Liberal teachers started these riots in the ’80s

Today’s rioters have parents who failed them. So it’s worth looking at what was happening to inner city black and white 10 year olds, in the early and mid 1980s. They were the first fruit of a primary school system which decided to abandon the idea of traditional education. You may say that this did not matter much, since they were about to go into a secondary system which was hardly better. But the rot was in.

The funny thing is, thirty years ago black mothers were appalled at what was happening to their children. One day, as I waited for my own young at the school gate, I asked some of them why they didn’t complain about the school’s free and easy approach to education. They said that white liberal school-teachers wouldn’t listen to them and that it was I, a middle class white, who should take up the cause. I replied that as a right-winger I was a red rag to a bull to the liberal teachers. I added that it was only black mothers who could command respect and attention.

Anyway, the upshot was that a great tradition was lost. Those Caribbean mothers were the last generation of English working class people to experience old-style schooling, though they did so as colonial subjects, and whilst in a colonial backwater. The white working class had always been pretty uninterested in improving itself so for them liberal education merely made a bad situation worse.

You may say that the young underclass are exposed to plenty of other bad influences other than a non-education. They suffer by being at the sharp end of the war on drugs, rap music, video games, a recession, shows like The Wire, and maybe the classic immigrant disaffection with the parent culture, and you can perhaps think of others. Still, they are chronically ill-equipped to fight back, and that was a two-generation educational failure. Let’s hope there won’t be a third.

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Publication date

09 August 2011