The world has gone mad this week. Twice.

The realisation that the world has gone mad has twice crossed my mind this week.

The first was watching Snowboard Cross at the Winter Olympics – so crazy is this event that a medal should be awarded to anyone who survives the descent with limbs intact (the sanity of the competitors is clearly long gone).

The second was this report in the Evening Standard warning parents against employing tutors for their under fives.

The idea of tutoring for under-fives is so reprehensible it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. There’s something that sticks in the throat about tutoring whatever the age of the recipient. For me, it’s the nauseating combination of privilege and panic which sums up what much tutoring is about. It’s the hysterical clamour of middle class parents who are on a misery-inducing treadmill, desperate to keep up with the Joneses, desperate to ensure that their little one won’t, heaven forbid, end up at the local comprehensive where the poor kids go. It’s the privatisation of parenthood, sub-contracting responsibility to the lowest bidder with the funkiest website.

But tutoring for under fives boggles the mind. Tutoring them in what exactly! You can only imagine the syllabus: ‘Win at the sandpit, every time!’, ‘Get yourself heard in circle time singalongs’, ‘Potato prints GUARANTEED to get on display’, ‘Role play corner – what to wear and how to wear it’.

What’s really appalling about this, is the sense of creep into a very sacred place: childhood. It’s as if the early years are now solely about preparation for something yet to come without any intrinsic value. Childhood isn’t childhood any more. It isn’t about play and about today, it’s about worrying about what’s round the corner and getting ahead of everyone else.

Tutoring for under fives! Snowboard Cross! The world’s gone mad.


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