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A leading question

‘Do as we say’ lesson lost on youth says Andreas Koumi.

If New Labour continues to follow America’s neo-Conservative example will the millions spent on addressing youth disaffection and our failing education system be money wasted?

“Now listen to me carefully and do as I say,” drawled a charismatic American expert addressing an audience of cynical north London youth workers. His country’s gang culture and gun crime had reached our shores some years earlier and now he’d followed to lecture us on the subject. You know the deal by now. America catches cold, Britain starts sneezing, someone flies across to rub our noses in it.

“Touch your chin,” he instructed, before pointing to his cheek. Each of us followed his lead and pointed to our... cheek.

“I said chin!” he barked and then his stern expression gave way to a broad smile. We looked at one another sheepishly. What kind of youth workers were we, unable to follow such a simple American instruction?

“See? No good TELLING young people how to behave. Y’all gotta think about what you’re DOING. Y’all gotta lead by example.”

And that’s when it dawned on me. Now I understood why gang warfare in his country was so out of control. I understood why thousands of American kids shot and killed each other each year. And I understood why Britain was in danger of going the same way.

After all, America’s leaders never hesitated to wage war against countries they didn’t like. America’s leaders dropped bombs first and asked questions later. And their citizens were simply playing follow-my-leader.

Back in Britain, according to Ofsted, fifty thousand young people are now skipping school every day while some ten thousand 15-year-olds are missing from the education system all together. Perhaps the final straw was when democracy lessons were introduced into the national curriculum. These young people weren’t going to be patronized any longer.

Whether in or out of school, they’d already been taught a disturbing lesson in democracy by our country’s leaders. You can protest all you like, you can stage the biggest demonstration in British history, but we’re still going to ignore the UN, follow America’s lead (as we always do) and wage an illegal war.

Perhaps it’s time Britain’s leaders learnt the lesson young people are trying to teach them.

  • If you want us to respect your institutions, lead by example.
  • If you want us to be good citizens, lead by example.
  • If you want us to adhere to the rule of law, lead by example.
  • If you want us to condemn bullying, lead by example.
  • If you want us to accept those different to us, lead by example.
  • If you want us to solve problems peacefully, lead by example.
  • If you want us to tell the truth, lead by example.

Andreas Koumi is a cynical north London youth worker.