Friday, November 26, 2004


I sent an email to HRH Prince Charles to congratulate him on pointing out that not all children could expect to be geniuses; and that their education would proceed better if attention were paid to their different levels of ability and to rubbing in the need for natural talent and hard work if they were to succeed in their chosen paths.

The Prince's views were commended as "common sense" by the Telegraph's Alice Thompson (19 xi). Charles had been defending himself against Education Minister Charles Clarke who had described Prince Charles' views that people should "know their station" [as Clarke put it] as "out of touch and out of time."

{Strangely, the attack by a Government minister on the Prince for his realism came just a day after another minister had announced that mixed-sex schools -- long championed by Labourites -- had been shown in Government-backed research (some of it experimental) to be a flop, requiring a move back to the single sex schools of 40 years ago; and two days after Clarke himself had met rejection by many teachers of his intention to distribute behaviourally disturbed children more evenly around the school system, thus equalizing misery for all.}

{At the same time, the similar uselessness of modern American education -- revealed by the Thernstroms [reviewed by me at Amazon] -- was reviewed depressively in New York Review of Books (2 xii, R. Rothstein) without so much as a mention of the improving ideas of Prince Charles and The g Factor.}

{Supporting Prince Charles' view that education was becoming crazily dumbed down so as to provide a feel-good factor for the untalented, 71% of a sample of UK academics told Times Higher (19 xi) that their "institution had admitted students who were not capable of benefiting from higher level study -- and similarly substantial percentages said their universities were increasingly tolerant of student absenteeism, student plagiarism and the award of Passes to students having Fail-grade marks. Education professor Alan Smithers, a centre-right adviser to MPs on education policy, declared: "These findings are powerful evidence of something that has been very difficult to prove." He said some universities were trapped in a "vicious circle" by a funding system that forced them to accept weaker students to fill places, but imposed financial penalties if any dropped out. "It is almost inevitable that standards will drop," he continued.}

{Mr Clarke was joined by two other government ministers, one of whom opined that, in modern Britain, "endeavours and energies" alone would allow a person "to be almost anything" -- i.e. that ability was unimportant. But, not having read The g Factor, the Prince was unable to blast this twaddle and rowed back, saying he never doubted all could succeed -- at least if it was allowed, as in his own thinking, that "it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor."

In the Sunday Telegraph (21 xi), columnist Ross Clark cruelly reminded readers that, alas, this was the kind of leadership to expect from a Prince who had only obtained two 'A'[dvanced] Level passes, at Grades B and C, yet was allowed to scrape into Cambridge's top Trinity College where the education provided could hardly have been well matched to his own natural talents. However, it may have been that HM Queen herself had given Charles a wigging -- for public arguments between ministers and the Royal Family are not supposed to happen.

Anyway, Mr Clarke then backed off -- saying he was glad to learn he and the Prince actually agreed with each other. Addressing bishops gathered at Lambeth Palace, London, Prince Charles settled for saying, "Not everyone has the same talents or abilities, but everyone, with the right nurturing, can make a real difference to their communities and to the country" and "Ambition is a good thing and should never be constrained by a person's starting point in life and people must be encouraged to fulfil their aspirations in ways that recognize their different abilities and talents." But he threw in for good measure: "I believe passionately that everyone has a particular
God-given ability."

All this was vastly more diplomatic than what he had originally said (in a leaked private memo purloined by a stout middle-aged Black woman secretary who wanted promotion and compensation for "sexual harassment" [by a homosexual courtier!]): "What is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far above their capabilities? This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of a child-centred education system which tells people they can become pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having the natural ability"

Though the fourteen readers' letters in the Times (22 xi) were 50% in his favour, as were the six listeners' comments broadcast by BBC Radio 4 (20 xi), the Prince had received no support from Britain's political class so deemed it wiser to bow the knee to PeeCee.

CHARLES TURNS INTO PLUMBERS' BEST MATE', chortled the left-wing Sunday Mirror. The watchful and anti-monarchist South Australia Advertiser (23 xi) noted Charles, in his Lambeth defence, had "made a strange and tentative step to the fringes of the real world" [as defined by the SAA] while reminding its readers that Charles' original remarks envisaged strong social and genetic determinism. In Britain, the Guardian (22 xi) remarked the size of the difference between the Prince's original and later "clarificatory' remarks -- and reminded readers that Charles was never awarded a degree at Cambridge [of the 1960's, before dumbing-down began].}


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