Many riots take place during the summer months when the rioters are not at school or college. They have time on their hands, are often bored and don’t have to get up for anything the next morning.
The education system, therefore, becomes a contributory factor in social unrest. It is the only area of human endeavour that sticks to a 19th century agricultural calendar and curriculum, which has several downsides:
- Facilities lie idle in schools for months on end – sports facilities, theatres, classrooms – as they are mothballed during long holidays.
- Kids find themselves with little to do, especially te poor, who can’t afford holidays and travelling.
- The cost of holidays is pushed beyond many poor parents because travel companies push up prices during the school holidays, leaving and poor to amuse themselves on the streets.
- The cost of education is artificially high because the capital and maintenance budget is not spent wisely. For months of the year these buildings are largely empty.
- Summer is a time for forgetting. We know that the long summer hols set back students, especially those from poorer background with less home support in learning. This in turn leads to low achievement and disaffection.
- Pushing irrelevant educational content, such as the more esoteric portions of the maths curriculum, literary criticism and Latin, is a recipe for further disaffection with schools.
- The educational apartheid and failure to give vocational learning the status it deserves leads to perceived failure by those who do not have an academic bent, again leading to disaffection.
Now we know that there’s a need for better education and training. Surely we could find a way to add a fourth semester to school and colleges, to make better use of the assets, reduce the cost per student and get on with solving some of the problems in our society. I’ve already blogged a good example of how this could be achieved through practical, vocational, learning opportunities that sweat existing, unused facilities.
Isn’t it also ironic that the rioters shop of choice is JB Sports and their loot of choice sportswear and the irony that these riots took place in the shadow of the Olympic build. The rhetoric is all about participation in sport, yet the youth clubs in these areas are being shut down. This has been a lost opportunity. We could have used the Olympics as a means to create tens of thousands of apprenticeships and encouraged participation in sport through local initiatives. My kids have been training all summer in Tae Kwon do. It’s kept them fit and occupied. Note that this has nothing to do with school and PE – the PE teachers are all on holiday and the school facilities locked up. In fact the classes normally run in my two nearest schools have stopped because the schools are closed! This is madness.