Covid 19: Youth without the comfort of books

I have just made the mistake of switching on the radio and finding it tuned into Radio 4’s Any Answers, which consisted of a succession of ‘young people’ anguishing about being sent home from school, cut off from their friends (as if online social networking was not already their prime form of socialising), and deprived of the chance to take exams in the summer.

Whatever is the matter with them? What a wonderful opportunity to engage in some real study – the sort that requires patiently, painstakingly, working one’s way through a textbook, and then, ideally, sampling the original texts. What a marvellous opportunity for the biology student to read Darwin’s Origin of Species, the economics student to read Adam Smith and Keynes, the politics student to read J S Mill and Karl Marx. What treasures lie in wait for language and literature students – indeed, anybody who has the remotest interest in cultivating and educating themselves.  What an opportunity to learn a new skill, to practise an instrument, to draw, to paint, to make things, to solve puzzles. 

What an opportunity to cultivate the virtues of a responsible citizen, to queue up for food for neighbours who are elderly or working ‘on the front line’ – even undertaking the family shop would be a valuable service rendered. What an opportunity to help others in all sorts of ways – even to do odd jobs around the house.

What an opportunity, if there is countryside nearby, to go on walks and open one’s eyes to the treasures of nature. And what an opportunity to learn the creative value of solitude.

I would recommend Anne Frank’s diary as an initial eye-opener.

If only they knew it, today’s young have never had it so good.

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16 Comments on Covid 19: Youth without the comfort of books

  1. We are on a pleasant lockdown in New Zealand.

    My boy is reading Swiss Family Robinson. He’s 14, old enough.

    My daughter is reading Little House on the Prairie, she’s 12.

    I am indulging by reading Dune to them both. First chapter last night. Damn it’s still good.

  2. Of course, the virus is horrible. A monumental event in our lives. As a boy in the 70’s my favourite BBC drama was “Survivors” which was about a Chinese virus …yes really – that wiped out 99 % of the World’s population from respiratory infection … yes really! Some will no doubt remember. The show was so dark and powerful it has not been allowed to be repeated on TV. It does not escape me that 44 years later we are living under similar conditions that occupied my schoolboy thoughts for so long.

    The deaths are serious, tragic, and large in number. As are the infected patient numbers.

    But, why does nobody in govt the media talk about the minimum of 10,000 people per annum who die of influenza in the UK? I say minimum because it is accepted that many more die from indirect association with flu as well. Why is that in 2017 84,000 people worldwide were killed by Islamic terrorism, but the world was not shutdown over that? Why does nobody enquire about the source of the bug. I.e. why, who, where, when? Why does nobody question why all of a sudden China has no new cases APPARENTLY? Why is it that no Chinese military have been infected, given a vaccine maybe! I simply do not believe ANYTHING that comes out of Communist China. The Chinese are the most devious tricky people on the planet. Just watch them when they gamble!

    The New World Order / The Globalists are in trouble. Massive uncontrollable debt mountain throughout the World. Huge numbers of population, with many African and Asians wanting to invade “rich” countries. Sadistic, immoral behaviour by the elites being unearthed i.e. Jeffrey Epstein, who was killed by “them” in my view, before he could blabber in open Court on what he knew, a hearing which was just weeks away. Prince Andrew / Ghislane Maxwell under huge pressure, cos they are guilty? And btw where did Robert Maxwell’s fortune go? Was that Jeffery Epstein’s wealth? where exactly is Chislane right now? in hiding I am sure. Julian Assange knows much deep stuff, and is quietly being sent mad under solitary imprisonment conditions. Torture? Tommy Robinson a natural leader against the state cover up of the rape of white English girls by the Muslims following their Sharia Law. The rise of nationalist politics, so called Populism, as if it is bad to be popular! Its popular because ordinary people have had enough of left-wing political correctness bullshit.

    I’m firmly of the belief that something very deep, very sinister is being played out under the cover of Covid 19.

    Throughout the free World our freedoms have almost overnight been taken away from us under the guise of doing the right thing to control a very nasty disease that could kill many tens of thousands maybe even hundreds of thousands worldwide, what’s the population of the World 7.5 Billion? Where is the proportionately? It’s madness. The complete shutdown of our free way of life is motivated by impure desires of the controlling cabal worldwide. Here in the UK the powers of arrest and detention the government has given itself this week are Orwellian. I have already seen an older gentleman being arrested just for getting mouthy with a store manager who was unable to stop the insane panic buying from his shelves.

    I am in touch with many people who are coming at this from allsorts of different angles, but basically from the same basic perspective, there is something going on here, it does not add up.

    Here follow some words from one of my pen pals as an example. Quite a wacky one on the spectrum of theories. But plausible non the less given the extraordinary life changing events happening day to day.

    All I ask is that that minds are kept open. And always question what the establishment are feeding you, much is propaganda against the People. Don’t forget these people controlling us in the UK are refusing to publish right now their own report on the child rape gangs because it clearly says it’s done by Pakistani Muslim men against young white girls, as Tommy has been trying to tell people for 10 years now. They are liars by omission. It’s OUR COUNTRY not theirs.

    • We’ve just watched the whole three series of Survivors, by coincidence. 2019 was, most Fridays, one episode! A friend found it and burnt them onto discs for me. I now consider this prep; I am pre-armed. It was very enjoyable – loved the English/Welsh countryside where it was filmed – and very very dark: shootings, executions and proto-fascists locked up in their own little kingdoms hoping the spread the word…

      They should show it now, right after one of Boris’s press briefings, or a little later, before or after the news.

      Talfryn Thomas, that Welsh actor, was in it. ‘Do you want a bit of fish d’you?’ ‘Had the disease have you?’ (stands six feet apart, keeping her at bay with his landing net!)

    • @ Jeff Wyatt

      The Spanish flu killed 50 million of a much smaller and more static world population. If covid were allowed to spread unchecked how many more would die today, with people able to travel to the other side of the world in 24 hours? Where do you get your “hundreds of thousands” of deaths figure from? Or have you just made it up, like every other piece of unsubstantiated nonsense that you write?

  3. Agatha Christie attributed her success as a writer to her never having had any education, being ‘gloriously idle’ as a child, having to make things for herself, and acting out her own stories. ‘There’s nothing like boredom to make you write’, she said. I often think of this when I see teachers busy ‘scaffolding’ their pupils’ writings made unreadable through the inclusion of target lists of adjectives, grammatical constructions and ‘powerful words’. I also recall that Newton used his plague years confinement to develop the law of universal gravitation and calculus, among other things. Hope for us all.

    • Sadly, ‘gloriously idle’ to many of the current crop means spending every spare minute of their free time gazing obediently at screens, either in the palms of their hands or in an office chair facing the wall. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were engrossed in the works of Chaucer or some challenging factual programming, but these days the likes of Instagram and the X-Box are saddling us with successive generations of dull, boorish semi-village idiots with an ever-dwindling interest for engaging with the intellectual and the informed.
      It’s an old and familiar gripe, of course; my own father bemoaned my fleeting interest in role-play games during the eighties, with one important difference: I listened and did as I was told when ordered to scale it back. Now, legions of parents are contentedly apathetic in allowing their offspring more time playing video games per week than the average adult spends in full-time work; in an apple were to fall from a tree, there aren’t many heads out in the fresh air for it to hit.

  4. James – there is another side to this. many people don’t realise just how much more than book-learning goes on in many of our schools – especially those in the poorest areas. You’d be surprised how many kids have nothing at home – no books, no internet, no phones, smart or dumb, and little in the way of parental care and support. The Y11s in a high school I’m familiar with were in tears at that loss of their teachers’ companionship. Some of the Y7s were plainly fearful. many of these kids get one meal a day – from school. This one is in the middle of a mighty council estate and neglected by politicians of all parties.

    It’s not without its black humour though. One teacher, comforting a weeping Y11 girl, said, ‘But every day the past 4 years you’ve slammed into my room and said you hated this fucking shit school’
    ‘Yeah,’ said the kid, ‘but it’s my shit school.’

    The teachers I’m acquainted with all think closure was the wrong decision, but of course the people in the know are never consulted.

    • It’s a fair point Michael. I wonder if an emergency ‘books for children/pupils/students’ programme might be a good idea. The young people I heard phoning in were however of the distinctly privileged variety, who seemed to be missing their skiing holidays.

      • Interesting you should suggest that. In fact the teachers brought their own books from home and offered to them free the kids. Every single one was taken. Maybe this contingency will reset some attitudes on all sides. Every cloud.

    • The story goes that Harry Truman, told of a certain South American dictator installed and sponsored by Washington whose chief recreation was taking political enemies and dropping them from a helicopter into active volcanoes, remarked, ‘Well he may be a son of a bi**h, but at least he’s our son of a bi**h…’ Hence I don’t quite believe this story. And why is a teacher endorsing language like that I wonder? ‘Class solidarity’ or the least diluted exhibition of condescension you could wish to hear? Oh for the days of the ‘aspiring working class’. Perhaps this is what happens when teachers finally take the advice of the pop culture they were moulded by and ‘leave those “kids” alone’?

      • Well, Puck, the story is also attributed to Nixon and Bush (of Saddam Hussein) and the teachers did note the reference.
        As to language. I agree it looks unprofessional but you have to be there to understand why it was apt on this occasion. You don’t worry about language in a firefight.
        I’ve worked in and around education at all levels and with numerous overseas people for 40 years. You don’t need to worry about the quality of today’s teachers intellectually or morally, though I was alarmed at the dullness and cramped outlooks of the some of the 20 or so private schools I was asked to. By and large, no thanks to HMGs of either party, things have never been better.
        Inspections, BTW, are not to be trusted.
        The last HMI document that was objective and evidence-based was ‘Access and Achievement in Urban Education’. (1976). The process was politicised after that and has suffered the same fate as we have seen with PCCs (where criminals are indulged and the innocent harassed) so the virtuous are belittled and the managerial BS hawkers lionised..

      • Robin – time has passed but I couldn’t remember other instances of kids stumbling on things said before (by people worse than they were) last time we exchanged. Here’s two more.

        A youth who’d been excluded from every school he attended and was now wanting a job said to me -‘If I don’t get something I’ll be the biggest thief in this town.’ I had to tell him that an English King has expressed same sentiment in Richard III:
        And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain.

        In another case, a girl was being picked up after school by a guy in a smart suit and a Jag – not the sort of thing common in the school’s environs. We were trying to find out what was going on suspecting, rightly as it turned out, that he meant her harm. We put it to her that he was older and rich with a posh car and what would he want with a 15 year old girl?
        Her reply: ‘Just because he’s posh don’t mean there’s no good in him.’ One can imagine a more elegant version in one of Oscar’s plays – there’s no one so respectable that some good can’t be found in them.

        So. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings?

        • I work in schools and do not recognise the description of teachers you give. They do vary but most seem of low education themselves. Staff rooms are usually a place for discussion about last night’s East Enders, Coronation Stree, Emmerdale, Love Island etc, mostly from the women. The males are football-mad and pop music seems to be their only other interest. Conversation littered with obscenities seems normal as no-one bats an eyelid at its use. In other words they are rather like grown-up versions of the pupils they teach. Of course there are exceptions but mostly in junior schools. Most of the posters on walls are encouraging condom use, anti-bullying, the merits of diversity, and the scraping of the bottom of the barrel to illustrate great black people. But most of all the constant reminding that “You are a star”, “You are wonderful”, “You can be anything you want”, “Follow your dream” without any mention of hard work or reality. It’s as if they suggest that whatever they want, it’s an entitlement. Every class has a UN poster setting out children’s rights. Some of the stuff I see makes me angry, some of it makes me very sad.

          • Some of what you complain of is not of the teachers’ choosing and is likely ignored anyway. The target of your criticism should be the DfE, and I’ll come with you.
            I don’t deny there are variations, but in my time the quality of applicants has surged. To give one extraordinary example – PE teachers. Trainers get more than 1000 applicants for maybe 30 places. Criteria for interview include excellent A levels as well as substantial experience in voluntary work with kids, and a minimum of county-level performance in at least one sport and one athletic skill.
            The consequence of this is that when these people – mostly women as with all HE – get into their 40s and can’t perform to their satisfaction, they go into other subjects and enhance provision thereby.

          • “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

            Prophetic, and nearly a quarter-century old. Not much has changed, in fact it’s only gotten worse.