Monday, January 19, 2009


If I'm ever fitting a piece of carpet (badly, as Mrs C will verify) and can't find something to cut it with, I always pop down to Titchfield Primary School and get one of the children to buy me a good sharp knife at the Christmas Fair, where they are much cheaper than at B&Q.

When I saw the story here, I was quite appalled (you'd think the Sun could do better than those two ruffians, wouldn't you?) and then I laughed as I recalled my Junior School teacher who used to reward whoever was first to finish their sums by sending them out to the local newsagent to buy her 20 cigarettes. If she had sent us out to buy an axe or a meat cleaver (both of which the shop owner would probably have cheerfully sold us, as long 'as long it's for Miss Jenkins, mind') I think there would have been a slight temptation to 'muck about a bit', maybe scratching a few lines into a tree, or waving it about and chasing each other making noises like a Red Indian (whilst casting uneasy glances around for any watching adult who might report us to school.)

The point I'm trying to make is that we would never have considered stabbing Paul Williams from Class 3 even if we didn't like him much. Whilst I'm sure that the vast majority of kids nowadays wouldn't either, how have we got to a point where a small but significant percentage of them will do? I know that there was a knife culture in the 1950s when my father was young, but I don't think that adults were frightened of children then.

I can't help but fall back on my usual line of reasoning that people do things that they have never been convincingly told not to do and also things that they think they will face no real punishment for doing.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I think it's called "tacit approval". I bang on about it a lot, but only end up annoying people, I'm sure. I see it all the time when I'm going through one of my relief-teacher phases. I'll tell kids off for breaking some school rule, and they say, indignantly "but Miss Smith never tells us not to! It's not fair!"

It's called boundaries - or lack of them!

It's insidious, because it's hard to pinpoint how it happens. It just does. Chipping away. I noticed it especially at a school where there'd been a firm principal for many years, who then retired, and was succeeded by a series of wishy-washy replacements. The decline in behaviour over a 6 year period was astonishing, but unfortunately many who work there full time seem too close to see it.

Anonymous said...

It's a fact little commented upon (and certainly not by the government) that the increase - just the increase, remember - in recorded crime between 1990 and 1991 was more than the total recorded crime in 1950.
The 1950s were no golden age, and many things about Britain now are immeasurably better than they were then, and crime recording has changed also, but that is an interesting fact nonetheless.

Hogdayafternoon said...

I echo your comments, Frank,and also Sandra's `Golden Age ` comment. If you've time, have a read of my little blog article on `Knives` where I had similar tactics or `subtle social controls` that were very much the norm for the time.

Anonymous said...

I remember Mr Rugg in my Primary School 45 years ago using a knotted skipping rope to great effect. No problems with boundaries then we all knew exactly where we stood (especially after a couple of strokes on the buttocks!) Oddly enough I think we all felt more secure and cared for under that strict environment. I dread to think what we would have been like in a school of today. Incidentally we were a class of 48 so the skipping rope was probably an essential item of kit!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was illegal to sell knives to under-18s.

Anonymous said...

There is the racial aspect but as reality must bend in the face of ideaology, that cannot then be true.

Anonymous said...

One of the major controls on my inherent badness was my parents' (and grandparents' and aunts', if it came to that) horror at being thought A Bad Parent even by people they didn't know. My misbehaviour was a reflection on the effort they had made to socialise me and that is why in public more than anywhere I was required to be amenable, polite and well-brought-up.

Now that parents seem to have absolved themselves from any responsibility for the way their kids turn out, why would they put themselves to the trouble of setting boundaries and enforcing standards of behaviour they make no effort to meet themselves?

Anonymous said...

Funny old world. I and many of my friends used to take penknives to primary school back in the 60s so we could play "splits" at break.

Don't remember killing anyone then, but it was a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

xxx Angela Saunders found another of the Power Force trimming knives in her ten-year-old son’s bedroom this week.

She said: “That knife was there for three weeks and I didn’t even know.

God forbid if we’d had toddlers playing in his room. It would have ripped their hands to shreds. I’m very

Yeah RIGHT. Because THAT is the MOST likely thing on Earth to happen, isn't it?

I mean HEL! I was LUCKY yesterday, I went out without my crash helmet and the sky did NOT fall onj me. ....But it COULD have.

Von Brandenburg-Preu├čen.