Thursday, 11 August 2011

"So what would you do

about it then?"
One of my local acquaintances who reads this blog and never bothers to comment on line (thankyou David - you might try sometime) wanted to know what I would do about preventing future riots. I am not sure you can prevent riots but I do believe there are ways we can minimise the risk of them.
There are all the commonly spoken of things such as "teaching respect". They are important but I will ignore them here and concentrate on something a little more practical. I would like to see children be taught to use leisure time - and then, in some cases, be given some leisure time.
I grew up in the pre-television era. My maternal grandmother was the first person to get a television set. She watched it in a darkened room, ate cashew nuts and knitted "television" patterns as she watched. When we visited her we were allowed to watch a local commercial television children's programme or "The Mouseketeers". My brother and I endured these things.
We would rather have gone down to the back fence of the property and watched the trains or read the old "Arthur Mee's Encyclopaedia for Children". Watching television was supposed to be a treat but we were used to "doing" things rather than sitting passively.
Our leisure time was not organised for us. We were tossed outside whenever possible. We did all the usual things out there. We explored the district and, especially in the country, we went a considerable distance without adult supervision. Inside we read, we used construction kits and we played board games. We also made things from all sorts of scraps as well as kits given to us by my paternal grandfather - mostly balsa wood aeroplanes and boats. If we had dared to say we were "bored" my mother would have found work for us to do. We were careful never to say that! When we went out we took books with us so we could read while the adults did the, to us, boring things.
I think that is the difference. We did things. We were active even when we were sitting down. What we did required more than pushing a button - even a button in reaction to something happening on the screen in front of you.
I suspect that there is a need to teach some of these activities and the skills we had as children. We managed to learn them naturally but the intervening both-parents-work generation has not been able to provide children with the same opportunities to learn them. The screen is a baby sitter and other skills, at least in middle class society, are provided by endless ballet, music, drama and sports lessons. Children are expected to excel in at least one thing, preferably more than one and all the while be supervised by an adult. They do not have the same opportunities to make decisions about activities. They are not used to organising their own free time. They do not have enough skills with which to fill it in a productive and varied manner. By the time they reach mid-teenage years "hanging out" in the shopping centre has become part of their social life.
At that age my brother and his mates were building a canoe and sewing "pup-tents" to go camping. I had written my first novel and my special friend had made the dress she wore to the Rural Youth dance. I do not think we were unusual. Now, if you bother at all, you buy the canoe and the tents. You buy the dress. Do you write the novel? Perhaps.
Now there are even schools which no longer allow the use of scissors and where knitting needles are banned as potential weapons. There is "no time" to teach crafts because computer skills are seen as more important. Some children do not have the skills with which to entertain themselves and that is one of the causes of the current problems.
I think we may need to teach them and provide them with the opportunities to do it in order to reduce "boredom".
Will adults trust children to learn these things? Will they recognise the need to do it? I hope so.

1 comment:

Frances said...

I'm pleased that, in view of your mother's attitude towards your writing,you had the opportunity to write a novel, Cat.