In last Saturday’s Times Mathew Parris took a critical look at our toleration of inefficiency in various aspect of our national life and the easy way people make apologies when things go badly wrong. People are very sorry and lessons will be learnt but then those who have made bad mistakes are allowed to carry on as if nothing had happened: bankers, police officers and social workers, for example.
It is only in adult life that our ineptitude has a noticeable effect on others, rather than ourselves, and by then it is much more difficult to teach people to take responsibility for what they do, or fail to do.
Lessons learnt in childhood can be very salutary and enduring. in Famer’s Glory the late AG Street told how, when he was twelve, his father rose from the tea table to go rook shooting. When he asked why his father was going without him he was told that on their previous expedition his father’s instruction to stop chattering had been ignored and that this time his father wanted to ensure that he was able to shoot some rooks rather than see them alarmed by his noisy son and able to fly away.
It was, said Street one of the most important lessons of his life.
There is much talk now of our delaying the growing up of younger generations, of protecting them excessively from learning from their mistakes. They are spending longer protected by compulsory education which delays their entry into adult life when they should be answerable for themselves. Employers speak of young, well-qualified young people who are unemployable. Other young people are bored, like the bright fifteen-year-old who had passed all his GCSEs a year early with starred As, who recently ran away from home because he was bored at the prospect of spending three years instead of two before taking his A-levels.
Young people love a challenge; why do we adults deny them a chance to take risks and grow up?