Letter: An answer for youth suicide

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on youth suicide in prison ('Suicide message to politicians', 30 August), together with the widespread hooliganism, vandalism and violence among male adolescents, make it clear that there is something desperately wrong with the way we educate our young men.

The present emphasis on academic success as the acme of being educated leaves large numbers of the young feeling rejected, resentful and angry. These are the psychological roots for drugs, crime - and despair. The antidote for this is that schools, while retaining and respecting an academic content, should aim to be communities in which all the young can gain esteem while learning sensitivity and social responsibility through a range of exciting and challenging activities that are not subject to the examination yardstick.

Among other things, educating for social and moral maturity through collaborative experience requires small classes as the basis of the school community. This advantage can be bought by the wealthy in independent schools at up to pounds 12,000 a year per child. Most other children are left in a mass scramble with which over- pressed teachers have to do as best they can.

In such conditions, thousands of sadly immature young males are turned out into society year by year. Can we not afford anything better? The cost of over- sized classes is astronomical.

Yours faithfully,

JAMES HEMMING

Teddington, Middlesex

30 August

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