Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Been There - Done That - Seen it


Two Sunday Times articles, seemingly unrelated, caught my eye.

Ray Lewis is “Pied Piper to the wild boys”- is, apparently one of the Tories favourite black activists. His programme of “tough love' is a strategy for dealing with severely disruptive teenage boys. He is Boris Johnson's favourite community leader – though he leans towards the Labour Party when voting.

Ray's programme is really fairly simple. He takes some very naughty boys and instills some discipline into their lives. At his Eastside Young Leaders' Academy he works “minor miracles” He makes the boys march “African style – our boys have rhythm” and salute and get extra help in Maths and English. He insists they say “please and thank you” and hold open doors for grown-ups. He probably makes them help old ladies across the road and give up seats on buses.

These are all good things. They are not new. Hitler could teach discipline to kids.

Ray keeps kids off the streets by occupying them from 4 till nine – when their parents get home. He is doing good and valuable work.

He thinks the army of “ologists” in schools and social services are dominating our schools with dyslexia and ADHD – but (as he says) do they have any solutions for these problems? No, they don't.

Ray believes that it's parents and activists like him who are likely to improve the prospects for his boys. He's probably right.

So, when on TV last evening I saw a report that mothers are leaving babies only a few months old to go back to work so they don't lose their home to mortgage repossession, it seems likely that Ray's programme will need to be expanded. When the Dewsbury Chavs set the standards of behaviour for the civilised world, Ray is going to be in business for a long time!

Turn the page and we have TV's QI Quiz show. Apparently people who ought to know better are advocating a “child-centred” approach to learning. Learning by discovery. Learning by play. Have we heard this before? Oh, yes.

Does it work? Oh no.

Are these two articles related? Oh, yes.

First: young people of school age need parents. Two parents. One at home. If they don't have them, or their parents are so gormless and feckless that they can't or won't care for their children – the state will have to do it.

That's the job of schools.

I bet you thought that the job of schools was to educate our children. Only peripherally. It is a good thing if children learn some things whilst they are there – but the primary purpose of schools is to occupy children all day so their parents can go out to work. Once you realise that you know why Ray has so many children to save and why our schools are often a mess.

The great men who barely went to school – Einstein, Churchill, J.S. Mill, Bertrand Russell, Galileo, Da Vinci – the list is long – didn't need after-school care!

The dorks who think they can make school compete with Playstations are deluded. Point one of their manifesto is just stupid. Play not work – they say. If you wish to produce a crop of people who are good at playing, then this is a viable programme. if you wish to produce good, productive members of the community – it's just crap.

The purpose of school is to babysit children for 10-15 years. Along the way if they learn to read and write and do arithmetic – that's a bonus. Some will want to be rocket scientists. You won't learn aeronautical engineering by building model aeroplanes. You might awaken an interest in flight – but you could to that with comic books.

Unless we are prepared as a society to have half the work force at home (chiefly mothers) for five or six years looking after their offspring, we are not going to solve the problem of disillusioned teenagers.

Full stop.

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