Saturday, 24 May 2014

There has been widespread criticism

of a scholarship being awarded to the Prime Minister's daughter. It is said that the scholarship was awarded on merit but that has not stopped the criticism - if anything it has increased it.
I do not know anything about the scholarship. I do not know anything about the work of the Prime Minister's daughter. I do not know whether the scholarship was awarded on merit or not.
What I do know is that there is a strong tendency to use the children of public figures in an attempt to cause embarrassment for their parents.
That's wrong.
As children my siblings and I were expected to be extraordinarily well behaved and hardworking at school. The most minor infraction and we would be given a lecture. We were "the head's kids" and we were expected to reach a certain standard. It was not unusual for us to be publicly chastised by a teacher. We were always punished more severely - to "set an example".
Our paternal grandfather was also a well known figure and we were aware that, if we were tempted to get up to any mischief, he would soon hear about it.
I think we were actually as well behaved as most children and a little more well behaved than some. We wanted to break out occasionally but we knew that, if we did , it would be all over the district in no time. Other children could break the rules and most people would never hear about it.
But if you are the child or a member of parliament or some other very public figure then it is different. Some years ago one of the sons of an MP was caught speeding. Speeding is something which alarms me but this was a minor infraction. It might even have resulted in a caution in some instances. But, not for this lad. He was hit with the full force of the law - the maximum fine and the maximum penalty the magistrate was able to hand down. And, on top of that, he was hit with his offence being made front page news. It was made to sound like an offence akin to murder - and it was done to embarrass his parent. Something that would not normally even have been mentioned by the media was big news. It had a flow on effect too - tension between parent and child that exists to this day.
Some people will say that this is all perfectly fair. It is what you have to expect if you choose to take on a job like politics or something equally high profile.
Fair? Who are we talking about here? Are we talking about the parent or the child?
And when it comes to scholarships is a child expected not to apply or accept a scholarship earned on merit because of their parent's position? I was never allowed to get any of the prizes at school. It was explained to me that it was unacceptable because it might look like favouritism. It seems that attitude still prevails.
I am reminded of the way in which children born out of wedlock were once treated. Now we say how appalling it is to punish the child for the sexual actions of a parent but we continue to punish them in other ways.
I did get a major scholarship at university. It came from an organisation which was completely independent of all universities but this did not stop accusations of favouritism being made by some students. I was even stopped by a small group in the courtyard and told I should turn the scholarship down. It was jealousy of course.
I suspect that jealousy also has something to do with the criticism of the Prime Minister's daughter. It's not nice. It takes much of the pleasure out of being given such an award. I hope she has genuinely deserved it and will use it wisely and well. I hope she won't be pressured into giving it up simply because her father is who he is. That's a form of discrimination.


Anonymous said...

It is very much discrimination, just as it was for the teacher's children ... but it seems that it is a type of discrimination that is permissible in some circles.

Anonymous said...

Believe it was genuinely merit based Cat.
As for yours - definitely merit based! Chris