Looking at the domestic news stories over the past week made me think how fortunate foreign nationals based in the UK are in terms of their education and training. In the space of seven days, the media – Television and Print – were full of stories of how a British Coalition Government of two political parties who couldn’t achieve enough seats to form a Government on their own, are now telling the young people of the United Kingdom (and mature students for that matter,) there are not enough university places for everyone and besides, you don’t need a university education to get on in life.
That statement coming from anyone else other than privately educated and Oxbridge educated individuals who now have us in a Con-Dem-Nation, wouldn’t necessary have my big dark brown eyes batting in fury. After all there are many people who have made a successful life and career for themselves without stepping foot inside a college or university – Lord (Sir) Alan Sugar is a good example. My area of expertise, Film and Television is full of them, though not exclusively. Getting back to the point, the fact that a bunch of privately educated/Oxbridge right-wing politicians, who couldn’t win a outright mandate from the British Electorate, are telling my child’s generation that having got the necessary qualifications via hard work and study to pursue a university education, they should abandon that ambition, desire and do something else that will lessen their chances of leading a successful life and career because the Con-Dem-Nation doesn’t think they are entitled to a university-advanced future. Yet those same Con-Dems will pack their children off to the best universities money can buy without blinking an eye. How dare they!!! How dare they deny other people’s children the same right as their own children!
As a teenager of the early 1980s, this comes as no surprise to me. The Thatcher Government through blind ideology ruined the hopes and ambitions of an entire generation and I felt the pinch because I was part and parcel of that generation. It made my blood boil back then and still does even now! It makes me as mad as hell that a Coalition Government without a majority or a mandate is now repeating the mistakes (deliberately in my opinion,) of destroying the hopes, dreams, desires and ambitions of another generation of young people who (by the examination results,) are far more smarter academically and in other areas than my generation ever was. The exam results speak for themselves. The fact that such examination results can be achieved within a British education system that was undermined and ruined back in the 1960s and has continued to be undermined by every government to this day, says a great deal about the young people we are bringing into the world. Despite a so-called Comprehensive Education system that is long overdue for a radical overhaul, our children are managing to achieve the kind of examination results within a system that has failed generations of children over the past fifty years. Again that says a great deal about today’s generation of young people.
I have noted since my sixteenth year on the Planet (which oddly enough coincided with Margaret Thatcher winning her first election back in 1979,) how short term thinking has been passed on from politicians to the individual. Politicians I have noted (certainly since 1979) don’t really think beyond the next election campaign. Mrs. Thatcher was certainly interested in winning British General Elections and while that was no bad thing, the fact she implemented a Conservative Party Election Manifesto that was based on nothing more than short-term thinking centred on greed, the individual and the slogan that ‘There was no such thing as Society’ was a huge act of folly that the British people have been paying the price for ever since.
Such wilful acts of damage were based on nothing more than short-term thinking and blind ideology. This led to situations where the training of a future workforce by industry, commerce, government and the public sector, virtually disappeared overnight. Skills were needed for certain jobs but industry and commerce taking its cue from the Government of the day, denied those opportunities to those willing and able to work (even with the academic qualifications,) the chance to get onboard, train, learn and fill that skills gaps. It was not lost on me as a Computer Studies/Science student at College during the 1980s, just how many people were taking Computer Studies/IT courses, academic and vocational, yet reading the trade and local press was constantly being told there was a skills gap in this area. I remember writing a letter to one Steve Harrison who was then President of the BCS (British Computer Society,) detailing pretty much what I have written here. To my surprise he actually wrote back, thanking me for the insight I had given him and how he would be discussing these issues during his Presidency of the BCS. Well that was back in the Mid-1980s and as a student member of the BCS back then, I can assure you Mr. Harrison didn’t say or do anything in relation to my concerns at the time. Why would he? Short-termism and individualism ruled supreme back then. Like many of his ilk who were in positions to really make a difference, he did nothing to better anyone’s lot but his own!
Yes there was indeed a skills gap and one that could have been filled overnight if industry did what it used to do pre-Thatcher era – Actually hire and train an educated workforce. Nothing has really changed. In London alone look how many foreign nationals now work in many key areas of industry and commerce. This has always happened for sure but now one can see just how discredited the British way of doing things now is in that there are so many British people languishing on state benefits while many jobs are now being filled by foreign nationals for the simple reasons that the latter are better educated and willing to work hard, simply because they know that to achieve anything in life takes hard work and commitment over time – Not to mentioned having the skills needed. This is something that is sadly lost on many of the British. This is because by and large they have been failed. Failed by the various institutions of Government, not to mention the Establishment. Still hope reigns eternal one hopes now that a younger generation achieving positive record examination results indicates the beginning of a sea of change. Well that was without the shadow of a Con-Dem-Nation Government!
The Sun Newspaper under Kelvin MacKenzie’s Editorship used to call such people who were unemployed and/or thrown on the scrapheap of life ‘Scroungers’. For your information Mr MacKenzie, I was for a long time one of those ‘Scroungers’ but it was my right to claim state benefits because I was unemployed. While such funds were not much, it enabled me to get out there, look for work, write letters of application and attend job interviews. And when I got a job, I paid back into the system via taxation. So Mr. MacKenzie, how was I begging or ‘Scrounging’ as your Editorials used to put it?
Since the reporting of record successes in the school and college examinations, as well as the Coalition Governments moronic response in terms of university places and undermining of such a high rate of student success, it had been my intention to write this piece. What spurred me to write it was an article in ‘Stage Screen & Radio’ (September Edition). Under the Title of ‘An absolute duty to pass on sound skills’ (which inspired the title of my article,) were two letters in response to an article ‘The decline of sound recording on docs’ (documentaries). The first letter by John Emmas, Freelance Sound Engineer, struck a chord with me, especially the latter half of his correspondence, which pretty much sums and articulates the way I feel about short-termism and it’s the destruction of the skills base for future generations. Mr. Emmas writes:-
“I’ve been an active and dedicated sound professional for around 30 years so why am I unsympathetic? It’s because nobody actually cares about this decline (and I do mean nobody – not even the sound professionals themselves).
‘All around us we can see the folly of relentless short-termism and corner-cutting. Yet not a single person – even at senior management level – seems to have the power or the will to reverse it. Our industry, like so many others, is now driven by accountants and gives the impression of being managed by lemmings; continually hurling their community over a cliff for no better reason than the morbid fascination of seeing who survives.
‘Nobody I speak to has any solution, nor even any apparent interest in finding one. Everybody I speak to has the same basic aim – to eke out whatever they can from the industry in the hope they can survive until they reach retirement age. What shape they’ll leave the industry in after that is one of little concern to them. Very few care about the future at all, as long as they personally can somehow limp along until retirement.
‘It’s a lamentable attitude, but also a general malaise afflicting much of today’s working society. And yet societies (all societies) have an absolute and non-negotiable duty to educate their young; to pass on their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. It’s one of the most basic tools through which societies survive and we throw it away at our peril.
‘Survival isn’t about driving down costs and acquiring skills on the cheap – though admittedly, both can be helpful solutions to short-term problems. Sustainable, long-term survival is all about valuing skills – and providing stability, so that each generation has the motivation and the confidence to nurture the next. So let there be no misunderstanding about apathy, job insecurity and the persistent devaluation of skills. There are all very real scourges that will seriously damage our industry in the longer term. And let’s not forget either, that the majority of us are only privileged to work in the industry today because previous generations understood that and took their responsibility seriously.”
Mr. Emmas for me pretty much articulates what I have experienced in my working life such as it has been over the past thirty years. Very little seems to have changed in all that time. The lack of opportunities for people who were born and raised here is not lost on political organisations such as the far right BNP (British National Party,) who have gained a foothold on the political process fuelled by the above concerns as to the lack of opportunities (work and otherwise) for British People, along with greater integration with mainland Europe via the European Union (EU). This in itself is an extreme form of short-termism and non-lateral thinking. The concerns I have discussed are not solely the problem of the so-called indigenous Caucasian populace. It also affects those of us with a British heritage that originates far beyond the British Isles – Something that is clearly lost on the membership of the BNP. Being British goes well beyond being ‘white’ and being born in the British Isles.
There is a bigger picture here and Mr. Emmas to his credit put his figure on the pulse of the problem. While he was discussing his experience as a Sound Engineer, the latter half of his piece could be transferred to any field of endeavour and life. It does clearly demonstrate how far Britain/United Kingdom is falling behind in terms of how successful Governments and institutions have treated the population and continue to do so at the expense of taking a long-term view, distinct forward planning and joined up thinking of how we provide for future generations and an older, longer living generation and the provisions for those generations, not to mention the kind of society and lives we want for ourselves and everyone else. Our children included.
We all have as individuals and as a society an absolute duty to end short-term thinking and to think about and in the longer term about many of the things that have been discussed here and how we get passed them. The future is now, not when politicians say it is.