Friday, March 13, 2009

What Have We Done?

I spent the better part of this morning with the 21st Century Husband at the 21st Century Teenager’s School meeting with the Deputy Head. I think we were all flabbergasted by the reason we were there. You see, yesterday afternoon, not once, but twice, the 21st Century Teenager was surrounded by in excess of thirty other boys and “party boyed”. You may well wonder exactly what that means. Indeed, up until yesterday I thought a party boy was just a chap who partied too hard, but sadly I was wrong. When the 21st Century Teenager was attacked yesterday, he was surrounded, hit, kicked and punched while - get this - the boys rubbed their genitals up against him. No, you didn’t read that wrong, I did say genitals. They chant while they do it, and as if that was not sick enough, someone videos it on their phone as well. Another boy had been attacked in a similar way the day before. When the 21st Century Teenager attempted to extricate himself from this sexually abusive beating, the perpetrators asked him what his problem was “‘cause it’s all just a joke inn’it mate”. A joke? Surrounding someone, physically and sexually abusing them is a joke?

Needless to say, the school are taking it all very seriously, but it’s all too little too late as far as I’m concerned. What have we done as a society to allow children to grow up like this? I mean, this school is in a “good” area but it’s been over-run by “bad” kids, like so many schools in England. Furthermore, you are not allowed to retaliate against your attackers because in these days of political correctness gone mad they have more rights than you do. Go figure.

All I want is for the school year to be finished so that the 21st Century Teenager can leave and go on to Sixth Form elsewhere. But what a daunting challenge to have to spend three more months - writing some of the most important exams of his life during that time - in that hellhole.

If you listen to the news - with its reports of drunk and disorderly youths, knife crimes and other attacks on the rise, you might be forgiven for cursing this “younger generation”, but I happen to know a lot of that generation and most of them are wonderful kids - really motivated and hard working, ready to take on the future with a positive attitude and a desire to make a difference.

Remember when we were “the younger generation”? I remember all the adults shaking their heads and worrying about what we were getting up to, but it was nothing like this. But what have we got up to to allow such a huge proportion of an entire generation to turn out so badly? So many schools in the United Kingdom are having huge problems with behaviour, bullying and crime. Somehow, somewhere something has gone horribly wrong.

Of course, there are lots of theories about why this has happened. The effect of the media’s obsession with the negative on society, economic issues, societal structure and everyone’s favourite old chestnut - “they’ve had troubled lives” are often highlighted. I certainly don’t pretend to know the answers, but what I know for sure is that something has gone horribly wrong.

Somehow we have allowed a society to develop where the family is totally fragmented. Many families need two wage earners just to make ends meet and both parents are often away all day and into the evening. Once kids reach a certain age (about nine around here) there are no organised activities for them to attend. People don’t always live near their extended families anymore so in many cases the influence of a steadying adult - like an aunt, uncle or grandparents - is simply not close to hand. In many cases, our children are raising themselves - and from what I can see they are not doing a very good job.

Before I go on, let me stress that I do not feel that it is wrong for both parents to work, I just think that someone has to mind the children - be they male or female, parent, relative or hired help - and in many homes that just can’t happen because of economic pressures. It used to be said it was the children who suffered, but now it is not just them, it is the rest of society as well.

Furthermore, our obsession with the self and the individual - to the expense of corporate accountability - has left us with a society that gives everyone rights without necessarily enforcing their responsibilities. Hence a society in which I can be prosecuted from defending myself against an attacker should I injure them whilst doing so.

I don’t like to think that I often get up on a soapbox here - my purpose is to enrich and encourage, not to preach - and this is in no way a criticism of women who do not want to or cannot be housewives or stay at home mums - but I think that we as housewives should be very proud of the effort we put in making our homes and raising our kids.

Oprah Winfrey says, “Being a mother is the hardest job on earth. Women everywhere must declare it so.” She is right on target. It’s time for discrimination against women in the workplace who have children - the days of the glass ceiling and raised eyebrows when a woman has to attend to the needs of her child - to be over for once and for all. And for those of us mothers who are able to be housewives, it is time for us to value ourselves and for society to value us too.

Corporately, as a society, we have to start leading by example once again. By having respect for ourselves and each other we can begin to repair this damage. Children learn what they see, and a society where anti-social behaviour only attracts a slap on the wrist or a small fine is not a society where we can raise responsible adults. Furthermore, we need to value our families and spend time nurturing them, whatever our profession might be.

I only hope it is not too late for the lost ones of the younger generation we see today because many of them will raise the children of tomorrow - in fact with teenage pregnancy at an all time high some of them are raising them now - and unless there is change that just does not bear thinking about. It’s time to stop moaning about the way things are and work at changing them. I’m not sure quite how we as a society need to start, but it sure is time we found out.

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