Too little aspiration is a problem among who have little hope in the future and fear being different. Boys in particular are undermined by bring told they will only succeed if they succeed at school, most are also very afraid of not getting on with their peers who reject and ridicule those who are different. People also aspire to different things. Girls are led to believe that their prince will be a celebrity who will rescue them from family, work and debt. A dream promoted on the highstreet by bling and pink dresses.
However, whereas in the past women were the ones who lacked aspiration. Women in the Northwest bucked this trend and have been career minded for years. Living in Manchester and someone with a nomadic background, I have noticed that successful women executives in the region went to Catholic Grammar Schools. I can think of at least five of my own friends who went such schools in St Helens, Bolton and Liverpool and still live in the region inspite of now having quite hihg-powered jobs. These were women who not only were personally aspirational but also very socially committed.
There are others such as Rebekah Brooks who comes from Warrington, who wer so ambitious that their ambition to get to the top overrules all other considerations – not that this makes her any different from her colleagues. What is the case that women pay a greater price for the prize, and changing the cultures in communities and at work is not a one generation journey.
Persuading kids that the only way to a fulfilling life is to be aspirational and disconnect yourself from your fmaily and friends is a big ask- and one which ultimately doesn’t have to happen but it feels like that to younger people. The significance of family and locality connection is an important anchor for most people and something perhaps we should acknowledge more. The Global society is local in its reality and local connections are part of personal identity.
We have emphasised choice and aspiration, sometimes at the expense of other considerations- we benefit as much from supportive environments and friends and do not need to be constantly choosing. Decision-making has been rarified. Sometimes the reason why the public, in spite of the media, are ahead of professionals and politicians in public debates is because their judgement is based on what matters and remains rooted in humanity, not choice. Sometimes too much choice befuddles the brain, a chat with a friend is more important than getting there on time.
Raising Aspiration in communities where there is none is essential, but for others it is becoming too much of a good thing. Public Policies cannot continue being tied to specific concepts, like choice, aspiration etc which are too general, we need to start talking in joined up sentences and stop lurching between extreme passivity on one hand and extreme instrumentalism on the other. One results in a return to ‘know your place’ and the other of well-organised, individuals little empathy for anyone else.
Lets improve adult education and nurture conversation and reflection as well as educational aspirations. In haste as off to a memorial service – and the garden.