Looking for asylum? You're in one.

Boz magazine, 78: 12, September 2001.

Brian J Ford

It's hard to understand why the trans-channel stowaways are seeking asylum. Once they land they've already found one. Modern Britain is run by the lunatics.

The idiots have spent millions of pounds on a new communication system for the army. It doesn't work. Millions more went into the automated ambulance service for Greater London. The ambulances suddenly got lost like never before, and the system was cancelled. Then there was the air traffic control fiasco, and the demise of the railways.

When steam locomotives went churning up and down the country - weighing far more than today's lightweight trains - rails didn't break. But privatise the system, and install directors who don't know anything about engineering anyway, and disaster strikes. People die in their dozens. And the penalty for all this mismanagement? Why, huge bonus payments and golden handshakes.

Meanwhile the couple whose kids went playing on a rural railway line are convicted of manslaughter. I am surprised that they never claimed, in their defence, that nobody seriously expected a train to come along anyway.

Hospitals now have to give money back to the Government if they have customers waiting more than 18 months. They are obliged by the rules to treat long-lasting bunions and in-growing toenails while people with new diseases (acute leukaemia, for example, or a fast-growing tumour) have to sit back and wait for tests that could save their lives. Consultants know that people are continually dying because of this absurd and simple-minded ruse by government.

Government, meanwhile, does nothing. The economy is now plunging into recession, and nobody has the least idea what to do about it. When BSE struck, the authorities were condemned for an attitude of 'cover up and carry on as normal'. Then, just as BSE began to wane, along came foot and mouth. Oh yes, chortled the government when opting for a June election, the epidemic is nearly over. By July they were wiping out the sheep on the Brecon Beacons, still promising that the epidemic was now in its last stages. The rest of us know that a resurgence is due as soon as the hill flocks are brought down in the autumn, but the government still takes no action. Well, they did take one decisive step -they cancelled the sterilisation of infected farms. The reason? Cost. Yet (according to the Institute of Directors) the epidemic is costing about £20 billion.

Why, in the most advanced era in history, are people making such an unimaginably incompetent mess of everything? I'll tell you: it's because of the collapse of education. Since the 1970s, nobody has been taught anything worthwhile. Today's young adults have stunted minds and have never been freed to think.

Richard Sheppard, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, has published a progressive fall in the standards of his students year in, year out. They have never heard of a V1 or V2, nor do they know what Good Friday might be. He reportedly connects that with 'the failure to teach English grammar at schools.' He is wrong. The failure is to teach the facts and ideas people need to function. Children love to learn. One reason for the popularity of dinosaurs is their long Latin names which young people can memorise and, even better, which parents cannot pronounce. And children adore tests of their knowledge.

This flies in the face of those who decry any form of tests at school, but empirical experience substantiates my point. The fastest growth in pub past-times is the 'trivia' quiz. They are tests of factual knowledge, and young people love them. Youth organisations (like pubs and clubs) hold quiz competitions like never before, and the demand for quiz programmes is mushrooming.

It is said that children do not like being examined. In reality, they thrive on it. All they require is for the means of testing to be light and exciting, fast and appropriate. Rap has gained a huge following in recent years. Lyrics are learned by youngsters with eagerness and precision. These musical forms depend on word-play, subtle rhymes and nuance, and are more complex than the references teachers traditionally teased from the Shakespearian texts.

Computer games are the target of much criticism. But the appeal of the computer game is the shortcuts, the cheats, the secret manoeuvres that allow you to score higher than anyone else. The most complex routines are painstakingly committed to memory. For youngsters, learning is a hunger that must be satisfied. Teach them nothing at school, and they'll be drawn irresistibly to learning out of school hours. Raise someone in a shed, fail to teach them to walk, and you would be prosecuted. You can be jailed for neglect -- but only when the neglect is physical. Today's school children are being systematically abused: abused by being kept from the chance to learn the facts that govern their lives. Among those idle youngsters are the potential brain surgeons and barristers, the artists and the company directors of the future.

You are what you learn. When children learn nothing, then nothing is all they can become. To every victim, that's a tragedy. But when they end up running the nation, it's a disaster.

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