Having lived in your country for two years, I must say that I quite enjoyed it in all but one respect: your youngsters!
I have never been to any country where you will find ten or eleven year olds out on the street around midnight. I cannot think of a developed country where the old are afraid of venturing outside for fear of the young. Nor can I think of any country where there is such overwhelming mutual disrespect between adults and the young.
As a teacher who has taught for two years in the UK before returning to teach in Oz, I believe I am well qualified to make a comparitive comment on the youth of the UK. Some of the fault of which must lie with the English education system.
The UK's education system is quite simply appalling beyond belief. While I am aware that those of you who were lucky enough to be able to afford a public (i.e.: a private) school in the UK or those talented enough to pass the 11+ test and hence be admitted to a Grammar School would find nothing wrong with your education, the remaining majority of England's youth would probably have a differing opinion. If they knew any better, that is.
I am aware that I can only draw on the experience of teaching in one school to illustrate my point. However, I "taught" in a comprehensive school which was the highest achieving non grammar school in the local area. I shudder to think of how bad those schools below mine on the league tables must have been.
My first day there was daunting indeed. The school itself was just an eyesore, with a high wrought iron fence surrounding it and CCTV cameras covering every angle possible. Twelve hundred-odd kids were all taught in this one large ugly box like building. The "library" was not much bigger than a classroom and, in fact, was used as a classroom by the English department. At lunch time, the kids had few places to go other than the canteen or the playgrounds as many areas had been cut off due to the appalling behaviour of a sizeable minority.
The grounds, however, were just disgusting beyond belief. Several squadrons of seagulls constantly purveyed the litter strewn fields for their next meal; I was defecated on several times whilst on playground duty. Pommy children are far too precious to be asked to pick up litter, even if they are seen dropping it! Any teacher from any other part of the world witnessing this would be as incredulous and appalled as I was. Strangely, the Pommy teachers seemed to think it was quite normal!
"Teaching" there was nothing short of farcical. The behaviour in some of my classes could only have been likened to those found in a chimpanzee cage where LSD had been placed in the water. Now, I am considered a "tough but fair" teacher who places a high priority on maintaining discipline in the class, but this was nigh-on impossible in the chimp enclosures.
It took me some time to realise the ramifications of the all-invasive English class system: kids had to behave for the "first class" (ie: senior teachers) who actually had some authority and could discipline the unruly brats. Yet they had little regard for the "second class" teachers such as myself whose only recourse was to go with my hat in my hand to the first class teachers hoping that they would have the good grace to punish the latest in a long list of transgressions.
It should be noted that any punishment that I could secure against a kid could easily be overturned with the phonecall of an angry parent. These verminous parents were quite willing to take the word of a fourteen-year-old with every reason to lie over the word of an adult professional with no reason to lie.
We had a parent actually show up at the school once, marched down to the isolation room where her absolutely appalling daughter was being contained and walked out with her! The next day she was back in the classrooms dong what she did best: destroying everyone elses' future so that it would match her own.
Poms just don't have the courage to stand up to the scourge that is their underclass. I suppose that they rightfully feel responsible for it.
Of course, the type of classrooms I am referring to were "lower band" classrooms. These kids had been given a test at age 11 and told their fortunes. It must be devastating at such a young age to be told that highest paying career that will ever be avaiable to them will be found in Amsterdam's Red Light District. I actually don't blame these kids for their behaviour, it is clearly the fault of England's obsession with class; therefore the need to stream kids at a young age into the "herrenvolk" or the "untermenschen."
Now I knoooow that on this blog, there will be someone who will say something like: "You can't generalise all UK youth that way," or "you can't just use your experience to slate all of England's youth." Please spare me, I am not speaking for all of them but what many see as being a sizeable minority.
Aussie, Kiwi, Canadian, Irish and American teachers considering going to work in the UK: be prepared! Get in a union as early as possible (NASUWT will take foreign teachers); speak up to the first class teachers when they can't be bothered; create non-confrontational lessons. The reason that there are so many teacher placement agencies making a fortune by sending us over there is because so very few poms in their right minds would become a teacher there.
Well, thanks for listening. I clearly had a lot to get off my chest. Now you know that Aussies can whinge too. It probably is true that Poms invented whinging and Aussies perfected it, this must go also for cricket and Rugby!