Monday, April 30, 2007

The front page of our local paper the other day showed pictures of a gang on the beach kicking a boy in the head. The pictures were from a website and had been taken on a mobile phone. On the news also, a suggestion that schools should teach kids manners.

Is there an absence of imagination happening here? I'm astonished, firstly, that in a large group of kids not one, or two, or three, felt able to intervene. I'm astonished that there were no passers-by, or perhaps there were and again, no-one intervened. Oh, and where were the police who regularly stop and search kids who are doing nothing?

Yesterday's Observer featured child soldiers. A page or so apart, a full page on Denise Van Outen. In the magazine, a piece by a writer about how proud she was to obtain a Sainsbury's bag. Rosie Boycott's found rural bliss.

I'm confused as to why any of that, other than the piece on child soliders, was of any interest and I'm not surprised teenagers are confused. Celebrity's out of hand and what does it convey to us? None of us matter unless we're famous. If no-one else will film you, you film yourself and your friends. You upload it. You achieve notoriety.

The piece on child soldiers, impressive as it was, was based on a book by the American Dave Eggers. The African writers who've tackled this didn't apparently warrant the same space.

If we need to teach kids anything, it's how to make decisions for themselves. Let's have classes on going against the flow, resisting the status quo, challenging received opinions and perhaps then, we'll have different front pages and a media we can be proud of. Oh, and as for manners. I was taught how to curtsey to royalty and address a bishop when I was at school. I haven't had to use either yet. The most valuable lessons I had were Sister Short's sewing class and with two teachers -English and religious knowledge - who never tired of debate.