Something Else That is None of the Government’s Business

James comments favourably over at OoL and I have commented there regarding this daft “Olympics legacy” cockwaffle. And, of course, we have a compliant media trumpeting the facile jingoism of it all. Oh, yeah, let’s force children to take part in sport –  never mind that they might loathe it, it’s good for them, so that’s all okay then.

The argument that forcing them to learn literacy and numeracy is okay so sport is merely an extension, falls at the first hurdle. Literacy and numeracy are essential life skills. Try getting by without them. Okay, yes, it is possible, but it is extremely difficult. Also, it is arguable that instilling children with academic subjects that will be essential to them later in life is necessary for their employment prospects. Unless they want to be a professional footballer, compulsory sport won’t.

That said, it is a parental responsibility, not the state’s. So too with things like exercise and diet. I recoiled in horror when James suggested that Saint Jamie Bloody Oliver was right.

On the first, that Jamie Oliver’s attempt at healthy eating in schools should receive such mockery and that it’s even been turned into some sort of libertarian issue is amazing.

It’s not amazing at all, James. Oliver forced his agenda on a weak-minded cabinet using the power of celebrity and the television cameras to do so. This was blatant bullying of a nation abusing the legislative process to do so. Of course it is a libertarian issue. Childrens’ diets are a matter for their parents, not Oliver and not the state.

Games in school did nothing for me despite being compulsory. All they succeeded in doing was to put me off. When forced onto the football pitch, I would wander over to the edge of the field and daydream until the hour and a half of torture was over. If the ball happened to come my way, I would let it pass, stepping aside if necessary. In what way did this engender in me a team spirit? It didn’t. I still loathe football to this day. On the other hand, I was fitter than the majority of my peers being able to outrun and out jump them with ease because I was a keen long distance cyclist. I could also hit a gold with an arrow and held a junior green belt in judo –  but this counted for nothing at a school so deeply unimaginative that if the sport didn’t involve two teams squabbling over a ball on a muddy pitch, it didn’t exist.

The sports I loved and excelled at were extra curricular, so enforced team sports were a waste of time and effort. They still are and arguing for a return is short sighted.

Teachers should bring back competition in every school and more people should volunteer at local sports clubs, they said.

Yes, well, if we didn’t have the bureaucracy of the CRB check that assumes all adults –  especially male ones –  are paedophiles, maybe they might be more inclined.

Here’s an idea; close down the department of culture and sport and let us make up our own minds and our own decisions. Let head teachers make their own decisions about what sport they want to offer their charges and let parents choose accordingly.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so ignorant of what’s happening to most kids of secondary school age. Puberty itself is bad enough, with all those rampant hormones distracting you. But once you get through puberty, there’s a perfectly natural tendency to rebel against authority as you realise that (a) “grown-ups” are not, in fact, omniscient, and (b) you have a mind, and opinions, of your own. You’re coming into your own.

    We’ve created an education system that generally ignores our own evolution. 200 years ago, nobody thought twice about sending children as young as 8 years old down a mineshaft. (And not just boys either.) You could be married by the age of 12. What we consider an “unacceptably high rate of teen pregnancies” was actually perfectly normal for millennia.

    We *evolved* to grow up like this, yet there is still this continued insistence in shovelling everyone through an education system that forces you to fight natural tendencies in the name of learning. No wonder so many people hated their schooldays.

    As for team sports in schools: they’re deliberately designed to separate the leaders (i.e. management / officer material) from the led (employees / cannon fodder). Unfortunately, not all individualists are interested in leading. Our education system doesn’t really cater well for such people, because creativity and individualism are generally frowned upon.

    This is mostly a legacy of the Christian influence on Western education. The Abrahamic religions in particular are very fond of their shepherding metaphors. (The congregation is supposed to go “Baaa!” while the shepherds in the Technicolor desert robes, and gold-plated crooks get to round them up and tell them how to live their lives. Sheep certainly aren’t supposed to get creative; those that do are usually encouraged to join the shepherds!)

  2. a school so deeply unimaginative that if the sport didn’t involve two teams squabbling over a ball on a muddy pitch, it didn’t exist.

    A masterful summing-up! The situation is all too reminiscent of my own school days – the local farmer used to walk his cattle through the sports field for milking twice a day, so it wasn’t just mud, either.

    There is, I think, an elephant on the playing field; all this talk of the necessity of sport in school is really intended to make up for the shortcomings of parents who won’t or can’t take their children to the many sporting activities already on offer outside school.

    If I had any faith in team sports breaking the cycle of idleness and dependence in such families I would be more sanguine about the whole thing; as it is, it looks like a major administrative and financial imposition on a system already stressed by the ever-changing demands of the national curriculum.

  3. “Unless they want to be a professional footballer”.
    Trouble is these days, too many kids want to be a professional footballer and nobody tells them it’s a pipe dream anymore. Teachers are supposed to accept any crazy career ambition as something good to strive for.
    I remember the story of the blind (or deaf) girl who wanted to be a CSI because Haratio Cain was her hero. The attitude was, why can’t a blind girl (or deaf) have the same right to be a CSI as someone who wasn’t blind (or deaf)?
    Nobody pointed out that the life of a real CSI bears absolutely no resemblence to the telly and there are so few real CSI’s and so many people who want the job because of the telly, that the chances of actually becoming one are remote in the exctreme.
    It’s the same with kids who want to be footballers or x-factor stars etc. Soemone needs to point out the harsh facts of life.

    We had quite varied sports in our school for the first three years. I hated some of it and enjoyed some. That was the same with all the lessons though.

    • There were plenty of boys in my class who wanted to play professionally for their preferred team. All of them had to lower their sights eventually as none of them did. ‘Twas ever thus, I suspect.

  4. Your opinion of football totally mirrors my own LR. Unfortunately I was nowhere near rebellious enough to just refuse to take part, so I would make a pathetic attempt to join in and probably screw the game up for everyone else in the process. As you stated, the choice of sports that we were forced to indulge in were, football and rugby in the winter, cricket and tennis in the summer. The list of possible sports must be just about infinite and we were forced to take part in four. I became very fit and active after I left school, taking part in sports that I enjoyed and on my own terms.

  5. Sport in schools, like many parts of the education system, is a hangover from the days of boarding schools where kids had games lessons because, well, they didn’t have parents to take them out to do sport regularly. You had to build it into the school day.

    After-school clubs are a much better idea. The kids that like netball or cricket can play it. The kids who like chess can play chess.

    Incidentally, the idea that kids should be competitive at all ages is exactly what the FA has decided should not be done. Their junior coaching programmes (I think up to 10 years old) are to based around playing on small pitches and technique over results. And that’s how kids are coached to play football in Europe.

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