Andrew Charlton
Andrew Charlton

?...sharpen up and grow up!?

The youth of today are entitled to our respect and understanding apparently in this difficult and challenging world.

I remember as a lad of about 15 wanting to join the Royal Air Force I was taught some fairly basic lessons in life which I’d like to think have from time to time stood me in good stead. Apart from doing “O-Levels” (which seem to me to be a quantum leap apart from GCSE’s) I was taught to stand up straight, be polite, shine shoes, stick a crease in your pants and get a haircut.

Now for the purposes of recruitment into HM’s forces those things all seem pretty obvious don’t they? Well as it panned out I was a bit on the tall and a lot on the short sighted side of the line and notwithstanding a 2 year scholarship and some mucking about in planes and on hillsides in Scotland I didn’t ever get to take the Queens Commission. I did however crack on and set about getting a job and a career, albeit collecting debts (the legal way, I am a big lad but I used a summons not a baseball bat) and then latterly in technology. You know what though, all those things I was taught worked an absolute charm when I went for an interview or a meeting to try and move ahead in civvy life.

Parents played a part in the teaching process as I did things like the Air Cadets, playing for the Boys Club football team and probably a number of other influences.

My point? Discipline learned at an early age is character forming not character building. It makes you what you are as an adult and gives you a great chance to stand out from the crowd of long haired layabouts that generally exit 6th Form hoping UCAS deals them a fair hand and they get to go somewhere smart where their loan will spin out nicely.

In this era of everyone thinking they’re entitled to a degree and to be an art historian sight is lost that as a human race we can’t actually all be winners and we can’t all be splendidly well turned out in a utopian dream of equality and fairness. So I come back to my point about basic lessons.

I wasn’t a grade A student, I wasn’t the smartest nor did I come from either a wealthy or impoverished background. I learned the basics and managed to do alright and largely because of those basic lessons. Now I had military in my blood and so enjoyed the majority of those times and I accept that military life is not for everyone. Surely however, there is a case to be made that every young person should do something that achieves two aims before it’s too late. Firstly, be taught the values that equip them to be good honest citizens and help them help themselves but perhaps they should also do something for their country and fellow citizens.

A year or maybe two would be enough to learn some practical life skills and send our youth forwards into the world as better brighter and sharper people.

Yes, it’s time for National Service to come back. Especially the haircuts, if it’s long enough to hold it’s long enough to cut.

Andrew M Charlton – 25th January 2012

Andrew is a Director at BACK Consulting Limited, one of the region’s top software
development companies and is co-organiser of the North East Expo.

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