Saturday 13 February 2016

Brain damage

Camila Batmanghelidjh’s attempt to rehabilitate her public image is clearly hurtling along the road to nowhere. 
Jenni Murray’s interview with the beleaguered ex-director of Kids Co. on radio 4 showed that the media is never going to cooperate with that exercise; also, that particular interview will certainly further cement the audience’s negative view of the matter, as confirmed by the emails Jenni read out at the end.

The BBC has decided that we’re supposed to sneer at the concept of huggin’ a hoodie - “end of”.   Their alternative proposal appears to be that we should abandon damaged, criminalised youth to our failing prison service.

I wonder how Jenni would deal with the criminal activities of gangs of feral youths, the product of parental emotional and physical neglect. Bang ‘em up, I think was her suggestion. 
I don’t know enough about Camila Batmanghelidjh as an individual to defend her methods and I’m not qualified to judge the way she (mis)managed Kids Co., but I believe a lot more rationality, substance and forward thinking underpin Camila’s principles than Jenni’s.

It might seem like a bloody nuisance that humans can’t get up and walk off the minute they’re born. They’re dependent on being fed, loved and protected, dammit. When human infants are deprived of emotional as well as physical nourishment the prefrontal cortex shows physiological developmental changes.

Is bangin’  ‘em up the answer, do you think? Or will it perpetuate it for ever and ever in a hellish generational spiral of pass the parcel.

Camila was trying to do what the state should be trying to do. She was attempting to be a one-woman social service, a massive over-reach that was never going to work. However in my opinion the lessons we should learn are not the ones the media is trying to push.  

I’d love to hear state-employed social workers, probation officers, youth-offending experts (if such professions exist) thrashing the whole thing out with Camila and the appropriate government department. At least they could describe the problems they have to deal with and explore best practice. 
Jenni Murray and the BBC specialise in clouding the issue. Their particular expertise lies in vilifying the individual they’ve decided to vilify. 

I was going to post the above, but then I began to wonder if I’d constructed a straw man out of Jenni Murray. Perhaps she was only playing devil’s advocate and perhaps she did in fact understand a little more about child psychology than it at first appeared. 

Oddly enough, I just picked up Saturday’s Times (£) which features a particularly relevant article under the heading (Saturday Interview) “Best place for a young offender? In a school that Offers a proper education"

It’s an interview with Charlie Taylor, an Old Etonian who spent six years as headteacher of the Willows special primary school for children with behavioural problems in Hillingdon, and later took responsibility for a secondary school as well, where he faced an even bigger challenge.

Like Camila, one of his schools’ major expenses was replacing windows. These children  seem to get pleasure out of driving their fists through glass. 

Education Secretary Michael Gove was so impressed with Mr Taylor that he appointed him as the government’s education tsar and then chief executive of the national College of teaching and Leadership.
“When Mr. Gove moved to the Ministry of Justice he was horrified to find that two thirds of young offenders committed another crime within a year of release and asked Mr Taylor to conduct a review of the youth justice system”  

“These youthful criminals are, according to Mr Taylor, “imperfect victims - they have often had really awful things happen to them and done really awful things” 

....”Broken homes, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, there are very few surprises.”

Before dismissing Camila Batmanghelidjh, have a butchers at Charlie Taylor’s approach to children with behavioural problems and note the similarities. Although Charlie Taylor advocates a stricter, more traditional  form of discipline that Kids Company did, both methodologies aim to provide structure and security where it was absent. 
So I would like to nominate Charlie Taylor to take part in the discussion group I mentioned earlier, and I would like to hope that his toff’s accent would provide some sort of counterbalance to Camila’s irritating pronunciation of the word ‘children’. 

Oh yes, and before I don my protective helmet, Nick Robinson (last item on the Today programme) brought up something that caught my attention.

“Now let’s move on to physics. Now we know, Einstein was right about the existence of gravitational waves as well as so much else of course, but are there any  other big, old, scientific theories that are simply waiting to be proven?
What is the next big thing that is going to excite us? The woman who knows is Helen Czerski* (*Today’s running order not up on website so had to Google and guess) a physicist at University College, London.
  “So is there a list out there in the way that gravitational waves is clearly known by physicists, of people saying we’ve still got to prove that one?”
“There’s lots of things to discover in science but there aren’t so many big theories that cover everything. The thing about general relativity is that it’s about the nature of time and space - it’s all around us, it’s everywhere. So there are still things we want to know. We want to know about dark matter, we want to know what dark energy is, why there’s more matter than anti-matter, and then there’s lots of other questions, like how the brain works, and how we can make a quantum computer work, but what we’re getting to is the point where these big very elegant theories that cover everything - we don’t have that many more because science is that much more complicated now, so we haven’t got the elegance and that was the thing about the gravitational wave that was so elegant.” 

“We’re going to move on to new things, but just briefly on the gravitational.. there may be people who are thinking ‘I still don’t quite get the significance ...yes, very exciting, Einstein said it and it turned out to be true, but sort of what?”
“There are two ‘so whats’. The first one is that scientific theories have to make predictions and this was a test.....

[...]..........The brain is the most complicated thing in the universe that we know of, and we’d love to know what consciousness is, but that’s a messy problem. it’s not an elegant solution. It’s about the new type of science, there’s lots of data, lots of interacting factors and it’s going to be messy, sorry, no elegance.” 

“Messy in that there will be a lot of people making small progress on vital matters rather than ‘hey presto’ - rather than a Newton or an Einstein moment.” 

“So the jigsaw pieces will still be elegant, but the overall thing is going to be about how the jigsaw pieces slot together.”

Funny thing is, we can understand science getting all exited about coming closer to understanding the world, the universe and everything, but why oh why are we so uninterested, incurious and  let’s say happy to not understand the workings of our own brain? 

Miles Goslett has taken a stance, to an almost obsessive degree. There are certain merits in his case against Camila, but to me his criticisms still seem more vitriolic than thoroughly thought-through.
 Call me a twat - 'no-one likes me and I don’t care' -  but the media is an ass.


  1. Can`t agree sue.
    You`re right of course that there was a need, a gap in the market. Good intentions a plenty-but you know of the "road to hell" and that...
    1. Her privileged and contradictory story that simply doesn`t make any sense
    2. Her bogus qualifications.
    3.The liberal guilt , private schooling and bizarre funding at the start.
    But that`s not my main worry-after all, she couldn`t help her upbringing, and she meant well I`m sure at the start.
    She saw a gap in the market as I say, she was canny and creative and I`d not doubt her charisma...this was a new area,the charities were slower out of the blocks and it was a hybrid where NHS mental health meets schooling meets crime and kids in care etc.
    Yet her failings were due to taking herself seriously and quasi-scientific hubris borne of celebrity, and indulged by an ascientific, guilt-ridden, effete and spineless media and the usual cabal of stardust followers in charities, academe etc.
    What finished her forever with me was an interview she did on Today in 2008...a load of quasi-scientific psychobabble about kids needing their "emotional thermostats reset"....utter claptrtap, but what would John Humphrys know of neuroscience?...but SOMEONE on the show ought to have been able to make a fool of her.
    But no-acquiescence.
    Since then, God know where the moneys gone, how she decided on who to pay and when...she merely rolled over the guilt-tripping poltroons of the Coalition and celebrities.
    She`s had a good (drug) war-she`s got the right to earn as big a crust as she`s able to, but she`s a grade one fake and a blustering chancer and do-gooder who only screwed over the dupes who never saw her market, and never cared about her charges-still don`t either.

    1. Well, your views of Camila Batmanghelidjh come as no surprise, but your comments seem a little reflexive. You say “She meant well I`m sure at the start” but your subsequent tone clearly indicates that you really mean the opposite.
      At the beginning of her endeavours, to my knowledge, no celebrities were involved.
      I suspect Camila’s rise and fall might well personify good intentions 'paving the road to hell', but the media’s reactionary dismissal of her core beliefs (bang ‘em up etc.) were what I was principally addressing and I do wonder if you actually read the article with an open mind.

    2. Defer to you sue, but-yes I`m pretty set before I start with Batmanghelidjh.
      I think that she DID see a need that was there, and tried to fill it-but quickly succumbed to the hoopla, the fawning of the liberal left and the likes of Leftwing/Letwin.
      Paid well, lots of fandom and suckering the useful moneybags with a conscience, but not inconveniencing anybody overmuch about science, social policy that cause these cases and other lass colourful, less obvious but more productive test bedded ways to get value for money(and not doling out drug money or Big Mac vouchers by way of "strategic investment")
      And-I say again-her qualifications need a good looking at-for if she`ll "mispeak" over THOSE-you`re talking Hillary/Blair sociopathic narcissism IMHO.
      I do speak as someone quite high up in social provision for her client base way back...she blagged it largely, and fell for her own publicity. Root causes of the crises don`t need repeating here-but she never had any skin in the game, and merely spouted the racist victim cards when her contradictions and fatuousness was revealed.
      It`s not as though the State or its offices did any better-but you might as well call for the rehabilitation of Fagin, who was in the same line I could argue.

  2. There is definitely a need for someone to provide a substitute framework in the absence of effective parenting, especially where children are being brought up by low income single parents and the children are surrounded by predatory types including pimps and drug dealers.

    But equally certain Camila B was in on way the right person to deliver the answer.

    Although it is far from satisfactory, it would be better if the state played the role. It already provides the finance through child benefit, free housing and so on. It might as well provide some structure by legally becoming a co-parent who can make decisions about the child. Most of these children already have assigned social workers - it is really a step towards putting the intervention on a more positive footing. Another approach would be to ensure children were signed up for post-school activities...a modern day equivalent of guides and scouts, as part of a youth organisation.

  3. In normal circumstances I would have expected the BBC to be an eager platform in her rehabilitation. Famous Humanitarian Champion of the Poorest and Most Vulnerable Children would ordinarily find ready and willing BBC producers and presenters hoping to help her restore her reputation. But perhaps this time, Alan Yentob has poisoned that well.

    Yes, it's just me making facts fit my theory about the schism at the BBC, I'm sure.


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