Reading a recent speech by Schools Minister Jacqui Smith condemning bullying by mobile phones and computers, and the horrific practice of "happy slapping", I was particularly struck by her statement that it was all caused by young people who "lack empathy with others and do no understand the impact of their actions".
This really rang a bell with me.
Then I remembered that, 12 years ago, I had written a piece for The Birmingham Post, decrying the new fashion - peddled by educationalists, child psychologists and child care experts - of advocating never telling children they are wrong and ignoring unacceptable behaviour while rewarding lavishly even the smallest example of proper behaviour.
It had all started in schools where teachers were forbidden to mark errors in pupils' work, because "too much red ink discourages them", with the result that the gross errors of spelling, grammar and English expression, ignored by the teacher, remained the norm for the rest of the child's school career and meant that he learned nothing.
The only comments permitted on work were along the line of "good try" or "nice story", because that encouraged them. In exams gross errors were ignored and not penalised. Only what was right was marked, not what was wrong.
Soon, this infection spread to child rearing in general.
The word "naughty" was prescribed as being unhelpful and we were told all bad behaviour was to be totally ignored and any good behaviour lavishly praised and rewarded.
This, so we were told, would make all children behave nicely.
Thus, if a small child bites his mother, pushes a playmate off a scooter because he wants to ride it, steals his sister's sweets and eats them, but then puts his toys away in the box, it is only the last action that calls forth any comment or action, and the child is left to grow up believing that other people don't matter and he can do as he likes with them.
Thus, thousands of children have been raised never having to face up to the consequences of their actions. They aren't told that if they hit others it will hurt them and they will cry and be unhappy.
They suffer no sanctions for bad behaviour, only reward for good.
So it is that in the mind of susceptible children the torment and torture of other children become fun, a matter for laughter.
They cannot envisage the terror and misery of the bullied child because other people's feelings have never been part of their upbringing, and so crowds of amoral and virtually psychotic children congregate to attack others, film their fear and degradation, and distribute the pictures round the school "for a laugh". Children who are hurt in an accident are not given help but filmed, mocked and humiliated.
It seems to me that the chickens have finally come home to roost. Childcare "experts" are still telling us to ignore bad behaviour and reward the good. Yet children need to be told when they are wrong, why they are wrong and not to do it again. The experts who were wrong in 1994 are still wrong and society is the poorer for it. ..SUPL: