Prince's defence of smacking children provokes outrage: Speech welcomed by traditionalists, but condemned by child abuse experts

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The Independent Online
REACTION to the speech by the Prince of Wales on basic values ranged from outrage among feminists and experts on child abuse to support from traditional academics and right-wing Conservatives.

The defence of smacking, which is outlawed at the the Prince's old school, Gordonstoun, annoyed Peter Newall, leader of the pressure group Eppoch (End Physical Punishment of Children). He said: 'I think someone of his stature getting involved in the debate without carefully considering all the arguments, very powerful arguments, against smacking is dangerous, and adds nothing to the debate. It's a crude intervention, not a sensitive or helpful one.'

The comments about standards of literacy were contested by Professor Ted Wragg, director of the School of Education at Exeter University. He accused the Prince of 'slagging off state education on third- or fourth-hand information'. He said: 'He did this once before, saying children couldn't spell and weren't being encouraged to write properly in state schools.

'It turned out he had based the information on people in his own office, all of whom had been privately educated.'

Defending the Prince's remarks on reading and writing, Stewart Sexton, director of the Government's Education Unit, said: 'Prince Charles is pursuing not just the theories but the practice, which is much more important . . . He's correct in saying we should teach good English; good grammar. All of that's common sense.'

Professor Peter Levi, former Professor of Poetry at Oxford University and a member of the Department for Education's committee set up seven years ago to inquire into standards of English teaching in schools agreed with the Prince's comments on some English faculties: 'Those dons to whom Prince Charles refers are the scum of the earth. That is well known to all their colleagues,' he said.

But he thought the attack was out of date. 'I don't know who is pulling poems to pieces these days. I don't think anybody is very much at Oxford,' he said. 'I'm on the side of common sense too, but it doesn't particularly need a champion does it?'

Clare Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: 'This is Sunspeak. It is nonsense . . . What he called 'political correctness' does not actually exist. It is invented by people who want the right to be racist and to say demeaning things about women.'

John Carlisle, Conservative MP for Luton North, said: 'At last we have the Royal Family speaking sense and expressing a real understanding of the malaise that has been spreading through this country in terms of political correctness.'

The former headmaster of Westminster School, Dr John Rae, said he wholeheartedly supported the Prince's statement. 'I think any form of political correctness, from the left or the right, is undesirable. Prince Charles, with children going through the education system, is perfectly entitled to raise the issue,' he said.

Dr Rae said he particularly supported the Prince's belief that people should not be intimidated by the politically correct. 'One of the most important parts of education is that people stand up for what they believe in, and are encouraged to be independently minded,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)