“We are disappointed that today’s protests included a significant number of young people playing truant from school. We would urge parents to work in partnership with teachers and the police in dissuading young people from carrying out any further similar unorganised protests” — Sir John Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Good grief. Is it any wonder that kids today think politicians and law-makers in society are out of touch with their concerns? We are constantly being told that children have no interest in politics and society, yet here they are out on the streets, protesting against the war in Iraq, and the best response a senior police officer can come up with is some lame telling-off about playing truant. Get with the program, daddio (as I believe the youngsters all say today). Get some perspective, Mr Stevens, for heaven’s sake! Does missing one day of school really matter all that much, when compared to the chance to passionately state one’s opposition to the war? Here’s a suggestion — if it makes you feel any better, think of these demos as the practical element of a General Studies or PSHE lesson. It’s teaching them about politics and the world. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?
I’m a cynical thirtysomething. While I’m still opposed to the war, I can’t help thinking in my heart of hearts that, yes, protests can still go on, but it’s very unlikely they’re going to stop anything now. The best I find myself hoping for is that it’s all over quickly, and that as few innocent people as possible get hurt. That’s the pragmatic, world-weary approach.
These schoolchildren, however, probably neither know nor care what pragmatism is; they may not even be able to spell it. Good for them. They’re worried about the war, they’re fearful, they think it’s just plain wrong — and because of all that, they’re engaging. Blair should be proud. Any parent whose kid is out marching should be proud too; I would be. And the next morning, I would pack my child off to school with a note for their teacher, reading:
“I’m afraid that little Billy / Johnny / Melanie / Kylie (delete as applicable) wasn’t able to attend school yesterday, as he / she was marching through the streets of London protesting against the war.”
Oh, and when it comes to those all-important anti-war chants, the kids do them far better than the grown-ups. Fact.