Worrying about `progressive' education these days is surely a bit like worrying about the Cold War

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The Independent Online
I don't know why everyone makes such a fuss about teenagers. My oldest turned 13 last week and it seems to me that it's very like having a small baby in the house again. They sleep and eat most of the time and you get disproportionately excited when you manage to extract a word or a smile out of them.

But a quick check under the bed has revealed that, despite being in possession of a double-barrelled surname, my teenager's preferred reading matter is still the Beano. Obviously what I should have given him for his birthday was my surname to add to his because I see from The Bratler (the reviled junior toffs' magazine that comes with this month's issue of The Tatler) that three names are now de rigueur for the upper classes. Anstruther- Ramsbottom-Winstanley is quite a mouthful, especially if you forget to take the plum out before attempting it. But it's difficult to feel sympathy for all those outraged Tatler treble-barrelled parents objecting to The Bratler's teenage supplement's prescription of naughty things to do before the age of 18. After all, if you read drivel yourself, then you must expect your offspring to follow suit. The incitement to take drugs, get laid and try your hand at shoplifting was, we are told, just a joke. And the upper classes, as we know, have always had a marvellous sense of humour: throwing bread rolls in restaurants, giving each other hilarious nicknames, imagining oneself as a Tampax... the list could go on and on if only I didn't have to go and throw up.

Actually the grown-up (sic - ah, that's better) Tatler is far more objectionable than its offspring. Middle age, we are told, no longer exists (a sure sign that its editor is hitting 40). It's all about attitude, they say, when in fact of course it's all about the scalpel, a well-padded wallet and remembering not to smile after the age of 25. The Fortysomethings are such a greedy generation, they even want to keep youth to themselves. I have no problem at all with getting old - I just hate anyone under the age of 35.

Apart from our surname, age and inability to reach the sock drawer in time (I too was surprised by my fourth pregnancy) I don't have much in common with Jerry Hall. But I do hope that this time the children at the local school which backs on to their garden will be more considerate during afternoon play time and keep the noise down. Last time she was pregnant, Mick Jagger rang the school and asked them to reschedule break so that she could put her feet up in the afternoon without being disturbed. Oh yes, fat ankles - that's another thing we have in common.

Circle time must be riveting at the Jagger children's school. Imported from America, this is a kind of junior group therapy where children "show and tell" and sometimes tell all. I sat in on one the other day and marvelled at the teacher's monarchical ability to be equally interested in one child's new pencil case ("what a lovely pencil case; and is the rubber new too?") and another's mother's love life ("you went to the seaside with Mummy and Brian? Who's Brian? - oh, Mummy's new friend, that's nice"). No doubt Prince Charles would find this all terribly namby pamby stuff, rotting the moral fibre of our nation's young but then it was clear, listening to him the other day, that he knows almost as much about education as he does about architecture. Worrying about "progressive" education these days is surely a bit like worrying about the Cold War. And isn't it extraordinary how men of his class, who had a perfectly miserable time at public school themselves, suddenly develop amnesia when it comes to their own children's schooling? You can see them on open days at small Dickensian private schools, breathing in the twin smells of boiled cabbage and changing room sweat as if they were the elixir of happiness. But then perhaps it's that gene - the one that made men fight at Gallipoli and leave their toe nail clippings in the bath.

If Prince Charles really wants to get involved in state education then he could start by becoming a school governor. He can have my place on the board any time, particularly as I suspect David Blunkett will soon start cracking down on governors and weeding out incompetent ones like me. It's a far more effective way for a parent to nose about in school than that other time-honoured route of coming in "to help" teachers in the classroom, but you can quickly find yourself out of your depth if you're not a natural "committee" type. I thought if I kept quiet the others might not notice I was doing nothing but then my daughter - or is she Andrea Dworkin's? I've often wondered - was elected chair of the Pupil Council. It was a bit pathetic to say I couldn't chair meetings when my six-year-old was a natural and so the Pay Committee fell to me. Me, who is so frightened of money that I have to stop myself saying thank you to cash machines. I have just about grasped the mechanics of committee procedure but I find writing the minutes of meetings absolute torture. After a lifetime of searching for adjectives and atmospheric phrases it's very difficult to give them up - consequently mine read like a strangulated Mills & Boon novel ("at the mention of pay criteria, Mr Brooker raised a sardonic eyebrow"), and I don't think Ofsted would approve. Over to you, Charles

Bridget Jones is on holiday

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