Apparently, millions of kids are eager to get back to school. This is a complete puzzle to me. When I was at school, we’d have done anything to keep the schools shut. We’d have broken into Pfizer and squirted cat sick into the vaccine, or painted all the frogs it was tested on, so it looked like it turned you purple.
We’d have scoured the world for a variant that made your nose explode, then coughed it round the town so the lockdown would have to carry on for another year.
You were supposed to hate school. That was the point of it. If Ofsted had been around, they’d have written reports on some schools that went: “Some of the children seemed interested and appeared to enjoy the lessons. For this reason we have no choice but to fail the school and shut it down immediately.”
So it’s marvellous that parents now say: “My kids can’t wait to go back, they miss their friends.” It shows how much school has improved, because no one at my school who was off for any reason, ever said: “I miss Jimmy Bennett, who walks up beside you and rams his knee into your thigh with extraordinary precision to kill the entire nervous system of your lower body, leaving you unable to move for 10 minutes as you lay on the concrete while he shouts, ‘dead leg, my son’. I miss him so much mummy, PLEASE can you make the lockdown end.”
There was a game played in the class next to me, called “Beat Your Head In”. The rules were quite complicated. About 12 boys sat in a circle, while another boy held a pack of cards. In turn he dealt a card, face up, to each player, and when he turned over a jack, everyone shouted “beat your head in”, and they all beat that player’s head in. Hopefully one day it will be included in the Olympics, and we’ll hear commentators yelling: “THERE’S the jack and WHAT wonderful stamping from the Belgian.”
Back then, if you liked school, you were an oddity. You would be the equivalent of someone who had a fetish, and enjoyed lying naked in the garage while someone drove over you in a go-kart. Maybe there are places you can go, where you’re ushered into a dungeon to sit behind desks copying from a book about Cardinal Wolsey.
So it’s joyous that now kids are begging to go back to school, which shows the whole concept of school has changed. For example, now an email is sent to all parents if there’s an issue in a class about bullying. At my school, the guards from Guantanamo Bay could have set up a torture centre outside the changing rooms, with full waterboarding facilities, and if you complained to a teacher they’d say: “If you spent as much time worrying about fractions as you do about having a damp rag stuffed in your mouth to the point of suffocation, you might do better in your maths exams, Steel.”
It was even rarer for parents to complain to the school, because if you told your dad that someone had hit you, he’d say: “Hit him back.” If I’d told him I was a bit frightened during lunchtime, because there was a sniper in the dinner hall, he’d just have said: “If he shoots you, shoot him back.”
But a combination of pressure from teachers, and people who have studied how to teach things, has transformed education. Violence is now generally discouraged, kids learn about each other’s cultures and how to respect each other, and every child is seen as an individual, at least in theory.
Lessons are less likely to involve a teacher ordering the kids to learn a series of dates of monarchs, or meaningless lists in which they all have to recite every town in Finland in alphabetical order. So now most kids miss the social side of school, which not only means they have a positive childhood, but they must learn more in that environment.
And that must be why most ministers and half the country’s commentators scream in rage that we must get back to the old days, when we had PROPER education, with the emphasis on the most important aspects of developing a human being, such as being dragged by the ear into an office for walking too quickly in a corridor.
Every day there’s fury that kids today are taught rubbish, such as how the Hindu religion works, rather than essentials such as grammatical rules for when to say “whomsoever” after a verbial pronounicated geranium.
Every review of education insists we put more emphasis on testing, rather than on politically correct distractions, such as imagination. Every education minister pledges to return to the great traditional educational values of boredom, pain and pointlessness.
If these people heard kids saying they were eager to get back to school, they’d be horrified, and scream: “They’re not there to enjoy themselves, they’re supposed to be learning how to calculate the area of the bruises they’ve got from being dead-legged by Jimmy Bennett.”
It isn’t helped that we’re now run by people whose experience of school is, “One chap in my form had the misfortune to mispronounce the Latin for bumblebee, so he was locked in the swampatarium with the school crocodile for three days. Came out a bit chewed but it did him no harm. Now he’s a junior minister in the Foreign Office, proposing that refugees should be employed as fireworks.”
And Jimmy Bennett was probably a chief negotiator for Brexit.