Pointless lessons in a care less world

9th March 2001 at 00:00
When I was 18 my mother did a strange thing. For no good reason she suddenly started demonstrating how she ironed shirts. Being an amiable sort I manifested as much interest as I could muster, nodding my head intelligently like a minor royal being shown round a widget factory.

But the next day was odder still as she guided me, stage by stage, through the process of creating a dish commonly known as "Beans on Toast". After a week of this curious behaviour it dawned on me that maybe my mother was trying to teach me how to look after myself before I went to university.

As last-minute gestures go it was about as doomed to failure as the Titanic's famous swerve to port. I blundered on with my life and was left shipwrecked and stranded as soon as I discovered that my college didn't provide supper, let alone anyone to launder shirts.

It could not happen today. Our schools seem determined to prepare kids for the real world. My 10-year-old son, for instance, knows all about baking while both my daughters have spent mny hours shoving condoms on bananas. Of course, I've pointed out that no one gets pregnant from equatorial fruit but at least my two know there is a right and wrong way up when putting on a condom, something I was unaware of when crash-landing into undergraduate life all those years ago.

As a parent I never cease to be amazed how much schools take upon themselves. In PSE my girls have received instruction on how to deal with racism, sexism and the blandishments of drug-pushers. I had none of this at my school and yet, according to the statistics, our generation was far less likely to get hooked on drugs or fall pregnant.

If combating ignorance was all that mattered then British teachers would have totally eradicated teenage pregnancy, under-age smoking and alcoholism by now. The problem is that too many kids don't care, just as I didn't care about learning to iron. Teaching young people to care about what happens to their lives is a very different matter and you can't ask schools to sort that one out.

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