Sometimes you can only despair. It seems that anyone who gives talks to schoolkids (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a "regular" basis now needs to pay £64 for a certificate declaring that they are not a paedophile. This is part of something called the Vetting and Barring Scheme* designed to protect children from innocent and well-meaning strangers.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (Hello, Nanny State!) explains that authors such as Philip Pullman, have it all wrong. The Are You A Paedophile? checks are vital** and
"This is because visitors to schools, even if they are supervised by a teacher at all times, are being placed in a unique position of trust where they can easily become deeply liked and trusted by pupils."
"We therefore need to be sure that this trust is well placed in case pupils bump into them out of school where a teacher is not present."
It is hard to know what is the most depressing and enraging element of this statement. All of it, I suppose. Perhaps visiting lecturers*** or authors or whatever should sign an affidavit promising to be beastly (but not that beastly!) to the little brutes so as to eliminate any chance, however improbable, that they'll be liked (deeply or not) or trusted by the pupils...
And since pupils could conceivably "bump" into anyone "out of school" then surely every adult in the country, regardless of how much they might prefer to avoid children, should be required to pay their £64 to receive their little laminated I Am Not A Paedophile card. Otherwise how will we know the kids are safe?
As so often, O tempora, O mores...
*Which sounds more like an agricultural drinking society, anyway.
**Yes, sensible measures to protect children are, well, sensible. But the kind of crimes this nonsence is designed to help prevent are, like internet grooming, exceedingly, happily, rare. An obvious point, but one that needs to be made, otherwise Ed Balls will be calling to complain that the Spectator is disgustingly pro-paedophile...
***And, yup, I know that many people have had to endure this sort of idiocy and that this is just the latest extension of it.
UPDATE: The estimable Mary Beard has a very good post on all this. As she puts it:
I am a 54 year-old married woman with two children, and I am mostly talking to kids in their mid teens. What possible point does this vetting serve?The only danger I might pose to the kids is in what I SAY (Classics being a notoriously subversive subject, of course).