Get an education was point of letter

MY letter of September 20, ‘Failed education the main problem’, was a clarion cry to all those presently in full-time education.

Essentially look around your kids and be aware that the only way forward is to stick in at school and college. Get some learning and skills on boards.

The future for the unskilled, semi-literate and semi-numerate who leave education at 16-years-old, is grim.

Ashington offers a staggering clear example of this contemporary reality.

David Williams’ letter (News Post Leader, September 27) is a strange, absurd mix of misplaced nostalgia, uncritical hero worship, vague assumptions and personal insults.

My original letter was strongly worded and I expected a certain level of response. Enter Mr Williams with ‘I was privileged to teach many gifted, resourceful and motivated young people and to meet with a multitude of dedicated hard working adults’.

Thank you for confirming what I already know. It should be obvious that, thankfully, our town has thousands of great people like this.

Historically, this has always been the case and Ashington needs to be proud of its people, past and present. Our achievements are many.

My letter was not about this motivated, hard-working majority.

However, it is wrong to deny the existence of a semi-literate under class. Just as it is unwise to ignore the often catastrophic consequences of multi-generational under-achievement, unemployment and irresponsible teenage pregnancies.

The correspondent takes objection to me ‘offering nothing in the way of hard facts or statistics’.

The relevant details are freely available from Northumberland County Council.

The numbers are revealing and shocking – educational under-achievement, long-term unemployment across generations, family size, rates of teenage pregnancies, mortality rates, crime rates and many other areas relevant to my original arguments.

A sociology seminar at Newcastle University in 2006 used Ashington and Newbiggin to illustrate the depth of the social problems facing former mining towns and areas of heavy industry. The words ‘under class’ and ‘Ashington’ filled the air inside the Curtis Auditorium.

It is my belief that this feckless under class has grown over the past six years and will continue to grow apace, largely because too many people take the ‘easy option’ of welfare benefits, having accepted the dismal philosophy of resignation and fatalism.

Regarding any assumption that I approve(d) of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘cynical, wholesale destruction of the mining industry’, nothing could be further from the truth.

I am also subjected to the suggestion that I ‘need to find a niche within the voluntary sector or become a local politician’.

This is childish and no one has the right to make assumptions about my age, health, profession, background, history, activities or community spirit.

I am also accused of ‘painting a picture of families in a life-denying orgy of alcohol, deviance, criminality and serial fornication’. I never mentioned ‘serial fornication’.

To fully clarify matters, Ashington is full of intelligent, hard-working people of all ages.

However, there is a growing number who expect other people to financially support their poverty stricken children while they themselves behave in an irresponsible way.

The every day joys of family life include doing your best for your kids, making sure they have positive role models, and teaching them to value and respect school and schooling.

Listen, learn and use school and college to make a good life for you and your children. In so many ways the truth is still that you get out what you put in. This was the thrust of my original letter.