My husband Ivan and I do not happen to adhere to the practices of any organized religion, and before we had kids that seemed to be working just fine. We come from different backgrounds (mine agnostic with varying degrees of Christianity in my heritage, his a mix between Jewish and agnostic), but had generally landed in the same spot in adulthood: We believe in a Higher Power, and He or She may or may not be bearded (which does not necessarily designate gender; perhaps just a divine aversion to wax).
One of the features of London Library membership is an induction, a hurdle sufficiently alarming that I would have cancelled the whole plan to avoid the ordeal. But alas, my charming companion knows my tricks. He called and arranged the appointment before I could weasel out.
The other day my daughter mentioned to a university classmate that she was homeschooled, and the other student recoiled in shock and disgust.
My kid said "What? You are acting like I was raised by the Klu Klux Klan. I wasn't. Homeschooling is simply another form of education."
Ever since his fourteenth birthday my son has been exasperated with me, and frequently asks why I do, oh, anything and everything.
I quickly learned to answer "Because I am old, and stupid."
He accepted this, and proceeded with the activities most dear to an adolescent.
Except one day he asked why I was doing something so obviously routine and necessary I answered "Because I am old, and stupid, and boring!"
He paused, thought about it, and replied "You're not boring."
One of the most irritating aspects of my grownup life is the fact that I spend a great deal of time with people who care about academic rankings.
This is repugnant to me not because I disagree that it is important to strive for excellence - oh no. My problem with rankings is the fact that they are meaningful in a factory where input = output.
How does that translate to education, where standards can only be reliably applied to basic and largely irrelevant goals like achievement on standardised tests, or the performance of school sports teams?
The UK Government has announced a new social mobility strategy.
Nick Clegg, David Cameron and pals have made public statements condemning the "who you know" culture that gives preferential access to educational opportunities and jobs based on social connections. They say that under this government everyone should get a "fair chance."
The initiative is fascinating, not least because Clegg, Cameron, Osborne and associates were all privately and expensively educated. They are, one and all, people who obtained internships and career placements through family connections.
Speaking of pioneer mythologies, America is largely responsible for giving the world the stereotype of the self-made man.
It would be so nice if it were true - but even those of us who were invented out of a scrap heap have someone in our history who deserves credit and gratitude.
Between genuine economic woes and the efforts of the coalition government to push through hasty, misguided, and largely ideological reforms, we have the rare moment of hilarity.
Like former Tory party vice-chairman and new life peer Howard Flight, personally selected for the honour by David Cameron, wading in with commentary like (paraphrasing headlines) cuts will encourage the poor to breed.
When my maniacal giggling subsided I pursued the point and found that technically he said "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."
Jolly expensive! How quaint!
Setting aside our obvious political differences, he has a point. The child benefit was income-blind precisely because it was felt that every child, regardless of background, deserved nominal support. This idea plays well to the British notion of gamesmanship. If everyone has the same base funding, same healthcare, same right to housing and schools, then it is jolly well your own fault if you fail. I say, old chap, what what?
Personally I think it is all just a fiddle. I spend more than £1,000 per year on coffee - I don't need child benefit, and I don't claim it. Other people would call that sum the difference between life and death, and they won't lose the money under the reforms. Somewhere in the middle (hence the term 'middle class') are the people who will indeed feel the pinch. And you know what will happen to them? They will claim elsewhere - they will require, and the government will provide, a program that covers services they would otherwise pay for out of that £1,000. Let me make a spooky prediction: within the next three years the number of children seeking free lunches will go up.
Not to mention the fact that right now the administration of child benefit is simple - every legal resident who asks for it gets it. With means testing, the government will need to assemble a massive bureaucratic structure of clerks, supervisors, advisors, and directors (drawing salaries and benefits) to hassle parents for proof of household income.
Of course that is one way to create jobs. Though I suspect it would be easier and cheaper to continue funding the current child benefit system.
I have a few Tory friends. One family shells out to send their "bright" child to private school, waving the other three off to the local and markedly inferior school. While, and this is the bit that amazes me, they openly discuss the bias in front of the children. I wonder if they will reflect on the wisdom of the policy a few decades from now, when those same children are making choices about elder care.
Caveat emptor and all that.
Regardless, it is nice to have an opportunity to reminisce about old projects. Ten years ago:
When I moved here people would ask why I left the states, and I inevitably replied Because I wanted to live in a place where everyone has equal access to medical care.
I am so shocked by the reckless, destructive actions of the UK coalition government it is difficult to articulate exactly what is most disturbing.
Of course the cuts to arts funding and the changes in immigration policy are infuriating, but those issues have quickly been subsumed under the tidal wave caused by "reform" of the education system.
We don't know what precisely will happen, but do not be confused. This is not about money. This is about ideology.