Times are a changing!
I guess for adults reading this your age will change your recollection slightly. When you recall your school days some like me; will be filled with horror at the tunnelled opportunities and others will remember the expected respect and obedience.
I was limited to find a profession I would be happy following while at school. I eventually settled on wanting to be a nurse; it was a good respectable career, it also turned out to be one of the few acceptable jobs Sister Edward Mary our esteemed head would allow. Coming from a medical background I was already comfortable with blood and gore. The nuns at the school disguised themselves as teachers but in reality; secretly were trying to recruit potential novices and I ticked all their boxes; except compliance. So if they really couldn’t persuade me to be a nun, there were a few options left; housewife but I needed to find a husband and in our ultra protected girly environment that was never going to happen. Teaching was an acceptable profession but as the availability of A’levels was decidedly inadequate; teaching was also a non starter. Actually I had wanted to go to university to do Mechanical Engineering. Even now I can see the tiny Sister Edward Mary wither visably at the sheer horror of it.
I did want to be a writer even back then but creativity was drummed out and it was certainly not a suitable calling for a young innocent catholic girl. Stories with any imagination were rewarded with low marks and punishment for the insolence and lies told within them. To be fair I spent a lot of time in punishment for other things I now consider very unjust. Thankfully by that time castigation had moved from corporal punishment to sitting in the head’s office. In my later years I now empathise with the likes of the Bronte sisters writing under the name of Bell and Mary Anne Evans who most people will only know as George Eliot. Now it will not be disapproving society perceptions that prevents my novel being sent away and published.
I, being the eldest of a dynasty of little catholics, three of whom were girls and would follow me through the school, gave me particular kudos. The school struggling to survive and having to turn to non-catholics to keep the numbers up meant all “little birds” (catholic children) were particularly special to all the nuns which equated to most of the staff. We were as spirited as other children but as long as we appeared penitent at the right times we could get away with a lot more. I was particularly special, I was not really naughty but found myself removed from certain lessons where a clash of personality may ensue. I ended up studying Latin with the aforementioned little nun, thus increasing my unique position in the school, and opening up more channels to rebel.
Rebellion was slight and never malicious. Life was too stern for that and you took your chances if you did step out of the deep accepted furrow of acceptable behaviour laid out ahead of you. I probably still bear the scars mentally if not physically from rulers across my hand or chalk hitting my face. I became rather practised at avoiding the blackboard wiper, which the girl behind me never quite forgave me for. It would not actually occur to those of my school generation to talk back to an adult, or to be caught doing anything that could even be construed as really naughty. We would not only be punished then but also with no questions asked be punished at home as well.
Times have changed a lot and some of it for the better. Children can certainly enjoy their schooling and they have so many opportunities to really make it the best time in their lives. They are involved in decision making and given the opportunities to discuss and make informed decisions ranging from projects at primary school right up to the myriad of courses offered at A’level, college and work experience. Praised and encouraged to work hard, to express themselves and to utilise the wonderful resources available, youngsters today have so many prospects to enable their lives to be enriched and their opportunities endless.
There is and always will be poverty which is as apparent now as it was in Victorian days. There will always be adults who abuse and hurt children just as there have always been and no amount of freedom for the children to highlight it will prevent it happening and may keep it underground for longer.
Mini Son is studying Victorians at the moment in school. He has found it hard to accept the barbaric treatment of boys in those days. His class are going on a school outing and will be taken to an education museum where they will dress as Victorians, the teachers going with them are dressing up too and the venue will be set up as a school with the old desks and chair in the corner.
They have obviously been told how hard schools were in those days as he told me this morning that if the school caned him, he will sue….!
We enquired why he thought he would be caned and were told, “if I am naughty at school they put you on a chair and make you look at the corner and if you are still naughty they cane you”. We suggested he behave during the trip and there would be no risk of him being punished. Instead of promising to do as he was told he informed us seriously “I will sue, mummy if they cane me”.
I asked if he knew how to sue. It involves sending a letter; he needs to practise his riting to send the letter, his reading to understand the reply and his rithmatic to count all that money.
How times have changed.