Is Britain Failing Its Children?

Attention future U.S. foreign policy and military careerists: do not plan on Britain — America’s closest ally — to call up significant numbers of capable troops to engage in 21st century interventions and wars. The pool of potential service personnel is bound to be found wanting down the line. By all accounts, Britain is failing its children miserably and the negative long term impacts to society are inevitable — and incalculable.

Just ask the kids. UNICEF did. In its 2007 study of youth in 21 industrialized countries, Britain’s children were assessed as “the unhappiest in the Western world” despite living in the fifth richest nation on the planet. By way of confirmation, the July 10 issue of Time Magazine’s European edition featured a cover story on “The Broken Hopes of a Generation.” It consists of a series of snapshot profiles of three twenty-somethings and a 41 year old who have all come to the conclusion that “prosperity’s arc peaked with their parents.” Alas, the problems among UK kids begin much earlier and are far more extensive than a perceived lack of economic alternatives in one’s 20’s,

The UNICEF report concluded that across forty categories which measure child well-being, Britain comes in at the bottom of most rankings. Unfortunately, so does the U.S., lest we get all superior here.

Essentially one in ten of all UK children between 5 and 16 years of age have been recognized as having clinically significant mental health difficulties, and only 25 percent are getting any specialized treatment. UK kids scored highest among all other countries when it came to indulging in bad and risky sexual activities, frequently when drunk or on drugs. The UK has the second highest number of teenage pregnancies and was in the bottom third of countries plagued by low birth weights and a high infant mortality rate. The National Health Service seems unable to turn those figures around.

Assorted news items from last week serve as excellent indicators of what happens when a nation loses its bearings.

One faction is lobbying to have sex education instituted for children beginning at age five, with a diminished ability for parents to protest or to influence what their children are taught. This, of course, assumes parents are on the scene. The UK has the second highest number of children living in single parent families or with step parents. Less than two thirds eat meals together on a regular basis. This might account for the fact that three out of ten UK kids are now clinically obese. Even more shocking, the August 3 edition of The Daily Mail carried an article on how kids up to 7 years of age are coming to primary school still wearing disposable diapers. It seems their parents have been too busy to toilet train them, so teachers have gone public with complaints that they sometimes now have to clean up after "accidents."

At-risk kids also tend to be school truants, so some teachers in Southampton came up with an idea. They offered parents of chronic class cutters £40 coupons to buy themselves curry dinners if their kids improved their poor attendance habits. Five families have won these curry coupons so far and the plan seems to be working. The Campaign for Real Education is against the program which it says bribes parents to do what the law requires of them and get their children to school.

The figures on how many families go to church together on Sundays is — not surprisingly — also very low. To entice one particular market segment (unmarried with children) back to the pews, the Church of England has just announced it will now offer a two-for-one special. Come in and get married, and all your children can be baptized in a single packaged service.

On yet another front, the Bishop of Leicester recently declared that ‘excessive individualism’ is to blame for the problems of Britain’s children, adding that: “Individual freedom and self-determination can only exist if balanced by a proper sense of care and responsibility for others.” He must have been thinking about the popular current art exhibit up in Glasgow in which individuals are invited to freely deface a Bible as excessively as they care to. Nothing like setting a good example for the kiddies. Wonder when this art exhibit will be repeated using a Koran?

Yes, religion is responsible for so much nasty business in the world. That’s why two other respected educators have added to the chorus of confusion by proposing that atheism, which they prefer to call Humanism, should now be taught in schools. The stated goal is to give children the freedom to make decisions about God without undue parental influence.

This line of thought undoubtedly accounts for one of this summer’s biggest successes for British youth — The Atheist Summer Camp. Can’t you just imagine the brochure copy? Let us take your kids out into nature so we can disconnect them from any idea of creative intelligence or a divine force at work. That ought to buck up their excessively individual little spirits. The madness clearly didn’t end with King George the Third.

Returning to the question of America’s closest ally and our possible need to rely on the British to join us in future world conflicts, please take note on who is running the Ministry of Defense at the moment. His name is Bob Ainsworth, a former factory worker from Coventry, who this past week gave a rather off-the-wall interview. Noting that he was frequently the victim of social prejudice because he speaks with a Midlands accent and has a moustache, Ainsworth went on to admit he was “not an intellectual.” He was just a junior cabinet minister when Prime Minster Gordon Brown tapped him for the MOD job during one of the Labour government’s endless cabinet reshuffles. He’s been under fire ever since (as has Boss Brown) for failing to supply necessary equipment to the British troops in Afghanistan and for announcing a plan to reduce compensation payments to wounded soldiers.

This has got to be one of the best counter- productive, anti-incentivizing armed forces recruitment plans ever introduced by any government. Now add to that a potential pool of service personnel populated with unhappy, under educated, obese, atheistic kids, and you have a perfect storm for ensuring defeat.