And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?
I must admit that looking in the mirror these days I see rather too many white hairs and wrinkles. I like to think of the latter as smile lines, rather than worry lines. If you have read my extended bio, you’ll know that, at times, there have been one or two significant worries. However, if I have learned anything in life, it is that life has a lot to offer, so better to make the best of what is on offer.
However, getting older also means that one looks forward with a little more trepidation. I am now the elder member of my direct family, at least with whom I have contact. My parents’ divorce meant a rift with extended family members and limited news from my Welsh side. Getting older also means children grow up and have children of their own, so I now have six grandchildren from 4 months to 10 years and, having remarried, to someone also with three children, one of them is also expecting, next month, so the very young are getting more numerous.
I have to say that, in the current political and economic climate I have concerns for the children and the grandchildren, for a number of reasons, the main one being that they will not have the chance to dream about futures in ways that my generation enjoyed. That could become a serious issue over time, as I think that to dream, to aspire, to work towards a future that can be envisaged, gives people the chance to take positive steps towards that end point, and even if they cannot reach the ultimate goal, the striving can, in itself, become the positive action. Taking decisions for yourself is empowering. Having to wait for others to make decisions, or to give permission on your behalf is disempowering.
Power derives, in some part, from Anglo Norman French (poeir) and Latin (posse) meaning to be able. Therefore power means effectively that I can do something. I am empowered. I have the ability to do something. I can take action.
It seems to me that the legacy to the next generation is possibly less than generous. Where my generation had grants to go to university or teacher training college, the current £9000 a year fees, apart from living, could be a disincentive to someone like me, who came from a modest background, hating debt.
Where, with a little help, and a mortgage based on twice two teacher incomes, we were able to buy a modest house, that same house today would require six times joint teacher incomes and a significantly larger deposit.
Having paid into the teacher pension, I am fortunate to look forward to a regular income from a reasonable age.
Ok, I was born at the right time, that’s fate, but the downside means that I am older and have a shorter time to look forward.
Politics, as in life is about choices. Politicians have the power, are empowered by our votes, to make decisions on our behalf. Sadly, some allow the power to go to their heads and they begin to dictate to the rest of us how things will be. They stop being representatives of the people and start to be autocratic, because they know best. The arrogance of some long serving politicians is quite breathtaking at times. I digress.
It was the case when I went to teacher training college that earlier generations paid for the future generations to be trained effectively, especially in areas of great public need, such as education and health. The need is still there, but the generosity isn’t. At the same time, the pressures, real and ongoing, on the public services means that working as a teacher, doctor and nurse has become less attractive. With a generation of teachers and other public servants in the process of retiring, the need gets greater. We need teachers, doctors and nurses, as well as social workers and so on, if society is to continue.
The gamesmanship of politicians never ceases to amaze me.
To me, university fees and loans are essentially an endowment mortgage, to be repaid over a long period, attracting interest from the beginning. If the student doesn’t earn sufficient to repay the loan, after a period the loan is “wiped out”; in other words, paid for by the taxpayer. It is a deferred public debt, which has an impact, perhaps in twenty years’ time, when a new generation will have to pick up the tab.
At the same time, it is a generation of politicians, who, like me, went to uni etc free or at very low cost, came out at a time when house prices were still within reach and will enjoy a reasonable pension at the end of their working careers. These people, afraid to talk about realities, that it costs a certain amount to run the country as we want, so it needs taxes to be paid and so on, who decided not to ask older people to stump up an extra few pence on income tax to pay for continuing education, but to put this as a debt on future generations.
These things are possible if politicians start to look beyond this week, this year and the next general election and start to look at the longer term, to start to enable people to look forward for themselves, rather than thinking they have to make all the decisions.
This country, to some extent, is becoming disempowered and disabled, as a result of top down politics.
Decisions are all taken at the top and these are then cascaded down through layers of apparatchiks who interpret through their own thinking. It creates a narrow base of ideas, and, if they don’t work, there can appear to be few alternatives.
Public services try to second guess the wishes of Ofsted, who inspect on behalf of the government and even if they feel that they are impartial, the evidence of the past few years has suggested otherwise.
The politics of education has become about control and compliance as it is played with as a political football. It becomes about systems, rather than about people, and the current incarnation with a heavy base of schools controlled beyond local control, enables the top down system to flourish.
Public services are a public good, dealing with individuals as their core business. If decisions affecting people’s lives cannot be made at that level, then individuals suffer, with knock on to broader society. If one suffers, potentially we all suffer. You only have to look at news stories to feel that regularly.
Perhaps it is time for more honesty in politics, not just the smoke and mirrors to get elected, having a clear picture which can be shared, rather than guessed at. Guessing allows rumours to gather pace, for bogus stories to take hold, none of which helps societal harmony.
If you can see it, you can plan it, then try to reach it. Not too bad a mantra.
And yes, it is also ok to make mistakes, if they are admitted, then rectified. That’s life.