In the fifities and sixties most children in Britain made their own way to school – on foot, by bike or on the bus. Even as late as 1971 over 70% of seven year olds went to school unaccompanied by an adult. (By 1990 this was down to 7% – at a national cost of around £15billion.)
Indeed, we were also encouraged to play outside – all of my spare time was spent exploring woods and common land, playing with friends. Children had adventures, developed their imaginations and learned how to make decisions. Good preparation for life.
Some will say that life is more dangerous now – but that’s not true, UK crime levels for 2009/10 were at their lowest level since the crime survey began in 1981. Something else is at work – fear. Although crime levels are down most people believe that they have increased. (Why is that?)
In parallel with a reduction in the independence of children came a reduction of the age at which they start school. In the fifities and sixties few children started school before the age of five – now over 60% do.
Thus at the same time as we reduced the ability of our children to be independent and learn through play, we increased the need for them to conform within an institution. Nowadays children lucky enough to have a garden are allowed into it for supervised play – like pets. In effect we have constrained and stunted their development and shaped them to become compliant. Docile, content to work for the machine.
Dependence on adults and conformity to institutional rules reduces our ability to ask questions. Our natural, joyous inclinations to play must be constrained. Life is too serious, too out of control. We seek solace in the safety of a vicarious life – lived through celebrity twitters or facebook glimpses of other people’s worlds.
This blog has frequently sought to expose the strange lack of real questioning by those who should inform us, and the propaganda of the main-stream media. Thinking about how we introduce our children to our world, it is clear that we have each become the willing prison guards in our own mental gulag. To protect our own fragile grasp on life, we seek to constrain each other.
This post was triggered by a comment in one of Robert Fisks articles about Afghanistan. He made reference to Blair’s statement about stamping out Taliban poppy production (currently up to 5,800 tons) being a major plank in the war on terror. Now, I have heard this many times and for years have known it to be a fallacy, but why does no one question it publicly?
I will leave you with this quote from the New York Times, from May 2001 (six months before the invasion of Afghanistan): “The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement’s ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world’s largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.”