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Why Joanna Lumley is wrong about British children

kids6There’s been much hoo-ing and indeed haa-ing in the media this week over an interview given by Joanna Lumley in which she heartily declares that kids today should be shoved up chimneys and fed on nowt but mouldy pop-tarts ‘til their manners improve and their morals match up to the heady days of her youth, when she declares the only crime during her entire time she was at school was when, “a fountain pen went missing”.

OK so I confess I made up the chimney/pop tart bit, but her message was simple: “We are very slack with our moral codes for children these days. Nowadays, children find it laughably amusing to shoplift and steal. We weren’t even allowed to drop litter”

Now, let me make one thing crystal clear; I’m not about to launch into an attack on Queen Jo of Lumley. It was she who smiled sweetly and listened patiently when she was unlucky enough to be the victim of my first ever cringe-tastic TV interview and for that kindness I shall remain forever grateful, since then she’s had me guffawing as Patsy in Ab Fab, has championed the noble Gurkhas and rocked casual khaki whilst adventuring up the Nile. I am a huge fan.

However, (deep breath) I think she’s wrong to dismiss an entire generation of children as a bunch of lawless slackers who, when not cheating by using their computers in class, are skiving off school to rampage from shop to shop with armfuls of stolen booty, cackling gleefully and lobbing litter as they go, like modern day Fagin’s gangs with iPhones.

I can only imagine one or a combination of the following happened: as Joanna is promoting an Enid Blyton series she’s narrating on Radio 4 she got high on lashings of freshly squeezed lemonade and overdid the ginger cake just before the interview, and when pressed, felt compelled to pass comment on the youth of today compared to the good old days of hidden treasure and romps through the woodland with George and Dick.

Despite her years of experience dealing with the press, even the most media savvy can be caught out. Having been in a similar situation myself, when only the juiciest quotes are lumped together to make the biggest splash, I imagine she’s frustrated that her comments have come out as so extreme.

She should know as well as anyone in the public eye that rational, measured discussion do not make good copy, but ranting swipes at our kids always sells papers and fuels debate.

Maybe on the way to the interview she confronted a shoplifter or witnessed a cheeseburger wrapper being tossed over a privet bush, who knows.

Where Joanna goes wrong is that she condemns all kids and, by default, all parents. My children know right from wrong, because I lead by example and I teach them the moral code of life, just like my mum did for me and her mum did for her.

When I was about six-years-old I dropped a sweet wrapper and was made to retrieve it; it got caught in a gust of wind and danced back up our road. I’ll never forget chasing it up the street or how cross mum was I’d dropped it in the first place. Littering remains one of my pet-hates and my children wouldn’t dream of doing it.

The code continues through the remaining sins of stealing, lying, rudeness, disrespect, laziness, unkindness, etc.

The vast majority of parents take their roles very seriously and treat it as a matter of pride that their kids know the basic rights and wrongs. To suggest all kids these days run wild and thieve and revel in being morally corrupt whilst we sit back and sign their sick notes and condone their crimes is ludicrous and insulting.

Of course, kids these days aren’t perfect, far from it. But to suggest all kids are morally slack now is as fanciful and incorrect as saying all kids were morally perfect in Joanna’s days, and if she truly believes that then I think she’s reminiscing through not only rose tinted specs, but a pink visor and a scarlet windscreen.

I even fear greater crimes were maybe committed at Joanna’s school but were kept from her sensitive soul at the discretion of the headmistress.

Since time began there have been good kids, naughty kids and the ones who mosey along somewhere in the middle trying to work out what’s what but eventually sprout into decent enough members of society.

I’m sure even in cave man times you’d have the rebel boys chucking rocks at passing bison just for fun and in the days of Roman rule there was probably a gang of girls who smoked and shouted abuse from the back seats of the no. 43 chariot.

I remain a fan of Joanna’s and I’m sure the discussions this article have prompted are healthy and interesting and may encourage us as a society to help support those parents who struggle to control their children and lead by example.

In the meantime, if Joanna fancies restoring her faith in today’s youngsters, she’s welcome to come visit me and my children or any of my teenage nieces and nephews, as long she brings some ginger cake.

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