The Blog

Nostalgia Certainly Ain't What It Used to Be

This country has gone to the dogs more times than we've collectively had hot dinners. We went there when we gave up the Empire, when we joined the EU and when we let ITV get their hands on Match of the Day for a year. And that's not even taking into consideration all the times we've gone to pot, or headed to hell in a handcart.

This country has gone to the dogs more times than we've collectively had hot dinners. We went there when we gave up the Empire, when we joined the EU and when we let ITV get their hands on Match of the Day for a year. And that's not even taking into consideration all the times we've gone to pot, or headed to hell in a handcart.

Our latest visit has been brought about because young people seem to be passing their exams with better grades than ever before. The foolish among you may interpret this as a good thing, however, you're probably young and don't know any better, so we'll excuse your ignorance. No, in reality, exam success is just another example of Broken Britain/Rip-Off Britain/Over-The-Top Insult Britain (delete as appropriate).

According to the Education Secretary Michael Gove and his disciples, young people's unprecedented results are a clear indication that the tests themselves are getting easier. Gove wants to replace GCSEs with something similar to the O-level/CSE system that preceded them, as he believes they are an example of society's "dumbing down". This phrase is so annoying you barely get a chance to contemplate just how stupid it is. One: "dumbing" isn't a word; look it up. And two: even if it was a word, the "down" bit is completely redundant, you're hardly likely to "dumb up" are you? A good rule of thumb to apply here is if someone uses it, they're an idiot.

Not being an expert on education policy myself, I'll have to leave the finer points of this debate to the more informed, (argumentative), among you. What does interest me however is the assumption that the younger generation cannot possibly be getting smarter, exams simply must be getting easier. We hear a lot about the innocence of youth, but what of the arrogance of adults who insist that things were always better in their day?

Perhaps it's jealousy that leads people of a certain age to belittle the achievement of those significantly younger than them. Or perhaps insecurity. Most likely though, they're just wankers. Either way, the clamour from the likes of the Conservatives and the Daily Mail for a mythic past, in which everybody stopped to say hello on the street, nobody locked their doors and we all knew all the words to all the verses of God Save the Queen is ridiculous. Strangely, the polio deaths, the rationing, the slum housing and the racial discrimination, seem to be cited rather less frequently as examples of what made Britain great.

When we hear of generational conflict we tend to think of teens rebelling against their parents. Episodes like this remind us that resentment runs both ways. And while I'm sure it'll happen to me one day, right now I feel ever so slightly defensive when people assume the worst of those knife-wielding, hoodie-wearing, STI-carrying little scamps.