologize for mentioning it (but I won't).

stephenb said...

You think this might be the next step to re-naming the Archbishop of Canterbury--the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury?

Joseph said...

"who looks remarkably like Ross Perot in a wig"

Its uncanny, really.

reader_iam said...

My objection to the tenor of this government initiative aside, of course exposure to language, and to music (some forms more than others) as an extension/supporter of language acquisition is extremely important. Not for a second would I argue otherwise.

There is more than one way to get there, however.

Palladian said...

Another head-over-heels flip in Great Britain's amusing tumble down the hill toward socialist authoritarianism and oblivion.

Happy landings, old chap!

SteveWe said...

The FASBOS and other social engineering edicts in the UK are wonderful news! I hope there are more of such social engineering edicts. The trans-fat edict in NYC is a good example of how these new edicts are crossing the Atlantic. Absolutely superb!

And when the edicts continue to rise to take the shape of a monumental tower of state intervention into every aspect of life, then we'll be on the verge of having it collapse of its own self (if a tower of edicts can have a "self").

Bissage said...

[R]eader_iam: Regarding your 9:41, fear not, for you are in good company.

"The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience."

---- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Common Law (1881), Page 1.

KCFleming said...

If it is the duty of the government to prevent people from harming the body by what is ingested (e.g. tobacco, alcohol, trans fats), surely there can be no objection to the state limiting those activities that might also result in harm, and costs to the public purse. Riding a motorcycle, skydiving and rock climbing come to mind. Similarly, why not prevent people with HIV from having sex and risking transmission?.

Further, if the government demands the right to determine what the human body can or cannot consume, there is no good reason to limit its interest in the effects of media on behavior and the human mind. In order to reduce health costs and prevent harm to society, preventing people from reading bad books or advertisements, listening to bad music or speeches and watching bad TV shows or movies should quite reasonably fall under the purview of the state. And why not?

However, liberty entails the freedom to make mistakes and to choose differently than your betters, so a society that demands certain songs be sung by parents is no longer a democracy by any means, but an authoritarian state.[HT: von Mises]

It appears that PM Blair never read anything about The Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge and Year Zero. This sort of thing always always always ends badly.

Simon said...

When I was a kid, there used to be a joke Brits told about American politics. It went: "America has two political parties. The Republicans, who are very much like our Conservative Party, and the Democrats, who are also very much like our Conservative Party.

Who's the joke on now? It might accurately be said that in Britain, there are three political parties, and all of them are very much like our Democratic Party. Choose your preferred flavor of grim, totalitarian leftie dogma.

Marghlar said...

Sheer lunacy.

Anonymous said...

UK Children's Minister Beverley Hughes -- who looks remarkably like Ross Perot in a wig

Have you actually seen Ross Perot lately? Where is he? Could this be the answer? Has he gone Dame Edna on us?

reader_iam said...

Perhaps, over time, England could be restructured along the lines of Walden II--at least the child-rearing part.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Plato: Music has a profound influence on the development of young children, and its choice and presentation is far too important to be left to any other than the State.

It's obvious that all modern pop and rock music is a trashy hubub. The whole edifice of popular music as it has evolved for the past 100 years simply won't be allowed in the Republic that's coming. The Guardians will appoint only instructors trained in music that will inspire useful attitudes toward the common good. Music that promotes private pleasure, intellectual activity unrelated to the strengthening of the Republic, or religion deemed inimical to the secular interests of the State, will be severely proscribed. Private music is a contradition in terms and will be unthinkable in this new Republic.

An updated version of Plato's modes suitable for the modern world will be prepared. They will be enforced when the Guardians finally take control, and the United States is replaced by that ideal Republic for which so many seem to yearn.

Oh, and we haven't even begun to talk about food.

Kirk Parker said...


"That could never happen here, right?"

It appears that this line from your commentary on the NYC transfat case got mixed into this post. Thought you might like to know...

Unknown said...

Ah, this takes me back to the days of my youth where we warbled lovely ditties and frolicked innocently. Who could ever forget:

"I'm Popeye the sailor man, I live in a frying pan, they turned up the gas and burned up my..."

Perhaps, that's what the good Minister had in mind. And who ever grows tired of "Great green gobs of greasy grimey gopher guts..."?

JDM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reader_iam said...

"Great green gobs of greasy grimey gopher guts..."

My son loves that one.

Also: "Comet, it makes your mouth turn green/ Comet, it's worse than Listerine/ Comet, it makes you vomit/ So get some Comet, and vomit, today!"

And who could forget "I'm Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee" (the gross version)?

reader_iam said...

Our version of the "Popeye" variation was:

"... frying pan.
I eat all the worms
and spit out the germs

Troy said...

I would be forced to play a loop of lullaby CDs, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Wiggles, etc. just to cover myself. Better yet I can play them lullaby versions of The Clash and The Damned. Here it is!

Troy said...

I'm not selling the above CD, just think The Clash on Casio SK-1 keyboard piano is amusing.

VW: Obamjv -- Obama is junior varsity - perhaps 2012

kentuckyliz said...

Let's not forget the stories. Like Little Black Sambo, and all those stories with witches! Oops, we'll have to change "witch" to "earth feminine goddess worshipper."

We'd put on dad's old 78s and play them and sing and dance. To the Al Jolson ones, we'd put mom's mudpack on our faces as blackface.

The UK has gone off the deep end. The natural British tendency to nosing in and gossipping and conformity to the bland has found its hero in gummint: Tony Blair. I think of the Monty Python ladies.

You should add the Samizdata blog to your reading list to experience the full horror.

Know what else goes on in the UK? School lunchroom ladies check every kids' lunch and CONFISCATE unhealthy food! That would never fly in Amurrica. I can imagine the parents around here picketing at the principals office demanding that heads roll.

Don't listen to me. I'm highly irresponsible; I let children watch the Simpsons.

kentuckyliz said...

Here's another nanny state thing that burns my bippie. Our public schools (in my region) require that any students participating in extracurricular activities or driving to school must consent to random drug testing.

WTF? Training up the young'uns to be accustomed to baseless intrusions by government into their private lives?

I'm not a parent. If I were, I would have my kid partipate/drive, and refuse parental consent for random drug testing. (If they have suspicions with grounds, call me, then I'll deal with it.) I'd get all legal on their @$$. I find this heinous.

knox said...

Palladian's back!

ca said...

What if my parents didn't read me nursery rhymes, but instead taught me to read when I was 3 and then gave me a book of nursery rhymes to keep me company? (True story!) ...I seem to have turned out okay, though I *did* major in science. Perhaps if I'd had the nursery rhymes I would've been a liberal arts type.