Thursday, 13 January 2011

Some thoughts of an old wreck

I have to say I seethed when I heard comfortably off blonde bimbo, Gaby Logan, describing retirement as being "on the scrapheap". Having retired on health grounds, I resent being described as "scrap". I don't consider I'm uselessly rusting; and even if I were useless, which maybe I shall become, I still won't be material for the crusher.

She was speaking during an item about the scrapping of compulsory retirement at 65. I don't have a problem with that per se, but I wonder about its timing. Here we are at a time when youngsters are struggling to find jobs. I noticed something similar in the BBC's ageism case. I'm sure the management are ruing their easing Miriam O'Reilly (53) out of Countryfile because "of those wrinkles when high definition comes in" (allegedly!!). Some agents seem to manage to persuade Auntie to retain their aging clients such as Sue Barker's (55). However there is a place for making room for new talent; in fact there's a need to.

There can be few things more socially counterproductive than a high rate of youth unemployment. If we wrinklies who've had a full working life and have some savings or a pension won't get off the job ladder, there can be no room to start for others at the bottom. On a day when Manchester Council alone announces the loss of 2,000 jobs, it's naïve to think that there'll be room both at the top and at the bottom of the jobs ladder. Although I can see the attraction for employers of retaining their experienced 65-year old employees and avoiding the expense of training youngsters, it's plain short-sightedness. By all means encourage people to work extended years when the economy is booming and employment is flush, but now it's daft - and dangerously disillusioning for our young people. Give the youngsters a break!

And by the way on Mr Michael Gove's newly announced "English Baccalaureate" I'm proud (or should that be ashamed?) to say that I would be among the failure statistics. Of course it was then GCEs, but I obtained neither of the humanities (Geography or History). As far as I recall there were a Maths (or two), an English (or two), a science and a few languages - but NO HUMANITY. Failure! That was because my teachers guided me to subjects which they thought I'd do well in - and enjoy (Now there's a novel concept!). On the whole, that's what good teachers do - guide their students to subjects which they'll do well in and, as a bonus, enjoy. Frankly I suspect the demand for a foreign language for those who have trouble enough with English is cloud-cuckoo land. Poor old state education - the place where ideologue politicians of every complexion flex their muscles! Anyway enough griping. Actually my retrospective failure amused me.


  1. Dear Michael
    I too would be a failure. My school made students choose from options that were timetabled at the same time. I think that the choice was:
    History or Chemistry
    Biology or Geography or German
    As a budding scientist, I opted for Chemistry and German (in the mistaken belief that there would be articles in German to read one day). I regret not doing any biology, have not used my chemistry since leaving school, and now write about history and geography in my retirement.

  2. Well, you didn't do too badly in the end, did you? University professor, more or less!

  3. Dear Michael,

    Some interesting and debateable points. On the issue of ageism I too was pointed in the direction of the scrap heap at 53 and remember feeling quite insulted when a "friend" sent me a happy retirement card.

    In effect I was too expensive, too old and generally not part of the plan! After all as a Senior Manager I answered back with some quite provocative questions at times. Far better to have someone younger and cheaper to tow the line!

    So what is failure, for various reasons I left school with just one "O" level, probably because I had far more respect and love for my English teacher than the rest of the crew. In the words of a former headteacher: "If the children like you, you can teach them anything, if they don't - you are wasting your time!"

    As for the latest 'iniatives' in education - will they ever stop moving the goalposts - we all know what they say about statistics and lies.

    Perhaps when I get old I will understand what retirement really means, I assume it refers to some sort of remuneration, or is it something to do with being to rusty to perform (in its broadest sense).

    I talk to many who are more "elderly" than I, and whereas the state and NHS refer to elderley being over the age of 65. There is plenty of life in us yet. Far too much some might say!

    All strength to your ability to bring pleasure to others Michael. You have created an excellent web site and are doing excellent work to stimulate discussion on topical issues. Keep up the writing it provokes a lot of thought and debate.

    I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday or Thursday night, whichever you settle for, and shall spread the word here up north where life is not that grim!


  4. As a former schoolteacher and former printer/proof reader I must apologise for a couple of missed gramatical/spelling errors in my previous message.

    Shall e-mail you sometime in the next few days and hope to see you in the not too distant future.



  5. Thanks, Rob, for all your comments. Nice to know there's still a Northern readership!