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Society needs to go back to the classroom.

Sir, - Over 130 years ago John Ruskin wrote 'Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave'. Also, 'let us reform our schools and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons.'

Little has changed. It follows that without orderly behaviour, one cannot impart factual knowledge.

We are given to understand that in too many schools, bullying and physical violence towards pupils is rife, teachers are under a threat of violence from pupils and parents and there are high levels of truanting.

Such problems are rare in the private sector and at grammar schools since pupils and parents are fearful of losing their place; there will be many non-selective state schools which are comparable but clearly there are many which are not.

It is perceived that anarchic behaviour in schools was less common in the past. Moreover, there used to exist, for males, a two-year corrective period called National Service which subjected 18-20 year olds, including the unemployed and unemployable, to a period of occupational therapy and discipline.

They were largely removed from society at an age when delinquent behaviour is at a high. Those who tried to buck the system simply served longer. How many of today's equivalents are in prison, on probation, doing community service or sleeping rough? I am not advocating a return to National Service - merely reflecting on its loss!

Who can provide a school environment where the threat of violence is minimised? In today's circumstances, this often cannot be provided by teachers. I believe it should be the police - their services purchased by the education authority.

In my experience though, some police may become, as with doctors and nurses, cynical and disillusioned. The overwhelming majority of policemen approach their work with a high social conscience and a desire to serve the community rather than merely deal with crime. They make good role models - arguably better than some teachers!

We hear of a major city store employing policemen to patrol it and of proposals to site police desks in shopping centres, libraries and employment agencies. What better site than schools for community policing if we are to follow John Ruskin's advice?

Other categories of enforcement and stewarding could be involved analogous to railway police and traffic wardens but closely associated with mainstream policing.

'Sin bins' in schools are to become commonplace. That will mean more potential troublemakers in and around schools, creating an even greater need for effective pupil (and parent) control.

Crime is highly expensive to society, not only because of the cost of stolen items but because of the cost of insurance and of securing vehicles, houses and commercial premises; the vandalism of bus shelters, traffic bollards and transport; graffiti; muggings.

Civil liberty is under threat not from policing, but because one feels under threat from crime in the home or on the streets.

In the short term, we may need more prison places - the inmates of which are also sad victims, often starting as excluded pupils. We need to improve discipline in schools and also on our streets - with zero tolerance, rather than zero policing.




Meat means


Sir, - Re Ursula Bates' letter (Post, Apr 28). I can honestly say that after virtually 50 years in the meat trade, I am in very reasonable condition! Many of my trade colleagues over the years have also been very fit - never missing a day's work.

The vegetarian argument I consider to be flawed. I would be quite happy to take Ursula Bates along to meet many butchers who are fit and very well.


Past President,

Birmingham Butchers Association.

On a fast

track to nowhere

Sir, - Have you noticed that whenever major new developments are proposed for Birmingham, the need to provide good, modern, public transport links is always given the highest priority? When the final plans emerge, however, the only thing ever mentioned is the number of parking places to be provided.

We really are still getting nowhere!



Alarm bells for

bus drivers

Sir, - A very dangerous situation exists on every one of the hundreds of buses I have taken in the West Midlands, so the problem is probably endemic.

Bus drivers do not stop when the bus 'stopping' button or cord is activated by a passenger, therefore frail and elderly people feel they must walk forward to the door while the bus is still at speed, to show the driver their intention to alight.

In London, and in the US, buses stop when the 'stopping' signal is given by passengers so that frail passengers can remain seated until the bus has come to a stop.

It is absurd to expect anyone except a Hollywood stuntman to endanger himself by standing on a speeding platform moving at 30mph (and often more). Sudden braking would cause the frail passenger to be thrown against the windscreen, resulting in injury and quite possibly death. I have witnessed many near accidents.

Seatbelts are required in cars but the basic safety precaution of staying seated on a moving bus in the Midlands is impossible for anyone who wants to alight.

Many times on many routes, I have tested the system, rung the bell, remained seated and each time the bus passed the stop. I have questioned bus drivers as to the official policy on this - do passengers have to walk forward on a speeding bus for it to stop, or should the bell alone bring the bus to a halt? None had an answer.

What procedure are bus operators and bus drivers required to follow at the sound of the 'stopping signal?' Are passengers required to walk forward on a speeding bus to bring it to a halt? If not, the public and the drivers should be informed.


Brown's Green,


Time we all

backed Britain

Sir, - As the current situation appears to be the 'Trafalgar' of West Midlands manufacturing, should not the current 'Nelson' of the fleet be sending the signal: 'England expects that every man will buy a Rover.'?

Regrettably we have all in our way contributed to the downfall of our industries by not giving them a strong home market.

We should not despair - the example of Rolls-Royce Aero engines is there for us to emulate.



A beastly thing

to say . .

Sir, - In the comment column (May 2) referring to the horrific racist attack carried out by three mindless human beings you say 'The three men - they hardly deserve to be afforded the title, animals would be more appropriate.' I find this most offensive apart from chasing the odd rabbit, I lead a fairly blameless life and my owner says he increasingly prefers my company to many people he comes into contact with. Please retract!


c/o David Laugharne,



A cool head

over racism

Sir, - The editorial ('Dangers of the race card', Post Apr 10) was equally critical of Conservative and Labour for their handling of the debate on asylum-seekers. It was good and is worth referring back to. Consistent with what the editorial was saying, I think there's a need for much level-headedness all round in dealing with asylum-seekers.

I notice a cross-section of people from the right of centre have said that they are being accused of racism unfairly.

Those who do accuse people of racism wildly and unfoundedly are playing into the hands of those people who really are racists and the far right, who know full well that there will always be some people who will make the mistake of accusing persons of racism without properly being able to substantiate it. Racists and the far right know that some will play into their hands.

Actual violence is despicable, whether to black or white.



Put funds where

they are needed

Sir, - I find it hard to believe (Post, Apr 24) that Birmingham City Council is donating pounds 2,000 to the Fierce Festival - a show about homosexual issues. Surely putting this money towards the renovation of the Birmingham Town Hall would be of much better use and certainly to me is much more important.

The Town Hall is now looking dreadful and certainly does not keep up with the many improvements taking place in Birmingham. Can anyone tell me when work on it is going to begin?

Also I'm sure Lottery money which, according to your article, is going to be used for the same festival could be put to much better use.


Sutton Coldfield.

Strains of the

political life

Sir, - It's 6.30 am, the coffee is stone cold and the gulped breakfast is beginning to repeat! Already I've counted and bundled the leaflets and it hasn't started raining - yet.

Time to catch the early bus with a few hundred political leaflets before work. Any delays and my boss - not a fan of democracy I fear - will fuss that I'm a few minutes late.

Traffic is light, the dogs are drowsy and with any luck early risers will mistake me for that honourable profession of a postman rather than political crank.

I'm not sure what the party policy is on compulsory euthanasia but if I hear another groan about junk mail, I'll personally invent our 'strangulation' agenda.

Let 'em live as white farmers in Zimbabwe or Albanian in Kosovo if they don't value our democracy, I say.

If only I could avoid the alsatian at number 35, remember to duck the hanging baskets next door or not trip over the gnomes round the corner, we could win this ward! Some hopes!

At least 'the enemy' have the same troubles. I wonder whether the lazy voters who could not be bothered to turn out appreciate the troubles that democrats of all parties go to?


Kings Heath

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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 5, 2000
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