It was never in any election manifesto, and yet it will be one of this government's most disastrous legacies. The transformation of the relationship between adults and children into one of caution, suspicion, confusion and fear will outlast many other Labour reforms.It will indeed, Jenni.
Mainly because, despite the thrust of this article, it is not as a result of direct legislation proposed by the current government, but as a result of the creeping progressive colonisation of our major institutions.
Hence, it will not suddenly reverse itself when we swap Gordon’s morons for Dave’s shiny ‘new’ Tories…
Stealthily, and without open political debate, we have moved from the assumption that all adults have a role in socialising children, towards a new and uncertain world in which contact with children is increasingly regulated by officials and the state. It is a kind of collective madness, in which the boundaries of what we are allowed to do shift too fast and too secretly for us to keep up.The catalyst for her column seems to have been the case of school dinner lady Susan Hill.
As soon as the school discovered that Hill had told the parents the truth, she was first suspended for several months, and then sacked by the governors for "breaching pupil confidentiality".Working as intended, Jenni…
This is a new world, in which schools may effectively lie to parents about traumatic events affecting their children, and yet where the only offence committed is by a person who unwittingly breaks that official secrecy. It is no longer the proper role of adults, even those in a tiny village, where everyone knows everyone else, to discuss the behaviour of children. It is for the state to define who may speak and who must be silent.
What happened in Essex isn't an aberration, but evidence of a new philosophy in action. It's one that expects people to act not as concerned adults, but as automatons.So, you see, no secret Whitehall Department run by Peter Mandelson or some other bogeyman is needed to push this stuff forward.
Yesterday morning the chief executive of the National Association of Headteachers was asked what he thought Hill should have done in the instant that she realised Chloe's parents were in the dark. His response? That she should have refused to comment, and then followed "proper procedures and processes" within the school if she was unhappy with what the family had been told.
We can’t simply find the single man responsible, remove him, and all will be well.
This stuff is being pushed by all institutions across central and local government.
You don't have to be an employee to fall foul of the new norms. Parents are being caught out by them too. In London this July a mother was banned from her five-year-old's classroom for politely asking another child to stop his continual hitting of her son. Repeated requests to the school to do something had had no effect. It turned out that she was breaking the unwritten rule that says that no unauthorised adult – not even a parent – can remonstrate with a child.And Jenni reaches the same conclusions about the intended result of this that bloggers came to a long time ago:
This removal of general authority from adults, and its gradual replacement by state-sanctioned interventions, is utterly corrosive. It infantilises grown-ups, who lose one of the roles that societies have always expected them to fulfil. It makes them timid, and demeans them in the eyes of their children, who see that they are powerless in the face of injustice. And by suggesting that adults may not approach, discuss or reprimand a child, it completely undermines the notion of a community, and the importance of social pressure and shame.It’s the removal of societal pressure and shame, as well as the diminishing consequences for non-compliance with society’s rules that has led us to the point where police spend their days alternately harassing innocents while seeing attacks on them by habitual criminals go unpunished by the very justice system they are themselves a part of.
Exchanging these traditional bonds and constraints for sanctions imposed by schools, courts and police is not only wrong-headed, it is doomed to failure. The state can't enforce order everywhere and at all times; nor should we want it to.We don’t want it to, Jenni. The progressives do.
And they are well dug in, like all parasites. Uprooting them isn’t going to be as simple as placing a tick in the right box come election time…