This thought is provoked by my enjoying a meal with a youngish friend and her husband – I’ll call her Jane – progressing her career to be a trained counsellor of children; quite separately, I witness the extreme difficulty that another friend of mine has – a highly experienced pilot of big jets – in getting a new job in his fifties. I’ll call him John.
However much feminists stress equality – and I certainly don’t question equal pay for equal work – by natural instinct women are motherly, caring and they defend the nest. Men, on the other hand, are hunters and macho. I know there are exceptions.
So, when I was with Jane, she was lamenting the fact that children were not enjoying their childhood. They were being put under too much pressure. Later in life, they would pay a price. “Commit suicide?” Yes, she did say that.
Now, I remember John, way back. At school he was nothing special. A nice boy! Then his mum helped him to realise his ambition. He wanted to be a pilot. She backed him all the way, and paid for his training courses. It’s not easy learning to be a pilot. It requires enormously hard work. The point I want to make is that for John that was when he really began to enjoy his childhood.
I keep finding in life people who think that what is right for them must be right for everyone else, then try to force it down their throats. Would they have got that right? I wonder.
This is what keeps happening in education and, especially for children with special needs. I pursue this at length in my play, my book, my blog Death of a Nightingale. They closed over 100 special schools, some very good ones, to force-feed children into mainstream schools. Some people call it social engineering. I call it homogenisation.
But let me get back to my original thought. See the danger. Forty per cent of kids brought up by mum in single parent families many without a dad. Many schools, especially primary schools, populated largely by female teachers.
I wish to make a point to the Janes of this world. Don’t over-protect your kids. They are going to have to compete in a big wide, global world, maybe change their chosen career two or three times. Remember, really hard work can be pleasure. Kids are greedy for information about things they are interested in. Find it. Feed it. Music. The arts. Sport. History. Even mathematics.
For those who worry about risk, remember the old adage that the biggest risk is not taking one. For those who don’t like the sting of losing, don’t deny kids the pleasure of winning. The sting of losing is a price worth paying. Be a good loser. Yes. Be a good winner, even better!
Some are good with their heads. Some are good with their hands. Like men and women. Not equal, just different. Sometimes stuff equality! Vive la Différence. Enjoy being different. And remember, excellence is nothing to do with money. It is in the mind and it comes from the heart.
And I want to make a point to the Johns of this world. Education needs your macho. Badly.
Alan Share is an author, former businessman and former barrister