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Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Age of Innocence or Paradise Lost

One of the things that I regularly enjoy about talking to my parents on a Sunday is when they have read something in the newspaper that makes them both shake their heads. I'm going slightly off topic as I think their views have some validity.

Apparently there was a review published a few days ago by the Cambridge-based Primary Review, children at primary school in England are suffering "stress" from having to grow up too soon. Apparently they face ' intolerable pressure' at school and from the wider world. The culprits are school testing, family breakdown, celebrity culture, and everyone's now favourite climate change. (Funny how things change in my day the biggest fear was vapourisation by a nuclear bomb.)

To my parent's eyes kids today have never had it so good.

To my parents childhood was a case of making do and mend, rationing (my parents didn't eat a banana until the mid 1950's after a 16 year gap. One of my fathers strongest memories is him and his brother moving an inciendary bomb down the path into the road using a dustbin lid without wearing the appropriate health and safety considerations and risk assessments we need to carry out today. Though despite this they both felt they had a good childhood.

To my eyes and to my parent's eyes yes there are different pressures on the family and our children but it isn't not having the latest iPod or whatever must have our consumer society says we 'must have'.

However this wasn't the thing that got my parents hopping - it is the idea that government should 'do something about it'. does this mean that there will soon be an innocence czar with a ten year plan and key performance indicators and maybe even an OFKID.

If the problem does exist perhaps it is based on what a lot of government undertakes at the moment with testing and also encouraging dependence on the welfare state that has undermined the role of family.

To my parents and I would imagine the vast majority of families in the UK responsibility for a happy childhood does not and should not fall within the states purview . It's up to parents to decide what their children watch on TV, whether they play video games or read a magazine on celebrities.

Perhaps parents should even be allowed to choose what school their children attend and let the forces of choice and competition improve our schools and to allow M& A's in the education world and allow private sector providers to run schools rather than LEA's and also set challenging standards using things like the International Baccalaureat rather than the rapidly tarnishing A Level standard.

I always remember Ronald Reagan's comment that "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'

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