The Crucial Blog
HELP CHILDREN BREAK THROUGH THE CLASS CEILING
Iíve done a lot of hanging round school gates at home time over the years. In a nice, perfectly legal, way.
So Iím not in the least bit surprised by the BBC report of the Bristol University study that mums in deprived areas are put off taking their toddlers to playgroups because they donít think they will fit in with the other parents and, more directly.
Iíve been steaming about that story, and all Iíve observed of the sometime school gate mafia, for a while. Oh and my, how that ire was stoked by people bleating about Ďferalí youths during the riotsí postmortem and, more recently, by the row kicked off by racism in football. As if itís all somebody elseís fault.
Surely we all must shoulder the blame. If we pass on our prejudices to our young along with our milk of human unkindness, if we allow our children to feel marginalised before they can even wield a ruler with confidence, then how can we expect them, as adults, to understand that everyoneís equal, and we truly are all in this together? How can we expect the ostracised not to act so?
Iíve seen how school-run parents can clump into cliques in playgrounds, and however they shape up - the expensively coiffed and shiny and their acolytes, the worthy and home spun, the desperate to be in any group, the ones who donít give a toss and flit between groups (I like them!) - there are always the Others.
The Others vary twixt areas and can range from people deemed alarmingly unusual or clearly not very well off, to temporarily anchored travellers, and they are always set apart.
Some mums and dads relish the social riches their childrenís schooldays afford. Others buckle under a miasma of misery, a wallflower at the big bouncy party, or get madder and madder at the injustice of it all. And guess who learns at their knees?
In class, children are taught all about inclusion and the ridiculousness of prejudice, and then the bells goes and they hurtle straight into the thickness of it.
Very young children donít judge people by the colour of their skin. They donít see how expensive a house is or how covetable that car or those shoes are. They soon get the drift though. They pick up what their parents say at home. They realise they arenít allowed to invite him back home, or go to her birthday party. They can learn separatist policies before mastering reading in some cases.
How can we stamp out racism on the terraces, or indeed in the boxes, when so many of us grow up learning to fear or loathe people because of their hue and cry?
How awesomely tragic is it that Nick Clegg even has to contemplate tackling the apparent racial Ďceilingí in sport and business, when it simply shouldnít be there in an intelligent society?
How can people whine about 'feral' youths when they allow a society that keeps its young firmly in their 'class' at 4 and 5? Do we ask our children's preferred friends to play? Or do we sift them according to their parents' religion or station in life? Do the ousted try to build bridges, or just give up and burn them?
Will those passed-over children, denied the crossing of their parentsí boundaries, ever break out, or truly recover from those tender hurts of being ostracised?
If the child is indeed father of the man, then she needs to give him a jolly good talking to.