I fully agree with Dr Peter Gray (“Give childhood back to children”, 13 January) in his comments about the need and right for children to have their childhood, and his view that many useful life skills are learnt outside the classroom.
He mentions Michael Gove’s desire to see UK educational standards equal China’s. I have two objections to this. First, if standards did improve to such an extent, that would simply push the bar up in the competition for all the top jobs. Secondly, as a Beijing-based teacher myself, I question the means by which such high standards would be achieved.
Many Chinese students are under a lot of pressure to achieve the top grades. A number of students at my school suffer a draconian study regime at the hands of the Tiger Mother and/or the Wolf Father, parents who force their children to study long hours at home and take extra classes to improve their grades, and who won’t accept anything from their children but A-grades and being top of the class.
At least one student has complained that all this extra study hasn’t improved her grades – just left her with no time to herself, something she hates. The same would apply anywhere. If the ability isn’t there (and some people are more able than others), then all the extra study in the world isn’t going to change that.
King Edward VII was an example. His childhood was ruined by such a regime imposed by parents who branded him as lazy and stupid, when he simply just wasn’t a natural scholar. All the extra study sent him off the rails somewhat when he got to university and he didn’t complete his degree, I think, so fat lot of good all that extra study was for him.
The above said, the idyllic childhood that Dr Gray advocates is unlikely to happen, while the media and other parties exaggerate the dangers of playing outside. Traffic is heavier than it used to be, but the other dangers, such as paedophiles, are no greater now than they used to be.
No wonder our children are suffering from “toxic stress” (report, 20 January). We know that animals in a zoo suffer from “toxic stress” if they are confined to their houses without having the freedom to move around and exercise outside. They are therefore given this opportunity.
Contrast this with our children, the vast majority of whom are kept indoors because on the street outside priority is given to the motor car. This is not the fault of parents but of successive governments, who have ignored the freedom to play out in the street as enjoyed by countless previous generations.
Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry
A Power grab by global corporations
Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris are quite right that the EU-US trade deal threatens to give global corporations massive power over the laws of this country if it includes, as expected, an investor-state dispute settlement process (“British sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal”, 14 January).
In fact, it is more correct to think of the deal as a charter for corporate rights, rather than a “free-trade treaty”. It threatens to lock in market principles to public services such as the NHS, begin a “race to the bottom” in terms of health and safety standards, undermine post-financial-crisis economic regulation, and reinforce inequality within Europe.
The deal, a core priority of the Cameron government, is one of several far-reaching “trade” and investment treaties currently being negotiated. Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, they represent the biggest power grab by global corporations for a decade.
Whether you’re interested in public services, health and safety standards, labour rights or simply democracy, there’s more than enough reason to oppose this offensive.
Director, World Development Movement,
It was good to see The Independent give front-page coverage to negotiations for an EU-US free trade agreement, especially as this highlighted the threat to national sovereignty posed by the investor state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), currently included in the treaty.
What was not touched on was a further threat to sovereignty from an additional proposal within the agreement. This is for a new Regulatory Co-operation Council that, for the foreseeable future, will give extensive powers to corporations to alter new or prospective parliamentary legislation or judicial rulings where these conflict with their corporate interests.
So while it may or may not be the case, as a Department of Business spokesperson is quoted as saying, that “investment protection provisions do not limit the ability of states to make or repeal any law or regulation”, it seems that the Regulatory Cooperation Council will do just that.
Fracking crosses climate threshold
Peter Lilley has stated that those who oppose fracking may be concerned about the burning of fossil fuels, but that they have “failed to make a convincing case” (BBC Radio Five Live, 13 January). Actually it is not the anti-fracking protestors that need to make the case, since this has already been done in the five reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Furthermore, virtually every government world-wide has accepted that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere must not exceed 450 parts per million (ppm) if we are to avoid runaway climate change. Since it is currently 400 ppm and increasing by 2-3 ppm per annum, we only have 20 years before we exceed the 450 ppm threshold.
So in reality it is Peter Lilley, George Osborne and David Cameron who are required to justify their reckless support for a technology that will make the UK dependent on fossil fuel extraction for the next 30 years and longer.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Floating islands for everyone
Thank you for taking the time to explore and report about the Seasteading Institute (27 December). However, I’m not clear how you construed that the first settlement was for very rich libertarians.
Purchasing a unit at €5,500 a square metre is not only for “very wealthy” people. That’s lower than the average price for housing in London. Although our founders are from the libertarian persuasion, our movement is much larger than this and our goal is to make seasteading a technology available to anyone who wishes to pursue a new form of governance. We are not all “right-wing” and nor do we want to pay others to do our “dirty work”.
You chose not to write anything about our vision of enriching the poor by creating new spaces that welcomed immigrants where they could start fresh new lives; you didn’t write about how we hope experimenting with new systems of governance will help existing nations choose better policies after witnessing them tested on a seastead; you didn’t write anything about how we want to peacefully create new nations as a solution to the political bottleneck of nearly all established nations. I invite your readers to learn more about our initiative and to read my full response to The Independent’s article at www.seasteading.org.
Executive Director, The Seasteading Institute, San Francisco
My days of freedom
From time to time I take a mini-break.
I travel by public transport (the avoiding the motorway cameras), paying for my ticket with cash. I keep my mobile phone switched off. I pay for my accommodation, meals, and all other purchases with the cash I withdrew from my local cashpoint before setting out.
I return feeling refreshed and also a little triumphant, secure in the knowledge that I have just been to, say, Cornwall and back, and neither GCHQ nor the NSA know a thing about it. It may be a very small victory, but it pleases me. Am I disgraceful to value my personal freedom so?
Mantel backs the Duchess
It was good to read of Hilary Mantel’s forthcoming novel (“Mantel turns to Thatcher for inspiration”, 17 January), but for the finishing paragraph. Hilary Mantel did not “attack” the Duchess of Cambridge in her lecture last year.
She was in fact attacking the perception of the Duchess which has been set up in the tabloid press. She was supportive of the Royal Family – ending her lecture with: “Don’t do to this young woman what you did to Diana.”
Further divine intervention
Outside my window this morning, there was a most beautiful rainbow. God is obviously pleased with the Ukip councillor who spoke out about the connection of the storms and floods to gay marriage.
H N Stanley