Best columns: Europe
Parents can’t choose Disney over school
Michael Gove The Times
Children belong in school, said Michael Gove. Surely we can all agree on that? Then why the outcry over last week’s supreme court decision upholding a $180 fine on a man who took his 6-year-old daughter out of the classroom for a whole week to jet off to Disney World in Florida? The father, John Platt, is complaining that he is the victim of a “nanny state” telling him how to raise his child—and many British pundits agree. But I was the education secretary who introduced the first fines for truancy in 2014, and I stand by that punishment. Before the crackdown on truancy, schools granted 10 days of absence at parental request, and many families took it “as a right to a fortnight’s holiday whenever they liked.” Immigrant families would send their British-born children to their home country for long periods, which “damaged integration as well as education.” I want Britain to keep “every child in school for every possible hour,” because studies show a direct link between missed school days and poor achievement later in life. Does anyone really think “future employers will prefer a detailed working knowledge of the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride to tediously anachronistic mental ornaments such as math”?
Gibraltar shows why EU is vital
Diogo Queiroz de Andrade Publico.es
The recent saber rattling between the U.K. and Spain over Gibraltar is a chilling reminder of Europe’s bloody past, said Diogo Queiroz de Andrade. Tensions over the rocky outcrop off Spain’s southern coast started to rise when the European Union declared that a Brexit deal would only apply to the territory—which Britain seized from Spain in the 1700s—if Madrid gave its approval. Prime Minister Theresa May has laughed off suggestions that the U.K. would use force to retain Gibraltar, saying she will negotiate, not fight, with Spain. But once countries leave the EU, peace is no longer a given. “Wars and territorial disputes dominated the Continent’s history for centuries,” and only the formation of the European Union put a stop to them. EU membership ensures that long-standing territorial disputes between member nations Hungary and Romania, for example, do not resurface. Ethnic unrest within countries, too, is now contained primarily by a shared commitment to the European project. Destroy the EU, as the nationalist forces surfacing in many countries advocate, and regional separatists in Spain, Belgium, and Italy would all pursue independence— possibly by force of arms. If the prospect of Brexit has already raised the specter of war, imagine what hell could be unleashed should other countries secede. ■