Because the last thing the poor sods need, after a year in which they’ve been deprived of normal human contact, subject to a unique brand of anxiety, and told if they’re not careful they’ll be responsible for killing their grandma, is compassion and understanding. What they need is to be made to face the wall for an hour because they were looking out of the window, so they can begin to enjoy their childhood again.
It’s the same with the elderly in care homes. They’ve had a tough 12 months, so the most important thing now is that every afternoon a commander from the Burmese army assembles all the residents in the common room twice a day, and makes them do 50 star-jumps or they get beaten on the soles of their feet with a club covered in porcupine spikes. Otherwise, they won’t enjoy a smooth transition back to normality.
Luckily, the most important people in the government all had the finest public school education, so the kids can copy the examples of discipline they’ve set during the last year.
To start with, children must be taught to follow safety instructions carefully, the way the prime minister did when he was told by scientists to introduce a lockdown immediately and not shake hands with people riddled with the virus.
Then, when the chemistry teacher tells them, “Never allow a naked flame near methane,” the kids can remember Boris Johnson’s example. So they’ll take no notice, and let off a box of fireworks in a barrel of highly explosive methane extract, destroying the school and five surrounding streets.
Then they can be given firm lessons about the importance of telling the truth at all times, adhering strictly to the discipline displayed by the government during the lockdown. If a child has failed to present their homework on time, and they were seen by several teachers drinking cider in the park with their friends, they must be asked why this has happened. If they say, “I’m so sorry. I misled you and feel ashamed and must face my punishment,” they should be given detention every night, until they learn to say, “I was drinking cider to check my eyesight. Obviously! Like, duh, get a life! I’ve answered the question fully, now let’s move on.”
For younger children, special attention should be given to the importance of sharing. The teacher can ask, “What do we do if we have three sweets, and we are in the garden with two of our friends?” Some children might eagerly raise their hand and answer, “Share them out, miss, so we have one each.” These kids should be sent to the exclusion zone, for not taking any notice of the strong disciplinary examples of the government.
There they can be made to write, “I must ring my mate who owns a factory in Brazil that makes flowerpots, and give him a contract worth £2bn to make sweets, despite the fact he has no experience of making them, so when they arrive they taste like fox mess and have to be thrown away, but he gets paid anyway,” fifty times on a sheet of paper.
They must have it drummed into them that discipline is essential when following the procedure for attending meetings. They must follow the lead of Johnson, at the first five meetings called to deal with the coronavirus, when he assured there was no chance of him turning up late, by not bothering to go at all.
Maybe there should be a sign on the wall saying, “He who is prepared doesn’t get to frolic about all week at Chequers instead, so sod that for a lark,” but in Latin.
Then they should be taught the importance of honesty. They can be shown a film of the discipline illustrated by the government when they promised that a world-beating track and trace system would be ready a year ago.
Kids who pay attention will tell their teacher, “I said I would hand in a completed world-beating geography project by May, that would make me the leading student in the world, including a game-changing essay on the forests of South America. And although that was 11 months ago, I can proudly state that I have now delivered homework consisting of a Kit Kat wrapper I found in my pocket, which proves I’m leading the world in geography, ahead of France, Germany and all other European countries such as Africa and the moon.”
The problem Williamson may have forgotten, when he insists kids have forgotten discipline while not at school, is that school is the least disciplined environment in the world.
Even somewhere thought to be completely anarchic, such as a music festival, is much more disciplined. You don’t get groups of boys in the dubstep tent planning how they’re going to jump on everyone at the jazz tent. You don’t see queues of people outside the festival head office, with all of them saying, “I’ve been sent to see you, sir, because I turned up five minutes late to see PJ Harvey.”
Kids are much more disciplined out of school than in. So if Williamson really wants to instil discipline, he’ll close down schools for another year.
He might as well suggest that, because everything he says is so ridiculous, he’s not so much the education minister as the education jester, whose job is to say one daft thing a day about education.
Once this is understood, he’s not so annoying. Tomorrow he’ll say, “From now on, in maths, instead of numbers we’re going to use flowers,” or, “In French exams you get an extra mark for singing Rule Britannia,” and he’ll be doing his job at last.