June 12, 2008

I don’t get it. 42 days without charge seems like a very very long time.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights states:

Article 3:

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Surely to arrest someone you must have an idea that they have done something bad. To have an idea they have done something bad you would need some kind of proof. Why would it take 42 days to gather enough proof to charge someone. Isn’t there an offense of ‘suspicion of terrorism’? Do the police stop investigating at charge?

Perhaps that’s what needs changing rather than locking up people who MIGHT be guilty but against whom not enough proof has been gathered.

Innocent until proven guilty is the foundation of democracy. Eroding that foundation is a very dangerous thing to do.

I actually quite like Gordon Brown. His commitment to ending poverty, his work on reforming aid to Africa and his brand of social justice struck a chord with me. What happened to that Gordon?


Revolution in Childhood?

June 5, 2008

BBC 4 has just shown an excellent exploration and discussion of childhood as part of the Child of Our Time series which is following a cohort of children from birth until age 20. Tonight’s discussion topics ranged from ‘play’ and ‘risk’ to ‘communication’ between adults and children and between children and ‘how time is spent’ and ‘consumerism’. Well worth watching when it appears on the BBC iPlayer if you’re in the UK.

UPDATE: It didn’t appear on iPlayer.  Very disappointing!

Byron Report published

March 27, 2008

Dr Tanya Byron has published her report into safer internet use and gaming. You can read the report HERE. This is the executive summary bullets:

The internet and video games are very popular with children and young people and offer a range of opportunities for fun, learning and development.

But there are concerns over potentially inappropriate material, which range from content (e.g. violence) through to contact and conduct of children in the digital world.

Debates and research in this area can be highly polarised and charged with emotion.

Having considered the evidence I believe we need to move from a discussion about the media ‘causing’ harm to one which focuses on children and young people, what they bring to technology and how we can use our understanding of how they develop to empower them to manage risks and make the digital world safer.

There is a generational digital divide which means that parents do not necessarily feel equipped to help their children in this space – which can lead to fear and a sense of helplessness. This can be compounded by a risk-averse culture where we are inclined to keep our children ‘indoors’ despite their developmental needs to socialise and take risks.

While children are confident with the technology, they are still developing critical evaluation skills and need our help to make wise decisions.

In relation to the internet we need a shared culture of responsibility with families, industry, government and others in the public and third sectors all playing their part to reduce the availability of potentially harmful material, restrict access to it by children and to increase children’s resilience.

I propose that we seek to achieve gains in these three areas by having a national strategy for child internet safety which involves better self-regulation and better provision of information and education for children and families.

In relation to video games, we need to improve on the systems already in place to help parents restrict children’s access to games which are not suitable for their age.

I propose that we seek to do that by reforming the classification system and pooling the efforts of the games industry, retailers, advertisers, console manufacturers and online gaming providers to raise awareness of what is in games and enable better enforcement.

Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe – this isn’t just about a top-down approach. Children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks. At a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.

She was interviewed on the BBC news this morning. You can watch it here:

informal education in a digital age?

February 23, 2008

Leaning and Teaching Scotland have just announced what they think the markers fo excellence in literacy are for the 21st century… and the definition of texts is:novels, short stories, plays, poems, reference texts, the spoken word, charts, maps, graphs and timetables, advertisements, promotional leaflets, comics, newspapers and magazines, CVs, letters and e-mails, films, games and TV programmes, labels, signs and posters, recipes, manuals and instructions, reports and reviews, text messages, blogs and social networking sites, web pages, catalogues and directories. (emphasis added) (ht Ewan)

So, what will that mean for youth work in the 21st century?  Informal educators inhabit the world their ‘clients’ live in.  We meet people ‘where they are at.  How do you think that Christian youth work will engage with this generation of digital natives?  And will banning youth workers from texting, instant messaging and Bebo really turn out to be a good idea?

Any thoughts?

ill informed

February 9, 2008

I’m fed up with people who don’t know what they are talking about jumping on band wagons because it suits their purposes.

Question Time (BBC)  over the past few weeks has seen a whole load of people calling for a referendum on the new European ‘constitution’.  It is painfully obvious that the vast majority of these people have never read the proposed document, know very little about it or its implications but because the newpaper they read has decided it’s a bad thing then they agree.

The same has happened with Archbishop Rowan Williams and his comments on faith and the law.  It has been widely reported that Williams called for the introduction of sharia law in the UK.  Let’s just think about that for a moment.  The Archbishop of Canterbury thinks we should be governed by Islamic law.  Really?  Of course that’s not what he said and anyone who has half a brain and who actually listened to what he said knows that’s not what he said!  But why should the facts get on the way of an intelligent man making some thoughtful remarks on the biggest issue of our time?

And before you think I’m a big fan, I’m not really.  I think he is a brilliant thinker but I’d prefer him to be a bit more decisive as a leader.  That said, I’d rather have a thinker than a reactionary in his role.

The other day Williams suggested that Muslims should perhaps (do you see the important word here… perhaps – he’s encouraging people to discuss the idea) be able to use certain parts (not chopping people’s hands off for theft, although I’m not sure the Daily Mail would have that much of an issue with this) of sharia law to settle disputes like divorce, inheritance and other family problems where Islamic law is not at odds with civil law.  These decisions would then be ratified by a civil court.  His reason?  Some people, of all faiths, feel that God is a higher authority than the civil court.  Again, anyone want to disagree that some people, Christian, Muslim or Jew , think that?  Why should these people not be able to settle their legal disputes using their religious frameworks as long as they are not in conflict with the civil law?

This is the same principle as DIY divorce, or even mediated divorce.  You sit down with a third party, work out who gets what and then the court ratifies that decision as long as both parties are happy with the arbitration.  If not, the court decides in the usual fashion.

Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with that?  No, thought not.  But it makes a good story… as long as the facts don’t get in the way.

When does freedom of speech become oppression?

November 26, 2007

Tonight saw the Oxford Union surrounded by protesting students.  They were up in arms against the appearance of two right wingers, a politician and and a ‘historian’, at a debate.  So far so good.  But the protesters stopped the debate going ahead.  People protesting against fascism stopped an open, public debate.  I’m sorry but I don’t get it.

You want to stop fascism?  Win the argument.  Have the debate, on TV, and argue the case and let’s get rid of this nonsense for ever.

I disagree with what the two guests stand for (hence no names) but I believe they have the right to be wrong and I have the right to tell them so, but they still have the right to disagree.  That’s called democracy.  It means having to put up with people saying things you find abhorrent because to ban them from speaking is fascism, the very thing the poor misguided smart kids were trying to stop.

The protesters were also trying to stop the debate getting publicity.  Well done.  Gathering a large crowd with placards and banners and megaphones never attracted any attention, right?

a very civil partnership

October 22, 2007

Saturday was another first for me.  Avril and I were guests at a Civil Partnership ceremony.  Karen and Angela formalised their relationship in a lovely ceremony at Hamilton’s refurbished Town House in front of their family and friends.

I had been concerned that the ceremony would be brief, cold and soulless but it was none of those.  The registrar made the ceremony meaningful and warm.

Afterwards we spent the evening eating, drinking, listening to great speeches, laughing and dancing with friends old and new.  A great day for a special couple.