11 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 11 February 2011 in Diary |

The situation in Egypt seems to have reached some form of resolution with the resignation of Pres Mubarak. However, is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of trouble in the Middle East?  Egypt was, or  rather is, Israel’s largest and closest ally, significantly supported, on the military front by the Americans. If this country goes Islamic, which looks extremely likely in the light of the fact that 80% of the population are already followers of that religion, might this destabilise the Middle East. This is an alarming prospect in the light of the fragility of the financial state of the world globally. I certainly do not want to appear to be a Jonah but I am concerned.

Switching topics to the other end of the scale, as they say, from the  sublime to the ridiculous.

When I wrote all that rather sentimental stuff about my dear granddaughter Lara and her card and picture to me, (see 6 Feb. entry) I wondered at the time whether this really was something I should be putting onto my blog. I was therefore greatly heartened to receive a delightful response from a reader telling me what pleasure it had  given to his wife, who is also suffering from MND and derived great pleasure from her own grandchildren. You can see this response, and indeed  responses to  entry, by clicking on the little icon, at the end of the entry, Comments on this entry.

When my daughter visited me recently she told me that she was becoming involved in an organisation called XLP which helps and mentors youngsters who are, or might,  get involved with local gangs and as a result possibly get up to no good. I certainly admire any young mum with three children of her own a part-time job and a household to run, who is also prominently involved in church activities, who is prepared to give up some of her precious spare time for such a worthy cause. This discussion, with daughter Chloe, reminded me of an initiative I took myself, just prior to the last general election, in suggesting, to the Conservative party, that they considered introducing a nationwide mentoring service for disadvantaged children. Maybe  my timing was not very good with  everyone focused on the election but at the time the idea did not receive a great deal of enthusiasm. However, with the UK having the worst record in Europe amongst young people for drugs, guns and knives, alcoholism and sexual activity and the Prime Minister’s flagship objective of the Big Society, I decided to try once more and attempt to interest the government in this idea. The letters I wrote, I believe  need no further explanation, so I reproduce them below:

15 Jan.2010

The Rt. Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst M.P

House of Commons




Dear Sir Alan

Re Mentoring

There were two pieces of news on the Today Programme this morning which, juxtapose, and prompt me to write to you.

The first point was that the children of Chinese and Asian parents do substantially better educationally than children of white parents. The second issue dealt with the futility of sending young offenders to prison and that a better way should be found for dealing with their disruptive behaviour or their drug or alcohol related problems.

I see that two issues connected. The reason why the children of Chinese and Asian are significantly more successful educationally is because they generally have caring and ambitious parents. These parents still command respect and as a result can still exercise a degree of discipline over their children’s behaviour. I have seen this particularly in my 10 years of lecturing in China.

The reason why we have so many white young offenders is through a lack of such caring parents for which the children have little respect and therefore beyond a certain age the parents are unable to impose any discipline, even if inclined to do so. These youngsters have no guidance, and no role model. I am not entirely blaming the parents as they themselves are the  victims of  the second or third generation of poor parenting. This then is a contributory cause of why the UK has the highest teenage pregnancy level; why 15% of children school leavers  are virtually illiterate and why a substantial number of primary school children do not possess the necessary  verbal skills to communicate with their peer group.

Forgive me, all of this is only too well-known to you and I do not imagine you take issue with me over anything I have said  and  would agree that the key to the problem is how to break this cycle of deprivation.

I have no time for the people who claim that lack of educational success and the incidence of crime is because of youth poverty and boredom. One of the most successful families I know is that of the level crossing keeper at Rhoslefain, in North Wales, who occupied a two-bedroom cottage, adjacent to the level crossing. They had nine children who have all have risen to the top of their chosen profession, some  professors, some doctors and others senior professionals, and  this was long before the day of tax credits. Quite simply, I come back to the point I made earlier all of these issues come down to the lack of caring parents. By that I mean parents who simply do not communicate with the children or are incapable of holding a conversation with them, let alone taking an active role in their emotional or educational development.

This long preamble leads me to the point of this letter.. I have long since held the view that it would be possible to have a nationwide mentoring system where, retirees like myself, would be prepared to take on a couple of families and act as a mentor, not only to the children but also to the parents, if they were willing to accept that sort of help. Of course, this would have to be voluntary arrangement and would only work where parents acknowledge that they needed to such help.

Yours sincerely

Professor D Mark Cato

And here is my follow-up letter to the Prime Minister which I will e-mail to his office. In the meantime I would be interested in any readers view on this proposal.

10  February 2011

The Rt. Hon, Prime Minister, David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street




Dear Prime Minister

Sometime ago, just prior to the last general election, I wrote to my local MP, Alan Haselhurst, who was at that time Deputy Speaker, suggesting a nationwide form of mentoring, mainly for the young people from disadvantaged homes. I thought it might give a boost to your election campaign. I attached a copy of that letter. I cannot recall whether or not I received a reply but if I did it was not very encouraging.

Hopefully the letter itself is self-explanatory but I could go on to say that what I had in mind was that the mentors could, if necessary, read to the children, help them learn to read and write, introduced them to the right organisations if, for example, they were say autistic and so on. I know the social services are charged with much of this work but are greatly overstretched. Also with your recent announcement about relaxing the intensive and obtrusive check-up on people involved with children this might be an apposite moment to consider this proposition.

I was going to suggest to Haselhurst that if the Conservative party liked the idea they could perhaps start off by harnessing all the Conservative Associations throughout the country who in turn could rope in friends of theirs who were retirees.

To my mind this idea fits very neatly into your vision of the Big Society. We have to make a start in changing the perception of the present generation of young in connection with drugs knife and gun crime, early sexual activity etc, even if the process takes us 25 years.

So that you can satisfy yourself that I’m not a complete lunatic, perhaps if one of your research assistants would care to look at my blog, www.dmarkcato.com which passed through the million hits  mark on Christmas day after 20 months and is currently running at around 2500/3000 hits a day worldwide.

I have MND and the blog is called Dying to Live. on which you will also find a short profile

Yours sincerely

Prof D Mark Cato

Watch this space!

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