Monday, 17 June 2019

Rory Stewart and National Service?

I see after reading Clare Foges in The Times this morning, that Rory Stewart has said that were he to become Prime Minister he would introduce Compulsory National Service (not military) for all 16 year olds.   Not sure what I think about this but I know that there are an awful lot of young people who are 'at a loose end' in our big cities - and not getting any sense of self respect as a result.

One of the most important things a teacher in any Comprehensive School can do (and I speak as one who  did such a job for most of my career), regardless of the subject they teach, is to give each pupil a sense of self-worth.   Whether they belong to the very brightest, university material pupils or whether they belong to a place lower down in the school system (and that term 'lower down' in itself suggests they are less important) every single one of them has a niche in the scheme of things and if they leave school without the aim of achieving something then they don't start their post school life from a good place.

 Parents moving house so that their children have a better chance of getting into a 'better' school says a lot to children whose parents either can't, wont or are in no position to do that.

Parents who pay for their child's education are saying where their child comes in the 'pecking order' without saying a word.  (I am not against private education having sent my own child into that system).

Might some form of compulsory National Service be a good idea?   How often do children from the different communities meet and do things together ?  Living  up here in The Dales I rarely see anyone from any ethnic community - maybe a few Chinese and Asian people who work in our local (and very good) speciality restaurants, maybe the occasional family up here on holiday.   But contrast that with inner cities where knife crime is becoming very scary and where young people often have no sense of self-worth and ask yourself what can we do to help them to find that niche that is just the right one for them.

I don't know the answer.   Maybe there is nobody who does.  But isn't anything worth a try?   I think back to the many black children and Sikh children I taught years ago.   Lovely children who deserved a bright future.   Did they find their niche?  Do they have families, jobs they enjoy doing, did they fulfill their potential.   As I now live so far away from where I taught I shall never know - but I do hope some of them at least did.   And for those who didn't would a couple of years of mixing with all sorts of other young people and really learning to live in a multi racial society rather than within their own group  have made any difference?            


Gwil W said...

In Austria they have national service. I think it's for 9 months. People who don't want to go in the military can join the Red Cross or similar organization and 'do their bit'. In almost every village there is a voluntary fire brigade. It generates more community spirit and self worth than anything else I can think of. Unlike the professional fire brigades in the cities they do everything from A to Z for the local community.

Librarian said...

I like to believe that it can make a real difference to one's outlook and views whether one has been in close contact to other nationalities, ethnicities, religious beliefs and so on. When a person has only ever been in touch with people of a similar background, they may feel a certain curiostiy towards anybody who seems "exotic" to them, but they may also be more easily prone to fear the unknown.
If, on the other hand, a person has been to school with many different kids, and has seen that some of them are friendly and a good sport while others are not - regardless of what language is spoken at home and what holidays are observed -, that person will develop a broader horizon from the start, so to speak.
I am referring to my own experience; my not-so-large home town of 90,000 inhabitants has a large popularion of Turkish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese and many other nationalities living and working together. It is not always without conflict, but we largely get along, and from when I was in elementary school I knew that many prejudices against "the foreigners" were not true, simply because I had many of them as my class mates and saw that they were not all that different from the German kids.

As for the self-worth and self-respect, yes, it must be incredibly hard to develop for one who does not get any respect and love at home and in the neighbourhood. A good teacher such as you were can make a difference there, too, but it is very hard.
Compulsory service could probably help, but I do not know enough about the proposal to really offer a qualified comment.

EM Griffith said...

Things might be very different in the U.K., but I got my first job at 15 and worked after school hours through college. My DH also worked when he was a teen age student. Our sons did the same, all the way through college, get along well with others and have a solid work ethic. Young employment teaches one so many things... the value of a paycheck, how to budget that money, being a member of a work team, how to plan your time wisely, get along with people of all ages, and even what you might (or might not) wish to do as an adult. I'm not sure compulsory service would do the same. In fact, I can imagine that going wrong in so many ways. The attitude today seems to always be seeking a quick, easy fix to complex issues, doesn't it?

Derek Faulkner said...

I've been saying for several years, that if these teenagers have so much bravado and aggression that they feel it's easy to run around the streets stabbing each other, when caught automatically put them in the services for a spell. That would solve an awful lot of problems.

Rachel Phillips said...

They could run away to Eritrea to escape it.

EM Griffith said...

Troubled/violent kids aside (and many problems could stem from that), a few unintended consequences spring to mind:

Many teens look after younger siblings in off school hours; what do their parents do if they can't afford expensive after school care for the young ones?

There are teens who are working to help pay for college, or to help support the family; where will that money come from otherwise?

Teens who are in sports at school, requiring daily practice and weekend games; how will they be able to participate?

Teens with disabilities could have a true struggle; what service will they be assigned to?

There are teens who live in rural areas w/o access to transportation; how will they get there?

And, of course, how much will compulsory service cost the communities/organizations (adult supervision, transportation, etc.)? How will it be paid for? More taxes?

Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers... far too often.

Granny Sue said...

I would favor this in the US. Here, children graduate from high school at 17 or 18 years old usually. Some go straight to college or a trade school. A few find good jobs, and the rest drift from one low-paying part-time job to another. Putting college and other training on hold for a year while learning to work in a diverse environment with responsibilities and accountability would be a good basis for all young people. Of my 5 sons, 4 joined the military. There there learned self-discipline, teamwork, and many other things. The oldest went straight to college with a full scholarship. All of my sons have done well--but the oldest had college as his goal since being a young child, while the others were not sure what they wanted to do 3 of them ended up with 4-year or higher degrees, while the other one opted to stay in the military and ended up with the highest rank he could attain as an enlisted man. Oddly, my oldest son (who did not join the military) has a son who signed up for the Navy AFTER his 4 years in college. I am not saying military service is the best for all, but I certainly think community service is good basic training for any profession.

Heather said...

It certainly has possibilities. Many young men who did National Service years ago say that it gave them a new outlook and that they found their own path to follow.

DUTA said...

You can't "fight a new war with old tactics", as they say. National Service is old, conventional tactics. It won't help with the potential knifers.
Like its neighboring nations, UK has become a nation of immigration, mixed communities, mixed marriages.
One should accept and adapt to the new emerged format. Nothing else to be done about it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

What interesting views you are providing - all great food for thought.

Penhill said...

I think a lot of children of all nationalities are at a loose end when they leave school at sixteen because this country has always been too concerned only with children who are going to follow an academic route.There should have been proper government money spent on training children to become skilled in jobs that are highly prized elsewhere,plumbers,electricians etc and not made these seem a poor relation to a degree in an esoteric subject.

angryparsnip said...

Very interesting post and great comments,

Gail, northern California said...

Weave, I think you and Penhill have said it best....instilling a sense of self-worth and finding your niche (whether that's academic or vocational).

I would add: a strong father figure (whomever that might be). Someone who believes in you, and has your back. I'm thinking now of your own father, and his love of plants. He might have stumbled a bit trying to relate to "girl stuff" but he found a subject of mutual joy. Time well-spent, costing little.

I have to sympathize with children who have no one to guide them, or praise them when they do a fine thing.

Tom Stephenson said...

You would have to inspire a sense of duty and loyalty to King and Country before reinstating National Service, Morale has never been lower. It would be a disaster.

The Weaver of Grass said...

The comments say it all don't they? Yet the people running our country don't seem to see it like that - could it have something to do with the fact that most of the front bench were themselves from such well off homes? Where have all the realists gone? There dont seem to be any any more in high places.

Rachel Phillips said...

Respect for ordinary trades and skills went from the classroom years ago. Children who wanted to be bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, learn a trade, were looked down upon. Penhill got it right and I have blogged about it in the past.

Joanne Noragon said...

I think national service is a wonderful idea. I don't know how well it would be received in this country, and Tom's comment is disturbing.

Bea said...

Your German readers could comment better than I, but I recall knowing a few young men who had performed mandatory civil service in lieu of military service when I was a student in Tübingen. One worked at a local convalescent home as an attendant. It was a necessary & vital job, and, hopefully, one that made an impact on the youth who performed it.

Red said...

Thoughtful post. As aged retirees it's pleasant to look back and reflect on our careers. How come it's easier to see what kids need long after we have retired?

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

I'm in the USA and I would not agree that compulsory national service here in this country would be a great thing. One of my main reasons for being against it is our crooked politicians. In my opinion some politician somewhere would work it into a multi million dollar profit making machine for themselves. We have current and former administration officials that are making millions off of the detention camps at our borders. So, in my opinion there is a great possibility here that some politician somewhere would make a profit off of national compulsory service (not military).

I do not believe that knife/(gun in USA) wielding young criminals would be good candidates for any service program. They have a different mindset that would take a lot of help and rehabilitation to change.

My kids both had part time jobs during high school and used their money for their car and insurance. Their jobs were necessary for them financially and a great learning experience. Public transportation here is not sufficient. My son was offered a college scholarship by the company where he worked part time, but decided to enlist in the military as soon as he was old enough. He wanted to travel. He has. He has been in the military for 15 years now, is planning on retiring in 5 years. He has spent his spare time well, taking college courses, receiving a BA degree, and then two Master's Degrees. Our daughter worked in an office right out of high school and then decided to get a nursing degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude and is working as a nurse in the cardiology department in a well known hospital. If my kids would have had to serve in a Compulsory National Service Program it would have delayed their life plans and paths. It seems to me that most of my kids' friends from their teenage years have gone on to productive jobs and raising families.

It is not the National service program idea that bothers me, it is the Compulsory part that I don't agree with.

I believe that in high school there should be more encouragement and choices for young men and women who want training for employment in careers that do not require college, but need other specialized training. We need an option of vocational education starting at the high school level for students who want to learn mechanics, welding, beautician skills, construction, culinary. So much seems to be geared toward college bound students. Some people in our society look down on people who don't have college degrees. I don't. My cousin who attended vocational school for welding, started his own business and built it up, got contracts with an aircraft manufacturer, and is a millionaire now.

In the US I often hear political polls being broken down between college educated and non-college educated voters. I am curious if this is done by news outlets in other countries.

Cro Magnon said...

As part of my schooling I was obliged to 'join' the CCF, and went on to do an Officer Training course. Such activities teach you a lot; both how to take orders, and to give them. I'm sure Rory is right about some form of National Service, but it would need a lot of planning; even having to get out of bed at a specific time each day would teach many of them a good lesson.

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Rachel Phillips said...

The only duty and loyalty engendered in the classroom is to gay and gender issues and global warming. I see in the local paper Norfolk schools are to have day dedicated to Gay Pride and gender issues, both primary and high schools, before the end of term. Our schools need a big clear out and get back to teaching.

Derek Faulkner said...

A Gay Pride and gender issues day - that's unbelievable! we really are losing the plot now in this country.

Carruthers said...

National Service? No. Encourage investment? Abolish loans and tuition fees? Restore youth services cut under Stewart's party's austerity measures? Yes. His party have cut Children's services by one third since 2010. This, along with a general decline in living standards on his party's watch, has led to increased deprivation and the problems that go with it.

Lynn Marie said...

In the US, our society is increasingly individualized and segregated by class. I think it would be valuable for young people of all classes and backgrounds to have to spend a year living and working together away from overprotective parents. It's a chance to experience the pride of having contributed to the greater good and the humility of expanding egocentric boundaries that we now routinely deny them.

EM Griffith said...

Susie got to the heart of what I believe would be the biggest problem... the word "compulsory". It's at odds with democracy. It will create more problems than it's expected to solve, and would cost an enormous amount of money someone will have to pay for. Tax payers.

Historically, compulsory youth programs have led to some rather alarming consequences. Mao Zedong encouraged such youth programs in China. A certain party in Germany did as well. Is that the kind of outcome any country would want to repeat? Where violence was redirected towards a "greater purpose"?

An in crease of incentivised programs would be, perhaps, a better path. NOT led by government, but by private businesses and charities. Habitat for Humanity is one example, but there are others where participants learn skills while working (volunteer) towards a goal. That, along with tackling some of the underlying issues that lead to youth violence seems more sensible. And more democratic. Unless tyranny is the aim.