This from M**** J******* …
One of the most enduring memories from my schooldays is the abject failure of mixed ability classes.
I recall vividly a teacher of English Literature, an Irishman by the name of Sexton. Like many Irishmen, he had a passion for the English language. Also a fiery temper. He would read a passage from Lord of the Flies (or some other approved text) and enqire "Well, what do you think Piggy is feeling at this point in the story? What do you think David?"
"Well, what do you think, Michael?"
And so it would continue. Mr Sexton's face would grow increasingly florid with each successive "Dunno, sir" to the point where his anger could no longer be contained. The book would be flung into a corner. "Godammit! I will not tolerate this apathy!"
But tolerate it he did.
Why? Because in the social experiment of comprehensive education outcomes had to be identical for all. No longer could we have the hard-working offspring of the working classes educated in grammar schools - everyone had to be a winner. So what incentive was there to work? The "Dunno, sir" generation was born.
The Dunno Sirs are now in middle age. Throughout my working life I've been frustrated by the adult manifestations of the same attitude: "I didn't know. Nobody told me. It isn't my fault."
There is an expectation that "somebody" (unspecified) should "tell" these people everything they need to know. And remind them in case "I forgot".
So they have to be told that coffee is served hot, and it is unwise to pour it into one's lap. If not "told", they will sue.
Criminals must have our understanding and sympathy. Because it's not their fault if nobody told them the difference between right and wrong.
And we must be "told" how slowly we must drive, where we must dispose of our rubbish, where we can smoke, what food we can give our children. Unless we are "told", how can we be expected to know?
I recall a film concerning the US military. In this film, the phrase "I don't know" was forbidden, replaced by "I'll find out".
Explaining all this to the wife over the Bank Holiday (I like to take the opportunity for a rant presented by a lengthy car journey) I realised I had discovered the key to society's ills. The socialist obsession with equality of outcomes bred the Dunno Sir generation, which led inevitably to the creation of the Nanny State. Under the Nanny State it is no longer necessary for society to uphold decent moral values, because we will be "told" exactly how we can and cannot behave. Meanwhile the lawless, the gangs, the people traffickers, the drug dealers will run amok.
The only solution is to sweep away the attitudes that have created and sustained the Dunno Sirs. The future must belong to the I'll Find Outs.
The GOS says: How true. But how is this to be achieved? The only answer I can think of is to withdraw all support and encouragement from those who get into difficulty. If you hurt yourself, it's your fault. If you fall ill, that's your look-out. If you can't get a job, starve. If you're homeless, tough luck. If you crash your car, oh dear, how sad. If people make fun of you because you're thick/fat/ugly/foreign/female/gay - too bad, live with it.
Not a pretty prospect, but it could be the only way to get the job done. Sadly, I don't believe that as a society we'd be up for it, or up to it.
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