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Prince's memo on education stirs outrage

By Associated Press
Published November 19, 2004

LONDON - Prince Charles' tirade against people who aspire to lofty goals beyond their natural talent earned him a rare public rebuke from a senior government minister on Thursday - and gasps of disbelief from the British media.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke branded the heir to the throne "old fashioned" after details emerged of a royal memo written in response to an employee's inquiry about promotion prospects.

"People think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability," Charles wrote in the memo, which was read out Wednesday at an employment tribunal.

"Not like you eh, Charles?" countered the Sun, a popular daily that is normally highly supportive of the monarchy. The prince is next in line to the throne by virtue of heredity.

In his handwritten note, Charles attacked Britain's education system for encouraging young people to nurture ambitions they are unlikely to fulfill.

"What is wrong with everyone nowadays?" the prince wrote. "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

"This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centered system which admits no failure," Charles said.

Clarke said he thought Charles should "think carefully" before intervening in any debate about education.

"To be quite frank, I think he is very old-fashioned and out of time and he doesn't understand what is going on in the British education system at the moment," the minister told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Paddy Harverson, Charles' spokesman, insisted that the prince had, in fact, been pleading for individual rights in education.

"He thinks everyone is not the same and everyone has different talents," Harverson said. "What education should be geared toward is giving everyone the chance to make the best of those talents in their own way."

The prince's memo was read out at an employment tribunal where a former personal assistant in his private office, Elaine Day, claimed unfair dismissal. She also claimed sexual harassment by the prince's assistant private secretary, Paul Kefford.

The prince wrote the memo in reply to Day's suggestion that personal assistants with university degrees should be given the opportunity to train to become private secretaries, a more senior position.

[Last modified November 18, 2004, 23:59:17]

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