SEI – Addressing the UNICEF Report and the South London Shootings

In a week that has seen yet more shootings of our young people and a damming report placing us at the bottom of the league tables regarding quality of life for our youth I think even the most disinterested among us must realize that it is time for action to be taken. No not action like flinging more money down the hole that is the bottomless pit of our nanny-system. No not action like turning a few dozen armed policeman on the streets. But action that is going to have a solid and proven effect on eradicating the problem.

About seven years ago Morag came across a report on the state of the nation’s youth. Thousands of young people across the country were interviewed on all topics under the sun. One of the main aims of the exercise was to find out what kept kids on the straight and narrow, and what caused them to go off the rails. Was it lack of education, was it lack of funds. Lack of facilities. Lack of a father-figure. Was it living in the country – living in an inner city council estate. What the heck was it that caused a child to decide to pick up a gun or put down a schoolbook. Push a pram instead of a pencil. The people interviewed came from every kind of background in every nook and cranny of the UK and you will never guess what they found…..

Yes there is something that disaffected youth had in common, and for the record disaffection comes in ALL postcodes, all ethnicities, all genders. Just because Arabella and Charlie are away at boarding school doesn’t mean they’re any less disaffected than LaWanda and Jose. The overriding commonality in young people (it’s actually all people but let’s try to stick to today’s topic) who make ‘bad’ decisions is :


How do we know this? Enter the SEI – Self-Esteem Index. A psychological exercise which measures the following four areas :
[Academic Competence] – measures self-esteem in school, education, academic competence, intelligence, learning, and other scholarly pursuits.
[Family Acceptance] – measures self-esteem at home and within the family unit.
[Peer Popularity] – addresses the quality, importance, and nature of relationships and interactions with individuals outside the family unit.
[Personal Security] – contains statements about an individual’s physical appearance and personal attributes such as distinctive traits of body, character, conduct, temperament, and emotions

The information is then tallied and you are slotted into a scale, which indicates what your attitude towards yourself is and where you feel you fit in the grand scheme of things.

So if we now know that the one thing that kids who make bad decisions have in common is low self-esteem then it seems to make sense that what we really need to do to have a long term solution to the mess we are in is to do our best to ensure that all our young people have higher self-esteem than they do now. You can rest assured that young people with low self-esteem making bad decisions will grow up to be adults with low self-esteem making bad decisions. And at £100,000 per prisoner for construction of new prison places we should do this if for no other reason than fiscal responsibility.

Yes you can spend all your time haranguing kids about ‘don’t take drugs’, ‘don’t hang around with a bad lot’, ‘don’t be promiscuous’, ‘don’t watch porn on the internet’…but trust me, it’s a lot easier when they make those decisions themselves. And there is only one way to do that and that is ensure that they have a solid sense of who they are (whatever their circumstances). Some of our finest citizens have come out of single-parent families in highly-deprived areas so it is NOT impossible. We must stop flinging our hands up and start rolling our sleeves up. Come on people we’ve got to sort this out – it’s costing us on so many, many levels.

Whose responsibility is it to do this? ALL our responsibilities. Here are three things to think about:
1. A recent survey found that over 70% of the media coverage given to young people in this country is negative (People grow into the mirror you hold up in front of them)
2. It was recently noted that calls for help for children in poverty in this country engenders very little to no response yet similar calls for children in Africa will bring in hundreds to thousands of responses. (Is that because we are embarrassed at our short comings as a society so we feel if we don’t look at or acknowledge then it doesn’t exist)
3. I have noticed in my short time blogging that posts that refer to children in the title will usually bring in a substantially lower response.

One of the reasons Morag lives in the UK is because ‘it is a wonderful place in which to raise my child’. I have spent a decade looking rather pityingly at friends from distant shores who say ‘would you ever consider coming back’. Oh no! Trying not to look too smug. It is sooooooooo much better for children here. I wouldn’t even consider living in (fill in the blank for whichever country these well-meaning folk were hailing from). So this week I’ve just put one of those automatic “I am away on holiday please do not leave a message” emails on. Because I know that everyone in my address book from Latvia to Hungary, Holland and Norway – even the Damn Yankees will be sending me ‘soooooo I thought you said………………………dead last out of 21 – behind Hungary and Poland….oh the SHAME!!!!!!!!!



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8 responses to “SEI – Addressing the UNICEF Report and the South London Shootings

  1. dolbyn

    Am glad you posted this – was thinking about the gun thing last night – as usual you have seen another angle – before i respond to your post i just wanted to note the contrast of a) telling judges that they should only send “serious” offenders to jail and should use community sentances more. and b) a few weeks later the goverment is touting the send em to prison knee jerk reaction.

    but back to your post 🙂

    i think giving kids self esteem only solves half th eproblem, if we can give the next generation self esteem then maybe things will be better in 20 years time , i’m not sure its possible to do that for the current generation. one on one maybe you could change an individual, but i think part of the problem is that some have found they can gain self esteem through power and voilence. If you cannot pick yourself up then push others down and show people who owns the manor.

    I suspect that in fact part of the problem is a fagen like cultuer where older criminals use kids like toy soldiers to spread thier reach.

    So yes i think we have to find a way to give kids self esteem, and find a way for them to respect and value other people, most likley through example. More than that we have to cut off those that take advantage of the situation. Find the generals and take their assets, take away thier mobile phones, make selling a gun as serious a crime as shooting somebody.

    In fact i’ll end my post by going back to a reply i made some time ago on one of your blogs – make support, encoragement and incitement of crime as great an offence as the actual crime itself. If they find the people responsible for this weeks shooting sthen maybe they will get their 5 years in prison, but the people they work for? I suspect you can buy a new street soldier for not much more than you can buy a gun for them to carry.

  2. dolbyn

    oh and raise taxes and make them fairer. ( possibly this is a little naive or right wing but its sunday monring and i’ve not hade my breakfast mars bar yet. )

    scrap employee national insurance and merge it into income tax, or at the very least scrap the caps at the top. Scrap the bands and have one rate for poor and rich. Goverments are always trying to find a way to raise money without making pople think they are being taxed to much, we have to change peoples view so they see it more as a contribution to society. Through work i have dealings with people from finland and sweeden They seem to have a differnt society , where people value their comunity and country, where they pay taxes and in return get free iniversities , better infrastructure and seem happier. Maybe gras is greener in the next feild , or maybe its just that we are killing ours.

  3. A great post, Morag and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: low self-esteem is the number one problem. OK, we have misbeaving youth in Italy, but not to the extent that we do in the UK and I’m sure this is partly because children are valued here. Having taught in a very difficult UK secondary school where few of the children expected to go out to work later in life, it was this “no hope” view of themselves which was so hard to get past. I can only say I tried and I don’t know what the answer is but there are people out there with more expertise than me on it and we have got to make them do something.

  4. Dolbyn – so many really good points (as always) but I think most of it comes down to a common theme – lack of self-esteem and self-respect. But this isn’t only in young people it is throughout our society. They are getting it from somewhere. And it has been prevalent for so long now that it is ingrained in all levels of our society and of course it has trickled down to the kids. We need to teach the younger kids, and retrain the older kids and the adults of all ages. And yes it can be done. And for us to survive and flourish it must be done.

  5. Dear WL——- You’ve definitely brought up some interesting points. You are right about the ‘no hope’ view of themselves. I would say one of the overwhelming ‘issues’ I have with society nowadays is the constant ‘glass is always half empty and what little is in it is rapidly draining away’ attitude. You get what you focus on – focus on having a rubbish life and that is exactly what you’ll end up with. Boy I could do with a glass of your orange alcoholic nectar right about now…….:)

  6. I think even the most disinterested among us must realize that it is time for action to be taken …

    Well certainly but there is a self-actualization process in this. Not only will it not be tken but steps are taken to make sure it’s not taken. Such as diverting our attention to other horrifying things going on.

  7. Morag, I completely agree with you on this issue. Pouring some reviving orange nectar down the computer wires for you right now!

  8. Liz

    I was thinking some time ago how hopeless it seems because so many of the young people you see around just don’t care. It’s far more than punishment or education that’s needed; it is something much deeper.

    Jesus said that the most important things were loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself. If you don’t love yourself there’s not much hope for your neighbour! Helping young people to love themselves must be the best thing that we can do.

    I always remember years ago when I helped in a youth club, I admired – honestly – a drawing by a young lad. His response was ‘Oh, it’s rubbish.’ And I felt that he’d been told so often that everything he did was rubbish that he believed it, and, by extension, that he was rubbish too.

    I have a little bit on my blog about a youth cafe in Mumbles, if you’d like a peep!

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