It’s nanny state madness

PUBLISHED: 13:26 02 February 2007 | UPDATED: 22:33 28 May 2010

One has only to watch television, read newspapers, even walk the streets and pathways of our towns and villages, to see the evidence of a public desperately in need of protection from itself. Many people would, understandably, see this as a powerful argum

One has only to watch television, read newspapers, even walk the streets and pathways of our towns and villages, to see the evidence of a public desperately in need of protection from itself.

Many people would, understandably, see this as a powerful argument for the existence of our nanny state.

Others, equally understandably, might conclude that our flimsy, irresponsible approach to life is such a deep-seated malaise that something more subtle and meaningful than short-term government tinkering is needed.

I subscribe to the latter view. And although it sounds simplistic, and is admittedly a well-worn cliché, the cause of much of our woeful negativity and lack of respect for anything is largely down to bad parenting.

There are exceptions (and I'm sure readers will have their own lists) but, by and large, the nanny state is more prattle than practicality.

Which leads me to two very nasty examples of bureaucratic nannying which surfaced during the past week.

Firstly, there's the saga of a 10-year-old boy's school lunch box, followed a day later by news that sixth formers applying for university places are having to declare if their parents have degrees.

Probably thinking he was striking a blow for healthy eating, a headteacher ordered a youngster out of the school dining hall after chocolate cake and cheese biscuits were found in his packed lunch.

The boy's father complained and now, thankfully, the lad is back in school hall every lunchtime, eating exactly what he likes.

The father's view is that children who play energetic games, need fat and sugar in their diet, but his argument with the school, in Larkfield, Kent, was that it had no right to look inside his son's lunch box and certainly not make him eat by himself away from his friends.

Sinister forces are also at work with university applicants. The Government wants more working class people to go to university, and this patronising intrusion is part of the strategy to achieve that.

The sad point is that however well-intentioned these interventions may appear, neither will achieve anything.

Snooping in pupils' lunch boxes will make youngsters even more resentful than they are now and make no difference to the nation's obesity problem.

Checking if parents have degrees will not cure the inability of young people to count effectively or use their own language properly, let alone identify them as candidates for degree-level education.


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