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British schools to bring back the rod?

If you think a day in the life of a British school kid is all about matching knee socks, "smart" ties, and a good dose of old-fashioned law and order (just think Professor McGonogall and those no-nonsense glasses) -- think again. Last year alone, 2,230 students were "permanently excluded" from school (a punishment that sounds worthy of Azkaban) for physically assaulting their teachers or classmates. In light of these statistics -- and increasing grumbling from the bruised and battered professors themselves -- schools minister Nick Gibb has proposed a four point plan to make British classrooms the decorous and disciplined places they once were (at least in our imaginations).

The proposal includes measures that would permit more knuckle-rapping and ruler-wielding in schools: the new standards would "encourag[e] teachers to make greater use of physical force to ‘maintain good order.'" As British law currently stands, there's nothing stopping fed-up teachers from (forcefully) putting know-it-alls back in line, "provided pupils are not injured." But, according to Gibb, teachers have grown wary of exercising their well-enshrined right to move beyond time-outs, fearful of lawsuits or even, as the harrowing saga of Peter Harvey persistently reminds them, the possibility of a life behind bars. (Harvey, on trial for lobbing a dumbbell at a student's head while shouting "die, die, die," was ultimately acquitted -- but not before prompting tirades from fellow teachers about the injustices of not being able to smack those ungrateful little brats.)

Gibb contends that the newly proposed standards -- which would also provide greater leeway to search students and grant accused teachers anonymity when under investigation --  will help to erode this atmosphere of fear by "removing red tape so that teachers can ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour." By his account, it's all just one big misunderstanding: students simply became too "aware of their rights." Once that confusion gets cleared up, it's only a matter of time before Snape-for-Principal posters start popping up....

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Swedish parliament to host Pirate Bay?

In what may be its most audacious move yet, the Swedish Pirate Party, which aims to radically liberalize copyright and patent law, thinks it may have found a new home for the controversial filesharing site Pirate Bay:

After a pan-European legal attempt to shut down The Pirate Bay, the site has run out of firms who will connect its servers to the Internet. The most recent casualty was German ISP Cyberbunker, which cut off the Bay after an injunction from a German district court. Cyberbunker's boss was furious, but he complied.

Soon after, the site was back up, this time helped out by its fellow Swedes in Piratpartiet. This might seem like a risky move for a nascent political party (Piratpartiet has two members sitting in the European Parliament), given that the Pirate Bay admins were recently found liable for contributory copyright infringement in a Swedish court.

Piratpartiet knows this. In a new editorial published in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet (English translation), the party says that it hopes to host the Bay from servers located within the Swedish Parliament to take advantage of parliamentary immunity. The plan relies on 1) The Pirate Bay agreeing to it and 2) Piratpartiet's performance in the upcoming September elections.

The Pirate Party is not technically affiliated with Pirate Bay though it has frequently advocated for the site. I spoke with Pirate Party founder Rickard Falkvinge for a short print piece in 2007. I would imagine the party finds the irony of hosting the site from within the very government that initially shut it down very appealing.

Hat tip: Matt Yglesias

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