The Telegraph reports today that Wellington College has added courtesy to its curriculum. This entails boys being told to touch the brim of their hats to teachers and take their hands out of their pockets when singing hymns. They will also be expected to open car doors for old people and, more controversially, for women.
The new rules were apparently made in response to a fear that children were not effectively learning such things at home. If this is the case with the children of parents who can afford £25,600 a year to board their sons, what of those lower down the social scale?
I hope that something like Wellington College’s initiative can be adopted – and, crucially, enforced – in even the roughest state school. One can well imagine the Government announcing such a move as part of its continuing ‘Respect’ agenda; that, however, would not be the same thing as truly transforming the behaviour of the nation’s youth.
But, whilst I applaud David Cameron’s statement last week that sloppy dress and poor manners were at the root of declining standards of discipline in schools, there is a danger of relying too much on state functionaries to step into the shoes of parents who have failed – sometimes through no fault of their own – to inculcate decent standards of behaviour in their children.
Without the moral compass and spiritual inspiration provided by a mainstream religion and a stable family unit, the challenging effort to bring up children properly becomes well-nigh impossible.