Toddler bled to death in hospital on a weekend due to ‘catastrophic’ lack of communication between doctors
A young boy bled to death in hospital over a weekend due to a severe lack of communication between doctors, a coroner has ruled. Two-year-old Tharun Umashankar died from bleeding of the stomach lining which was probably caused by his intolerance to milk.
He was rushed into Sheffield Children’s Hospital and despite suffering a previous large internal bleed, was not earmarked for an endoscopy to look at his digestive system until the next day.
Independent expert Dr David Crabbe, a paediatric surgeon, said the procedure would have found the bleeding and Tharun could have had an operation that day to remove part of his stomach – a procedure which would have saved him.
He told the Sheffield inquest: ‘What was a complete failure was the lack of collaboration between surgeons and gastroenterologists. Closer teamwork would have resulted in a different outcome.’
Tharun’s distraught mother Sentamil, 38, broke down and sobbed as she told the hearing: ‘I believed they would cure him and make him well.’
Recording a narrative verdict, Sheffield Cornoner Chris Dories said: ‘On the basis of expert opinion, there was a a failure to plan and/or a failure to communicate about a child who was known to be at serious risk.
‘While it remains unclear whether requested communication to the gastroenterologist at the first sign of deterioration would have saved Tharun’s life, it is very clear that it may have done so.
‘However, endoscopy and surgery on the previous day would likely have saved Tharun’s life, but such was a matter of judgment rather than specific failure.’
Tharun had endured three endoscopies at the hospital in the previous fortnight after vomiting blood and suffering stomach pain, but was thought well enough to be discharged on Friday, July 9, 2010.
Consultant paediatric gastroenterologist Dr David Campbell, who was in overall charge of Tharun although off-duty that weekend, said he left instructions to be called if the boy had a serious bleed again.
Mrs Umashankar, who also has two daughters aged seven months and seven, left with her son but during the night he vomited blood again. ‘He cried and I felt he was in pain,’ she said. ‘His body was cool and exhausted.’
Tharun was rushed by ambulance to Barnsley District Hospital and several hours later was transferred to the Children’s Hospital unit on the afternoon of Saturday, July 10.
The mother said after doctors checked her son she noticed his nappy was ‘full of blood’ which she was worried about and claimed the wet bed covers had to be changed at least five times by nurses.
‘A nurse told me it was a good sign as the blood was coming through his faeces and not the mouth,’ she said.
Mrs Umashankar was then told by staff that Dr Campbell would perform another endoscopy on Tharun at 8am on the Sunday morning.
But in the middle of the night she noticed his stomach was distended and ‘swollen like a bubble’. A doctor thought it might simply be a build-up of gas, but at 4am Tharun vomited blood again.
By 6.30am ‘all the doctors were in panic and confused’. She said that when Dr Campbell arrived she was pleased, as ‘I believed he was going to save my son. But despite a blood transfusion, Tharun failed to respond and he died at 9am on the Sunday.
Paediatric registrar Dr Tafadzwa Makaya, whose job was to stabilise the boy, told the Sheffield inquest she had not been informed of any ‘red button plan’ to alert Dr Campbell and a surgical team if there was a further bleed.
When she first saw Tharun he was sat up in bed watching CBeebies on a monitor with his mother and appeared stable. She was only called by a nurse at 4.30am when he vomited blood again.
She instructed he be given more fluid as he had low blood pressure and a raised pulse, called for closer monitoring and ordered some units of blood which should have been ready.
Dr Makaya said she alerted both the surgical and medical registrars to the situation and was told Dr Campbell would be coming in as planned to carry out an endoscopy at 8am.
When coroner Chris Dorries pointed out that Dr Campbell had asked to be made aware if there was any further bleeding she replied: ‘There was no red button plan delivered to me.’
Dr Michael Powers QC, for the family, put it to Dr Makaya: ‘Knowing that this is a significant bleed, you didn’t make any contact with anyone anywhere until 6.15am.’
She replied: ‘I assessed and I managed and then I contacted my superiors.’
Specialist paediatric registrar Dr James Pauling said he arranged for Dr Campbell to do the endoscopy on Sunday morning and there was no contingency plan in place. He said: ‘I don’t recall him saying he had to be called back in the event of further bleeding.’
He himself was not told of any further fresh bleeding which could have been a ‘serious finding’.
Mrs Umashankar and her petrol station cashier husband Sivananthan, 42, ran a grocery store in Barnsley at the time but after the tragedy moved to live with relatives in Tooting, London. They came to the UK 12 years ago and are British nationals.
Dr Crabbe, who reviewed the case, said Tharun had a ‘mighty strange illness’ for a child and he had not come across such a case of catastrophic upper gastrointestinal bleeding in a child before.
He said the Children’s Hospital was unique in that Tharun was admitted to the care of paediatricians rather than surgeons.
The boy should have had an endoscopy on the Saturday afternoon which was an ‘error of judgment’ by the doctors caring for him.
After the hearing, Tharun’s uncle Murali Gunarajah, speaking for the family said: ‘They are very, very sad that this has happened to their baby. ‘They are also upset that the hospital has not apologised or said sorry so far. They think no mother should have to go through what she has again.’
The family are taking civil action for damages against the hospital.
Homeopathy on the NHS is ‘mad’ says outgoing scientific adviser
The use of homoeopathy by the NHS has been described as “mad” by a former government scientific adviser who retired from his post last week.
Professor Sir John Beddington criticised the Government for ignoring his advice against the use of homoeopathic remedies by GPs and NHS run hospitals.
Sir John, who retired as chief scientific adviser to the Government on April 1, expressed frustration that ministers had continued to allow taxpayers money to be used to fund such treatments despite them having “no scientific basis”.
Homeopathy, which uses highly diluted extracts from plants, herbs and minerals to treat diseases, costs the NHS between £4 million and £12 million a year.
The Prince of Wales is among the advocates of homoeopathy while Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary is also known to be a supporter, but it has been widely debunked by the medical community.
Sir John said the provision of homoeopathic remedies on the NHS was the only occasion during his five years as chief scientific adviser that his views had been “fundamentally ignored” by the Government.
He said “The only one I could think of was homoeopathy, which is mad. It has no underpinning of scientific basis. “In fact all of the science points to the fact that it is not at all sensible. “The clear evidence is saying this is wrong, but homoeopathy is still used on the NHS.”
Homeopathy is based on the idea that illnesses can be treated by substances that produce similar symptoms.
For example, sleeplessness could be treated by diluted doses of coffee because when drunk in normal amounts it can keep people awake.
In some cases it is claimed to be able to treat serious illnesses including cancer.
The scientific consensus, however, is that homoeopathic treatments only work through the placebo effect, where patients experience an improvement in their condition despite not being given any active ingredient or medical treatment.
The British Medical Association has described homoeopathy as “witchcraft” while earlier this year Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical office, described it as “rubbish”.
The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee also concluded in 2010 that the “Government should stop allowing the funding of homoeopathy on the NHS”.
There are currently three homoeopathic hospitals run by the NHS in the UK – one each in Bristol, London and Glasgow.
An appointment with a homeopath and a course of homoeopathic pills are estimated to cost around £140 per patient. Although the NHS does not publish how much is spent on homoeopathy, it spent £121,000 on homoeopathic prescriptions in 2010.
The British Homoeopathic Association says £4 million of public money is spent each year, although it has been claimed that the figure could be as much as £12 million a year.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The Department of Health does not maintain a position on any particular complementary or alternative therapy including homoeopathy.
“It is the responsibility of local NHS organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of any health care treatments for NHS patients, such as homoeopathy.
“This should take account of issues to do with safety, clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners.”
Dr Sara Eames, president of the Faculty of Homeopathy, insisted that homoeopathy gave positive results to patients.
She said: “Professor Beddington fails to mention that many more randomised clinical trials in homoeopathy have produced positive results than negative.
“Instead of dismissing homoeopathy, surely it would be far more sensible to carry out research into why doctors and other health care professionals trained in homoeopathy and working within the NHS, regularly see such positive patient outcomes following homoeopathic treatment.”
Sir John also warned that in some cases excessive regulations that used a precautionary approach to risk were creating problems.
He said that European rulings that used this approach, such as banning plastic bottles containing the chemical Bisphenol A in 2010 and the more recent attempt to ban pesticides thought to kill honey bees, risked doing more harm than good.
He said the Icelandic volcano eruption that threw ash into the atmosphere and resulted in thousands of flights being cancelled for over a week, was a good example of this.
He said: “This is other thing that worries me – and you can see an example in the volcanic ash where the problems were actually caused by regulation.
“The regulations said that if there was ash in the air at any concentration you did not fly. It’s crazy. It depends how long you fly through it, what the concentration is.
“There are a whole series of regulations affecting us and we need to be thinking about it.
“There is a real danger of what is happening in the EU in general is an over use of the precautionary principle.
“The banning of Bisphenol A in baby bottles is another example of this. To be frank, the only way you can harm babies with Bisphenol A bottles is to beat them over the head with them.
“With the bans on agrochemicals, they are taking a hazard based approach and introducing regulations that say stop using them. I think this is the over use and illegitimate use of the precautionary principal.
“It is a fine line and needs some debate.”
New NHS 111 phone line under fire again after paramedics are sent to deal with an ingrown toenail and a CAT with diarrhoea
The new NHS 111 phone line has come under fire again after paramedics were sent to deal with an ingrown toenail. Other ridiculous cases include crews being dispatched to a cat diarrhoea and a teenager with period problems.
Frustrated responders say the ‘disastrous’ new system is endangering lives by taking them away from real emergencies.
They blame the private company which is supposed to filter calls from worried members of the public.
Staff at South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) say their their workload has almost doubled with too many calls being wrongly flagged up as emergencies.
Their complaints follow similar protests at South Western Ambulance Service, where crews have been called out to cases of hiccups and people with bad backs.
A whistleblower at (SECAmb), which is based in Brighton, East Sussex, said the new helpline was putting patients at risk. She told the Brighton Argus: ‘It’s just gone mental. We’re getting pretty much double the callouts – and a lot of them are just ridiculous.
‘Ambulance crews are going without breaks for 12 hours or more. The impact was immediate and it’s getting much worse.’
NHS bosses introduced the new 111 service with the aim of making it easier for patients to get medical help, particularly at evenings and weekends. But last month the British Medical Association said the helpline was already in chaos and urged the government to delay its full introduction.
The £28 million contract to provide the 111 service in Sussex has been awarded to Harmoni and sees a team of 250 ‘advisors supported by 60 clinical advisors and GPs.
Call handlers, who are given four weeks training, are told to dispatch an ambulance directly if they believe the caller to be at risk.
But the paramedic said: ‘There are certain trigger words that mean they automatically call an ambulance.
‘So we got called out to a 16 year old girl who wanted advice about her period because she said she was bleeding.
‘A lady phoned up for advice about her cat, which had diarrhoea, and somehow it got transferred through to us.
‘One person even called up complaining of an ingrown toenail, but by the end of the call the person on the other end thought he was suffering from a heart attack.
‘The people who are taking these calls aren’t medically trained. They’re passing stupid calls on to us because they don’t want to make a mistake.’
The insider added that that high number of call-outs meant that ambulances were taking longer to respond to 999 calls about genuine emergencies.
She said: ‘While we are at people’s houses dealing with these ridiculous cases we are hearing calls on the radio about people suffering with cardiac arrests. But there are no vehicles to take them – it’s just disastrous.’
Kevin Long, assistant branch secretary of the union UNISON’s SECAmb Sussex branch, said the increase in demand in Sussex was ‘more than we can cope with’. He said: ‘There has certainly been an increase in the volume of work since the rollout.
‘It’s not working as well as everybody would have hoped and the potential is there that patient safety is being compromised.
‘The increase in calls is putting pressure on a system that is already having difficulties. And there are calls where we turn up and the patient tells us they had just phoned up to ask for advice. ‘It’s still early days but these problems need to be sorted.’
A spokesman for SECAmb said: ‘”South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, along with all part of the NHS in our region and nationally is currently extremely busy. ‘Demand has risen to levels far in excess of our expectations throughout 2012-13.
‘As with any new service that is introduced there is period of bedding in that is required which is why a phased approach has been taken to introducing NHS 111. ‘Our 111 staff receive an intensive four-week training programme and a number of formal assessments and on-going call audits maintains quality.
‘SECAmb assesses all calls in the same way using NHS Pathways – a recognised tool with Royal College approval – when they are transferred from the NHS 111 service to ensure the system is robust. ‘We are continuing to work hard to ensure patients using 111 receive the service they deserve.’
NHS bosses have declared an emergency at four hospitals after the number of sick people taking up beds soared to ‘unprecedented levels’ after the rollout of the new NHS telephone advice hotline.
Chiefs at the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust issued a statement this week saying that numbers had got so high – doubling in recent weeks – that it had been forced to declare an ‘Internal Major Incident’.
The declaration of an ‘Internal Major Incident’ is rarely used – and is normally used after huge motorway accidents or ‘major events’.
The internal statement sent to staff at the hospitals said ‘all consultants and their teams….needed to review all patients’.
Peter Johnson, emergency planning boss at the Trust, said in the statement: “A decision has been made to call an Internal Major Incident, as it has been considered that patient safety is being put at risk due to the amount of patients within our hospital.’
He said the Trust was working with other Kent NHS Trust to ‘ensure that they support our efforts in discharging patients’.
Sorry NUT, Gove’s history reforms are no ‘pub quiz’
British teaching unions’ attacks on the new history curriculum illustrate a sheer uninterest in pupils and will only further damage the British education system, says Chris Skidmore
Another week, another attack on education reforms from the National Union of Teachers – plus ça change. At their annual conference earlier this week, in a result about as surprising as the Falkland Islanders’ expressed desire to maintain their links with Britain, the NUT declared they had no confidence in Michael Gove, Ofsted inspections, nor the new curriculums.
The history curriculum in particular has been drawing the attention of the NUT, who deride it as a throwback to the rote learning of kings and queens, preparing students only for a pub quiz. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Changes to the curriculum are based on the important principle that in order to develop the critical thinking skills we want students to have we need to first provide them with a foundation of knowledge. The education guru E D Hirsch is a particularly notable advocate of the approach. He identified that the anti-knowledge theories of education which came into fashion several decades ago have not only affected performance but also widened inequalities.
This is something we have clearly seen in Britain recently. In international comparisons Britain has been slipping backwards in the rankings, a product of an education system sorely in need of reforms.
An anti-knowledge approach is particularly damaging in history. An aversion to facts gives pupils nothing on which to build the intellectual tools that the subject is expected to develop. As the historian David Cannadine noted in The Right Kind of History, “too many unconnected topics are taught, sometimes not even in chronological sequence, and often with no sense of how they relate to each other”.
It should be no surprise then that the new curriculum would be considered anything but revolutionary in many other parts of the developed world. This supposedly ‘new’ style of teaching is already being pursued in countries like Germany, Australia and France It has also received strong support from many eminent historians including Niall Ferguson and David Starkey.
Reforms have also been criticised for supposedly straitjacketing teachers. Again, this is simply not true. Taking just seven pages to cover key stages one to three the new curriculum, while it demands a basic chronology, gives teachers greater flexibility than ever to teach students in the way that is best for them.
Look at the curriculum for key stage one for example. Students must be taught the lives of significant individuals in Britain’s past. A couple of suggestions are made, such as Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, or Brunel, but teachers are left free to make their own choices. They are also given total flexibility in their selection of “key events in the past that are significant nationally and globally”.
While the NUT bleat away with these unfounded accusations they are unhelpfully distracting from the real issue, which is the timetable. The real problem history teaching faces is not that it will soon involve a broad chronology; it is that at primary level it only receives one hour a week.
Of course there are many worthy subjects which deservedly draw on the time available for teaching. But expanding the teaching in one area need not come at the expense of other subjects. It is time we started seriously considering expanding the hours that schools teach.
According to OECD figures, from age seven to 14 students will receive less classroom time than those in countries, amongst many others, such as Ireland, Canada, France and Australia. What may seem like a small amount of additional classroom time each week soon adds up over the course of a year, and would allow for far greater depth in teaching.
Yet in spite of this clear need the NUT, whilst claiming curriculum reforms must be resisted in the best interests of pupils, is demanding hours be reduced to 20 hours classroom time a week. Nothing could do more to illustrate the sheer disinterest in pupils that characterises the NUT’s resistance to education reform.
As reform is pursued in the face of union opposition we mustn’t be swayed by the claims of organisations like the NUT that they just want what is best for our children. They are a politically motivated body driven by an ideological hatred of Michael Gove.
Instead we should maintain our focus on the evidence, which tells us that a knowledge-first approach to subjects builds understanding, and that we could benefit from an expanded timetable. This approach, not the unions, is what we need to reverse the relative decline of education in Britain, and to build an education system fit for the 21st century.
The philistines have taken over the classroom
How did we get to a situation where teachers are even more cavalier about knowledge and serious schooling than politicians are?
In virtually every Western society, education is in trouble.
In part, the crisis of schooling is a product of the politicisation of education. In recent decades, education has been transformed into an instrument of public policy, a means for achieving objectives that are entirely external to learning. Education is now expected to put right the failures of adult society, to transform apathetic youngsters into responsible citizens. Education is meant to promote social mobility, multiculturalism, responsible sex, sound financial behaviour and emotional wellbeing, and to provide youngsters with a variety of key skills.
The instrumental transformation of education into a vehicle for achieving policy objectives means that it is rarely appreciated as something valuable in its own right. Education has been so instrumentalised that its main function is now to ‘provide skills’. The teaching of knowledge itself, for its own sake, is frequently dismissed as an old-fashioned custom that is not relevant to the twenty-first century.
That policymakers confuse education with training is regrettable, but understandable. Far more worrying is the fact that a significant section of the teaching profession has also embraced the philistine skills agenda. Indeed, Britain’s education establishment is if anything more ideologically devoted to instrumental pedagogy than is the Lib-Con coalition government. This became painfully clear at the recent conferences of English teachers’ unions, where opposition to the government was often expressed through denunciations of knowledge-based curricula.
So we heard Alex Kenny, a member of the executive of the National Union of Teachers, dismiss the government’s new national curriculum on the grounds that it is ‘high on content and low on skills’. Numerous delegates attacked the curriculum’s emphasis on core knowledge. A survey of 2,000 NUT members revealed that two thirds of teachers are hostile to the government’s plans to place less emphasis on skills.
This means we have a paradoxical situation, where politicians seem to take the teaching of subject-based knowledge more seriously than educators do. The philistine attitude towards education adopted by some NUT delegates was exposed most strikingly through their confusion of knowledge with facts. Kenny, for instance, said a knowledge-based curriculum is one ‘based on pub quiz-style chinks of information’. The NUT’s general secretary, Christine Blower, equated the acquisition of knowledge with rote learning and said ‘it doesn’t promote the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for good quality learning’. Her words reflect the current wisdom of utilitarian pedagogy: learning and skills are better than education.
Knowledge and skills
In any discussion about the relationship between analytical skills and knowledge, it is easy to become one-sided. Often, too much of a polarising distinction is made between knowledge and its application. It is possible to make a distinction: knowledge is accomplished through learning principles, concepts and facts, while skills represent the capacity to use that knowledge in specific contexts. But in reality, these two things are inextricably bound together. The gaining of knowledge, particularly deep knowledge, requires such skills as the capacity to conceptualise, compare and critically engage.
Education unleashes a dynamic process in which a greater depth of knowledge can be achieved through application – that is, through using the power of abstraction or experiment. Through the greater acquisition of knowledge, one becomes more sensitive to, and better at, applying it. Contrary to the NUT executive’s prioritisation of skills provision, it is knowledge that provides children with the capacity to conceptualise, compare and abstract. Knowledge is logically prior to analytical skills. The logical priority of knowledge does not mean skills are unimportant, or even less important. It simply means that disciplinary knowledge provides the intellectual and cultural foundation for the exercise of what Aristotle called phronesis: the virtue of practical thought.
Critics of the ‘knowledge model’ of education are often really calling into question the authority of knowledge itself. The pedagogic devaluation of a knowledge-based curriculum is fuelled by a powerful anti-intellectual ethos that refuses to take ideas seriously. From this philistine perspective, knowledge is reducible to facts and information. Accordingly, acquiring knowledge is seen as being akin to memorising facts. Hence the misleading depiction of knowledge acquisition as a form of ‘rote learning’.
One recurring argument against knowledge-led curricula is that they quickly become outdated in our ever-changing world. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, says that since ‘what is known to be true changes by the hour’, the ‘rote learning of facts must give way to nurturing through education of essential transferable skills’ (1). ‘Truth’ is depicted as a momentary epiphenomenon, and knowledge acquisition is caricatured as the ‘rote learning of facts’.
The view of truth and knowledge as unstable, transitory things is now widespread among opponents to rigorous, academic-based school curricula. The position statement of one teachers’ union asserts that ‘a twenty-first-century curriculum cannot have the transfer of knowledge at its core for the simple reason that the selection of what is required has become problematic in an information-rich age’. Once again, critics fail to distinguish between knowledge and information. It is society’s knowledge that gives meaning to new information, through allowing people to interpret new facts and helping society to understand what significance or otherwise should be attached to such facts. Far from allowing the so-called ‘information age’ to undermine knowledge, we should trust knowledge, treated and transmitted seriously, to help people negotiate information highways.
Through appropriating new experiences and ideas, knowledge itself develops. But the ‘latest knowledge’ is always organically linked to that which preceded it. Today’s scepticism towards the authority of knowledge implicitly calls into question the meaning of education itself. Once the knowledge of the past is rendered obsolescent, what can education mean? If ‘what is known to be true changes by the hour’, what is there left to teach?
Educationalists often talk about ‘breaks’ and ‘ruptures’, claiming that nothing is as it was and that the present has been decoupled from the past. Their worldview is shaped by great short-termism, by a feeling of being so overwhelmed by the displacement of the old by the new that they forget that historical experience may actually continue to be relevant to our lives. Discussions about the relationship between education and change are frequently overwhelmed by fads and by the superficial symptoms of new developments. This overlooks the fact that the fundamental educational needs of students do not alter every time a new technology is invented. Certainly the questions raised by Greek philosophy, Renaissance poetry, Enlightenment science or the novels of George Eliot continue to be relevant for students in this age, just as they were to students who lived and studied long before the dawning of the Digital Age.
Knowledge is not simply the sum total of a body of facts; it is based on concepts, theories and specific structures of thought. So even if some of the content of knowledge changes in line with new developments, its structure and concepts can retain their significance for very long periods of time. Geometric theorems may be contested over time, but they nonetheless express a body of knowledge that transcends centuries.
The fetishisation of change, the obsession with ‘rupture’, speaks to today’s intellectual malaise, in which truth, knowledge and meaning are treated as provisional and arbitrary things. Perversely, the transformation of change into a metaphysical force haunting humanity actually weakens society’s ability to distinguish between a passing novelty and a qualitative change. That is why lessons learned through the experiences and knowledge of the past are so important for helping society face the future. When change is objectified, it turns into a spectacle, something we observe rather than affect; we become cavalier about the truths and insights that emerged from and through the greatest moments in human history. Yet these truths came from attempts to find answers to many of the deepest, most durable questions facing humanity, and the more the world changes, the more we need to draw on our cultural and intellectual inheritance from the past.
If the legacy of the past ceases to have relevance to the schooling of young people, what can education mean? Historically, serious thinkers from across the left-right divide recognised that education is a transaction between generations. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, wrote that ‘in reality each generation educates the new generation’. From a conservative perspective, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott said ‘education in its most general significance may be recognised as a specific transaction which may go on between the generations of human beings in which newcomers to the scene are initiated into the world they inhabit’. The liberal political philosopher Hannah Arendt said education provides an opportunity for society both to preserve and to renew its intellectual inheritance through an intergenerational conversation.
One of the principal tasks of education is to teach children about the world as it is and how it became that way. Although society is continually changing, education needs to acquaint young people with the legacy of the past. The term ‘learning from the past’ is often said sneeringly – yet it is impossible for people to engage with the future if they do not draw on the insights and knowledge from centuries of human experience. Individuals gain an understanding of themselves through becoming familiar with the unfolding of the human world.
In essence, the main mission of education is to preserve the past so that the young have the cultural and intellectual resources they need to deal with the challenges of the future. This understanding of education as renewal stands in direct contrast to the current trend for elevating change and unpredictability in the curriculum. Too often in modern Anglo-American societies, curriculum-planning is about cultivating an ethos of flexibility towards the future; of course, the capacity to adapt is a valuable asset, but exercising this capacity requires that we have an intellectual and moral grounding in knowledge and past gains.
The question of what balance education should strike between the gains of the past and the changes of the present and the future should be a constant source of debate. Today, however, when policymakers and pedagogues tend to be so fixated on the present that they seek to distance education from the past, it is essential to reaffirm the importance of a traditional humanist education. The impulse to free education from the past is driven by a view of all ideas that are not of the moment as old-fashioned and irrelevant. Yet preserving the past through education does not mean uncritically accepting the world as it is; it means assuming adult responsibility for the world into which the young are integrated. The aim should be to acquaint the young with the world as it is so that they have the intellectual resources necessary for renewing it, for moving the human conversation forward.
A liberal humanist education is underpinned by a conviction that children are the rightful heirs to the achievements and legacy of the past. It is precisely because education gives meaning to the human experience that it needs to be valued in its own right. One of the principal characteristics of education should be a lack of interest in any ulterior purpose. That does not mean that it is uninterested in developments affecting children and society; it means that it regards transmitting the cultural and intellectual achievements of humanity to children as its defining mission. Once society is able to uphold an education system that values itself and the acquisition of knowledge, policymakers and the public can start thinking about what practical steps might be required to deal with current challenges in the classroom.
Was Margaret Thatcher the first climate sceptic?
Margaret Thatcher was the first leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy
A persistent claim made by believers in man-made global warming – they were at it again last week – is that no politician was more influential in launching the worldwide alarm over climate change than Margaret Thatcher. David Cameron, so the argument runs, is simply following in her footsteps by committing the Tory party to its present belief in the dangers of global warming, and thus showing himself in this respect, if few others, to be a loyal Thatcherite.
The truth behind this story is much more interesting than is generally realised, not least because it has a fascinating twist. Certainly, Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988, With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then our man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming.
She found equally persuasive the views of a third prominent convert to the cause, Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office. She backed him in the setting up of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, and promised the Met Office lavish funding for its Hadley Centre, which she opened in 1990, as a world authority on “human-induced climate change”.
In bringing this about, Mrs Thatcher played an important part. It is not widely appreciated, however, that there was a dramatic twist to her story. In 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views.
She voiced precisely the fundamental doubts about the warming scare that have since become familiar to us. Pouring scorn on the “doomsters”, she questioned the main scientific assumptions used to drive the scare, from the conviction that the chief force shaping world climate is CO2, rather than natural factors such as solar activity, to exaggerated claims about rising sea levels. She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer. She recognised how distortions of the science had been used to mask an anti-capitalist, Left-wing political agenda which posed a serious threat to the progress and prosperity of mankind.
In other words, long before it became fashionable, Lady Thatcher was converted to the view of those who, on both scientific and political grounds, are profoundly sceptical of the climate change ideology. Alas, what she set in train earlier continues to exercise its baleful influence to this day. But the fact that she became one of the first and most prominent of “climate sceptics” has been almost entirely buried from view.
Margaret Thatcher: Hot Air And Global Warming
An excerpt from her 2002 book “Statecraft” below:
The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism.
All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method. Indeed, the lack of any sense of proportion is what characterises many pronouncements on the matter by otherwise sensible people. Thus President Clinton on a visit to China, which poses a serious strategic challenge to the US, confided to his host, President Jiang Zemin, that his greatest concern was the prospect that ‘your people may get rich like our people, and instead of riding bicycles, they will drive automobiles, and the increase in greenhouse gases will make the planet more dangerous for all.’
It would, though, be difficult to beat for apocalyptic hyperbole former Vic President Gore. Mr Gore believes: ‘The cleavage in the modern world between mind and body, man and nature, has created a new kind of addiction: I believe that our civilisation is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself.’ And he warns: ‘Unless we find a way to dramatically change our civilisation and our way of thinking about the relationship between humankind and the earth, our children will inherit a wasteland.’
But why pick on the Americans? Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has observed: ‘There is no greater national duty than the defence of our shoreline. But the most immediate threat to it today is the encroaching sea.’ Britain has found, it seems, a worthy successor to King Canute.
The fact that seasoned politicians can say such ridiculous things – and get away with it – illustrates the degree to which the new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-centre governing classes. […]*
Margaret Thatcher stood up for ordinary Britons – that’s why the Left loathe her
By almost every standard, Margaret Thatcher was one of the greatest political leaders in modern history. She led Britain to victory in the Falklands, tamed the power of the unions, kick-started an economic revolution and unleashed the energies of aspiration and initiative.
None of this, of course, came without a cost. And since many industrial communities were badly scarred by the economic transformation of the Eighties, it is hardly surprising that not everybody remembers her fondly.
Yet it was profoundly shocking to read some of yesterday’s comments on the death of an 87-year old mother and grandmother who, as our first woman Prime Minister, earned a high place in the history books.
Only minutes after the announcement of Lady Thatcher’s death, the Respect MP George Galloway took to Twitter, declaring: ‘Tramp the dirt down’ — a sickening reference to Elvis Costello’s 1989 protest song about the Iron Lady, in which he sang: ‘When they finally put you in the ground, I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.’
And late yesterday afternoon, evidently regretting that his earlier abuse had not gone far enough, he tweeted: ‘May she burn in the hellfires.’
Mr Galloway’s contemptible effusions are now depressingly familiar. But he was not alone. The comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted a link to the YouTube video of Kool and the Gang’s song Celebration, while David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, declared that it was a ‘great day’, even describing it as ‘one of the best birthdays I have ever had’.
On Facebook, a campaign to take Judy Garland’s Wizard Of Oz song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead to No.1 attracted thousands of supporters — many of them not even born when Mrs Thatcher left office.
It beggars belief that anybody could react in such a boorish way to the death of an elderly woman.
I can understand why people who spent the Eighties in the Welsh coalfields, Scottish shipyards or industrial North are unlikely to remember Lady Thatcher with great affection. But I suspect most of them would be appalled by the crude and tasteless abuse of Mr Galloway and his cronies.
It is a myth, by the way, that everybody in the Labour Party hated Mrs Thatcher. Inside Parliament, many of her political opponents openly admired her.
When the former Grantham grammar-school girl became Tory leader in 1975, Labour’s Barbara Castle wrote in her diary of her pride and excitement that a woman had reached the top.
And only a few weeks ago Denis Healey, one of Lady Thatcher’s most bruising Labour opponents in the Seventies and Eighties, told the New Statesman magazine that he always considered Mrs Thatcher ‘good-looking and brilliant’. Outside Parliament, however, the trendy Left often loathed her.
Much of this was rooted not in ideological disagreement but in the most odious kind of social snobbery.
Margaret Thatcher was, after all, the most famous grocer’s daughter in history. Her values were those of the middle-class shopkeeper and the Methodist chapel — and the highbrow Left hated her for it. To the well-heeled, well-connected boarding-school products of the Labour Left, who were smug in the knowledge of their own righteousness, the prospect of an ordinary middle-class woman leading the nation seemed unthinkable. A classic example was the theatre director Jonathan Miller, a notoriously pretentious Hampstead intellectual who described her as ‘loathsome, repulsive in almost every way’.
The very superior Jonathan Miller
He hated, he said, her ‘odious suburban gentility and sentimental, saccharine patriotism, catering to the worst elements of commuter idiocy’. It is hard to read those words without gagging at the stench of patrician snobbery. What, after all, is so bad about being suburban or patriotic? Or, indeed, a commuter?
Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.
Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.
Yet even as Mrs Thatcher continued to win elections, the trendy Left seethed with snobbish contempt. They sneered at her supporters — who were often ordinary working men and women trying to build better lives for themselves and their families — as ‘spivs’ and ‘Essex men’.
And where Mrs Thatcher herself was concerned, their condescension was boundless. One Left-wing commentator called her ‘Mike Yarwood in drag’, after the comedian and impressionist who used to mimic politicians, while the playwright and TV critic Dennis Potter wrote that with her ‘small pawing gestures’ and ‘glossy head tilted at a rather too carefully alert angle’, she reminded him of ‘everyone’s favourite celluloid b****, Lassie’.
It is hard to miss the repellent sexism here. Indeed, I have always thought that the Left would never have treated a man as cruelly as they did the Iron Lady.
Even today, in our supposedly post-feminist age, dozens of commenters on Twitter and the Guardian website see nothing wrong in describing Lady Thatcher as a ‘witch’, ‘hag’ or ‘b****’. Would they talk about a man in the same way? I doubt it.
The extraordinary thing, though, is that even though Lady Thatcher won three elections, transformed our country and spoke for millions of ordinary people, hatred of her is absolutely ingrained in great swathes of our academic and media classes.
What really infuriates, them, of course, is the fact that she appealed to so many ordinary voters.
Indeed, her real skill lay in her instinctive understanding of the ambitions and anxieties of the British people.
She would have known that most decent people would be horrified by the childish jibes of her critics.
And she would have taken comfort from the fact that in the long run, history will hold her in high regard.
She was not, of course, perfect — and, like any politician, she made her share of mistakes. But she helped to bring down the Berlin Wall, ended Britain’s long slide into irrelevance and spoke for millions of people who dreamed of a better life.
Perhaps above all, as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she became an icon of aspiration, social mobility and self-improvement. She did not so much break the glass ceiling as smash her way through it.
For my money, she stands alongside Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee as the greatest Prime Ministers of the last century. By comparison, today’s politicians — as well as Lady Thatcher’s childish critics — are pygmies, squabbling in her shadow.
As long as Britain endures, Margaret Thatcher will be remembered. And that, of course, is why the Left hates her.
Now there really is no such thing as society
Back in 1987, Mrs Thatcher was monstered over an interview in which she said: ‘There is no such thing as society.’ The Left seized on this remark as evidence of her heartless indifference to the plight of ordinary people.
What she was actually doing was condemning the use of ‘society’ as a convenient shorthand excuse for individual deficiencies, disappointments and delinquency. A quarter of a century ago, as in some quarters today, there was a knee-jerk readiness to blame ‘society’ for everything from drug addiction to violent crime.
Mrs Thatcher was also criticising the automatic tendency of people to look to the State as a cure for all ills.
She was of the firm conviction that society is the sum of its parts — individuals, families, churches, voluntary organisations, businesses. It was her belief that people expected too much from government, concentrated too much on their ‘rights’ and ‘entitlements’ and not enough on their obligations.
We all have a duty to help ourselves and our neighbours. Hers was a vision of a liberated, bottom-up society, not the bureaucratic top-down version favoured by Socialists.
It is especially relevant to today’s ferocious debate over welfare — safety net versus cradle-to-grave lifestyle option. Labour naturally favours a system in which the State Will Provide, even if it traps people in dependency.
If you make idleness a worthwhile career choice, why should anyone look for a job? It’s not their fault, is it?
After the Left lost the economic argument, following Thatcher’s third general election victory, they realised there was no future in brute force collective industrial action. So they embraced the notion of individual ‘rights’ as a way of furthering their agenda.
Labour decided it could no longer rely on white, working-class trades unionists to secure power. So it set about building what by then had become known as a ‘rainbow coalition’ based on the notion of victimhood.
Rather than ‘society’ the Left fastened on to ‘community’ as their buzzword. This didn’t mean community in its traditional sense, it meant ‘minority’.
It involved carving up society into myriad client groups and stoking their grievances, real or perceived, which could only be assuaged by new laws and lashings of taxpayers’ money.
Another champagne socialist at the heart of the British Labour party
Labour’s Comrade Cruddas and the beautifully remote THIRD home on the Irish Coast where he is writing Miliband’s manifesto
The Labour Election chief who lambasted Tony Blair for failing to provide enough cheap homes is planning to write the party’s manifesto from his latest new home – one of three he owns worth a total of £1 million.
The latest addition to MP John Cruddas’s portfolio is a self-designed holiday cottage overlooking a beach on a scenic isle off the coast of Ireland.
He has had an office added to the building so he can use it to write Ed Miliband’s General Election manifesto – in between ‘exhilarating’ walks and kite-surfing on the beach.
Regular flights from nearby Knock International Airport mean Mr Cruddas and his wife, Labour peer Baroness Healy, can ‘commute’ the 500 miles to Westminster.
The four-bedroom retreat in County Mayo is in addition to Mr Cruddas’s mansion block flat in West London’s fashionable Notting Hill and a third home in his constituency in Dagenham, East London.
Former union official Mr Cruddas fiercely criticised Tony Blair’s Government for chasing middle-class voters and claimed a ‘lack of affordable social housing’ was its ‘outstanding public policy failure.’
His outspoken views led to Mr Miliband putting Mr Cruddas in charge of a shake up of the Party’s policies and designing and writing its election manifesto.
Mr Cruddas designed his latest home on the beautiful island of Achill and had it built to his specifications, including an open-plan kitchen, dining room and an office.
From there he will be able to work on Labour’s manifesto overlooking a sandy beach instead of hectic Westminster or his tough urban constituency.
‘I am going to bring some of my colleagues here to do a bit of work and get away from it and sort out a few things,’ Mr Cruddas told an Irish journalist. ‘We have quite a big agenda ahead of us over the next couple of years but this will be the perfect place to get things done.’
He said the island setting is ‘one of the most beautiful places you can come across …. a strange type of beauty because it is a wild and ferocious type. There is nothing as exhilarating as walking along the beach, especially on Christmas Day’.
The holiday home, worth about £180,000, is also ideal for two of Mr Cruddas’ other hobbies, golf and fishing. He joined the exclusive, £1,500-a-year Walton Heath golf club in Surrey, once captained by the Duke of Windsor.
His new home is close to the greens of Achill golf club, which promises members ‘beautiful, ever-changing scenery and invigorating Achill air’.
The area, one of Ireland’s most popular holiday destinations, claims to have ‘the best fishing waters in Ireland’ with mullet, mackerel and skate. It also offers scuba-diving.
Ireland’s Atlantic coast is one of the furthest points in the British Isles from Westminster. In Mr Cruddas’s own words: ‘Next stop New York.’
While speaking out for Labour’s traditional supporters, Mr Cruddas, 51, and wife Anna, who both have Irish roots, are part of Labour’s ‘aristocracy.’ Mr Cruddas was Mr Blair’s union fixer in No. 10 and his wife was given a peerage after advising John Prescott and Harriet Harman.
As an MP, he earns a salary of £65,000 a year, while peers can claim a £300-per-day attendance allowance.
It is not the first time the couple have been involved in controversy over property. In 2007, Mr Cruddas was accused of using his MP’s second-homes expenses to fund a London flat which enabled him to obtain better schooling for his son.
The couple bought a home in Notting Hill for £375,000 and claimed more than £80,000 in expenses on the property, which fell within the catchment area of elite Catholic Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in nearby Holland Park. Pupils are required to learn Latin and attend weekly Mass.
The MP was able to make the second-home claims because he nominated his constituency home in Dagenham, worth about £200,000, as his ‘main home’ for expenses purposes.
At around the same time as he bought the Notting Hill flat, now worth up to £650,000, his son began attending Cardinal Vaughan School, known for its excellent results.
The secondary school nearest to Mr Cruddas’s constituency home, Dagenham Park Community School, is one of London’s poorest in terms of results.
Mr Cruddas denied he had moved simply to get his child into the school and said he had ‘always supported Catholic comprehensives’.
He provoked ridicule when he described Labour’s policy review as ‘not policy as such, rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less the Sprit Level, more What is England’.
A spokesman for Mr Cruddas declined to comment.
Did rising Labour star Chuka Umunna use a fake identity to edit his Wikipedia entry?
First he came under fire after it emerged he was a member of an exclusive social networking site for so-called ‘jetrosexuals’.
And now Labour’s Chuka Umunna is facing a new internet row, amid allegations he doctored his own Wikipedia page to include flattering comparisons with Barack Obama.
Mr Umunna, a rising star who is tipped to become party leader one day, is alleged to have created his own profile on the online encyclopedia in 2007, using the pseudonym ‘Socialdemocrat’.
At the time he was searching for a safe Labour seat for the next general election.
Over the years someone has tweaked his profile using the same pseudonym, adding flattering articles including one which described 34-year-old Mr Umunna as ‘the British Obama’.
But in public the MP for Streatham has played down the comparison, claiming ‘it annoys me a bit’.
Shortly after being elected he said: ‘You get lazy journalists and the odd blogger who’ll suggest that I fancy myself as “Britain’s Obama”, and that I seek to encourage the comparison.
‘It’s never been something I’ve encouraged. I want people to look at me as me, not through the prism of someone else’s personality.’
‘Socialdemocrat’ created Mr Umunna’s Wikipedia page on October 27, 2007, and appeared to have a highly detailed knowledge of his career.
That user has only edited two other Wikipedia pages, one of which belongs to Compass, a left-wing pressure group. Mr Umunna was on its management committee.
The other was the entry for columnist Kelvin Mackenzie, who had a robust exchange with Mr Umunna on the BBC’s Question Time.
Mr Umunna has used the term ‘social democrat’ to describe himself several times, and once told the Black Socialist Society that it was time to change its name as ‘the Labour Party today is not socialist but social democratic’.
Mr Umunna, a former lawyer and DJ, was forced to apologise last week after it emerged that he had described patrons of London’s nightclubs as ‘trash’ and ‘C-list wannabes’.
He made the remarks as a member of ASmallWorld, an invitation-only social networking site which has been described as MySpace for millionaires.
Conservative MP Nigel Adams said: ‘Comrade Chuka’s not doing his credibility much good this week. Like most champagne socialists, they talk a good game about standing up for the working man but are as transparent as a Gucci shop window.’
A Tory source said: ‘The only thing Chuka Umunna seems interested in is shameless self-promotion. It’s laughable for him to compare himself to Obama.
‘He says one thing in public and does another behind closed doors. Who is ever going to believe a word he says ever again?’
Mr Umunna told the Telegraph: ‘I don’t have any recollection of that log in or any of the changes. But I can’t say for certain that someone with my campaign did not set up that log in.’
He added that while he does not edit his own Wikipedia page, ‘my staff have had to correct it when it has been vandalised by racists and people of that type’.
Must not praise Margaret Thatcher?
Geri Halliwell led stars talking about the late politician on the social networking site but after posting a message praising Lady Thatcher she swiftly deleted it and apologised to her followers.
The Spice Girl appeared to anger fans by writing: ‘Thinking of our 1st Lady of girl power, Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x’
Geri quickly deleted the Tweet writing simply: ‘I’m sorry if I offended u. X’
The singer has praised Lady Thatcher in the past and in the run up to the 1997 election she said: ‘I saw a lot of what Mrs Thatcher did. She was definitely the original Spice Girl rising from the greengrocer’s daughter to Prime Minister.’
The entertainment industry leans heavily Left