Sir Michael Wilshaw aims to put two years olds in school. Not every two year old, mind, just those who are coming to school barely able to speak or go to the toilet. Now I am not going to rehearse the many, many arguments as to why this is the wrong solution to an identified problem. But in the ensuing debate – and it seems to have been condemned from the Telegraph to the Guardian – we should ask how it got to the stage that in today’s Britain – full the brim with iPads and iPhones – there are five year olds starting school in nappies.
Whenever conservatives have warned in the past that dismantling the family was a bad idea and would have serious consequences we were told that we were reactionary hysterical bigots/rightwingers/meanies (choose insult). Look, say the left, the traditional family is on its way out and the sky has not fallen in. You were wrong, they say.
I say – no liberals you are wrong. If you only took a moment to climb out of your Westminster Village or Ivory Tower and visit a school where some children cannot speak or go to the toilet on their own you would see that for those children the sky has fallen in. We told you so! The reason we said not to dismantle the traditional family is that it can have very poor outcomes for a small but significant minority of children. We care about the children as much as you do. So go on – get down on your knees, liberals, be eye level with said child and say how sorry you are.
The point about these ‘disadvantaged children’ unable to speak and still in nappies is that they have not been air-lifted in from some unknown land. The left would have us believe that it is poverty that has caused children to arrive in school not being toilet trained. No it is not. It is culture. It is not poverty that stops a mother from toilet training child. It is willing – or lack thereof.
Pinning all these developmental problems on poverty is deeply insulting to those poor parents out there who do manage to get their children to school toilet trained, speaking, understanding no, stop and ‘being aware of other children.’ In the last century British parents lived through crushing poverty, two world wars – where bombs were literally falling out of the sky – rationing, and they still got their children to school fed, clothed, speaking, and toilet trained. It is nonsense to say poverty prevents this. Nonsense.
So what to do? Up until recently the usual solution would be to throw more of other’s people money at the problem. The left love doing this. It makes them feel worthy, and good about themselves but we cannot do that now as there is no money left. So Sir Michael has come up with this crazy solution of school for two year olds.
This will alleviate parents of their responsibility completely and get the State to do the pre-school caring and teaching instead. Not only will it not work in terms of child development it is a dangerous, dangerous philosophy. It feeds into the idea that poor people should not be in the business of having children or indeed raising children and it says to small minority of parents who are providing poor care that they can continue not to be bothered as the State will now do it for you. Parenting classes in the short term might help, but the results on the latest trials are not encouraging and show very poor take up.
Long term it is time to start encouraging marriage. It remains the gold standard for the rich, middle but especially the poor in which to raise children. Really it is no brainer. It pools financial as well as emotional resources and is a critical necessity if we wish to increase social mobility. We may need other things in place also, but a culture of marriage is the first requirement. Penalising it in the tax system is nothing short of national suicide. Liberals in the US have finally caught on to this issue and are starting to support marriage again as a means to increase social mobility. It will take the left in the UK longer to appreciate this as they can be slow learners. But it needs to happen soon – the nappy wearing five year olds are running out of time.