Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Willam Gets an ASBO

I was delighted to see that the UK’s Minister for Education has had the good commonsense to suggest that boys (and I suppose, he included girls in this) should be encouraged to read by being offered books that actually appeal to them.
Although I’m a bit dubious about the list he suggested, this is only because one man’s Dickens is another man’s Erle Stanley Gardiner and I assume this was his own personal preference. No matter, it’s a jolly sound idea.
Students must have been put off reading for ever by being force fed so-called Classics at an age when they would have meant nothing to them. Force feeding only produces enlarged livers, as a good many French geese will testify, and I know of few geese who have become avid readers as a result.
Shakespeare is a common victim of this early over exposure and the result is usually an antipathy toward any of the bard’s work.
Mr. Johnson came from a home without books and clearly understands the deprivation this can cause. It is a fact that education should begin in the home but nowadays it is all too easy for parents to abrogate their responsibilities to the authorities – and then complain that their children have turned into illiterate, TV loving hooligans.
As a child, I was immensely fortunate that, not only did my father have a library, but that I was also allowed unfettered access to it.
But my own personal collection of books included the marvellous series of “Willam” by Richmal Crompton. Miss Crompton was an unmarried lady who modelled her William on a nephew. She seems to have known more about the workings of a boy’s mind that a host of qualified psychiatrists and her books, and there are dozens of them, are still a delight. It’s a pity that Mr. Johnson didn’t see fit to include them in his list.
I still have a few volumes and had a breeze through a couple. I now understand why they didn’t make the list.
Under the present rules and regulations of the nanny state, William would have collected an ASBO for almost every episode.
And Mr. and Mrs. Brown would undoubtedly have been up in court on some sort of piffling charge connected with his escapades.
But for anyone who wishes to recall the departed days of innocence, before Big Brother saw fit to interfere with the private lives of its citizens, the William books are a breath of fresh air.
Every member of government should be forced to read them.

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