I have now reached the age where childhood becomes something of a memory. However, it hasn’t failed to reach my attention that the childhood of my yesteryear is significantly different to the childhood of 2008.
When I was growing up you could sense that we were riding on the last hurrah of a fairly carefree childhood. Both in school and in life generally, as it was an easier time and a little less pressurised.
Things have changed massively since then, mainly through the amount of exams that kids are forced to do since then. I mean for heavens sake, children are now given homework from the age of 5. Homework didn’t become a thing for my age-group until at least when I was 10 and even then it wasn’t that much. Nowadays kids get somewhere between 1 hour to two hours of homework each night, and this is partially to do with the way that school has been bastardised and turned into key modules which no one gives a damn about. Things like the literacy hour and the numeracy hour immediately spring to mind. Now don’t get me wrong here I’m all for kids receiving a good amount of education, in fact it’s something I stand for as an academic, but when you make learning as dry and clinical as that then it’s really no wonder that illiteracy and innumeracy are becoming problems.
As if the everyday struggles of school weren’t enough of a problem, then kids have the summer to look forward to, a summer of exams that is. It seems that children are tested from the word go now rather than just in years 2 and 6+. I personally think that is abhorrent as childhood should be a time when stress seems like like an impossibly intangible concept that doesn’t matter, much like a good song by the Kooks. Is it any wonder that younger and younger people need professional help from psychologists? Still at least the help is there.
Moving on from school there are other kill-joy factors that are now taking place. Firstly there is this whole business of suing. Children seem to have to be wrapped up in cotton wool as a proviso to do anything worthwhile or fun. The thought of children running around and possibly hurting themselves (as children tend to, after all it’s how they discover the limits of the world) for companies having anything to do with is a common one, and its not made easier by greedy parents out to make a quick buck with injury lawyers 4 you. As a result every fun avenue has to be watered down or even cancelled, for their own safety. Then again what’s the point in saving a life when you fail to have one in the first place?
Another problem with youth is that there’s this whole furore around the recent health craze. I think the most extreme part of this is the way that the government is stepping in and trying to control children so that they can’t even attempt to get fat. Its true, children probably are fatter than they used to be, and yes unhealthy food and things like video games do play a part. But rather than punishing everyone for liking things that are bad for them, why don’t you try and understand why they are avoiding the good things for the. Of course there are numerous reasons including the case detailed above, whereby less people are willing to run youth sports groups in fear of injuries occurring or worse. There also seems to be a reluctance to even let children out on such things once again for their own safety (walking too and from said clubs being the primary problem because who knows a paedo may jump out and fly off with them etc etc worse case scenario drivel). Then there’s the age old problem of money to take into account as many people shy away from some groups because they are expensive. As children are frightened, coerced and ‘protected’ away from sporting pursuits then it is not a surprise so many people are fat.
For the government then to want to try and prevent older children from being allowed off-site at school in fear that they might go into the local corner shop and buy a mars bar instead of an apple strikes me as preposterous. All it does is patronise the younger generation further and creates worries that we are increasingly having our lives manipulated too far from a younger age. I know this kind of manipulation is no where near as bad as something like the Hitler Youth, but really you need to teach a man to fish rather than try and protect him from starving by feeding him fish heads (strange analogy I know).
All I’m saying is let people make mistakes for themselves, yes it is the government’s role to influence matters to a degree but coming in and trying to run everything like this just ruins everyone’s growing up. Let the kids have their fun within reason and let them worry about exams, and diets etc when they are older. It would probably help too if BBC Three and other such channels stopped with programmes like Honey we’re killing our kids too. Let’s remember our parents had even worse stuff to eat when they were growing up but it didn’t matter because they could play games somewhere without someone chasing them off their land in case they scrape their knee and sue the landowner.