Thursday, February 29, 2024

We were Vikings once: British primary schools in the Sixties

A few years ago it was the French who had the secret of parenting: their children ate up their vegetables and didn't get ADHD.

Now it's the Scandinavians, hitherto envied by the British for their tasteful interior design and more adventurous sex lives.

The other day Helen Russell wrote a piece for the Guardian to promote her book How to Raise a Viking – The Secrets of Parenting the World’s Happiest Children.

Those secrets, it seems, include lots of outside play, family meals and singing together in schools.

The more I read Russell's article, the more the enlightened world of child-raising she described reminded me of my own primary school days in the Sixties - particularly of my first primary, which was one of those post-war Modernist schools that Hertfordshire went in for and had enormous playing fields, and seems to have been demolished without leaving a photograph to show it was ever there.

I don't think it is just nostalgia that makes me say that this was one of those rare decades when the English rather liked their children.

Ever since Jim Callaghan's 'secret gardens' speech at Ruskin College in 1976, education has been at the mercy of politicians. Reform has followed reform, with many of them deserving scare quotes.

The right attacks progressive ideas because that's what the right does. While the left's lack of confidence in its own economic ideas has led them to intervene in schools instead.

It's easier to propose yet another reform of the curriculum than to talk about the need to restructure the economy, which is what the left used to do.


Jane from Dorset said...

I’ve always thought it strange that there seem to be no photographs of that school anywhere on the internet.

monkey man said...

No singing, no society, but one must keep on bleating in the wilderness on those rare occasions when one is allowed to sing at funerals.