Over the weekend there was a report published, that was commissioned by The Religious Education Council, in to the teaching of RE in schools; and in short in said that most schools were not doing too well at teaching the children about it.
Now this got me thinking, now my view on the whole thing is that religion should be a private thing and if you wish to believe in any religion and its associated deities then that should be something you do in your home and/or place of worship. Not something that the tax payer should be picking up the tab for to teach children about.
Now this would leave you with a gap in the school curriculum, and it then raises a question about well what could you fill that gap with? More English, Maths, Science, History or so on. But to me filling that gap with something they already do well seems a tad lazy and lacklustre.
So I had a bit of a think about it, and was thinking what would be beneficial to school children that we could fill up that gap in the timetable with. Now two things sprung to mind immediately one was home economics; we teach the kids how to cook properly and healthily. Which gives them an invaluable skill when they leave school as they know how to turn a pile of fresh produce in to a healthy, tasty meal.
But there was also another thing that would be handy, as these children are going to be the business men and women of the future and dealing with people from other nations, and one skill that we all lack is a general understanding of what people from Germany, Japan, China, Canada all like and enjoy. So we could make a cultural anthropology lesson to fill the place left by RE.
But then it dawned on me, we could combine the two. We could educate the children about the cultures of other nations and teach them how to cook food from those nations. That way we are equipping the children with two useful skills instead of teaching them RE.
Now obviously something like this would require a change in the law for it to be implemented, and would probably face some vehement opposition from some quarters of society. But I think if explained to the public correctly, then there would be overwhelming public support for such a change. As you have to ask yourself what’s more important knowing something from a religious text or being able to cook properly for yourself?
For me it’s a no brainer, let the religious bodies teach about their religion in their places of worship and use that time to teach children useful skills that can help them in life.
In the UK and in most western nations we have a problem with re-offending rates of prisoners upon release. Now lots of things have been tried and none of them have really worked, we still have a problem with 90% of those sent to prison in 2011 having had a previous conviction. Watching Newsnight on Tuesday got me thinking about this. Now I have previously blogged on prisons and how they should be used as a way of helping to treat offenders who are addicted to drugs, alcohol and other things. Now I am sure that if you introduced that it would have some impact on re-offending rates.
Now another thing came to me today while I was on my way home, I have helped a fair few prisoners through work, and I have noticed that a lot of them have problems with basic literacy and writing. Now this has to play a large part in their choice they make in their life after prison. As how can we expect someone who can’t read and right properly to hold down a job?
So I have come up with a bit of a carrot and a stick idea to help reduce re-offending, firstly we give these people the skills that can help them to reform and become a helpful member of society and if that fails we have the stick. Which would reduce re-offending rather significantly.
Now the idea follows a similar path as my drug treatment plan, which was we deal with the addiction then the punishment starts and we release the prisoner addiction free back in to society. Well I thought we could maybe do something similar with an education element. Every prisoner would be tested to see what their reading, writing and literacy skills are and they are put on a compulsory scheme which will bring them up to a minimum A-level/NVQ standard. This would allow them to get a job upon release that paid a reasonable amount to live off.
Now we could make it a parole condition that until a person has achieved such a qualification then they would not be eligible for release. Now some people would think this is barbaric keeping people in prison unless they achieve a set qualification. But If we release them with the tools to be able to go out and work surely that has to be better than keeping them in a cell for a set period of time and then just kicking them out with no skills and have them arrested 6 months down the line for breaking the law again.
Now the second part of my idea the stick part is not a new idea, it’s something that certain parts of the USA already use; which is the three strikes and you get life. Now I wouldn’t go for just any three criminal acts like three speeding tickets and you get life in prison; as that would be a little harsh. However I would have it set at three convictions of offences that were either an automatic indictable offence such as Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent or 3 conviction of an either way offence like Burglary or Theft.
Now I am all for giving people a chance and a second chance, but I think we need to draw the line at some place, and I think 3 chances is a fair shot for breaking the law. Especially when if you watch a criminal trial for burglary or alike when convicted they will normally ask for other offences to be considered, so it’s not like these people have only broken the law 3 times in most cases. With a policy like this it would act as a deterrent to people not to commit crime.
However there is one big question as to how we would fund this, as undoubtedly we would be locking people up in prison for longer, and in a fair few cases for life. It would be unfair to expect the tax payer to increase their contributions to help fund such a scheme. So I thought we could utilise these large groups of people in a productive way. Lots of prisons in the USA use prisoners to make things as it reduces the tedium of being locked up.
So I thought we could build factories within prisons that companies could use to manufacture their goods. They would have to pay the prison service say minimum wage for each of the prisoners that they employed and in turn each of the prisoners would be paid the standard prison rate for a day’s work. This way we are paying the prisoner for the work they do and funding the upkeep of prisons, so there could be no accusations of generating “slave” labour.
I think a combined approach of treating addiction and educating criminals should give them the skills and opportunities to lead a crime free life; with the threat there that if they don’t change their ways then we will come down very hard on them and remove them from society.
Having an education system that provides the children of the country with a good and suitable education is the key to any nation’s ability to be productive and have the ability to grow both economically and socially. If we sit and look purely at statistics that the education system has been turning out then we would think that the UK education system is fantastic as the results are just going up and up. However this is something that if you talk to any academic in a university they will simply say is not true, if anything the education system is dumbing down to the lowest common denominator which makes those above average look rather good.
My own experience of this was during doing my law degree, which I did as a mature student; one of the optional modules was on International Criminal Law. Which we naturally covered the Nuremberg and Japanese war crimes trials and about 60% of the class had no idea what they were; and when the tutor said well if you don’t know what they are to go and read up on them there was outrage. Because these people had been spoon feed up till then on how to pass an exam. Now this to me says there is something wrong with how we are teaching people in the UK, and something needs to change.
But this leaves us with a problem as the current system is set up to treat everyone the same in that we have a comprehensive education system where the very brightest are in the same system with those who are not as smart. It is this attitude that everyone can be anything they want to be which is in my opinion wrong. We should be encouraging the children to be the best they can be and not setting one against the other.
I would personally propose a three tier education system, with an increase in the number of grammar schools to encourage the academically gifted to push themselves in an environment set up for academia. To produce the new Doctors, Lawyers, scientists of tomorrow in an environment that is conducive to this.
I would maintain a middle level of education which would focus on a mixture of academic and practical skills. So these children got a well-rounded education which could see them go off to university if they wanted but would equally leave them in a position where they could go off and pick up a trade become an electrician or a carpenter or something along those lines.
Then in my third tier it would be for those people who naturally struggle with academic work, and it would focus on teaching them practical life skills give them a basic understanding in English, Maths and Science but teaching them that you don’t have to be smart to be a success. You could have these people being taught bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, cookery, dressmaking ect.
This New Labour idea that everyone should go to university is well stupid. Everyone should have the opportunity to go to university but we need to change social attitudes so that success is not measured in how many qualifications someone has or hasn’t got. As a country to be success full needs a varied mix of people with all skills; with this current attitude to education we will start to lose those important skills.
We need to instil in to children that being a Chief or a Plumber is as important to society as being a Doctor or a Nurse. Get rid of this stigma that exists that just because someone uses their hands and not a computer that their job is somehow lesser.
So let’s bring back grammar schools for the bright, and encourage the rest to explore options to broaden their horizons and explore other options for employment. 100 years ago to become an apprentice for a skilled artisan was a prized thing; we should look to the past for how to improve the future.