a significant section of the community who have to endure a uniform experience – still, despite all the rhetoric – ready for a uniformly unfair society. Only now teachers are responsible for their performance.
It is difficult when you are growing up, through the teenage years, during which time you are struggling to find, and then nurture, “who you are”. Since, possibly, the 1950s there has been a tendency to define yourself sometimes in distinction to your parents. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s there was a clearly defined counterculture through which you could find a role to grow. Thatcher’s 1980s seemed to disillusion counterculture-ideology in favour of the more “realistic” “yuppie” who spawned the hedonist who spawned the ‘Chav’. These more recent role models are marked by a sense of a moral individualism which is aware of its rights but confuses these as consumer/civic rights. The rights to just “Have” has superseded the foundation of rights to be “free and equal”. And moreover we live in a society which, strangely, does not provide for the right to just “Have”, so if you grow up in an immediate environment which does not provide for your right to just “Have”, either economically or emotionally, then you have a raw sense of betrayal and anger. Everything suggests to you that you are a ‘schmuck’ (A clumsy or stupid person; an oaf. [Yiddish shmok, penis, fool, probably from Polish smok, serpent, tail.]). If you grow up within this environment you either accept that you are a schmuck or you develop ways to prove you are not a schmuck. Ways to prove that you are not a schmuck are to do things which you think are right because you have decided they are right. The only trouble is that this “individualism” has been nurtured and cynically exploited by the marketing and advertising media in liaison with the entertainment media. Ways to show this “individualism” are:
• smoking, especially smoking underage, the younger the better, the more people in authority who know the better
• wearing “fashionable” clothes: especially at the moment this includes caps, white trainers and hoodies. The wearing of these clothes communicates “I am an individual, I will do what I think is right, you can’t tell me what to do”.
• listening to music, particularly through i-pods or mobile phones – the general use of mobile phones for any sort of communication, important because they have decided to communicate at that moment.
• giving, and showing, no respect
• not trying in class, or with homework, and most importantly showing others that they are not trying, the better to ridicule the whole “system” of learning. The more the “system” can be ridiculed the less possibility there is that you will be revealed to be a schmuck.
A pupil in school will use the school environment to train herself in ways to prove that she/he is not a schmuck. The school provides excellent opportunities for this training because through teaching it will frequently feedback that the pupil is in some way wrong (you cannot teach without pointing out fault). Even if this is only a superficial fault, it is intolerable for someone who is trying to prove that they are not a schmuck. Furthermore, these pupils look around them and see that there are other pupils who are learning and excelling, and they themselves are not. Therefore if they are not to be proved schmucks by the success of other pupils they have to communicate that they are not even interested in learning – they have decided that there is no value in learning, pupils who do learn are “boffs”. In order to prove that they are not interested in learning they have to show that they have life’s lessons under control: they don’t need to know this, and they have heard differently, they don’t have to listen to you, they don’t have to do what you tell them. They will often be backed by their parents who have either taught them to behave like this, or whose control of their children is so insipid and undirected that their children have to behave as they do.