Some things are beyond the government’s control. They never started off the cult of personality for example. But the tragedy is that what was needed to counteract it has been robbed by a liberal view of school. School was where young people could have learnt some moral fibre. This is where we are going wrong. Governments have got rid of schools that gave strong moral messages. There is nothing now to counteract the huge social pressure that comes from the cult of personality. All stigmas have been removed. We have a big group of people wallowing in the ether. We are in a state now where for young people anything goes and that is not right.
Schools are failing children because they do not give them any boundaries, and they impart little. Anything that has children sat in it for so long should be imparting some virtue to them. We are in a situation now that when a child is told off their parents come to school and abuse the teachers. Children in Jamaica and also Malaysian children love school. They see it as their way out, they see it as a good thing. The difference is that schools in those countries have what can only be described as hard moral guidelines. Another is the respect that teachers carry in the community is huge and underlined by the position that the government accords them.
Removing religion and what it is to be British from school has been a disaster. Ethics should be taught in school. Where else are young people going to learn ethics? Citizenship is not enough. It’s trying not to be offensive to anybody. Tough. If they don’t like it, tough. Tough, because that’s how we’ve had bombers here. They’ve come here and have not been exposed to some of the good things about being British.
Put this with the failure of school to give children real skills. Some children are not going to be academically sharp, yet school is finding nothing for them to do. We live in a world of trade and real skills, vocational skills. Yet school is GCSEs or nothing. This creates a separation between the main society and the rest of us. This is stopping our children from succeeding because they feel that pressure, they go for a job and people start speaking and they literally cannot understand them. When I’m in a big group of kids and they are being a bit too boisterous, and if I want them to be quiet, I tell them to fill in a form. Or I ask them to phone someone. It traps them, that makes them scared because they have no ability to do this at all. That’s why when anybody ordinary deals with them, they start acting all bolshy. All because school has not taught them. Why is it that the most successful schools in the country run on an ethos of competitive sport, rules, punishments and discipline and the least successful don’t?
This estate is not conducive to our kids being socially educated. But the failure of the schools to impart the most basic of social skills is absolutely astonishing. It is to the point that the teenagers here cannot speak to people that they don’t know, they only know how to speak their own slang. These kids do not have anywhere to go mentally. If they don’t succeed in school they don’t succeed. And school only offers an academic route. Nothing else.
Sex education in schools has failed hopelessly. People despair about our teenage pregnancy and the massive rise in sexually transmitted infection. The education that goes on in school around drugs and sex is ridiculous because it is just about the technicalities. I have been into schools with our local drugs education people and have just been bored to tears. They tell the kids that crack cocaine and amphetamines are stimulants. But kids don’t want to know that. It has not begun to counteract the problems. It has not dealt with the pressures and realities for kids here. I spoke in a girl’s school. I used the word abstinence, only three of 90 of them knew what it meant. What we need to do is appeal to them before they get to a point that they could be getting pregnant, before they get to sex. But the teachers just talk about fallopian tubes.
When I give my talk I ask them, “How would any of you like to become a crack ho?” They say, “what?” And I say, “nobody woke up one morning and decided that they wanted to take a load of crack. At any point that you think I am being outrageous you intervene and then we go for it”. When I talk to them about sex I don’t talk to them about fallopian tubes and nine months of gestation. I talk to them about boys telling you they love you to get sex. I talk about the feeling that having sex with this boy is going to make you feel important to him. Wrong. I talk about NO. How to say no. How to be assertive. These are the relevant bits of information that they need because what’s being taught to them is science. When they are given health talks it’s not real.
They just tell them where the local clinics are and what chlamydia is. But the boys have got this opinion that if a girl looks clean, and that generally means she’s good looking, she appeals to them, it is less likely she’ll have an infection. If a girl appeals to one that way, she’ll appeal to all of them. She’ll tend to have been around. I say to the girls that boys you like – all the cheeky ones – who are quite clever and all the rest of it. They are probably the ones that have been around. If you have a boy who doesn’t want to wear a condom, do you think you are the first girl he’s been with that he hasn’t worn a condom with? These are questions you need to ask them. I say to them it is about avoiding that passion-killing moment when you have to rip out a condom because it won’t happen. In the heat of the moment, do you ask for a condom not to look cool? So what I say you need to do is, a) avoid the situation or b) have the condom talk way before you get into that situation, so that you can have that argument in a place not when you are just about to have sex. That’s the kind of sex education they need. If they want to learn about fallopian tubes, babies, the gestation period – they can do it in science. That’s biology.
Addressing young people’s attitudes is the only way of changing their behaviour. It sounds obvious but it is not done. Sex education in school is just science – science is not what happens on the street, it is not what happens in bedrooms up and down the country. The fact that they feel they should be having sex should be addressed. Safe sex also – when you say to them here’s condoms – you confirm that young people should have sex. We make it all right for them.
Young people do not invent their needs, they follow, they try desperately to be adults. We must stop treating them like they will have sex. We must not promote it. We need to make a wider distinction between adult behaviour, what is appropriate for them, and what’s appropriate for young people. We are far too lenient with them. We are saying yes, you are going to have sex here, we are going to help you do it. What we should be saying is “NO!” We should tell them not to. Listen to the messages we give young people. If you have a young person who is having sex, and they know it is wrong, they will be more careful than if they feel like there are not entitled to it. Handing out contraceptives makes sex more possible. People think that it is much better to give out contraceptives than to have an unwanted baby. But that sends a message and with young people that message is big. It says you are going to have sex and we’ll support you in that.
The parents should be told that contraception is being handed out and absolutely a parent must be told if an abortion is being arranged, because you are talking about the physical and mental health of your child. Hiding it from the parents deprives the parents of the chance to raise their children. You are depriving the parents of their responsibility and also the opportunity to exercise it. Most parents want to be involved in their child’s goings on. They feel robbed of that. Because what you are saying to them is “we are better parents than you, we’ll parent for you”. It assumes that parents will be bad. It removes their ability to be of consequence to their child. It emasculates the caring parents and it gives dependency to the uncaring ones. If you take that away from them they expect everything else to be done for them.
Youth Justice and Prison
Juvenile Prison is failing for the same reasons. At the moment prison is a boon because it is nice and boring. It encourages young people to be lazy. When our young people talk about being bored, actually they are lazy. Then prison encourages them to come out and lie about the situation. It is disgrace that there is no compulsory programme of education and literacy tied into their sentencing. Young offenders need to be taught ethics while they are in prison, a sense of restorative justice. The cost of their crime to themselves and society and to their parents. Where you say to a young person, look at what you have done. There is a victim in this. Many young people are very surprised by that and even if you talk to older criminals they start talking to you about a victimless crime and they can afford it. They will rob banks and not realise that they have terrorised the staff, they will only think we’ve got money out of the corporation and they can afford it. For a lot of young people, crime is an accepted norm when they go in, and still is when they come out.
Among the working class, unless you are one of those ‘Queen and Country who support the football team’ sort of British people, you are lost. You don’t know what to do. You bring your children to school and they learn far more about Diwali than Christmas. I speak to the people who are from Brent and they’ve been having Muslim and Hindi days off. What it does is rob Britain of its community.