Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Every child should join the Air Training Corps, or the Sea and Army equivalents. I opened the new (and wonderful) ATC hut (mansion) in Plymstock on Friday night and was most impressed. The young people on display were interesting, polite, disciplined and obviously loving every second of it. They told me about some of their adventures on camps and glider flights and yomping across Dartmoor. They acquired vital skills like first aid and tested their wits on a realistic flight simulator. They were all having fun, but they were learning order and commitment. Character was being formed before my very eyes.  Listening to parents during the evening, they could not speak highly enough of the beneficial impact on their young people. I loved the simple pledges I heard new recruits give: to love their country and Queen, be good citizens, obey their officers – it was very heartening. I take my hat off to the adults who give so much time to make this work.
Of course, the scouts, girl guides, boy's brigades and other uniformed organisations are similar. They incorporate a sense of teamwork and discipline, adventure and fun, yet in a way that teaches precious character skills at the same time. Some people may think that these values are old-fashioned. Nothing could be further from the truth. In an age where many young people download their values from the Internet, it is a timely reminder that the modern way is an aberration, hopefully a temporary one, not some great new Nirvana.
Which is why I started by saying every child should join. It wouldn't work of course because actually wanting to be there and part of this group is partly why it is so successful. To have an influx of those who would rather be elsewhere would ruin it for everyone.
We have always had an underclass in this country. We still do. But we also have a cohort of impressive young people in whose hands our future is safe.
The tragedy is that more children do not participate in these models of excellence, partly because of the lack of adults being prepared to lead. We are all busy, but is there a higher priority than investing in the next generation in a positive way, especially when they are under threat from so many competing, and often harmful, attractions?
I know that these organisations would love to hear from new adults who can give some time.

posted by Gary @ 10:42