Page 6, 19th May 1967

19th May 1967
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Page 6, 19th May 1967 — Why child cruelty goes unexposed
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Organisations: Department of Edu
Locations: Hamlet

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Why child cruelty goes unexposed

Keywords:

by PAULA DAVIES

THE Department of Edu

cation and Science has ordered an inquiry into independent schools. It will be conducted by Mrs. Shirley Williams, Minister of State at the Department, who will examine the adequacy of existing laws "relating to proper standards of education and welfare in independent schools."

Why don't children complain to their parents if they are miserable or know they are being ill-treated at school? I believe the answer lies in the ridiculous English idea that one does not tell tales.

Young children too often feel that authority, in whatever form, is so all-powerful that complaints won't be believed anyway. But the core of the problem is that children do not, as a rule, tell their parents when they are unhappy.

The reason for this eludes me completely, but I never told either. At my firit school there was a matron who used to cut the little ones' finger-nails every week. She used to cut mine so low that the fingers bled, but I never told my mother, and to this day I don't know why not. Instead I nursed a consuming hatred for that woman which has hardly abated through the years.

Let us hope that this inquiry will also look into the question of mental cruelty, a much more insidious and longerlasting form of cruelty.

THERE is something

superbly ironic in the picture of Svetlana Alliluyeva taking refuge in a convent. According to the CATHOLIC HERALD she stayed with two communities of nuns during her stay in Switzerland.

Thinking about it, a convent

is the obvious place. The nuns, when asked to pay no special attention to their guest, would comply exactly. Newspapermen, however ingenious, would find it considerably harder to get into a convent than a fortress. But despite the obvious good sense of such a refuge the irony of the situation reaches almost sledgehammer proportions.

It is barely conceivable that this woman taking sanctuary in a nunnery should be the daughter of a monstrous man who was paranoic in his hatred of religion. And from what was she taking refuge? Not from death or religious persecution, not from a life sentence in the saltmines but from something as relatively harmless as Western curiosity.

The cliché that truth is stranger than fiction has been only too well vindicated. Stalin, if tie were not rigidly embalmed, would no doubt turn in his grave at this, the crowning insult. Some would call it poetic justice or even Providence working in strange ways. Perhaps the most apt summing up is Hamlet's words to Horatio: "There are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy." 'THE same quotation, car'''. ried even further in its implications, could be applied to the amazingly . dishonourable behaviour of a housing department in Great Yarmouth. A young family who had been lent a house for last winter at a nominal rent were advised by a housing official that if they kept their word to their benefactor to leave the house, they would be listed as having left the house voluntarily and would not be eligible for council rehousing.

The official recommended that the family should stay in the house, "no matter what agreement they signed with the landlady." because a Court Order would be necessary before she could evict them. Carrying her kindness to its logical conclusion the landlady must obviously obtain a Court Order and evict them. But should anyone have to be that cruel to be kind?

It is no credit to officialdom that the family decided to honour their agreement. But it is a crying shame that they should suffer by keeping their word. "Virtue is its own reward" runs the saying. I now understand exactly what that means.




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