Monday, 14 May 2012

If this is road safety, I'm taking the train.

I accompanied Fingernail I's class to a road safety drill this afternoon, run by the police. They've got a nice little facility, tucked into a spot of no-man's land in the middle of a motorbike race track next door to Francazal military aerodrome. It's actually nicer than it sounds, believe it or not. The children all started with a fifteen-minute test on the Highway Code, then split up into groups to variously cycle, then walk around the circuit, comprised of traffic lights, zebra crossings, left and right turns etc. Just like a mini urban landscape, in fact, providing your idea of a town is one that includes no buildings. They appeared to have little or no guidance beyond 'Walk round the circuit clockwise in pairs and obey the lights'. Then it was all change: pedestrians became cyclists and vice versa. This went on for about an hour but its structure seemed to owe more to free jazz than to disciplined instruction. When that was all over, everyone trooped off to the clubhouse to get their marks - or so we thought - and have a summing up from the police. None of it. 'Congratulations, you all passed the test!' declared a comely lady police officer. Well, what about correcting the mistakes, ironing out misunderstandings? No way, José! This version of the Green Cross Code was more like a Labour Party Political Broadcast: "You're all brilliant, you're all winners! Now it's time to hand out your prizes and have some cake!". Coming hard on the heels of François Hollande's bogus election campagne this whole Road Safety Light episode made me feel distinctly queasy. Each child was awarded a 'Pedestrian Licence' (sponsored by the MAIF, who had a salesman RIGHT there, dontchaknow), a wraparound bicycle clip and a flourescent jacket. Everyone cheered as each child was called out, a crescendo resulting in sugar-fuelled euphoria after sixty-two presentations and the obligatory orange juice and biscuits afterwards. The din in the coaches going back to the centre was deafening and didn't abate until all the children had safely dispersed into the bowels of the school; They looked like a swarm of genetically-modified, glow-in-the-dark wasps and our delicate, adult heads were pounding by the time we were relieved of our duties.

It was fun, but it wasn't instructive. OK, the afternoon should have been enjoyable but the whole point of these exercises is ultimately to educate and, hopefully, save lives; not just entertain. I do not understand why the monitors didn't go over the right answers. After all, most children would have just applied the multiple guess principle to the questions. They're generally bright kids, but that's no reason not to make sure they really understand it. I won't be letting the Fingernails cross any major roads on their own, yet…

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