I overheard a conversation a while back about the use of young people to persuade their parents through targeted pester power to change their bad social-living habits. It struck me as odd to invoke McDonald's values to justify this rather shameless exploitation of children, especially when such values are so widely deprecated in the education world in other contexts. But then, ends justifying means is hardly a new phenomenon. I was reminded of all this when reading Frank Furedi's recent piece, 'Turning children into Orwellian eco-spies' in Spiked. Although slightly dated in some of the examples, the article raises issues that ought to concern anyone who puts education ahead of social engineering when thinnking about the purpose of schools. Furedi's final paragraph is:
In previous times, it was only totalitarian societies that mobilised children to police their parents’ behaviour. It was Orwellian, Big Brother-style states that tried to harness youngsters’ simplistic views of good and evil to reshape the outlook of adults. But who needs Big Brother when the former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, can openly assert that ‘on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children’? It appears that preying on children’s fears and exploiting their anxiety is now considered to be a form of enlightened education. Yet the future of our children demands that we provide them with existential and moral security. Instead of feeding them on a steady diet of scaremongering, we need to inspire them about our potential to improve the future of our world.