Schools: Now and Then

As promised in a recent post, here is my old dad take on the schools debate. Do you think your local schools are bad now? Well read on…

Parents and school talk – Then and Now

I have been through this school debate recently and will no doubt do so again as my boy gets older. Even I have to admit that it is important. But just how important? Are some parents taking it all a little too seriously?

Then: It was all very simple in my day. You went to the school nearest to where you lived (aka the catchment area). End of story.

Now: Some parents talk of little else. From an early age they are applying to the so called “better” schools or ”good” schools which may be a long bus ride away. Naturally they want it to be (equally) as free as the old catchment school that they went to but still…. They talk and talk and scheme in some cases to get their kids into that “right” school.

Back in time….

Rewind to the mid-70s when this old dad started secondary education at the local comprehensive school (now unfortunately referred to as ‘high school’).

In the final months of primary school we visited what was to be our new school. I remember it fairly well considering it was so long ago. I distinctly remember seeing the seemingly huge arts and crafts area because it was something we never had in primary school.

Metalwork, woodwork, pottery, art and technical drawing (as it was then known) all had their own areas/rooms/space.

Weapons manufacture

In the metal work and woodwork workshops the final year students were busy on their final year projects. Their ‘O’ level or CSE course work. Exam related work.

At that time these soon to be school leavers (5th formers / ‘year 11’ pupils) looked like fully grown men to me. Some even had beards! Such is the difference between an 11-year-old and 16-year-old male.

And guess what some of them were making? Only a full-sized crossbow. I kid you no. I remember it vividly.

In the woodwork area some were busy carving a wooden stock (much like a rifle butt) fore-grip and trigger area. Meanwhile in the metalwork shop others were fabricating and assembling the limb, arrow track and barrel parts. Really. This is all true!

Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting….

This was also a time when kung-fu had left the shores of China and exploded in popularity in the west. Thanks largely to the X-rated (now 18 certificate) films of one Mr. Bruce Lee. Also, and even more influential to youngsters (due to its availability) that TV series starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine – aka “Grasshopper”. The TV show was simply titled “Kung-Fu”

This meant that crossbows were not the only weapons being manufactured. Kung-Fu stars were being made in a makeshift manner by all ages in the school. And they were being thrown at break times too. I kid you not!

And so…

So what is the point of all this you may ask? Well, it’s really quite simple. Whenever I hear people talking about what goes on in schools these days and how bad things have become in some places of education I just recall the story above. Needless to say, by the time we were old enough to make such objects things had somehow changed. I can’t say I noticed when exactly; or how. Whatever it was the production of potentially lethal weapons on school property just seemed to stop. Some may say that is for the best… It all still makes me laugh though.

Halcyon days anyone?

This is the Modern World

How things have changed. I can still remember my first camera. It was a very cheap Kodak “instamatic”? – or some such silly name. Naturally I thought it was great and had it for a few years from about the age of seven (I seem to recall). Dani now has a camera at age four. A digital camera of course with various special effects built in.

We live in a digital age where virtually everyone can take high quality photos on their mobile phone. We also live in an age of instant gratification. Kids today would not be able to wait a couple of days (or more!) for a film to be developed into photographs. Photographic film? What’s that dad? Exactly.

How many of you can recall having to wait a few days while the pharmacists developed your Kodak film? Why was it always the chemist’s shop that did them?

Then came the cheaper special offer. We used to send our films away in special envelopes just because it saved a few pennies on each picture. Those places became quite popular for a while – probably due to their prices – but they took even longer. You might have had to wait a couple of weeks before seeing your photographs. Only to discover that most of them turned out to be low quality grainy pictures. Probably because your camera was cheap, low quality rubbish to begin with.

Why right now?

Why does everything have to be right now? It gets worse. These day kids and adults alike cannot even ask or wait for someone else to take their photo. They do it themselves.

When Dani is older he will realise that his old man grew up in an era where a ‘selfie’ could have been misinterpreted as a code word for masturbation.

What about waiting a few days to receive a letter? No chance! In this era of (anti) social media I wonder if kids are taught how to post a letter; never mind write one. It is all instant text messaging and ‘posting’ means getting your selfies up on Facebook. Ugh! Even typing that F-word makes me feel queasy.

Which reminds me….

Which brings me back to schooling…. Always the subject of discussion these days for parents. I started writing something about school back in my day which I need to finish off and get ‘posted’. It’s a bit daft – crazy even – but it is all true and a little piece of my school history for my son to read. I think you may all enjoy it.

Ok. Time for this old git to get back off the soap-box. There’s work to be done…A little rant now and again never hurts. At least that’s my take on it.

PS: Post title today inspired by an early Jam track.

Why Do They Grow Up So Fast?

The other day my little boy said something that made my feel a little sad.

He said – and these were his exact words: “I don’t like Thomas anymore”.

He was of course referring to Thomas the Tank Engine, or Thomas and Friends as the various trains and other modes of transport are collectively known.

Despite this he still sits and watches the Thomas programmes on DVD with his little cousin. Admittedly, his younger cousin (by about 19 months) is still unashamedly a full-on Thomas fan.

I have mentioned before that I quite like the original series. The ones where they used models rather than computer generated graphics. The ones narrated by Ringo Starr and then later by Michael Angelis.

Kids grow up. It’s an unavoidable reality. While he still plays with his Duplo he now favours the real Lego. Especially the sets with Star Wars characters and superheroes. It’s all part of the process of growing up. And it is sad that it all happens so quickly.

It’s all Kylo Ren now.

When he says that he doesn’t like Thomas he qualifies it by adding “I like Kylo Ren”.

The Darth Vader for the younger generations. My four-year-old son has seen the latest Star Wars movie and I have not. He is now ahead of me on recent developments in that galaxy far, far away. At least he appreciates that Mr. Ren is Mr. Vader’s grandson.

Sorry son. I realise there is a Star Wars generation gap thing going on here but when it comes down to the inter-galactic scale of evilness Vader beats Ren any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

We may agree on that one day but for now our conversations – or should I say debates – on the subject are great fun.

On the plus side…

While it may be a little sad that they grow up so fast I have to look at the positives also.

He is on the verge of swapping some small kids stuff for things that he will probably still like when he is an adult. I certainly like the Star Wars films and the Marvel superheroes. And of course, I still love Lego. As do most adults – if they are honest.

Who would win a fight between…?

It’s that fantastic question that can be used over and over. Thanks to the myriad of Marvel comic films it is a question that we now throw at each other regularly.

Who would win a fight between Captain America and Hulk? Who would win a fight between Ironman (in the Hulk-Buster suit, naturally) and Hulk? Who would win a fight between Ironman and the Green Goblin? And so on… These conversations are great fun and Dani really gets into it.

I know they are only comic book characters but I think it’s great that he is so passionate about them.

And guess who gets thrown into the mix? That’s right.

“Daddy. Who would win a fight between you and Ironman?”

“Well, me obviously. It would be difficult for a while. I might have to take a bit of punishment at first. But then once his batteries start to wear down I would get the upper hand.”

He just laughs.