Thursday, 9 September 2010


'Hey, don't diss me, Mum.'

'If I had the slightest idea what that meant, I probably wouldn't 'diss' you, but if you'd take your elbows off the table and speak English, I wouldn't have to comment.'

Whether 'to diss' is to disappoint, disapprove, disassociate, dispense advice, discipline, disparage, or despair, I am desperate to discover. But, despite the long road towards the creation of civilized youths, this plaintive plea from the young caused me to pause. We probably ARE too critical of our young people, and perhaps we DO demand too much of them...the awful thing is, I don't think we should allow standards to slip simply because 'things are different now, ' and there's a recession on and we're all a bit strapped for cash. I don't think I'm the only one either. This morning I heard that the journalist Simon Heffer thinks we have been slipping way too far...he's been sending round-robin emails to his colleagues at The Telegraph pointing out grammatical errors. They may have found this kind of pedantry deeply irritating, but I suspect they were fascinated now he's done a book about all our mistakes. (I'm scared, let me tell you.)

I think we're talking 'constructive criticism' here, and I mention it because I care....about grammar, about standards in general, but primarily about our young people. After all, they are the ones who have to find employment one day, and look after us lot in the future. And I object to everyone telling them things are easier nowadays, that they know nothing, that they are spoilt. Things ARE different, but they are certainly not easier.

Right now there is an almighty scramble going on amongst many school-leavers and their parents. The scramble is caused by the seeking of, preparing for and taking up of university and college places. Apart from deciding where and what to study, there are so many other major details to sort out. Where to live, what in, and with whom? What equipment will they need? How will they travel? And what to wear...we're talking 'image' and that in itself is enough to induce a paralysis of indecision. And then there's the vulgar question of cash...none of this comes cheap. It's all very new and confusing. By the time the new student is established in his or her room with their brand new duvet and fresh stationary, a microwave curry sitting on the desk, the parental hearts are aching in a toxic mix of relief and empty-nester angst.

I'm told, this wears off. Later on, however, many students admit to the real shock, a nasty surprise that many of them hadn't anticipated. They have to work. Imagine! I cannot believe how many times I have heard of students admitting to their parents that they had no idea what hard work was until they went to university...these are A Graders, with stars, bells and whistles, who sailed though school without any problems, collecting music exams, trophies, medals and awards all the way in addition to their glittering academic results. Sure they want to do a degree while making new friends and broadening their horizons, but oops...the fly in the academic ointment is, they have to sit down and work hard for it.  ( This is not the universal experience, of does rather depend what and where you are studying.)

I know it is not fashionable to say that school exams are not what they were, but everyone past a certain age isn't daft. However, criticising the system does not make things any easier for our school-leavers. They have to work within the system of their day. The struggle to pass exams with top marks while winning medals for Scotland, becoming a concert pianist and saving the world is immense. How on earth the Universities are meant to determine who should win a place and who should not is impossible to fathom... we are producing vast numbers of apparently brilliant school-leavers, and it is hard to pick between them...they might as well pick names out of a hat.

As Scottish education in schools moves towards the 'Curriculum for Excellence' we have to hope that it will do what it says on the tin...create 'excellence'. Perhaps it's a matter of opinion, but I don't feel I am unusual in hoping schools will teach children to spell and add efficiently, all children, academic or not. We need a population of well-rounded human beings that can communicate properly, a population that can work to the very best of their ability. I like the sound of 'excellence'.

But we also need a population that cares...and by 'caring', I mean a rounding-off of the edges, as well as the more obvious respecting, nurturing, and loving. I can't stand it when people criticize our young people...I think they are fantastic.... but equally, I don't want them to be short-changed because we can't be bothered to make them aim high. It works both ways...I won't 'diss' you if you, just once in a while, pay attention to the boring details I, in my decrepitude, witter on about.


  1. I agree! Don't you think that most of the time our kids will give us exactly what they think we expect? If we expect little then that's what they serve up. We always had very high standards for our children in terms of effort. If that led to high achievement then that was great. Sometimes it didn't but we let them know that was great too as long as they did their best.

  2. Excellent post and great blog, I completely agree!
    I am fairly strict in raising my daughter and I know that other mums frown at me when I have said No twice and strap her into the buggy to go home, if she doesn't listen to me. I have no idea where this current attitude a la 'they are only kids' comes from, but in my opinion it doesn't help anybody when you allow your children to shoot the neighbours' flower pots with their football or to spit on the street. Things like these are the very beginnings of antisocial behaviour.
    I am not expecting my daughter to become a neurologist or to win the Nobel price. But I expect her to have respect, manners and to be kind. Sometimes I am afraid that this will make her very lonely one day.

    Oops. Slightly long comment. Did I say that I love your blog? :)

  3. Pam, least if they know what is 'expected' they might stand a chance.

    Metropolitan Mum...I'm sure that having respect, manners and being kind will ensure she is never,'manners'...that's a whole other topic. Thanks for the suggestion!