I've just been part of the audience in a BBC TV programme, called The Big Questions. It's a typically British 21st-century religious and ethics programme, in which a panel of celebrities joins experts in the audience and 'others' from different walks of life. Today's programme was being broadcast from Bury Grammar School, where I did my teaching practice years ago and which my daughter attended from the age of 13:
Getting to Bury was fun, as there had been vandalism on the Metro line in Manchester, but despite a pessimistic outlook from the staff who were on hand, a train arrived after about five minutes, and the whole journey took only about 10 minutes from Crumpsall to Bury.
I hadn't been back to this part of the town for eight years or so, but soon recognized the Town Hall, where the same daughter had taken part in the North-West Schools' debating trophy, or some such thing some eight or nine years before.
On arrival, a rather surly security guard told us that we were too early, and that we should stand around until 8.30 prompt. Not exactly very PC. Then I was ushered into a room with bananas and plums, in which students from Salford University and sixth-formers from the school were on hand making tea.
In the middle of a very interesting conversation with one of the students, a girl came in and said that this was the suite for panel members and could I go to another room for members of the audience.
We sat around there for about an hour, when we were called into the 'studio' and given a trial run on the question of IVF treatment for Lesbians. I had done some research on IVF from the Orthodox Jewish point of view, and what is being done in Israel in this field, but decided that there were plenty of opinions in the audience. The subject under discussion appeared to be more how inadequate fathers are than the question of medical research per se, and others had plenty to say on this matter!
The programme then discussed the disadvantages of the internet, especially 'Facebook' and 'Twitter'. Personally, I think that you can't halt progress in communication. No doubt, printing was regarded with horror by those who preferred written manuscripts. And maybe even the written word caused consternation to those who were used to communicating solely through word of mouth.
However, it is of concern that many kids now seem to be fatherless (by choice), lacking in social skills, and not too proficient in the three 'Rs'.. And maybe that is down to the cult of instant gratification which is prevalent in some areas.
It is Commonwealth Day tomorrow and we discussed its worth. Naturally Palestine came up, even though it was not part of the Commonwealth, but was mandated. Someone mentioned Burma, and I spoke about how Burmese refugees had told me that ,for all her faults, Britain had never been has bad as the SLORC:
(scroll down to the top of p. 5).
I was offered a lift back home by someone who needs a piano accompanist for a Jewish choral society. And the guy who had mentioned Palestine was pleased to hear that I shall soon be having a book launch on the positive influence of Islamic thought on Jewish ideas in the Middle Ages:
But apart from that, it was interesting, if somewhat alarming, to find out how far Britain has come in the freedom for women stakes (compared to Israel that is), but is that really the type of freedom we want?
And I must finish on a high - it was when the imam on the panel (from the Muslim Council of Britain) was enthusiastically applauded for citing Jesus as an example of the offspring of a successful one-parent family!
Dear old Britain!