Letter: Cures for crime: a return to family values, creative play, moral lessons, caring at home

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Sir: I have been following with concern the wide-ranging debate sparked off by the tragic death of James Bulger. On Radio 4, on Sunday afternoon, we heard children of Liverpool voicing the all-common complaint: ' 's' borin'. There' nuthin' to do round 'ere.'

At the risk of sounding frivolous, might I suggest that one of the underlying reasons for boredom (leading to delinquency) among children, is that they have never learnt to play. Brought up with television, they expect to be entertained effortlessly, they grow up too soon, and their natural creativity and capacity for imaginative play are stifled. Bored, they seek to create excitement in ways that have been demonstrated to them on television and video.

I have heard no one asking: 'What should 10-year-old boys be doing?' The answer to that question is surely 'playing'. Schools which have largely banned the marbles, jacks, hoops, balls and collecting cards of my childhood, are partially responsible for the decline of play. Where better than the school playground and classroom (since television and arcades are out of reach) to encourage participation in non-violent and exciting games of all descriptions, using small, cheap playthings?

Might I suggest that the forgotten rules of marbles, or the forgotten rhymes associated with two-ball and skipping are more appropriate subjects for research by children than the burial habits of ancient Egyptians.

Is there any room in the overloaded national curriculum to include education for leisure? One hobby, one consuming interest is all it takes to lift a child out of boredom.

Let none of us delude ourselves that 'better' education will bring better employment prospects. Unemployment is the bitter reality facing many young people, and they need to be prepared for it by developing resources within themselves, which will enable them to occupy their time harmlessly, in interesting and affordable ways.

Please let us, parents, teachers, and government alike, begin by stimulating real play by every possible means . . . and see if it gets us anywhere.

Yours faithfully,



22 February