Okay, it's a warm summer but in recent days the heat is finally taking its toll on the politicians steering the nation's education. Now they want schools to stay open till 6pm and encourage parents to leave the children overnight at school: "Schools are being urged to stay open until 6pm and even offer sleepovers for pupils to help ease the pressure of childcare on parents." says the Daily Telegraph.
Midsommer madness? Not really, it's all part of the inevitable consequence of two critical paths we're on: welfarism in which the government is seen as the primary provider of services regarding people's health, education, employment ... basically life; and secondly government mismanagement of the economy.
Understanding the principles of welfarism is easy: rather than encourage personal and family responsibility, the welfare state encourages people to look to the government to solve personal and social ills. To effectively roll out such a program, the state (in any country) has to systematically undermine the fabric of family life and localism. It has done this by simultaneously weakening the ability of local communities and families to provide charitable works and to take care of each other and then providing a 'free at point of service' set of institutions to attract people to it. The effects on family life and local communities are still being assessed, but those who take a longer view of society (rather than just rake through a few recently published academic works) are not impressed.
Understanding how government mismanagement of the economy leads to ministerial calls for prolonged child provision is more indirect. The thesis here is that rising costs of living force people to have to work more. In the 1950s, many families could survive off one income. Today that choice is less available to most people, even professional couples. The rising cost of living is the same as declining standards of living: although we live in a world of plenty, it is increasingly difficult for many people to sustain real wage increases.
Why? Rising taxes and printing of money. Has anyone took a look at the UK debt levels recently? They're horrific: over £1 trillion in mid 2013: according to some estimates that means a debt level of near £19,000 per man, woman, and child. People mutter about the debt being passed on to our children, which is true that they too will have to pay for their grandparents' follies - we're still paying for wars in the 18th century, by the way - but there is no future pool of capital that exists for us to dip into.
Debt payments have to be made out from current production - future production does not exist. Over the past century, our national debt levels have just kept on increasing - and we can't blame two wars, they rose thereafter too.
This means that the current population has to work harder - or more family members have to give up more time to help pay the bills. Our tax freedom day - the estimated day in the year when we stop working for the government - is the 30th May. It's not the same for all people, of course - it's an average; which means that some people end up working longer to pay for government services, salaries, and pensions (which I have read draw 70% of our taxes - ie., 70p in every pound paid funds people who are no longer providing services, which means that 30p is funding the holes in the roads patch-up programmes!)
So our parents are working harder to make ends meet. The government says, don't worry, we'll step in and provide longer opening hours to child mind your children and even beds. This continues the slow erosion of families' and localities' values and sets up a host of psychological issues from children who are abandoned for state sponsored night care. (Sounds rather Orwellian - it is). Mind you, I bet many in the Cabinet went to boarding school so they probably have no problem sending other parents' children into night care - but the psychological damage of sending young children away is another story. Let's just say it has repercussions on their emotional health.
Of course, the extra school hours and bed provision will come with a cost ... which means many folk will find themselves working harder on the economic treadmill and they won't see their children as much and the intricate fabrics of family and local life will be snipped snipped snipped.
As a political philosopher, it is ironic for a Conservative-led coalition with a sideshow called the 'Liberal Party' to suggest more state provision of child care - this is usually the political ground of the left, which has always wanted to see the overthrow of the family so that the state may rule supreme in people's lives. Historically, you can read about the blueprint for such a totalitarian society in Plato's Republic, in which he has Socrates argue for the separation of children from their mothers to be brought up communally.
Separating children from parents breaks bonds and since the family and locality constitute the sole balwarks against central government's intrusions, it makes sense for the totalitarian minded to say, 'Hey, we'll look after your children for you.' I shall proceed to conjecture how many dodgy folk may be attracted to 'look after' children in institutional care at night but I would highly recommend we all reject the government's plans to wreck more of family life - and to stop spending money we don't have.July 2103