‘Does it guess easy? It must have a competition with us, my preciouss!’

What is creativity and how do you acquire it? Is it innate, learned, or is there magic juice you can squeeze on a child’s eyelids to engender it? My daughter likes to make things up, she talks a lot. People have called her creative; but her fluency with words comes from knowing a lot of stories.

There is a battle going on over creativity among those who control British education. Broadly speaking some (such as Sir Ken Robinson and Guy Claxton) believe we must favour teaching, or enabling, creativity itself – allowing children the space to create. Whereas others (Michael Gove, Daisy Christodoulou) think it is vital that children commit detailed knowledge of subjects to memory.

To pin down what these powerful people mean by creativity, let’s use the definition agreed on by Claxton and Christodoulou in this revealing debate, ‘Traditional education kills creativity’: creativity is “being able to come up with a fresh idea when you need one.” Such ability is certainly useful to an adult or child in any situation. Good. So, how do children get to be like that?

The battle is largely over how children become creative. A dominant view since the 1960’s has been that retaining knowledge is lesser than, and separate from, creativity. The idea is expressed in the pyramids of Maslow and Dale, which are used on PGCSE courses. Maslow sees “creative activities” as one of the highest human needs. Dale describes listening to a lecture, and reading, as “passive”; he claims little is retained from these methods. Maslow and Dale’s pyramids have been attacked by those who think the emphasis of education must be on learning knowledge. Paul Kirschner (Professor at the Open University of the Netherlands) points out that the two pyramids are based on “no empirical data.” He says, “They are something we believe and not something we know.” (YouTube, 2014)

The 2007 English National Curriculum focused on skills and processes rather than specific knowledge. Then, in 2014, the Government overhauled the curriculum, so that the focus was instead on knowledge: “the new curriculum…concentrates on “the essential knowledge and skills every child should have” (BBC, 2014) The overhaul was down to Gove, who wanted “access to knowledge” to be the focus of education, (GOV.UK, 2014).

I agree with Christodoulou who argues that, rather than being separate, knowledge and creativity are intertwined: you can’t be creative without large amounts of knowledge stored in your long-term memory, (Christodoulou, Seven Myths About Education, 2014, p. 21). My daughter’s so-called ‘creativity’, her ability to make things up, comes from the stories I (the ex-English teacher) have read to her, stuff she reads herself and films. After I read aloud the chapter of The Hobbit about Gollum, she began making up riddles, and begging me to make up riddles for her to solve. What you absorb and remember becomes your thoughts; where else could thought come from?

If someone were to fill my daughter’s mind with Mathematics, she might become creative with numbers. In reality, she often can’t recognise a two digit number. I feel her confusion like a cold draught, a reminder of my own threadbare knowledge.

Those who react with horror to Christodoulou’s arguments have belittled her approach as Gradgrindian. But I am not convinced that Dickens would approve of jettisoning facts from education. In his great biography, Peter Ackroyd has described Dickens’ conventional education of his own children: “There is no sense in which Dickens brought up his own children to be “rebels” against the system which he himself so consistently attacked.” (Ackroyd, Dickens, 1999, p. 612). Dickens even published factual work for children: ‘A Child’s History of England’ (1853). The problem with Gradgrind is not his knowledge, but his cruelty and that he serves a system rather than individual children.

Ackroyd repeatedly refers to Dickens’ belief in the power of children’s intelligence and the importance of childhood memories in adult life. Dickens wrote, “it would be difficult to overstate the intensity and accuracy of an intelligent child’s observation.” (Ackroyd, p. 16); Scrooge remembers his childhood reading as a source of redemptive meaning when confronted with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

What is dangerous (and Gradgrindian) about our current education system is the concern for data over individuals. Individual children are judged according to where the Curriculum expects them to be. Success is a graph that climbs gradually upward. Teachers are made to judge children according to their data; the success of their own teaching by students’ performance in continuous tests. Children’s idiosyncrasies and the unreliability of data is ignored.

Individuals have natural proclivities; I am no psychologist, I believe this to be true based on my experience of teaching. During my PGCE an academic argued in a lecture that anyone one could have been Mozart given the correct environment; she was laughed at by the audience. A child with ability in a certain subject is limited by the National Curriculum because all must be more or less close to “the expected standard” (GOV.UK). The expectation is far too low for many and too high for others.

If teachers were allowed to forget the ‘expected standard’ and the next test for more than ten minutes, they might notice immense potential that is wasted. Think of how much Hebrew an average Jewish girl might learn for a Bat Mitzvah; how many languages any child can pick up if they need to; how quickly children are able to work technology without being taught. John Taylor Gatto concludes, “after thirty years in the public school trenches..genius is as common as dirt.” (Weapons of Mass Instruction, 2009, p. 23).

We put fences up, keep children in pens of expected learning, and do not recognise when they could go further. My daughter has just been sent home with some level 12 reading books: not as bad as level 9, but, still, dry as dust compared with The Hobbit. I worry that the tediousness of the school books will erode her natural enjoyment of reading.

The business model that has been fashionable for some time in the public sector makes no sense in schools. Teachers are hooked on so-called progress. We count our data as if it were gold coins, forgetting that targets are set by people in an office somewhere: targets do not necessarily make sense for individuals. We tend to forget that our numbers may falsify, limit or simply be irrelevant.








‘How the hell do you hope to get a job when you never listen to anythin’?’

For two years, my daughter and I have been painfully climbing the Oxford Reading Tree (reading books used in 80% of UK primary schools). I agree that readers designed to improve literacy step by step are needed; but I wonder why the pace has to be so unbearably slow.

Before the summer holidays we were on level 9: not as mind-numbing as levels 1-5 but, still, not riveting. Then, through boredom over the summer, she was forced into reading whatever was around. I’m not suggesting I have an unusual child, but, when no one would read to her on a long afternoon in our TV-less living room, she started reading real books to herself. Of course it was hard at first, and she guessed a lot, but – as children do – she got better fast. I’m sure many would. Now the world is open to her in small print – illustrated encyclopedias; novels with proper characters who think; even at one point in a cafe, an article in the Guardian about boa constrictors escaping into London streets and eating pigeons. More intriguing than “Wilma’s mum came round. She wanted to take everyone swimming.” (Super Dog, Level 9)

Steady, measurable, progress looks better on a school’s graphs. If one student’s stagnation due to computer game addiction makes the data look bad, so could a giant leap made by another out of boredom. I was a secondary school English teacher for eight years. (‘Can you explain to me please, Miss Glickstein, how you have added value to this learner?’) ‘Value Added’ measures the progress of each student from one test to another. It is a way of organising and of reading data, which feeds Ofsted and national figures, so schools can be compared: “Someone who is clever to start with is compared with other clever children – so the result does not depend on how well they do in outright terms, but how much they have improved, whatever their ability.” (BBC, 2004)  The idea is that all students should progress gradually upwards on a trajectory that fits how clever they are deemed to be. And what is the point of the comparison? All UK governments are desperate to show they are dealing with failing schools and teachers: that education is working.

What I have never understood is why teachers and parents passively accept the standards by which we test schoolchildren from the age of six. As if the standards were handed down to Kenneth Baker on a stone tablet by God himself and every child’s ability has been accurately judged by the system!

We dumbly study our graphs, believing they are fact. When SATS began, we had obviously forgotten Dickens’ vitriolic caricature of Gradgrind, industrialist turned MP, whose mania for facts is based on a belief that England requires children raised only on fact and measured at every point – “…a rule and a pair of scales…ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to.” (Hard Times, 1854).

If the pace of study is too slow, many become excruciatingly bored. I have seen it happen a lot. A boy in Year Seven, for instance, who was reading ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ was recorded as having read nothing. (The system recorded numbers of words read using an app on the kids’ phones that tracked their progress through books on the system.) The books and science magazines this boy liked weren’t on the system and so he registered as disengaged. He had none of the glory and prizes awarded to those who clocked up the most words. His mum felt sorry for him: she typed a list of what he had read and brought it to me at parents’ evening hoping I could change his record. But the system only recognised books that were on it. I was forced to look into the boy’s face and explain, ‘you can’t necessarily measure yourself by what school reports say.’ By the end of Year Seven he had thrown a chair at another boy and been temporarily excluded from class.

The intense daily frustration of children stuck learning too little too slowly is only one of the problems our system does not recognise. We must question whether we want a uniform national curriculum at all. Look up John Taylor Gatto. (New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children.) Gatto convincingly argues that American education is deliberately designed and used to “dumb people down, to demoralise them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don’t conform.” (Weapons of Mass Instruction, 2009) In my experience, the motives of those in charge are not so clear cut, but it is strange that we are willing to accept what our children have to study unquestioningly.

It has ever been the case that education is defined by those in charge, who may or may not believe that children should be taught to think for themselves. Orwell, two years after he worked as a teacher, imagined a teacher who manages to do just this in A Clergyman’s Daughter: “Quite quickly and easily Dorothy broke them in to the habit of thinking for themselves”. Only – poor Dorothy! – she soon understands the depressing reality: “No job is more fascinating than teaching if you have a free hand at it. Nor did Dorothy know, as yet, that that ‘if’ is one of the biggest ‘ifs’ in the world.” (A Clergyman’s Daughter, 1935) We can never assume that a steadily climbing graph illustrates the nation’s children moving towards an end that we, personally, agree is valid.

Teachers have limited freedom. They are not encouraged to design their own curricula, nor to vary the work each child does. Differentiation usually means varying the same task for different students, not choosing tasks to suit individuals, because everyone is prepared for the same tests. (Though some poor souls are condemned to the Foundation tier.)

Teachers imprison children with tests and judgements from an extremely early age. Many teachers hate doing it: they become cynical, unhappy; children learn to adapt to the system or live a life of frustration. Teachers ought to be free to respond to individuals; boys and girls should be encouraged to think from the outset about what the purpose of their education is. My daughter has asked if they will let her choose reading books from home in future; I’m not sure it’s up to her teacher.






All the Hills Echoed

The shadow of William Blake passed over my local playground on the final afternoon of the summer term. A large group of parents congregated in the park after school ended at lunch time. Unchained children, aged five to eleven, were free to roam in a pack, while the adults sheltered in a patch of shade on the brow of the hill – almost out of sight. I sat from two until five, only seeing my daughter to supply her water, or snacks, or nag her about sun cream. By five o’clock, there were only four mothers left, a pile of wrappers and two hot, tired, grizzling babies. We stood up, collected the debris and moved threateningly towards our happy remaining children. ‘The only problem now is peeling them away,’ someone said. We smiled and rolled our eyes; I thought I heard Blake cough.

In ‘Songs of Innocence’ Blake delights in the ‘echoing green’. In ‘Nurse’s Song’, pleading children are allowed to roam free until dark – “The little ones leaped & shouted & laugh’d/ And all the hills ecchoed.” But the nurse of ‘Songs of Experience’ is ‘green and pale’, possibly jealous of the children, or weary; she says, “Your spring & your day are wasted in play,/ And your winter and night in disguise.”

We – the mothers hovering by the zip wire – shouted ‘five more minutes…’, ‘one more go’, ‘I have to make dinner’, ‘don’t push in!’ while our children did their best to ignore the intrusion. I became both of Blake’s nurses at once. I was weary from sitting in the heat and hungry; I knew my daughter would be instantly ‘too tired to walk’ on the uphill journey home. But I was also loath to drag her off, take away freedom, end the fun.

We control our children’s freedom to play; we all contain both of Blake’s nurses. But we – like our children – have lost the ‘echoing green’: we are separated from nature. In a 2012 report for The National Trust, Stephen Moss (nature writer, broadcaster and wildlife television producer) borrows a phrase from Richard Louv  in order to describe what is happening to our minds and bodies as a result of separation from nature – “Nature Deficit Disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

I feel this to be true for myself and for my children: when we are cut off from the natural world, it is more difficult for us to find joy. Our natural physical existence is a true source of joy: the sound of the wind, grass underfoot. Summer holidays are a chance for us to find such joy – packs of children charging around campsites, adults sitting for hours around barbecues, outdoor swimming pools jammed full of bodies.

For me, the nurse of Innocence usually wins: I want my daughter to play outside unfettered. But I am left with a problem – how can I  make that possible? Someone has to cook dinner and I will need to work again (when the baby is older). I can’t always sit in the park for three hours of an afternoon and I don’t always feel like spending half of my day with other parents making small talk. So it is difficult to find the time in an average day to enable her to play outside.

It also feels important that she is allowed to play without me breathing down her neck, which is even harder to manage. Relatively few children in England are ever allowed to play outside without adult supervision; the percentage of those allowed out alone is even lower for girls. A report commissioned by Natural England, conducted in association with Kings College London, found that “boys were slightly more likely than girls to take visits to the natural environment with no adults present (24% compared to 20%).” (Natural England, 2016, p.27)

Stephen Moss argues that it is important for children to play without excessive interference. Moss says that, “In a single generation since the 1970s, children’s ‘radius of activity’ – the area around their home where they are allowed to roam unsupervised – has declined by almost 90%”. He links the decline in freedom to “declining emotional resilience and the declining ability to assess risk, both vital life-skills in the development of which outdoor experience is vital.” Children need to be in control of their own decisions and their own experience; it is not enough just to take them to feed the ducks.

At a time when the mass media controls our children’s perception, and social media pressures them to conform, they need emotional resilience and they need to be able to make their own choices. Girls, especially, are in desperate need of self-confidence and self-reliance. I imagine that freedom to play outside would give my daughter space to develop away from the glare of a screen, and would give her time to enjoy her body without worrying about how she looks. I say ‘imagine’ because she doesn’t play outside alone yet, unless we go camping. She is only six, but I don’t know how I will let her go out alone when she is older.

At the moment, I read to her about playing outside alone. The experience of childhood freedom has been immortalised by countless writers who remember it. They may idealise, but the idealisation is beautiful. Lucy M. Boston, for example, in her series of children’s books from the 50’s:

“The sun had not yet pierced the haze of morning. The water was like a looking-glass with a faint mist of breath drying off it. The children felt it so bewitching that without even a discussion they turned downstream, drifting silently along, willing to become part of the river if they could.” (The River at Green Knowe, 1959)

But reading about life is not the same as living.

Children’s ability to delight in being their natural selves is what Blake values so highly. Blake’s nurse of Experience believes that our “winter and night” is wasted in “disguise”. Could the tablets and the smartphones and the TV be a kind of disguise – a place for our children to forget themselves? Perhaps the mental stress many teenagers experience is made worse by their never having learnt to notice and enjoy themselves and the natural world.

When children are lucky enough to have a playground, their play is fenced in and their parents stand around checking the time on their phones. And our hills echo only with the sound of motorways.







“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Facebook is after our children’s eyeballs, which should surprise no one. In December last year, Facebook launched ‘Messenger Kids’ for 6 – 12 year-olds; in May they ignored a petition signed by 21,000 child health advocates asking them to scrap it (Guardian, 2018). 

Facebook tells us that their app is designed with the help of ‘experts’ and gives parents ‘control’. Messenger for Kids decorates the screen with bright digital splashes, as if the children have been busy painting. (I prefer to think of the splashes as the vomit of billions of parents who find this marketing nauseating.)

Everyone knows that social media is addictive and designed to be so! Several high profile statements have been made by Silicon Valley insiders on how these products are designed to be habit-forming. Sean Parker (first President of Facebook – quoted in my title), and Tristan Harris (ex-Google Design Ethicist) have both described how social media companies deliberately exploit animal behaviour patterns first documented by Skinner in the 1930’s and taught in basic Psychology courses in American universities.

The most powerful behaviourist tactic employed by social media to addict us is the ‘variable reward’. Harris explains the ploy clearly – “If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.” (Tristan Harris, 2016) That is what happens with ‘likes’ on Facebook -sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t, which makes you want more and more.

Facebook also relies on painful emotion to keep us hooked. Nir Eyal, a serpentile writer who calls himself “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology,” speaks enthusiastically on how “negative emotions” are the “most frequent internal triggers”, which are “critical to forming these long term habits.” (Ted Talk, 2015) Eyal goes on to quip that “depressed people check e-mail more.” So carefree about manipulating the unhappiness of others for his own financial gain – what a sweetie! We are compelled by our worst feelings: algorithms feed us news that will make us furious, because the algorithm knows that we are more likely to click on stuff if we’re angry; we feel lonely, so we have a look on Facebook.

Facebook know that we know they addict us on purpose, which is why they have not included overtly addictive features on their kids app – no “like” buttons. Thus it appears as if Facebook have designed the app purely out of love for humanity: so that little Tilly and Oceana can wear digital cat masks and gossip about school.

There is no charge for Messenger Kids; it has also been aggressively marketed. Sound suspicious? Of course it is! So, what’s in it for Facebook? Property. Our data is Facebook’s property. And now they own detailed data about our children too. If you read the small print it tells you: your child’s “registration details”, “content and communications” as well as “activity” will be collected. And Facebook, “may share the information we collect in Messenger Kids within the family of companies that are part of Facebook”. Also, “If the ownership or control of all or part of Messenger Kids changes, we may transfer information to the new owner.” (Facebook)

Facebook profit from selling data. The companies that buy the data then control personalised advertising and newsfeeds for those on real Facebook. Third parties to whom Facebook sell data decide what we see; the third parties are able therefore – by algorithm or deliberate design – to manipulate us. Sandy Parakilas (an ex-operations manager on the platform team at Facebook) urged in the New York Times (Nov, 2017): “Facebook needs to be regulated more tightly, or broken up so that no single entity controls all of its data. The company won’t protect us by itself…”Jaron Lanier – American computer philosophy writer – encourages everyone to “delete all social media accounts right now”; on Channel Four News (June, 2018) Lanier explains that social media “leeches your free will…makes the world a little darker because you’re not perceiving reality clearly anymore you’re being manipulated.”

It is murky how unnamed third parties may be using our children’s data: there are no ads or newsfeeds on Kids Messenger. But it is certain that Facebook are priming children for complete Facebook addiction as soon as they turn 13.

Facebook pretend in their advertising that they are just helping kids to play. The word ‘play’ is used twice in the 1 minute and 21 second official promotional video for this app. My first response was to think, ‘what do you mean ‘play’? They’re just on their phones!’ Then I remembered my daughter was talking on a pretend mobile phone from the age of three – a spoon, an envelope, anything she could grab off the table and hold up to her ear. She was playing.

Kids on Facebook Messenger are playing at what will go on to occupy much of their adult lives. Lev Vygotski saw play as a way children develop: through play they move towards what they will become – “the play-development relationship can be compared to the instruction-development relationship.” (Vygotski, 1978)  His insight is relevant. Now children can play at Facebook, until they are on Facebook for real; Facebook knows it is invaluable to catch them early: by playing at it from a young age, children make using Facebook part of who they are.

My six-year old finds it ‘annoying’ when a child turns up to a party or wedding and won’t play with her because they are on a phone. But she also feels excluded from all the fun she imagines she could be having if we’d let her have a phone like ‘everyone else in my class’. I dread the day when she also feels excluded from social media – which is beginning to replace real human interaction for children too.

I want her to develop relationships in real-life, not online; I do not want Facebook to sell her data or force-feed her with personalised news and ads. And I have a horrid image in my mind of her left alone in the real world because all the other children have disappeared into a silicon labyrinth.




“Smells of dust, the dust of time, Egyptian dust…”

Books are being pulped(Unison, 2017) What else could happen when the schools, libraries and shops no longer require them? In my town there are two charity shops where you can buy a book for 25 pence; the same shops have recycling bins for the piles of useless pages they just can’t shift.

Children don’t necessarily encounter too many of these paper dinosaurs: they have YouTube for kids, Kids Smartphone,  Kindle Fire, etc etc etc. And libraries in the UK are closing faster than you can say, ‘Books? What are they?’ 449 libraries closed between 2012 and 2017 (The Bookseller, 2017) Those remaining are reduced and forced – by cuts – to rely on volunteers, (CILIP, 2017)

‘We don’t need books anymore, computers do that job; books take up space and collect dust.’ I hear you thinking. (Space is especially precious to us in the UK, as our living rooms shrink around us – Alice in Wonderland style, (Guardian, 2018))

But children need and want books and libraries are invaluable. Ian Anstice, (Library manager since 1998, winner of Information Professional of the Year 2011 and Editor of Public Libraries News) in the New Statesman, argues that the internet can’t be blamed for the decline in library use in the UK – “Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA are all not seeing the decline that we’re seeing.”

Anstice points out that libraries give everyone equal access to books and thus foster literacy, “If you’re wealthy and you can afford a lot of books, that’s brilliant, you don’t need a library. But if you’ve got a child, from toddlers – who are absolutely voracious for picture books – onwards, to give your child the same access to books, and thus to improved literacy, you need a library.” (New Statesman, 2017)   Necessary for a country in which, “around 15 per cent, or 5.1 million adults in England, can be described as ‘functionally illiterate.’ They…have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.” (National Literacy Trust)

Libraries give children more than literacy: they provide thoughts, facts, ideas, possible identities. A child can wander around a library and encounter the world for themselves, without the interference of a parent, teacher or creepy algorithm programmed to predict their personality type.

Ray Bradbury says that, for him as a child, books were people – “I’d look in and…people are waiting in there, thousands of people…when you open a book the person pops out and becomes you…you are Charles Dickens and he is you…” (NEA, 2017) A child needs access to books in order to choose who they want to be – to invent themselves. In a library, any child can do that.

‘Alright alright, but why fiddle about with all that paper when you could just use a kindle?’ I hear you exclaim. I find it uncanny –  threatening – that the name of the device invented to replace the book is ‘Kindle’; if you want to use apps simultaneously choose ‘Kindle Fire’ – an even scarier name. ‘Why scary?’ you cry. ‘Stop whinging. There’s no conspiracy! Change is inevitable!’

But why did they have to call it the ‘Fire’? It’s as if the brand development people – somewhere in their minds – were conjuring a good old-fashioned book burning. It was Hitler’s book burning that frightened Bradbury into writing Fahrenheit 451 – his classic dystopia about a ‘fireman’ who burns books.  (Watch the short film I mentioned above to hear him talking about it – here’s another link. It’s worth watching.) It does strike me that – when you turn a real page – no cookies are stored anywhere…

Putting that uncomfortable thought to one side for now, I want to make a final point. A child values a real book with real pages. A child can hold a book; they can stare at the cover; they can encounter, at their own natural pace, any number of strange new worlds, which may be a complete mystery to them. Mystery is fine. A book doesn’t need to be relevant, or accessible. It could be; or it could be a vague impression of an alien landscape you don’t understand that makes you want to know more.

Patti Smith writes about her childhood and the books lying around her parents’ house. Here she describes her fascination with a textbook her father owned:

“…I remembered copying such things from a heavy textbook that sat on the shelf above my father’s desk. He had all kinds of books rescued from dustbins and deserted houses and bought for pennies at church bazaars. The range of subjects from ufology to Plato to the planarian reflected his ever-curious mind. I would pore over this particular book for hours, contemplating its mysterious world. The dense text was impossible to penetrate but somehow the monochromic renderings of living organisms suggested many colours, like flashing minnows in a fluorescent pond. This obscure and nameless book, with its paramecia, algae, and amoebas, floats alive in memory.” (Patti Smith, M Train, 2015)

She conveys the world as experienced by a child through a physical encounter with a book – an experience so vivid that its impression never quite disappeared. I am not pretending that all children could – or should – be voracious readers, but all children can discover something from books, if only an intimation of what they don’t know.

In a world where the mass media offers children a limited menu of who – or what – they could be, children need books desperately. They need other ideas; they need the past. And children want books. A recent experiment in French schools, which dictates all children and staff must read for fifteen minutes each day, (anything except school books and magazines) has proved very popular, (The Connexion, 2017).  Based on my eight years as an English teacher, I can guess that fifteen minutes private reading would go down very well with British children. The only problem is, where could they find the books?



Disney Ate My Daughter…

This year, a few prominent feminists have argued against the #MeToo movement. Germaine Greer calls on women to stand up for themselves – “In the old days…we weren’t afraid of him…” (Guardian, 23rd Jan 2018). Camille Paglia has said that treating women as “more vulnerable, virtuous or credible,” is “counterproductive.” (Hollywood Reporter, 27th February 2018).

To a point I agree that these beautiful actresses – alongside many other women with more ordinary lives – don’t help themselves when they denigrate all men; pretend that their skimpy clothing is not sexually provocative; or play the helpless victim.

But, we can’t ignore millions of women who feel that men objectify and use them sexually. What a frightening prospect for parents! Girls treated as trinkets; boys demonised and condemned to undervalue the opposite sex. If some women are – to a degree – complicit in their own objectification, then it is no wonder! Girls are subjected to a barrage of profoundly sexual images of women from the moment they are able to open their eyes. You can buy Little Mermaid socks for your new-born.

Have you ever wondered why Anna and Elsa have such prominent breasts, thick makeup and tiny waists? Have you ever been given the creeps by Pocahontas, with those little tassels dangling off her heaving bosom, pouting innocently at the, much older and stronger, white conqueror? The almost identical appearance of these female Disney characters demonstrates clearly to girls how they ought to look; worse, their gestures and facial expressions are often recognisably sexual. Watch the last 45 seconds of Elsa’s ‘Let it Go’ routine. I have seen three-year-old girls at my daughter’s nursery trying to imitate these moves. Look at the film poster for Cinderella (2015). I used to think it was old-fashioned and obsolete to protest that we should encourage our daughters to have broader horizons than marriage to a fantasy prince. But we seem to have pulled our sparkly stilettos and painful brassieres from the bonfire. We need old-fashioned feminism now!

We cannot feign surprise that teenage girls and young women find themselves objectified in the street, at work and at home: our daughters begin idolising bug-eyed, hourglass-shaped, bits of skirt from the minute they can watch TV, or study the sparkly Disney hairbands arranged at child’s eye-level in the supermarket. That’s before they encounter social media…

My six-year-old daughter has been known to wind me up deliberately from time to time. The other day we were in the library; she eschewed the pile of books I chose in favour of a book about fairy-tale characters going to the hairdresser. She read it aloud to me in a badly imitated American accent – picked up from films she’s seen, mostly at school, and from the American movie voices that she and her friends use when they play. (She knows exactly how to rattle me.) When she reached the book’s ‘happy’ end – ‘and so she married the prince etc…’ I did my best to point out the prince’s limitations, (‘Listen kid, that prince is probably stupid, he has never had to work for a living, he doesn’t even have separate teeth, just one solid white block.’) Receiving an indifferent shrug from my daughter, I turned for support to an acquaintance who happened to be sitting nearby with her little girl –

‘I’m sick of princesses,’ I moaned. My acquaintance also shrugged,

‘I guess some girls just go for that stuff.”

Of course they do! Because children want to fit in. But why are there not more parents protesting against the way women are portrayed in children’s entertainment? Disney must be the worst, but sexual images are everywhere – think Wonder Woman or the re-vamped My Little Pony. Argos boasts a glittering array of children’s ‘make-up and beauty toys’ including the lovely ‘Disney Princess Hairdresser Set’. What an inspiration for our young girls!

The latest powerful, and unimaginably rich, man to fall foul of the recent tidal wave of allegations of sexual misconduct is Disney’s John Lasseter, ex-Head of Animation. (Sources alleged he was known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments.” BBC, 9th June, 2018) Lasseter was a senior adviser when Frozen was made. No one could be shocked by the news that the company behind Anna and Elsa relies on a man who, allegedly, places great importance on women’s behinds. He remains in a “consulting role” until the end of the year when he will seek “new creative challenges”.

I am sick of worrying about the influence of all this on my daughter in private. Surely there must be loads of parents out there who want to rescue their sons and daughters from the jaws of Disney. Anyone want to join our one-family boycott?