Although written a few years ago, this author of this article identifies weak literacy as a contributory factor to the riots in Brixton:http://harrietsergeant.com/articles/fix ... n-britain/
To get an insight into the rage that fuelled the riots, look no further than the statistics on illiteracy that came out the week before. At the age of 14, 63% of white working-class (a euphemism since most of them are jobless like Bulldog) and more than half of the black Caribbean boys have a reading age of seven or less. Almost half of the 16-year-olds marauding our streets lack basic qualifications in English or maths.
Illiteracy is a powerful driver of bad behaviour. The US Department of Justice concluded that failing to learn to read at school “meets all the requirement for bringing about and maintaining the frustration level that frequently leads to delinquency”. This “sustained frustration” causes “aggressive antisocial behaviour”.
When he was 15, Lips told me: “I feel bad. I don’t feel good in myself. I got no pride in myself. I am angry over every single little thing. It doesn’t take a lot to set me off.”
Illiteracy is a life sentence. Half the prison population has a reading age below that of an 11-year-old. Two other members of the gang are semi-literate and are now in prison.
Being clever is almost as much a handicap. Bigs, who was good at science, started truanting when his school abolished streaming as “elitist”. He said: “I got that bored. I was given no aspirations.” At 16 he was behind bars for dealing heroin to Oxford students: “Other people go from school to university. We go from school to prison.”
It is not difficult nor expensive to teach a child to read. Countries a lot poorer than ours manage. But they use traditional methods shunned by our educational establishment.
Reading failure is just one example of how ideology comes first in our schools — the child a very poor second. What teenage boys need, according to the headmaster of one of our public schools, is hierarchy, drill, plenty of exercise, competition and discipline (why boys like Mash, Bulldog and Lips join a gang).
Unfortunately, what is well understood by private schools is dismissed by progressive educationists. No teacher should act, said John Dewey, the influential American pedagogue and philosopher, as “an external boss or dictator”.
Faced with a fidgety boy like Bulldog or Lips, teachers question what is wrong with the child or blame his background, never their teaching. Bored and frustrated, the majority of boys I interviewed had dropped out of school and into trouble by the age of 14. As Mash said: “School shatters your dreams before you get anywhere.”
Even with such dismal educational results, the previous government put the interests of teaching unions above those of their poorest pupils. Just 12 teachers out of a workforce of 450,000 have been suspended for incompetence in the past nine years.
Lips saw it as a conspiracy: “All them little jobs — special needs, social workers, police, prison officers — at the end of the day depend on black boys like us failing. If we don’t keep on failing what would happen to all those high salaries?”