...But to be young was very heavy'as Wordswsorth so nearly put it.
If I had my time again I'd be feeling extremely paranoid. The pressure starts being heaped on at primary school, where – as I mentioned last time – not only are the hoops you have to jump through getting smaller and higher, they are held by fools (or lions led by donkeys: look at the comments to that David Crystal blog I cited, and you'll see a good and conscientious teacher being forced into the goons' short-sighted bidding by an inflexible marking scheme).
Then there's secondary school, where the hoops are not only smaller and higher, now they're ringed with flame. Where Victorian schools had notices saying Boys and Girls, they should now say
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate(commonly mis-translated as 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here'. It's 'all hope'.)
And when the kids get through the hoops anyway, there's the ritual annual decrying of standards. 'More of them should be failing' snarl the hounds of hell (oh yes, I'm still working on the Dante theme).
In my day, the lower sixth was a breathing space. In my case apart from the UCCA thing (that's what UCAS was called in those days), I took on a couple of new O-levels (one in an A-level subject I was doing from scratch, and one in a new language). And I spread my wings a bit musically and socially. My lower sixth was fun and rewarding and I learnt a lot of value. 'Bugger "value", what about price?' snarled the hounds. So ASs were invented, another nail in the coffin of education.
What I thought was the final straw was tuition fees. I really don't know how anyone who voted for them (let alone opposed them with their fingers crossed behind their backs) can sleep at night. Still, 'It's only 27,000 quid, and they don't have to repay a penny until they're earning a decent whack.' And, let's face it, the chances of earning any kind of whack are pretty remote.'
This solves another problem for the young. They have little chance of getting a mortgage. 'But they couldn't repay a mortgage anyway while they're repaying their student loan. It's a Win-Win!'
So young people's paranoia is fed for the first quarter of their lives. Until they're about 20. But the hell-hounds weren't finished yet. 'How else can we load the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune against the young...? Got it. Housing Benefit.'
We're filling the streets with angry young men. And somehow I don't think it's just a revolution in theatre we're fomenting. Today's Jimmy is armed not just with an ironing board but with the power of the Internet.
I wish I could see an up-side to this, but 'hell' and 'handcarts' spring to mind.
Update 2013.10.08.17:45 – last sentence tweaked, and changed the title to deter any NetNanny software that may disapprove..
Update 2012.10.15.14:40 – Footer updated
Update 2014.04.25.18:10 – And again:
Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs – but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)
And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.
Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.
Freebies (Teaching resources: over 40.000 views and nearly 5,600 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,000 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)
** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.