The summer holidays are upon us. School’s out. Prizes have been awarded, books handed in, school bags chucked in the cupboard and all too soon posters will appear in the shops advertising their back to school offers. Yes, the academic year has ended. The signs are plain to see.
Modern existence seems to demand that every minute of every day of a young person’s life is filled with “insta-worthy” moments and as a consequence pressure builds unnecessarily on our young people. Little wonder there is a crisis of adolescent mental health. On a more mundane level certain tourist attractions are suffering from long queues of people waiting to take the vital dignity preserving selfie to demonstrate individuality. What a paradox. How glad I was to hear earlier in the week that certain powerful social networks had paused due to technical issues; respite for some I suspect. It seems that holidays are prime candidates for promoting inferiority. If you aren’t living it large in five star luxury or paragliding off the Matterhorn then you may as well admit that you have failed. Or not.
Just as there is a pressure on young people to be doing something spectacular there is sometimes a pressure on parents to ensure that every minute of every holiday day is filled with productive and enriching activity. I was interested to learn yesterday that the ‘cahier de vacances’ was the invention of booksellers rather than the product of great educational research. Holidays and museum visits go together hand in hand. Summer courses abound. I’m all for enriching and I’m also all for a bit of loafing. Young people need some down time. Not eight weeks of idleness but by the same token they don’t deserve the pressure of twenty-four hour time filling and constant judgement. The novelist D.H. Lawrence wrote a lengthy essay on The Education of the People and gave the following stern and rather counterintuitive parenting advice:
“How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.”
I’m not sure I’d go so far, but there may well be something in this. I rather hope that over the coming few weeks there will be a healthy balance of productive activity, enjoyable time with family and friends and indeed just a little bit of idleness. By way of a challenge if one is necessary I’d simply ask pupils to read at least three “good” books, write a couple of postcards (because after all who doesn’t like receiving something nice in the post rather than a bill) and spending some time out in the fresh air. A bit of social media, some gaming and some idle chat might also have a rightful place in this holiday. If the right balance is struck then a great holiday will have been had and time will have been well spent. Best of all it will mean that students will return in September ready for a new challenge and full of energy.
Have a great summer one and all.