The Unicef Report on the state of the world’s children is scathing on Britain. It has made us all catch our breath. The feeling I get working with children in care (recently subject to a fairly damning report) is that as collective parents a poor example is shown. The information about Britain is only a part of this report which emphasises that where gender equality is practised it is the child who benefits.
As far as the situation in Britain goes it is interesting to hear views expressed by our continental neighbours. When we say proudly that our 4 years are reading they respond with “why aren’t they out playing?”. The hot house of examinations, bad enough at 16+, is replicated at 7, 11 and 14 with SATs. Why? It clearly isn’t helping our young, quite the reverse.
Regrettably the situation is a reflection of the society where a number of issues preoccupy us taking our eye off focussing what is important. Headlines are filled with alerts on crime, terrorism, gambling and other ideas which are doing great harm to us as a nation. Our responses to them have all received considerable criticism: prisons are stuffed full and are in inhuman; dealing with terrorism has lead to the stigmatisation of sections of the community and grave injustice and casinos are being promoted at every turn.
No doubt there will be many views about the state of affairs. One being floated is that of the cult of individuals. If we are any good we make it by ourselves is the idea. We practice competition rather than co-operation. It is not true to say however that schools are blind to this. I recently had the experience of introducing children from an outer part of Birmingham to others in the inner city. The teachers arranged a series of activities leading to an experience of co-operation.
Thatcherism’s love of individualism has found echoes from Blair with his notion of an entrepreneurial society apparently picked up by Cameron. A Labour Government was elected supposedly to reverse those years, but instead it chose to amplify the changes made then. This is the theme of Simon Jenkin’s book “Thatcher and Sons” which recently received a political award from Channel 4.
“The history of Britain in the last thirty years, under both Conservative and Labour governments, has been dominated by one figure – Margaret Thatcher. Her election marked a decisive break with the past and her premiership transformed not just her country, but the nature of democratic leadership. In his ‘argued history’, Simon Jenkins analyses this revolution from its beginnings in the turmoil of the 1970s through the social and economic changes of the 1980s. Was Thatcherism a mere medicine for an ailing economy or a complete political philosophy? And did it eventually fall victim to the dogmatism and control which made it possible? This is the story of the events, personalities, defeats and victories which will be familiar to all those who lived through them, but seen through a new lens. It is also an argument about how Thatcher’s legacy has continued down to the present. Not just John Major, but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are her heirs and acolytes. And as the Conservative party reinvents itself as a viable political force once again, is the age of Thatcher finally over?” (See Amazon).