Sunday, 28 June 2009

Blasts from the Past

Last night Sophie and I went to a surprise 40th party for an old school friend - Joanne. It was only the third time I had seen her since we were 16! It was great to see her and her close friend Kath again - still both looking gorgeous.

The Secondary School that we went to (the 14th largest school in the country) was in the middle of a large council estate, so a lot of the kids who went to school there, lived on that estate.

Others, like me, were from a bit further away and came from more affluent backgrounds. I can clearly remember the difference in expectations and aspirations between the kids from the estate and those who grew up elsewhere.

Whilst the parents from the estate wanted the best for their kids, many of them had a kind of inverted snobbery towards families from outside. The attitude was that people who weren't from the estate were somehow 'not as good' as those that were - they were just posh people with big houses...not proper working people.

Unfortunately the school didn't do anything to break-down any of the prejudices or to show the kids that the only barriers to mobility for them were imagination and application - and as a result, like everywhere else, a huge pool of talent was squandered, and a generation of kids were never motivated to think beyond the expectations and aspirations provided by their families and their social environment.

Seeing Jo, Kath and my old friend Ben last night brought the memories flooding back.

Jo's parents lived just a few yards from one of the school gates - so from the age of 14 or 15 a crowd of us used to descend on Jo's house after school. Her mum Gill, was a star. She used to make us all cups of tea and feed us toast and biscuits. I can remember more than one occasion when I popped over to Jo's house to see her, only to find she was out, and stayed for a cup of tea with Gill anyway.

Seeing Jo's parents again last night, Reg and Gill Taylor, was a treat. I learnt a couple of things about them, that somehow I had missed back in the 1980's - I think I must have focussed all my attention on their daughter!

Gill told me how she had herself been sent to a private school, as a young girl, until tragically her father died and she was then sent to a state school. She told me what a shock it was moving to the state school and how different her life became as a result.

I was also reminded (I do remember a faded photograph come to think of it) of how Reg had been a star football player in his youth. He played for Woking Football Club and played in the side who contested the FA Amateur Cup Final at Wembley in 1958. They beat Ilford 3-0!

I just looked up the game on the web and was staggered to see that the game was played at Wembley with a staggering 71,000 people watching!

Amazing stuff. Reg and Gill still live in their little house on the estate.

I was left with this thought:

Opportunity and mobility were limited for our parents generation, and for our generation, and now for our kids generation. Things haven't changed. Social mobility has declined in recent years.

When are we going to crack it in this country? When are the opportunities that are open to the individual going to be equal? and when will people believe it to be so? When will everyone's horizons be broadened? When will kids grow up believing they can do whatever they work hard at? When will we communicate ideas to kids that go way beyond their family's or their social conditioning?

When will we really harness the energy, capability and talent in this country?


Anonymous said...

Unfortuunately Robin, kids of today are lulled into thinking that everything will be done for them. Kids have to be taught that they need to work hard to achieve and not wait to be discovered on X factor etc.

I come from an 'estate' but we were taught to work hard and earn respect and learn a trade.

We will 'harness' the talent, energy and capability in this country when this government allow us to. Time for a change I think.

Robin Horsley said...

Hmm good points but actually I don't really think kids have to to be "taught that they need to work hard".

I think kids generally understand the theory.

What they don't get is a clear, motivating picture about what the 'achievement' could be. Which is why the X factor thing works - it's so clear and obvious what the goal is and how to get there -even if the odds are poor.

If you are surrounded by people who have low aspirations and ambitions which are achieved with minimal effort, and you are conditioned into thinking that people who have more are in some way inferior then why strive?

For most kids work=tedium and one central objective of life is the avoidance of tedium.

That is what needs to change. Stop telling kids that they have to work hard or they will have no money and live a crap life. They know they can always live on benefits. They need to be motivated positively as well.

You motivate people by:

1) Getting them to move away from the negative outcome.


2) Getting them to move toward the positive outcome.

If you just do one of the above it doesn't work. You have to do both.

Q. How do you get someone to do something?

A. Make em want to do it.


So give kids a compelling picture and clear em a pathway - the rest you can leave to them.

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