Archive for the Children Category

On literary snobbery

Posted in Books, Children, General Ranting with tags on March 20, 2014 by pieman70

Sorry about not posting, real life and a big juicy helping of laziness has prevented me so far. Not that I’ve been short of material, just with family, children, work and videogames blogging takes a backseat. Hopefully there will be more regular posts but no promises

Anyway, to what was bugging me.

Freya has been enjoying some books known as the “Rainbow Magic” series. The plots are unimportant, but suffice to say the writing is fairly repetitive, predictable and hackneyed. Then again I’m a man in my 30s and they are broadly aimed at girls in the 7-10 age bracket. Why do I mention this? Aside from a way to subtly boast of my daughter reading above her level it is that recently I have heard teachers in the primary 3 upwards bracket have told children that these books are not to be read as part of school reading.

Now, back in my early secondary school there was a certain mantra often repeated by the English department. “No point horror books”. I never read a point horror book but from what I can ascertain they were a series of horror novels. The English department seemed to feel they lacked the artistic merit or intellectual challenge to have a place in the school.

We live in a world where many don’t read books, and I can’t help this weird snobbery has something to do with it. Effectively the school has told children that, having found books they enjoy they can’t read them any more, worse, this is now being done at an even earlier age. I understand that teachers want people to challenge themselves and read more complex books, preferably erring towards “the classics” but to my mind with these arbitrary bans all they’re doing is cementing reading’s place as something you have to do rather than something that is fun, something that you would do by choice in your own free time.

I also have a gripe about the “classics” how english teachers will shove Austin, Hardy and Bronte down everyone’s throats for personal reading. By all means study them, but they seem genuinely surprised that someone wouldn’t find tales of genteel women in society enchanting.

First and foremost we should be encouraging children to read recreationally, from there on teachers can channel this towards more challenging fare, although this may require them to have a broader knowledge of literature. A kid likes SF? perhaps enjoys trek or 40k tie ins? Why not suggest Clarke, Wells or Asimov? Someone enjoyed the Sharpe series? Try the Aubrey Maturin books. The current one size fits all is putting people off and definitely has no place in a primary school.


Tax and Benifits, a Joined up Idea

Posted in Children, Government, Petty Beurocracy with tags , , on January 12, 2009 by pieman70

I’ve recently had the misfortune of trying to apply for working tax credits, and responding to a letter from the HMRC about possible overpaid NI contributions, giving me a fascinating and terrifying view of the tax/benefit system. To be honest, it seems to be engineered to try and put you off claiming, and I do wonder if this is the idea.

I received a letter from HMRC asking about how much of various types of tax I have paid, which involved trawling through files for P60 forms and the like. My thought while doing this was “Hang on, I Pay tax to you, and you don’t know how much I’m paying, that can’t be right?” Similarly, when my wife applied for Maternity allowance and applying for working tax credits, we’re using our best judgement to tell one government department what another could tell them definitively.

I’m not asking for a huge database, while a good idea in principle we know how good the Govt are at IT projects. No, what I’d like is a little communication between departments. Think of how this could work. I start off single and living with a parent earning money. The Government knows my address and knows the other person there is someone with the same last name. I’m doing not badly at work and buy a small flat. My name is updated to the flats address on the electoral roll, and as I’m the only name associated at that address so I qualify for single persons allowance on my council tax. The electoral register will in fact track anyone of voting age who lives with me. I get married, there’s a record, I loose my job, the tax office know and should really start unemployment processes. I get another job, similarly they should now know. I have a child, the Benefits agency should know from the register of births, and be able to ask the Tax office about my household income and be able to work out what benefits I am due. All it takes is for government departments to actually work together.

Now naturally this does somewhat fall apart if my work is cash in hand, but if I work for a company properly, on the books My tax is taken from me before I see a penny of my wage. This could reduce fraud and errors by automating much of the system and removing the human element.

As an extra boon I would also have the rule that if the benefits office overpay you, unless it can be proved that you willfully submitted incorrect information, you keep the money, however if you are underpaid they have to make up the difference. I think we would see fewer errors if the office was given some sort of incentive to get things right first time. Currently its the end user who suffers from any and all of their mistakes and incompetence.

The Name Game

Posted in Children, Idiocy with tags , on November 19, 2008 by pieman70

As many who know me know, I have become a dad.

This naturally leads to many new, irrational fears about the universe which I will no doubt expound on at a later date. At the moment my main focus will be on names.

My wife and I spent nearly the full 9 months (Not counting hypothetical conversations in the years before) deciding on names, and I think we did well to deliberate on this for such a long time, longer than we spent making many other decisions, because this is the name our child will be stuck with until it is legally old enough to change its name. Now I made some less than serious suggestions (Optimus Prime, Minime) but in the end I am happy with what we chose, and I think our child has a name it can live with (or at least a very normal middle name should it need a fallback)

However, others are not nearly so sensible.

In the bed opposite us were a couple who, despite being give 9 months had yet to decide on a name. Come on, really, did you have something more important to do.

Worse are some of the really strange names that people come up with, most of which go to show that perhaps they may not be that suitable to be parents. There was a couple who were annoyed that they weren’t allowed to call their child 4Real, and so settled for Superman.


And of course the Man U fan who named his boy after all 11 players on their team (of course if you did that with all 10 Doctors it would be Sad, but as its football its a bit eccentric)

Of course it seems like if you are a celebrity then absurd names are mandatory, Michael Jackson still probably the worst with the absurd Prince Michael, and the absurd and unimaginative Prince Michael II.

What has bugged me is that in the 4Real case, some kid will have to grow up with that name because his parents were so stupid they couldn’t even master Velcro shoes. In fact the only reason 4Real (which will give the kid some really odd initials) was refused was because our system will only allow names made up of letters, no numbers. That’s the entire criteria for what some poor little tyke will be stuck with for life. What we need is something like the french system.

in France, your name has to pass official scrutiny. So no Superman here. In fact you’d also have to make a pretty good argument for Kal’El, however, Clarke would be fine. A child could grow up as a Clarke, or a Kyle, or Tony or even a Logan without too much hassle. See I’m not wanting to limit names, just take out the really stupid ones. My system has a couple of extra features.

On first stupid name, a simple No, go away and think again is presented. There will be reasons as to why the name is stupid provided for future instruction.

On second stupid name a list of suggested names will be provided as a guideline, alongside a list of unsuitable ones. Unsuitable ones will be on a red sheet of paper with UNSUITABLE written at the top to avoid confusion.

On third attempt the parents are denied the opportunity to name their child and the name is decided from a list. The parents are also earmarked for further scrutiny by child services.

To all potential parents, giving your child a dumb name is child abuse, yes Nicholas Cage or Angelina Jolie do it, but their kids will never really live in the real world, yours will have to go to a normal school with normal cruel kids in. Introducing yourself as 4real will not go down well.