A difficult problem but we’d really better try and find a solution

Disturbing news about social mobility in the UK. To he point that something really must be done:

Well-off parents create a “glass floor” for their less academically inclined children ensuring they “hoard the best opportunities” over poorer peers, a study has suggested.

Children from wealthier families but with less academic ability are 35% more likely to become high earners than their more gifted counterparts from poor families, according to findings from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Clearly something just must be done. The report itself is here and commenting upon it we get:

Study author Dr Abigail McKnight from the London School of Economics said: “The fact that middle class families are successful in hoarding the best opportunities in the education system and in the labour market is a real barrier to the upward social mobility of less advantaged children.”

“Children from less advantaged families who show high potential at age five are struggling to convert this potential into later labour market success.”

“Schools could do much more to help children from less advantaged families build on high early potential.”

Difficult to know what to do really. Perhaps some system could be devised whereby we identified those bright but poor children and then gave them the academic, specialist, education which would enable them to make the best use of those talents? Would it be too, too, odd to suggest that they might even be sent to separate schools?

What an excellent argument against the BBC licence fee this is

Not that Ms. Reynolds means it this way of course, she thinks she is producing the concluding argument for the retention of the BBC’s licence fee:

Anne McElvoy makes several sound points (“‘The Beeb is not facing involuntary euthanasia’”, Comment). Her easy assumption, however, that BBC radio operates with an unfair advantage – “a serious radio competitor, for example, has never got off the ground…” – must not pass unchallenged. Commercial radio in the UK competes seriously and successfully wherever there is a mass audience to be attracted. It does not, however, compete in “serious radio” because the audience it would attract (for features, documentaries, drama, comedy, etc) is not sufficient to justify the higher costs entailed. What “serious radio” commercial competitor would, for instance, underwrite her regular Radio 3 arts review, Free Thinking, or her Radio 4 series on Charlemagne and his legacy, or even the show where she has now also become a regular, Radio 4’s Moral Maze? Meanwhile, as a frequent visitor to New Broadcasting House, it cannot have escaped her eagle eye that further cuts to BBC radio budgets will seriously threaten the continued existence of any kind of “serious radio”.

Gillian Reynolds

Radio critic, Daily Telegraph

London W2

The point being that there really are things that must be done and can only be done by government and the power to tax. Radio not being one of those of course. There’s also a weaker argument that there’s things it would be nice to have and where it’s worth taxing the masses to produce a benefit to said masses. But what there isn’t is a space for the argument that the proles must be taxed in order to provide something of only minority interest. For if something does not justify the costs then we should not be doing it. If producing “serious” radio costs more than can be gained from doing so then this is an activity which makes us all poorer.

The BBC licence fee is a tax of course. And we’re really sorry to have to point this out but the point of mass taxation is not so as to provide sweeties for some small section of the metropolitan intelligentsia.

That not many people are interested in “serious” radio is an argument against the tax funding of it: that it doesn’t, as claimed, cover the costs of its production is an argument against doing it at all, not in favour of taxing those who are uninterested in it.

A certain disconnect from reality here

The idea that prisoners should be banned from smoking in their cells has reared its ugly head again. The true reason that such a ban is not in place is that, for the time of their sentence, their cell is their home. We do not ban people smoking in their own homes: we therefore do not ban prisoners smoking in their cells. We also do not want to give the government, any government, the power to ban people doing something entirely legal in their own homes: thus we do not want to grant this power to ban prisoners smoking in their cells.

However, even given all of that, this does show a certain disconnect from reality, doesn’t it?

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health, said there was no evidence to support claims that depriving prisoners of tobacco could lead to riots.

“Prisons all around the world have gone smoke-free with few problems and, in the UK, all high-security psychiatric facilities have already gone smoke-free, as have prisons in the Isle of Man and Guernsey, without any trouble,” she said.

Not paying much attention to the news, is she?

On Tuesday, hundreds of prisoners lit fires, broke walls and smashed windows in a 15-hour riot at a Melbourne prison in what authorities believe may have been a reaction to a smoking ban at the remand facility.
It was one of the worst prison riots in recent memory and authorities and commentators moved quickly to either condemn or support the state-wide prison smoking ban.

No, she’s not:

Police armed with tear gas and water cannons were on Tuesday evening still attempting to contain a riot that broke out at a maximum security prison in Victoria earlier in the day, after prisoners became angered by the introduction of a smoking ban.

All staff were evacuated from the prison in Ravenhall, Victoria, after several hundred prisoners rioted.

This happened only a few weeks ago…..at the end of June.

This will put the cat among the pigeons

Disturbing findings for a central tenet of the prevailing left wing educational ideology:

Teenagers facing the ire of parents over their exam results may have found the perfect excuse after a new study concluded that exam success is largely inherited.
Scientists at King’s College London discovered that up to 65 per cent of the difference in pupil’s GCSEs grades was down to genetics.
Previous research found that genetics could influence core subjects like English, mathematics and science but it now appears that they also play the same role in humanities, languages and art.
It suggests that if parents have struggled to draw, learn a second language or understand algebra, their children are also likely to find those subjects difficult.

For that prevailing ideology is that it is entirely the environment and education itself which determine such things. Danny Dorling once put it as anyone could grow up to be professor of social geography at Sheffield University: something which prompted us to comment that obviously anyone had. The implications of this blank slate idea being that differences in outcome must be due to differences in access to resources. Thus poor people do badly because they are poor, deprived even simply be inequality.

That 65% of academic success (to the point that passing exams is that success) blows rather a hole in this idea.

We should not, of course, immediately lurch over into the errors of social darwinism though. For this is just a restatement of what should be blindingly obvious about a mammalian species. There are indeed mutations, there’s a shuffling of the genes in every generation. We should therefore be assuming that there will be variance other than simple and direct inheritance of intelligence, just as with any other genetically determined characteristic. Thus all should have access to the same opportunities but we just shouldn’t be surprised when outcomes are not equal.

Let’s call a thing what it is shall we, a spade is a spade after all

It’s not so much the pettifogging that annoys, although there is a tinge of that, it’s the hijacking of an honourable description that really irks:

A typical household has 40 plastic carrier bags stashed away at home, ministers have claimed, as new figures showed the number of bags used by shoppers rose for the fifth year running.
British shoppers took home more than 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags from supermarkets in 2014, 200 million more than in the previous year, figures from charity WRAP show.

Charity: the giving of money to aid mariners in peril on the seas perhaps. Or alms to house the destitute. But the most important part of the description is voluntary.

Following the review we worked closely with Defra to develop a programme of work, in line with sharpening our
strategic focus, that will make a significant contribution to helping the UK achieve its environmental objectives
and obligations, such as achieving the 50% household recycling rates by 2020, but at less cost. As a result grant
funding from Defra for 2014/15 has been confirmed at £17.6m (2013/14: £25.7m), expected to reduce to £15.5m
in 2015/16.

Financial Results for 2013/14

WRAP‟s total income for 2013/14 was £65.4m (2012/13: £63.2m) of which the majority (98.9%) was grant
funding from government and EU sources. Although the underlying grant funding from Defra reduced compared
to the previous year, the addition of the Resource Efficient Scotland programme and the timing of activity in EU
funded grant schemes, notably the ARID capital grant scheme in Wales, resulted in a marginal increase in total
income.

This is not a charity. This is a tax funded arm of the central bureaucracy. As such it most certainly isn’t voluntary.

It has to be said that a caring society would indeed have a place in it for those who get their kicks counting plastic bag hoarding by household. But it’s not entirely obvious that those working hard on the minimum wage should be charged tax to pay for it. Perhaps it should be paid for, voluntarily, in a charitable manner, by those who share this minority taste?

At which point we are going to revert to calling a spade a spade. WRAP is not a charity, it is a collection of tax leeches.