The pitiless universe of planet Warnock
Published in: Daily Mail
Now she tells us!
Our most eminent and influential public policy thinker, Baroness Warnock, is about to publish a report which calls for a fundamental re-thinking of the policy of inclusion, under which children with physical or emotional difficulties are taught in mainstream schools alongside everyone else. She describes the implementation of this policy and the consequent removal of such pupils from special schools as a 'disastrous legacy'.
So it is. The problem, however, is that it is her own disastrous legacy. For it was Mary Warnock who, in the early 1980s, laid down the principle that all children, however disabled or emotionally damaged they might be, should be taught in mainstream schools.
It was a policy which created a classroom revolution - one which has caused chaos and misery for countless thousands of children and their teachers and made many schools all but ungovernable. Children with special problems require specialised teaching and attention. Yet the specialist help they once received has been all but destroyed, leaving these most vulnerable children all but abandoned and schools in general unable to cope.
So what does the architect of this catastrophe now have to say? 'Governments must come to recognise that, even if inclusion is an ideal for society in general, it may not always be an ideal for school', she says. But it was Lady Warnock herself who told governments that inclusion was the ideal for schools.
She now condemns the system of statementing disadvantaged pupils, which led to vast numbers of children being inappropriately classified as 'special needs'. This bureaucratic racket saw schools all too eager to 'statement' children because every special needs child brought in extra cash. Now Lady Warnock tells us that this 'turned out to be not a very bright idea'.
How many of Lady Warnock's many other contributions to our national life might she now similarly decide to inform us have turned out to be 'not very bright ideas'?
For this is by no means the first time this immensely influential individual has changed her formidably brilliant mind about matters of fundamental importance to us all. In 1994, she was on the House of Lords committee which unanimously opposed legalising euthanasia. Yet in recent years she says she has changed her mind, and not only supports making euthanasia legal but was fully aware that her incurably ill husband, Geoffrey, accepted the help of a family doctor to take lethal doses of morphine in order to end his life.
In 1984, as the author of the Warnock Report which shaped Britain's fertility laws, she supported a total ban on human cloning. Three years ago, however, she suddenly announced that she favoured human cloning in certain circumstances, such as male infertility.
So on what other issues might she now change her mind? Is it not deeply alarming that a person who has played such a seminal role in literally changing the culture of this country should turn out to be such a flake?
She has been at the heart of the most controversial and momentous changes to our medical values. Whenever the government had a controversial medical ethical dilemma it sent for Mary Warnock. On embryo research, she was the biddable philosopher who could be relied upon to subordinate everything, including respect for human life itself, to the wishes of self-centred individuals and governments keen to use medical experimentation to boost the gross national product.
For it was Lady Warnock who actually triggered embryo research, after the committee which she headed on fertility treatment shifted the definition of an embryo in order to allow it to be experimented upon for up to 14 days after conception. Might she now change her mind over this, perhaps, and agree with the vast majority of individuals on this planet that an embryo is created not at her completely arbitrary point but at conception?
But then on issue after issue, Lady Warnock has made a devastating contribution towards unravelling our society's essential humanity and has helped destroy any intrinsic respect for human life. For her, the end has always justified the means. Accordingly, she views early human life as eminently disposable and even sees nothing wrong in harvesting eggs from dead foetuses. Moral scruple is dismissed as the ravings of religious freaks. All that matters is that someone else might benefit.
Over the years, she has effectively set herself up as the country's national arbiter of which kind of human beings should be allowed to live and which must be sentenced to die - ranging from handicapped babies to patients who are in a persistent vegetative state.
In an unabashed echo of eugenic thinking, she has declared that some lives are more worth living than others - and of course it follows that she knows which ones fall into which category. Only last week she called for rules which would ensure that the majority of the most premature babies do not survive.
On pitiless planet Warnock, human beings are no longer thought to have any value as soon as they become unhealthy and dependent - a universe in which only the whole and healthy seem to qualify as human beings worthy of respect. Accordingly, her support for euthanasia has gone far beyond endorsing people's 'right' to expect doctors to end their lives. It was instead, she said, the duty of people to kill themselves - not only if they were terminally ill, but merely frail - in order not to be a burden to others.
It is a world view, moreover, which is blind to its own hubris. There is tremendous danger, Lady Warnock once mused - in a rare moment of self-knowledge - in thinking there are moral experts who know what is right. Yet she has spent her entire career telling the rest of us what is right - including when she decides that she is wrong.
Her thinking is not merely removed from the experience and values of mainstream people whose behaviour is anchored in the moral codes of our culture. Lady Warnock actually holds such people in contempt. Thus she sneered at Mrs Thatcher's 'odious suburban gentility', for it is the suburban middle classes (the epitome of moral and social order) who are looked down upon with unbridled snobbery and contempt.
But what Lady Warnock has always seemed most passionately to despise is religion, the bedrock of the values she has done so much to undermine. Since she is clearly much given to recantation, may we now urge her to finish the job and declare that she now believes in God? Lady Warnock is a preposterous figure who in the pages of a Dickens or Swift would have been immortalised as one of the comic monsters of our literary heritage. As it is, she has played a monstrous part in helping destroy our moral and social heritage. She is surely one of the most titanic and dangerous egos of our troubled age.
So humility is not a word in her lexicon. Having changed her mind on school inclusion, she has not learned the obvious lesson that getting it so wrong might just have destroyed her credibility. Instead, she now presumes to tell us with the same absolute certainty to do precisely the opposite.
A period of silence from this particular quarter is now surely in order.