Why do we subcontract family life?

Some parents seem keen to offload their children

Share
Related Topics

How daft must the ghost of Aldous Huxley feel now. Poor old Huxley would have spent months if not years of his life, dreaming up the foundation of his brave new world. But his vision of a totalitarian authority controlling the psyches of children via hatcheries and hypnopedia was all in vain. We Brits are quite capable of exerting that mass control all by ourselves.

What need we of sleep-learning and parentless care to mould the minds our young when we appear to be slowly but inexorably transferring that right, let alone responsibility, to the state of our own volition? A recent survey suggests that families spend on average only half an hour together on weekdays. This rises to two hours on Saturdays and Sundays. A grand total of eight hours a week, and most of that, according to the Virgin Holidays poll, is spent sitting in silence in front of the television.

That might sound like plenty. I know there are times in my family life when eight hours seemed like eight too many, but to add a little perspective, other recent surveys have shown that women spend more than three hours a week standing in front of a mirror applying make-up, while the average game-player, who also happens to have one child, sits in front of a console, fighting the Second World War again for 12 hours a week.

So, television apart, how are parents using those precious eight hours? Certainly not passing on any useful life skills, judging by the 1,000 or so surveyed last weekend by John Lewis, that most paternal of retailers. It discovered that although the majority believed it was important children should be taught, for example, how to sew on a button, only 15 per cent had bothered to sit down with their child and show them how. Cooking, baking and organisational skills were similarly neglected.

And who do parents think should be teaching these skills? Well, schools would seem the best bet but, of course, they have their work cut out forcing children through the education machine at speed while hitting all their narrow targets.

To bridge this gap, John Lewis, in association with the National Literacy Trust, the Design Museum and the designer Wayne Hemingway, has devised Bringing Skills to Life, a curriculum-based programme for primary school children. The teachers and seven-year-olds taking part in the pilot programmes have, by all accounts, loved the mix of developing literacy and creativity while teaching and learning practical skills. But surely, in a fully functioning society, there should be no need for a retailer, no matter how altruistic, to be going into state schools to give children the experiences that rightfully belong in the home.

There is a bizarre double-think going on. Parents seem happy to entrust the basic survival skill of cooking to teachers, yet don't trust them enough with the academic side of their role, with one in four apparently paying tutors to supplement their offspring's education. It makes perfect sense: time is tight, so why not subcontract the kids for another couple of hours a week, preferably at a time when parents are at home – in the evenings or at weekends. Let's really make family time precious – in the way of rare metals.

And as not every family can afford to spend an additional £22 an hour on top of the tax they have already paid to educate their children, we are in danger of creating a schism that Huxley foresaw in his Alpha and Epsilon castes. The rich become the well educated, while the vast majority become drones to service the machine. Unfortunately, nobody has yet invented soma. Until they do alcohol, drugs, football and The X Factor will just have to do.

"O brave new world, That has such people in't..."

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

What I saw on the night my husband was hit by a car

Rebecca Armstrong
UK border control at Heathrow Airport  

Luckily for Barbara Roche, formerly of the Home Office, Easter reminds us that heaven loves the repenting sinner best

Matthew Norman
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit