'Let's make the young lead the way'

Do we need obedient children? No. What we need in the 21st century is creative, questioning, challenging children who can think for themselves. We no longer need to prepare them for a

life of kowtowing to the old bowler hat, the gaffer, the policeman, the dominie, the sergeant-major. That world is gone for ever. Belief in unquestioning obedience began to subside as the world assessed the aftermath of the Somme and the Holocaust, and it will never come back.

We need to produce young people who are immensely flexible, self-sufficient, full of cheek and confidence. We need to leave behind the put-down and the threat in the same way that we have put away the tawse and the cane. We need to learn to cope with to as well as fro, to listen as well as to teach, to cherish the bright spark and not to seek to put it out.

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Dreaming of a green Christmas

IN JONATHAN Franzen's novel, The Corrections, there is a scene where an old man gets down the family Christmas lights only to find that they are broken. He knows he can fix them, although it will be a challenge as tree lights are more complex than they once were. He also knows that what he really should do is chuck them in the bin and go to the nearest Walmart where he can replace them for the price of a packet of fishfingers. However, in a small act of defiance against the throwaway society, he devotes the rest of the day to repairing the cheap decorations.

If you were to examine Earth through a telescope you might see spinning around our blue planet any number of bits of jettisoned junk - old satellites, bits of shuttles, tools dropped by astronauts. Even space cludgies and their contents.

A friend once commented that it was the best reason she had ever heard for sending more women into space - to clear up the mess the men had left. But, joking aside, it is a sign that we live, more than ever, in a throwaway world.

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Train Travel - and a defence of faith schools

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, but he might have changed his mind had he caught the London-Edinburgh sleeper last week. A six-hour delay was compounded by the behaviour of one guard who positively delighted in shouting passengers awake and hurling them off the train at Crewe - without telling them the train we were on would be heading north a little later anyway.

My husband explained I had a migraine and the guard immediately threatened to get security to chuck us off, although his colleague had given us permission to stay put.
Delays happen with all kinds of transport, but contrast our experience with the caring service generally offered by air stewards. Buying berths earlier, I queued at Kings Cross only to be accused of being a potential fraudster as I did not have our train tickets. So I called ScotRail on my mobile, bought the berths by phone and picked up tickets from the station machine.

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Wind power

THE SUBJECT of wind power seems to be causing an increasing amount of feeling
and perhaps, no pun intended, hot air. While the pro-lobby is keen to point out that something must be done before climate change wipes out the planet, the antis are building up steam as they protest about what they see as the despoiling of Scotland's beauty spots.
Wind power seems like something Scotland ought to be good at: we certainly have lots of windswept hills. However, we have lost our tradition of using renewable energy and there are legitimate concerns about introducing it again, this time on an industrial scale.
Windmills and watermills were once a feature of the landscape across Britain and it was interesting when visiting the Dutch paintings at the Queen's Gallery in Edinburgh to note seventeenth-century depiction of the white cliffs of Dover dotted with windmills.

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Some thoughts on Iraq.

The situation in Iraq is complex and difficult and although I opposed it strongly before it started, my view now is that after the fact, secular society and those who are trying to build a new peace in Iraq ust be supported.

Here are some of the columns I wrote on this issue from the Herald.

Read more: Some thoughts on Iraq.