Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Interesting discussion on Radio 4's Today programme this morning at about 8.25.

A report on the riots in England last summer has concluded that a lack of support for young people contributed to the unrest and that we should all be doing more to help young people develop what they call "character". Serge Cefai, headteacher at the Sacred Heart Catholic School in Camberwell, and Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the charity Kids Company, discuss the recommendations of the report.

Now this was a ready-to-use piece of polarisation which barely needed assembling once removed from the box. It would be my guess that a Catholic school might be more disciplinarian than average; a founder of a work for disadvantaged kids the opposite. The headteacher began with the statement 'I find it a bit insulting...' and we were off.

The school's point of view, we were told, is that children need the comfort of knowing where the boundaries are and how people will react when they are crossed. The response was that this teaches a hatred and fear of authority for those who find it difficult and anyway in the 'real world' (love it that schools are not thought to be part of the real world) reaction to line-crossing is not always the same.

As a friend at Morning Prayer said just after, you only have to look at the amount of people who drive whilst phoning or texting to know that the fear of line-crossing is hardly a massive success. The world outside schools does teach that it is OK to disrespect authority if you can get away with it. So maybe we need a less utilitarian and more altruistic approach to life. And the youth worker's point was that you love people into conformity, you don't scare them.

As ever the truth lies somewhere in the middle and needs pondering.

So we went on into Morning Prayer and read from Hebrews 12:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as children? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate children at all. Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

And pretty soon our post-reading discussion included the comment that the parents were to blame, we were all going to hell in a whatever you go to hell in these days, too many people broke the law and wouldn't if punished harder and that if you looked into the Bible too deeply you got a headache so it was best to take it simply on trust.

My response is that everything is character building and it is another brilliant little expression, like 'Big Society', that will provoke a lot of discussion whilst being completely unassessable.

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