My first Internet search to find out the meaning and origins of this phrase “to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut means to use disproportionate force or expense to overcome a minor problem…” came up trumps. The reason why I wanted to write on the subject is that in three (and undoubtedly there are more) different and, as far as I can make out, barely related instances in the past week alone, sledgehammers have been used to crack nuts and, moreover, those stories have been taken up by some of my Facebook friends, with understandably different perspectives being offered. In each case, I hold strong views including that in all these cases the actions taking were unnecessary and a better approach was/is possible. This is nothing new and other instances of this sledgehammer approach have happened for as long as I can remember … so let’s go …
Let them eat cake (or not)
“Asher’s Baking Company, a Christian-owned bakery in Northern Ireland, could face legal action after they refused the request of a gay rights activist for a cake showing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’, above an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie” from Pink News.
I was reluctant to raise this issue as I have already raised many similar such, like those discussed in my “The Gay Conundrum” book, available as a free download from the writings section of this website. Sadly, the issue of people having to choose between exercising their consciences or facing the sanctions of the law or from other means continues. On a day when Ed Milliband made a good attempt at stating his position on the one million public sector workers going on strike, David Cameron failed abysmally to address or even understand the concerns the owners of the cake making business and their supporters, when he was asked the question of what he would do, in the House of Commons. For that day at least, it was Ed 1, Dave 0. While the normal outrage of Christian conservatives, such as by Christian Concern and the Christian Institute, were according to type and as we might have expected, the two comments I found particularly interesting were from Pink News readers. The first was that Christians should be careful not to focus on gay people when withholding services, when there are many other “sinners” who could qualify for the same treatment. The other was that this was not withholding a service from a gay couple wishing to marry but rather a gay activist who wanted to make a point that the bakery owners profoundly disagreed with. I too sympathize with the sense of outrage of my anti-gay Christian friends but suggest, for the sake of balance, you read my book and that there is better way to handle such situations.
Taking children out of school
“Couple get a criminal record for taking their children out of school for 13 days to go on family holiday to Australia” from the Mail Online.
Understandably, disruption in schools should be kept to the minimum, and parents who take children out of schools for spurious reasons or merely so they can get better deals on foreign holidays should be discouraged from doing so, as should children being absent because of “sickness” when they are still well enough to attend (often overlooked but something we have been careful not to let happen). I have taken my child out of school in non holiday times, so that we can travel to India as a family, on four occasions now. Only on the fourth one did we encounter a problem. We first checked out that there were no events in the school taking place, like exams, we would not want him to miss and then requested the school for leave of absence. This was turned down because of a ruling the school felt they needed to abide by. We took unauthorized absence anyway, while informing the school and accepting possible recrimination. While the school wasn’t as cooperative as we hoped, concerning our suggestion we can work with them so we could cover lessons he would miss, on a “home schooling” basis, they did not take further action although this could be picked up if records were inspected. For us, with well over half our family living the other side of the world and use of school holiday time not being practical, we felt we had no other option and did not regret our decision.
Teaching British values
“Come September and every school in England will be required to promote British values” from the BBC.
My mind turned to “Back to Basics was a political campaign announced by British Prime Minister John Major at the Conservative party conference of 1993 in Blackpool. Intended as a nostalgic appeal to traditional values, it subsequently backfired when a succession of Conservative ministers were caught up in scandals…” Wikipedia, and to “Operation Trojan Horse was an organised attempt by Islamists to covertly co-opt schools in England…” Wikipedia. The big question is what are British values and who determines these? Given the rise in multi-culturalism, recent foreign immigrants, often non-Christian, the secularist agenda and the new orthodoxy of equal rights, of recent years, those who decide what is taught in schools will operate in a different paradigm to those of my parents generation, where things like the Scout promise: “I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people” and quintessentially British notions of fair play, being a good neighbour and supporting the underdog were accepted by most. One of the reasons I am reluctant to convert to socialism is I don’t think it is the place of the State to tell people what they should be doing or what values they should hold. Sadly, the Conservatives seem now to have changed their tune. The values I care about are Christian ones and the people that should be teaching values are parents. While I am all for Citizenship being part of the school curriculum, the role of schools is to educate and not indoctrinate and if they are to teach values it should be those that parents approve of and, moreover, they should be the right ones.