This Orwellian ruin is enough to repel anyone

30th April 2010 at 01:00

Appropriately, The TESS devoted a whole page on April 16 to the voting intentions of six polling station virgins, and Chatroom contained the reflections of teachers on the imminent general election. What is clear is that the profession has never been so turned off by politicians and their weasel words.

Teenagers - by and large - have little interest in politics. The territory of government and its chicaneries holds no attraction and the reasons why are complex. As one young person pointed out to me, his generation is not suffering from disillusionment. To be thus, you have to be engaged with the object of the disenchantment in the first place.

Most kids have never experienced even a frisson of intrigue at the cut and thrust of political opponents challenging one another. Being motivated to strive to make the world a better place seems to be dying as an aim.

There is no simple cause and effect here. It is easy to blame the antics of their elders. The expenses scandal surrounding MPs, and the latest deplorable revelation that some will receive legal aid to defend themselves in court, only incites increasing distaste in the electorate. Apparently, we have liars and cheats in all parties to the Orwellian extent that we can't tell the animals from the humans.

But people of my age group weren't always so switched off. Many of us recall the hope we felt in 1997 when the Tories were kicked out and Tony Blair was elected on a wave of optimism and goodwill. You might remember his victory comment of "A new dawn has broken, has it not?" He was right about the broken. Thirteen years later, public services are wrecked, with education, the economy and health in a state of flux.

Yet politicians are not the only people who have sabotaged idealism. In 2003, a Scottish headteacher threatened to suspend any senior pupil who took a day off school to demonstrate against the Iraq war. I was very disappointed at the time. Such a heavy-handed censure was not in the spirit of encouraging young people to think, and it stultified a youthful need to protest peacefully.

Analysing all this is not simple, as was manifested by the recent fall from grace of 24-year-old Stuart MacLennan, Labour party candidate for Moray. His Twitter page was riddled with obscene, sneering and inane tweets. Decent people were shocked that such a shallow person was aspiring to represent the very people he was mocking. Mr MacLennan reached the reductio ad absurdum of stupidity, thinking that he was suitable material to sit in the House of Commons. As a role model for his age group, he has failed.

The Scottish and Westminster governments have not succeeded in connecting with people. This is especially evident with regard to education, and never more so than with Curriculum for Excellence. Expensive glossy publications, like swelling leeches, replace real communication. Candidates froth superficially about what their parties will do for schools in the future. You sense a discrepancy between appearance and reality? It's called irony.

A quote from George Orwell's Animal Farm comes to mind: "Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer - except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs."

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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