Category Archives: Morality

An immodest proposal for Jeff Bezos’s Earth Fund

In case you missed it, the richest person on earth earlier this week announced the world’s biggest fighting fund for the climate crisis. He has not said much about how that $10 billion will be spent. So in a rare display of immodesty, I am going to offer a proposal.

Jeff Bezos Instagram post announcing Earth Fund

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The Chinese educational revolution with outdoor play as its beating heart

Anji Play – a public kindergarten service running in 140 centres for 14,000 children aged 3-6 in Anji County, China  – is gaining an international profile for its emphasis on outdoor play and its relaxed approach to risk. I first stumbled on it a couple of years ago, thanks to this widely-shared video on Facebook. More recently my curiosity was piqued by its inclusion in a superb episode of the Netflix TV documentary ‘Abstract’, on the US construction toy designer and play advocate Cas Holman.

Then I realised that an upcoming trip to China was going to take me literally to Anji Play’s doorstep. So I persuaded my Chinese clients to exploit this lucky coincidence and set up a visit.

My first view of the schoolyard at Anji Play

My first view of the schoolyard at Anji Play

This post shares some thoughts on what I saw and heard. It ends with a short interview with Anji Play’s founder, Cheng Xueqin, who has just stepped down from her role as head of service.

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Is ‘annoyance and nuisance’ enough to get a criminal record?

In June 2010 Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that he wanted to see “spaces where children can play, where they can feel completely free, where they can safely push at the boundaries, learning and experimenting. Places where different generations can meet, binding the community together.” In 2008 – in a report on childhood launched by David Cameron himself – the Tories declared, “We must allow our children to be seen and heard.”

The proposed legislation to criminalise children for “causing nuisance and annoyance” is a betrayal of these words and actions, and a shameful move by the Coalition government. It is a slap in the face to children – who let’s remember, are not so much couch potatoes as couch prisoners, and already have to overcome safety fears, traffic danger, and official hostility in order to enjoy that most basic of childhood pleasures, playing outside. It pulls the rug out from under parents who are trying to give their children a little more freedom. And it is (irony of ironies) profoundly anti-social, since it is likely to deprive children of the very kind of everyday experiences that help them learn how to become responsible citizens. Please do what you can to support Play England – and what I suspect will be a growing list of other concerned people – in fighting it.

Love Outdoor Play

So when you were 10, 12, 15, could you be ‘annoying’? Could you be a ‘nuisance’?

I interviewed my grandmother recently about what she did as a young girl.

She is now nearly 90 and has led, I think it’s fair to say, an almost blameless life. Yet as a young girl her and her group of friends would run up to houses, knock on the doors and run away…

Well if the new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-14 gets passed, behaviour that my grandmother got up to could conceivably land her with a criminal record.

I’m no expert on this sort of issue – I’m an ex-teacher, done some community development, and spent the last five years promoting and leading programmes and campaigning to get kids more freedom to play. But my colleagues at the Standing Commitee on Youth Justice are. As are the Association of Chief…

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The death of James Bulger: a singular tragedy and a damaging landmark

One of the challenges of writing about the Bulger killing is confronting the enormity of what happened to James, and its catastrophic impact on his family. To hear the interview with James’s father Ralph Bulger on Radio Four yesterday morning is to hear a man driven to the very edge of self-destruction by the tragedy that befell him.

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Adults think children are becoming feral. Could they be right?

Almost half of adults think that children are becoming feral, according to a survey published yesterday by leading children’s charity Barnardos. The charity blames perceptions of children – yet could there be some truth in the observation? Continue reading

How do we help children understand right and wrong from the inside?

There is no more difficult job than getting children to understand the moral consequences of their actions.  And there is a growing feeling that this job is getting harder.  Not surprisingly, an army of parenting gurus, products and academics is on hand to offer help to parents and educators. Continue reading