Daily Archives: 2008-12-29

Andy Burnham and the decline of standards

There’s a short story by (I think) Stephen Leacock, which tells of declining standards. How an undergraduate, newly arrived at university, lived in awe of the sagacity of the professors, of the intelligence of the grad students, and the learning of those about to receive their degrees. By the time he was receiving his first degree, he and his class were merely of average competence. By the time his PhD was awarded there were few of his cohort with any real learning; and standards had slipped so much over time that when they made him a Professor he and his colleagues hardly knew anything at all!

Having now reached the point in my life when I’m older than half the British Cabinet, it’s perhaps no surprise to read that UK cabinet minister Andy Burnham (born when I was in the Lower Sixth), has come up with some ideas about regulating the Internet that I am deeply unimpressed with.

In a Telegraph interview he proposes that ISPs should be forced to provide censored access to the Internet with only child-friendly sites visible; that the industry should have new “take-down” targets for bad material (presumably shorter ones); that it should be easier to sue for defamation online; and that the web should be labelled with age-ratings the way that video games and films are. Of course he realises he can’t do this alone, so he’s going to ask President Obama to help out!

Unfortunately, Mr Burnham doesn’t know anything about the Internet and seems to be arguing by analogy, and with a childlike hope that merely wishing for something will make it come true.
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