Parents – you have a yooman rite to bring the kids on holliers
Published 27/05/2014 | 02:30
It was a summer break I'd never forget – if I'd been allowed to go, that is.
I was in secondary school and the old man had stumbled across a random opportunity to visit Yugoslavia for a few weeks. An eternal optimist who had spent his life being disappointed by socialism, he still saw Tito's Yugoslavia as the last European bastion of effective politics. He admired how a country riven by the kind of ethnic and sectarian hatreds that made Norn Iron look like a cake sale could unite together under one flag and he wanted to take the opportunity to see this workers paradise. Just one problem – for the family to go, I'd miss the last week of school.
I wheedled, pleaded begged and cajoled – all to no avail. Damn it, I even read up on the history of the place in an effort to show how interested I was. The Ma pointed out that she wasn't going to take her precious one and only out of school for anything, least of all some trip to a country which, at that stage, was trying to turn itself into a tourist destination to rival Spain.
School came first and while a few weeks in the Balkans were rather appealing then – as they are now – there was never any real debate. The old man threw the idea out there and recoiled just as quickly when his missus put the kibosh on it, while I pouted and sulked and used the most devastating indictment I could think of – they 'weren't being fair'.
I thought about those rows when I saw that 120,000 parents in Britain have signed a petition demanding that they be allowed to skip school because it would be breach of their 'human right to a family life' if nasty headmasters discipline the child or fine the parents when they come from their inconvenient jaunt to the latest hotspot.
Now, one of the reasons that we didn't go to Yugoslavia was that, apart from any notional effort to ensure my fragile little mind got as much edyookayshun as possible, there was also the fact that I would most probably be in trouble when I next set foot in a classroom.
Maybe if my folks had thought of suing under some spurious human rights law I would have been able to go on my foreign venture. But even then I doubt it – because my parents understood that school time was school time and there was nothing you could do about it, inconvenient as that may be.
But then they didn't live in an era of instant gratification and self-righteous indignation. Like most normal people, they understood that the rules, as they say, is the rules.
The 'Parents Want A Say' group collected the petition and are now going to court to ensure they can bring their little Tamara skiing when the weather's more suitable. They claim that: "For us to only be allowed to take our kids on holidays when the government or school say we can is a breach of family life."
In my innocence, I never assumed that a few weeks abroad is enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but I s'pose you just don't know these days. But one thing we do know is that there will always be plenty of people who see any attempt to interfere with their plans as some act of State-enforced terror.
Indeed, one of the campaigners complains that: "As a working parent who works with 30 other working parents, how on earth can we fit our leave into six weeks? They will end up not employing working mums. This country has become so dictatorial."
It doesn't take much to set people off on some grievance these days and I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a simple request to bring your children to school has been turned into an attack on working mothers.
But, as ever, there is a solution. If you are convinced that the State has no business telling you when your kids should be in school, then home school them.
And if you can't home school and still insist on taking your kids away during term time, don't complain when the teacher refuses to spend extra time bringing them back up to speed on all the stuff they missed out on.
The 10 commandments of social media
The Catholic Church has come up with a new set of Commandments for those members who use Twitter.
They are as you would expect: be nice, be kind and try not to be a dick. They're the kind of ideas that work whether you believe in God or not – after all, the religious don't have a monopoly on courtesy.
Interestingly, one rather obvious candidate for a commandment, one that features prominently on many other websites, is absent and that's the bit about 'reporting abuse' when you see it.
However, as they say, a lot more, more to do.
HE WASN'T EVIL, HE WAS SICK AND WE SHOULD PITY HIM
If ever there was a slam-dunk hate crime, then Elliot Rodger qualifies. Let's put it this way, if the targets of his shooting spree had been black men as opposed to white women, there would be an even greater furore.
And now the excuses are coming thick and fast, with the emphasis on thick.
Some people have said he was on medication, some conspiracy nuts are blaming vaccinations and others have tried to pin the blame on Asperger's Syndrome – because people on that spectrum just aren't treated badly enough as it is.
If he'd been alive when he was apprehended, however, I can guarantee what his defence would have been – 'affluenza'.
After all, a rich, white Texan teenager who killed four of his friends while drunk driving last year was sent to rehab rather than jail when his lawyers argued that he was the child of rich parents who indulged him. This meant that he wasn't actually a spoiled little prick, but a victim of the pernicious affluenza which means the sufferer is so indulged and cosseted that they are simply incapable of telling right from wrong.
Or, as they are known by laymen, politicians.