Schooling In The 21st Century : After The Credit Crunch
Schooling In the 21st Century : After the Credit Crunch
“My Dad’s a Director of a bank,” said Eric proudly. “What’s yours?” he asked.
“Mine ‘s rich,” said Peter.
“Oh,” said Eric, “But what does he do?”
“He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t have to.” Peter seemed proud of his father’s ‘occupation’.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked Eric. He was at an age where he loved asking questions. He felt his growing knowledge intensely, and wanted to prove it to everyone else. Some of the other kids thought he was getting to be a bit of a nuisance, but he did not realise.
“I want to be a soldier,” said Peter. “I want to fight the Germans.”
“My dad says soldiers don’t make any money,” said Eric quite cleverly. He was full of knowledge beyond his years. “The Germans aren’t our enemies these days. Maybe the Russians or some muslims.”
“How did your Dad make his money? You didn’t tell me yet,” demanded Eric.
“My Dad used to work at a factory,” said Peter, “then he won the lottery and finished working. Now he doesn’t work, but he does things with his money.”
“My Dad doesn’t think lottery winners should be able to send their children to this school,” Eric informed Peter.
Peter asked, “Why?” He had never heard of this before and could not even imagine why anyone should think his father could not send him to this school. Because he could not imagine why he should not be attending this school, he could not worry about it. He was proud of his father. His father was generous and rich. He paid for presents, toys and computer games. Peter always had the best and the newest of everything. When he grew up his father was going to buy him a fast car.
“My Dad says your Dad hasn’t earned any of his money and you don’t belong amongst us,” said Eric. “My Dad works very hard, so hard that I don’t see him very much.”
Outside the school gates were the kids who could not afford education, and their unemployed, or virtually unemployed parents, gathered. They often crowded around the barbed wire fence and the gates, waiting for the end of school, when the kids of the rich would be bussed out to the suburban or country houses where they lived.
The government had announced a few years back that it was no longer possible to fund a full state education for the whole population. In the future only those who had the means to pay would be educated in private or state schools. Business had declined after the credit crunch and state finances had taken a battering as the government vainly tried to pump monetary air back into an economy which had been stifled of credit and would not work without it. State finances collapsed and the World Bank and other potential creditors would only lend to keep government in existence with stringent conditions laid on government expenditures. The government could no longer afford to pay for a free state education so only the well employed and relatively rich could now afford an education for their sons and daughters. The unemployed and their disadvantaged kids vented their anger and resentment still against the schools and the government by shouting abuse and sometimes throwing things at the privileged as they came and went from schools. No one took school lessons and teachers for granted now. Discipline in school or college was an easy matter as the prospect of no education scared those parents who could afford to pay and they reminded their kids of the alternatives constantly.
Two police cars would precede and tail the bus, and there was always an armed guard on the bus just in case the resentful populace outside decided to become tactically organised.
Peter did not sit next to Eric anymore. He sat on his own near the front. Some of the other banker and stockbroker kids who were friends of Eric’s had decided not to let him sit with them anymore. Some of them had taunted him with the retort that his father had not earned his money. “Your father doesn’t work! He isn’t very clever!”
“My Dad’s a stockbroker,” said one.
“Mine’s a computer programmer,” said another proudly.
“I am going to be a merchant banker like my Dad when I grow up,” said a confident kid who Peter remembered had always been a bit of a bully.
“You can’t sit with us. You’re not one of us!” said one of the lads.
“You belong to a different class, a lower class,” said Eric, the one who had been his friend. Eric had picked up some knowledge about a subject called sociology, which none of them were due to study for a number of years yet.
And so Peter had gone to sit near the front of the bus, where he would find refuge from the taunts. It was always quieter near the front. That was where some of the teachers sat, and the police guard who accompanied them, and of course the driver.
“Can I sit with you?” asked a small lad with unruly hair.
“Yes,” said Peter, “if you like.” He was feeling a bit lonely but this lad was not in any of his classes. He had seen him in the school corridors, but did not know him.
“I can’t sit at the back,” said the lad. “That lot back there won’t let me.”
“Me too! Why won’t they let you?” asked Peter.
“Because my mum and Dad are lottery winners,” replied the small lad.
“Really!” exclaimed Peter. “That’s great. My Dad’s a lottery winner too.”
“I thought that might be why you were down here at this end of the bus. You know we’re not alone,” he nodded across the aisle. “You see Vincent over there, and Tabintha next to him. They’re son and daughter of lottery winners. There are quite a few of us in this school. My Dad says that one day quite soon we’ll be in the majority here. Apparently the recession has ‘seen off’ quite a lot of the bankers, and even the stockbrokers aren’t so successful. But there are more of us every year, and our numbers are growing. One day soon we will be in the majority at school!”