I was recently taking a walk to town via the Thames Valley University when I saw a teenage girl drop a half-finished pack of chips on the ground in front of a bin. More disturbing than the fact that she was eating deep-fried chips at 10am was that she seemed to be littering to impress her friend. Now I know that littering is probably fairly low on the list of priorities for the modern-day school, what with the current ASBO culture here in Britain, but if we can’t rely on teenagers to respect their immediate environment, what hope do we have of teaching them to respect the global environment?
I called the University and had a pleasant conversation with the officer in charge of security and student behaviour. He said that it was difficult to control the behaviour of a student body which comes from “all walks of life” and that there were insufficient security staff to police the problem. Why their students, no matter what their background, cannot be taught to be tidy is beyond me. To add to this, it is regrettable that they need to use security to deal with this behavioural problem.
It might instead be more prudent to use more collaborative exercise to affect behaviour change. For example, the Big Tidy Up is a campaign organised by the Keep Britain Tidy folks. Similar to the Clean Up Australia Day programme, the Big Tidy Up encourages people to respect their environment and take a more active part in making their community a better place to live. Perhaps I will suggest to the school that they conduct something similar with their students.