So what are parents teaching their children ?

In an attempt to teach the use and effect of poetic devices through the analogy of recipes today, I have to admit I have reached a new all-time high in my despair for parenting skills today.

So, you have some eggs, flour, sugar, fat – either margarine or butter – what are we cooking today? images

Silence. Eventually, one of the brighter girls realises this is not a trick spelling question and ventures, “A cake?” 

Mmmm. Ok. Anything else ? What if we find some milk as well ? 

Another, longer silence. “Pancakes ?” Good. Anything else ?

And so  it went on. OK – so baking isn’t their thing. Let’s try – minced meat, onions, tomatoes [I am drawing sketchy images on the board] may be potatoes or spaghetti, carrots even. 

Nothing. No response. Nope, not happening. Finally, I crack – what about – ah ! an interruption – “a pie” is offered. I am encouraged. And get carried away with references to bolognese, shepherd’s pie, cottage pie – adding chilli powder ( !) chilli … 

What struck me most about this lesson was that once I had imparted the concept of ‘ingredients’ – similes, rhyme, metaphors, violent language – being mixed up and used for different effects in poetry the kids had no problem. It was the cooking thing they couldn’t handle.

And it is sad, I realise, now that I am home and showing my own daughter the best way to slice a rib of lamb chops, that what I – the school – have taught the children, they have learned. They are teachable.


In the wake of the ‘horse meat scandal’ it is sad to realise there is a whole generation out there who can not return to the butcher. Frozen beefburger sales are down 43%, according to the BBC this morning. But even that means there is still a huge percentage of the population continuing to rely on Findus and Tesco to throw together a few handfuls of minced beef and a chopped up onion, roll it up in a ball and flatten it for them, so they can chuck ‘beefburgers’ under the grill for dinner.

And it’s not just food that has changed. Families don’t watch television together, children are not read to and crafts have been consigned to some obscure television channels no-one actually turns on. Teachers are no longer able to use family soap operas or film adaptations of great novels as points of reference in lessons about social problems or relationship issues. 16 year olds do not know who Winston Churchill was and there is no longer either pride or shame for the once glorious Empire that the sun never set on. Sewing and card games metaphors are lost on children today. Supermarkets provide mums with ready-made Hallowe’en costumes and literary allusions to Bible stories, myths and fairy tales not adapted by Disney are completely wasted on teenagers today.

In their parents’ quest to earn enough money to provide ipods and laptops, large televisions and fortnights in Costa Cheaper in School Holidays, what price are not only children paying, but their parents too?

My parents must have passed on only fragments, a fraction of their practical knowledge to me: I can’t make a dress and my pastry is decidedly ropey to say the least. But at least I know that meals are put together from raw ingredients; cotton and wool are woven and Cinderella had a step-mother because her own mother had died – her father’s new wife was there to ‘step’ into her place, not because her own mother had moved out and abandoned her to shack up with a better offer.

The generation of children I am teaching today seems to be losing out on all fronts: their own parents weren’t taught to bake or use up Sunday left-overs; they weren’t taught to make their own clothes or toys and they weren’t taught how to create Hallowe’en outfits out of plastic bin bags and 3 ½ miles of sellotape. But they weren’t taught to use the internet, download from itunes or build a blogging site either. The wealth of basic skills passed on for generations is being lost. But today’s parents were not prepared for the new technology their children are now expected to embrace either.

So we have a generation of kids left entirely to the mercy of the formal education system and after-school games’ clubs. And a generation of parents who have missed out on the best years of their children’s lives.

And just when I was beginning to think I was being a bit harsh, accusing young people and their parents of Heavens knows what I came across this:

Blogging students: ‘We’re so well educated – but we’re useless. Guardian February 2013:

Record numbers of students have entered higher education in the past 10 years, but despite being the most educated generation in history, it seems that we’ve grown increasingly ignorant when it comes to basic life skills.

Looking back on my first couple weeks of living in student halls, I consider myself lucky to still be alive. Unbeknown to freshers, there are many hidden dangers lurking in the dirty corners of student accommodation.

I have survived a couple of serious boiling egg incidents and numerous cases of food-poisoning, probably from filthy kitchen counters. Although some of my clothes have fallen victim to ironing experimentation, I think I have now finally acquired all the domestic skills I missed out on in my modern education… 

A really good way to spend the next ten minutes of your life: watch this –

This entry was first posted on 27 February 2013.


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