KATE Forbes’s article in Saturday’s National hits the nail on the head on the importance of the young and their education (Education should be close to the hearts of everyone who backs Yes, Jan 20). Providing the next generation with the essential elements to become good and useful members of society, contributing to its wellbeing in the future, is vital.

One thing she seems to be very keen on is promoting self-confidence. I must confess that I do not see a lack of self- confidence in young people today. Indeed many have so much confidence that they fail to have a realistic understanding of their own abilities. Confidence without self- knowledge can too often lead to arrogance, rudeness and the pursuit of all that promotes self-worth while having no concern for the wellbeing of others.

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Sadly our young people can find too many role models for this attitude in our political leaders. Arrogance, double standards, refusing to take responsibility for actions, manipulation of the truth to an extent that one can no longer believe a word that a politician utters is what our young people see every day. These role models show no evidence of care for the people who elect them to office. It’s not about what they can do for their country but about what they can get out of it.

If this appears harsh or unfair and a generalisation too far then it is up to the politicians to prove me wrong, and they can do that by example. It is, however, simple observation that has led me to this conclusion. The fact is that if we want our young to become good citizens – contributing to the welfare of society, caring for their neighbour and willingly using what gifts they have for the benefit of others – then they need an example. Who better to show them the way than their parents and those we elect to govern our country?

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As I look at our society, the standards employed in raising and educating our young people, the more I fear for the future. They, and all the generations to follow them, require the highest standards to help them grow into people we can be proud of. That will only come from example. The greatest people in history have been those who have served others, not those who are self-serving. So I say to Kate Forbes, and all concerned with education and our political leaders, “confidence is fine but values are more important”.

Angus Shaw
via email

KATE Forbes’s view of the current state of Scottish education, and the best way forward under the astute leadership of Jenny Gilruth, made for interesting reading. I concur with Kate regarding the importance of current and future generations of Scottish kids being educated to a high standard with the prime aim of reducing the attainment gap considerably. Doing it effectively and raising standards is paramount.

However, Kate never mentioned the “elephant in the room”, namely the divisive two-tier Scottish education – very disappointing! In my humble opinion this issue has to be a part of the conversation if one is seriously embracing an objective debate regarding the future strategy for Scottish education.

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The current two-tier education system doesn’t provide equal opportunities for all our kids. Why are we still feeding plum jobs/positions to a select, privileged few privately educated people as well as providing disproportionate benefits in certain sports (Scottish rugby union is a disgrace by the way!) and other elite participation events in our society?

For all the complexities of the issue (bearing in mind the well-established political protectionism of private schools spanning well over a century!), there is a simple enough choice in an age of choice: “do we prioritise the right of those who can afford to educate their children privately to do so”? OR “do we find a way to harness the good qualities of these schools for the many, prioritising the right of every child, including the poorest, to as even a start in life as possible”?

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Note the Russian-British philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, identified two famous concepts of liberty: the tension between, on the one hand, the negative liberty of not being interfered with or constrained; on the other hand, the positive liberty of being a full citizen enjoying the same potentialities as all one’s fellow citizens. Negative liberty for the very few? Or positive liberty for the vast majority? Ultimately, it is a value judgement about what sort of future society we want for ourselves – and for our children. Strong, courageous governance required!

Bernie Japs

I HEARD what sounded like a protest march in Glasgow on Saturday and thought, “I must join in!” Well, protests are almost always full of us “lefties”. I was amazed, then, to see a gaggle of oldsters protesting against low emission zones. Their placards seem to be missing at bit of text. One should have read “Daft Old Gits Against Net Zero!” Worse yet, some placards were completely missing, such as “We Don’t Care, We’ll Soon Be Dead!” My attempt at starting that chant failed miserably.

The gathering was mercifully small, but it made it clear to me that the greatest danger to democracy is systemic. After all, the system is built on the principle: one fool, one vote.

Ross Samson (64)
via email