Letter: Crime: working-class pride and middle-class prejudice

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The Independent Online
I AGREE with Anna Coote's diagnosis in the families, children and crime debate.

It is instructive to look back at the Thirties, with their record unemployment and low crime levels. Under-18s were exempt from paying National Insurance and, with the school-leaving age at 14, they got the few jobs available. With no social security, people were glad of any job no matter how poorly paid. At the age of 18 they were usually sacked and replaced by new school-leavers.

Naturally they were bitter about this, but after four years of hard work and discipline, of getting up early and working long hours, they were mature, hard-working and mostly honest young adults. Today, unacademic youngsters are forced to stay on at school. They see it as increasingly irrelevant and respond by opting out - of both school and society.

We must never return to those bitter years, but young people need challenges and incentives, with constructive outlets for their energy and enthusiasm. Only then will they feel mature enough to shoulder the responsibilities of parenthood.

E Jenkins