Brexit de­bate sets bad ex­am­ple for kids

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS -

When we’re young we look to adults to guide us, in­spire us, and show us the way.

So what are chil­dren to­day to make of the way the sup­posed grown-ups are nav­i­gat­ing the Brexit maze?

Are we set­ting a good ex­am­ple?

Lisa Kerr, prin­ci­pal of Gor­don­stoun, one of the coun­try’s top pri­vate schools, made her feel­ings clear this week, say­ing young peo­ple are be­ing taught “dread­ful lessons” by the an­gry rows over Brexit.

She says ugly in­ci­dents such as the protests against MP Anna Soubry are un­der­min­ing ef­forts in schools to teach tol­er­ance and re­spect for other peo­ple’s views.

And it is uned­i­fy­ing view­ing, to see a politi­cian hav­ing abuse hurled at them for stand­ing up for what they be­lieve in. And the ag­gres­sion of some of the pro­test­ers chas­ing af­ter the Guardian colum­nist Owen Jones the other day was, quite frankly, ter­ri­fy­ing.

My el­dest daugh­ter has switched off from the de­bate, as she says the shout­ing puts her off.

I asked the younger one what she thought but she was too busy play­ing Fort­nite to re­ply, al­though I sus­pect she thinks Brexit is some kind of mad vir­tual re­al­ity game.

And, boy, it can feel like that. Col­lege Green, the park out­side West­min­ster where TV crews set up camp for in­ter­views, al­most be­came a no-go area this week as politi­cians were un­will­ing to run the gaunt­let of pro­test­ers. Sky News pre­sen­ter Kay Bur­ley had been broad­cast­ing from there but was brought back to the studio at one point as her bosses feared for her safety.

Politi­cians them­selves aren’t blame­less. The tem­per­a­ture in the Com­mons has often reached boil­ing point when there is any men­tion of Europe.

Even the party lead­ers aren’t be­yond re­proach, with Jeremy Cor­byn call­ing the Prime Min­is­ter a “stupid woman”. Al­though, he claimed he was call­ing her MPS “stupid peo­ple”. Ei­ther way.

When schools try to teach pupils tol­er­ance and re­spect for other peo­ples’ views, doesn’t that mes­sage sound hol­low when those in power don’t set an ex­am­ple?

On so­cial me­dia the abuse reaches an­other level. On Twit­ter, the Wild West of the in­ter­net, any­thing goes. These anony­mous trolls seem to think they can act with im­punity. What on earth are they teach­ing their own chil­dren, I won­der?

Death threats and hor­rific in­sults are com­mon­place.

It can be a vile cesspit of un­pleas­ant­ness and in­ci­vil­ity. Why do peo­ple think they can be­have like this? On Scot­land Tonight my favourite dis­cus­sions are the feisty, lively ones. In fact, the live­lier the bet­ter.

But for these de­bates to re­ally work and for view­ers to ac­tu­ally learn some­thing, the guests have to lis­ten to each other, to the other point of view, and re­spond thought­fully and with re­spect.

If a lit­tle good hu­mour can be thrown in, even bet­ter.

I fear the Brexit de­bate will turn off the younger gen­er­a­tion and alien­ate a whole swathe of fu­ture vot­ers. And who will want to go into pol­i­tics as a ca­reer if it is seen as a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment?

Surely it’s time for us all to act like the grown-ups?

Pro­test­ers clash out­side West­min­ster last week

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