Kill 'chocolate box' childhood

24th April 1998 at 01:00
Does your approach to children tend towards the mawkish, the fraudulent or the merely saccharine? Would the term "chocolate box" sum it up best?

These, according to an essay published by the Social Affairs Unit, characterise the sentimentality that has gripped education.

"In recent decades, in both America and Britain, education has set aside discipline and obedience and replaced them with false love and slackness," say the authors, Dennis O'Keeffe of the University of North London and Bruce Cooper of Fordham University, New York.

Their essay appears in the new collection about the sentimentalisation of modern society which, say the editors, was epitomised by Princess Diana's funeral.

The authors accuse sentimentalists of failing to face up to the fact that some people are not very clever.

So "there are millions of young people who get to their late teens only to realise that after years of being told to feel good about themselves, they have little chance of entering the professions, or even of securing a decent, self-fulfilling life for themselves."

But they consider there are four trends now apparent in Britain and the US that spell the end of "feel-good" as the basis for schooling. These are: the publication of better information on pupil and school performance; the introduction of "active school markets" which enable parents to opt out of ineffective schools; the raising of standards through government-imposed tests; and alternative access to knowledge through technology.

* Faking It, edited by Digby Anderson and Peter Mullen, is available from the Social Affairs Unit, 314-322 Regent Street, London, W1R 5AB, price pound;15.95 plus pound;2 pamp;p.

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