It might be my memories of reading Graham Greene novels, Brighton Rock springs to mind, but I have this image of nineteen forties Britain where young boys left school to enter the world of work and immediately began to dress like their dads. Proper suits, nice shoes, possibly even a fine trilby, sir. Safer times, happier times. Thank god we have moved on from that. Your spotty youth of today might have a hairy fit at the thought of sharing their dad’s wardrobe these days. Those baggy jeans; that checked shirt. Shudder. A relic from the past in more ways than one. Or is it?
I watched Junior Apprentice the other night with my mouth agape; my God, they were dressing like their rich parents. The pin stripe is back, the pearls, the swagger. These kids were acting more like the adult apprentices than the adult apprentices; and it wasn’t comfortable viewing. In fact, here’s a challenge. Watch it on iplayer after reading this and turn the sound down. Ready? Okay. Now imagine the soundtrack to Bugsy Malone playing over it. Does it fit? Course it does. Surallan is creating a race of menchildren and ladychildren. And unlike the cheeky wee scamps down at Fat Sam’s this lot are really scary. It’s Enterprise Education gone bad.
Enterprise education has rightly become a central focus of the Scottish Curriculum and there are some wonderful examples from all over the country. Pupils organising themselves into small businesses, developing problem–solving skills and working in environments which help promote positive learning experiences. Transferable skills which are truly preparing them for the world of work. These things have been happening in our primary schools for ages and the secondary schools are only now catching up. But it is happening. With not a pinstripe suit in sight.
Of course, the ideals of enterprise are exactly what we want for our students if they are to become ‘successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work, with a clear understanding of their roles in the world.’ But the Alan Sugar/ Apprentice version of the future should not be dismissed as TV fluff. These ‘kids’ are modelling themselves on their adult equivalents like the kids of the forties but without the wheeling and dealing. Like the X-Factor, there is a really damaging lesson being taught. That money is the only judge of success. Those who make the least get fired and that disguises any entrepreneurial spirit the competition may engender.
Perhaps I’m taking it all too seriously. Perhaps not. I’ve nothing specifically against Alan Sugar but if we set him up as a role model for our children then it needs to be for the right reasons. Dressing them up in adult clothes is risible. Humiliating those who don’t fit and don’t help to make the most money is worse; especially when they could be the best at being good guys.