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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Optimism of Tories has to be admired

YOU’VE got to admire the Tories for their optimism during these difficult times.

Louise Allonby
Louise Allonby

While employment minister Chris Grayling was busy last week exhorting employers to hire “surly” British “hoodies” rather than eager-to-work immigrants, his boss David Cameron was calling for a return to the days when children stood up when a teacher or parent entered a room – and for our schools to re-embrace the concept of competition and (whisper it) failure.

As if! Both Mr Grayling and Mr Cameron are, I fear, heading for disappointment if they seriously think either of those situations have a hope of being taken on board.

Interestingly, a new series on the BBC about the 1970s touched on the first of these topics last week. Part of the programme focused on the Ugandan Asians who migrated to Britain in 1972, having been exiled by Idi Amin.

With little more than the clothes they stood up in, the Ugandan Asian refugees brought “ambition, aspiration and a determination to succeed” to Britain. They had lost everything – but were prepared to take any job they could find, no matter how menial or monotonous. Less than a year after they had arrived almost all of them had found permanent homes – with a significant proportion going on to become millionaires.

If I were a business owner, I know who I would choose to employ, given the choice between a bolshie British youth and a keen immigrant. Mr Grayling’s attempt to promote yet more ill-considered positive discrimination is surely unlikely to be taken seriously.

As is Mr Cameron’s noble but forlorn hope that we as a society can return to the days when children stood up when a teacher entered the room. My generation always did – at least at the schools I went to – but today’s youngsters would treat such a proposition with utter derision.

Brought up to be the centre of attention, to have their views and wants deferred to by their elders (though heaven knows why), to demand their “rights” from teachers – and to expect to succeed at everything they do, most modern children simply could not even begin to comprehend the concept of politely standing when a teacher enters a room. I very much doubt that a lot of modern school pupils can even be bothered to call their teachers “sir” or “miss”.

At a formal event recently, I found myself sitting next to a former teacher. When I referred to him as Mister, he laughed and invited me to call him by his Christian name – a prospect which had me spluttering in horror. “I couldn’t do that – sir” was my response, much to his amusement.

As for re-introducing into our state schools the concept of healthy competition and, by association, failure – well, sorry, but there’s nil chance of that. The all-must-win-prizes mentality is far too entrenched for that.

I fear the two concepts are inextricably linked. As a result, many of today’s discourteous, demanding children are shaping up to become the surly, unemployable, aimless adults of tomorrow.

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