Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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When a snowflake leaves the nest


DID you have a Saturday job when you were at school? Did you have a paper round? Did you do holiday jobs as a student? If so, you are unlikely to be identified as part of our current ‘snowflake generation’ of young people.

It would be unfair, of course, to label all young people these days as ‘snowflakes’. Some are resilient, hard working, and well-grounded. Many are desirous of helping other and giving something back to society. Too many, sadly, possess none of these qualities.

This is not always their fault. They are poorly parented, inadequately schooled and waywardly influenced. They are over-reliant on others for support and incapable of standing on their own two feet. They are ‘dependent’ in the broadest sense, addicted not only to a sense of entitlement but also, and too often, to a corresponding sense of victimhood. Too few are leaving the comfort zone of home and school. ‘Real world’ weekend and holiday jobs are no longer a normal part of growing up.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds was therefore correct to observe that school-leavers these days are less well prepared than they used to be when making the transition from home to university. They could ‘struggle with the pressures of moving away [from home]’, he observed.

As so often happens with our education secretaries, having identified a problem he has come up with the wrong solution. His remedy is to introduce courses for sixth-formers on how to cope with living away from home.

The Department for Education has worked with Unite, a student accommodation company, to produce workshop material covering ‘independent living, managing money and dealing with conflict’.

‘What is the price of a litre of milk?’ will be one of the issues addressed. Since milk is often sold in pints, and given the state of GCSE-level maths, this part of the course may be less useful than the DfE suppose.

‘How often will you wash your sheets once you move out of home?’ is another course component. Yes, it seems young people are expected to turn to the nanny state to provide guidance on this tricky dilemma. Only the DfE can resolved the dirty sheets quandary.

‘What issues may occur, living with a stranger?’ is a follow-up course ingredient. Presumably, it is worth understanding that you might be murdered, sexually assaulted or otherwise violated.

So what is the antidote to this latest tosh and twaddle to be meted out to youngsters in the name of ‘wellbeing’ and preparation for uni?

How about advising school-leavers to read the chapter in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Days on ‘95 Theses 95’? This is a response to overbearing parenting that now has far more to do with our safety-first and risk-averse education system than with the zealous Lutheran upbringing which Keillor was parodying. Here are some examples:

‘You have taught me to fear strangers and their illicit designs, robbing me of easy companionship, making me a very suspicious friend. Even among those I know well, I continue to worry: what do they really mean by liking me?’

‘You have taught me the fear of becoming lost, which has killed the pleasure of curiosity and discovery. In strange cities, I memorize streets and always know exactly where I am. Amid scenes of great splendor, I review the route back to the hotel.’

‘You have taught me to value a good night’s sleep over all else including adventures of love and friendship, and even when the night is charged with magic, to be sure to get to bed.’

All 95 of the theses can be read here.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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