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?

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