Spare us the rod

The UK government has endorsed a scheme to get young truants and vandals 'hooked on fishing'. Fishing?

Ray Crowley

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Topics Politics

It’s called ‘Get hooked on fishing’, and it’s another strange UK government-endorsed scheme to make young people better.

Aimed at young truants and vandals, the idea of this scheme is that, if you are bad, you have to go on an angling course. Sorry – I can’t help myself, but it smells a bit fishy to me.

The sentiments behind this bright idea are familiar. Let’s get kids off the streets so they don’t commit crimes. Let’s force good kids and bad kids to hang out together, so that the good ones will have a positive influence on the truants. Let’s give kids a focus other than spraying graffiti. It’s nothing new really – but fishing? Why?

I hate the idea that any child, whether they skive school or not, should be forced to have any hobby. When that hobby is dangling some string into some water, to me it seems ten times worse. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with fishing – and worries have already surfaced that the scheme will be seen more as a reward for bad behaviour, rather than a diversion from it.

But I hate it. I was normally quite good at going to school, but I bunked off on the day of the biology pond-dipping field-trip. I would always see fishing as a punishment. As for a diversion from bad behaviour – after sitting by some smelly river all day with a load of goody-goodies playing with their rods, I’d be gagging for a good joyride or the chance to beat up a granny.

In any case, I don’t believe those who say that the problem is that kids don’t have interests – because you can almost guarantee that, in the same breath, they will complain about how children spend too much time playing computer games and watching videos. What people mean when they say youngsters need hobbies, interests and diversions, is that they want kids to be doing things they approve of.

Ah ha, so that’s why fishing.

I’m not saying that if kids bunk off school they should be made to play computer games any more than they should be forced to fish. Surely, if you play truant, you should be made to go to school again. What you do for recreation, whether it makes you a better person or not, is nobody’s business but yours and your Mum’s.

Besides, to be honest, I think kids are much more likely to skive off classes and get into trouble if they go to a crap school with limited facilities. Perhaps the government would do better to focus on that than to start worrying about young people’s hobbies.

Maybe I’m wrong though. A 15-year-old angler told the Sunday Telegraph that fishing ‘stops you nicking and taking drugs’. I can just imagine him, seconds later, sticking two fish fingers up at the reporter and running off with his dictaphone laughing….

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Topics Politics

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