One of the most awful things which one observes about school children is the casual prejudices that they seemingly acquire as a matter of routine. Using 'gay' as a pejorative term, for example. Talking about 'pikeys' or 'gyppos' is also exceedingly common. My own daughter, who is now at college, is currently engaged in a furious, single handed campaign to stop the use of the word 'retard'. Apparently, this most offensive word is almost universally bandied about by the sixteen and seventeen year olds with whom she associates, being applied both to those with genuine learning difficulties and also as a term of abuse, as in 'He's such a retard!'.
One of the problems with children and young people is that while they can be very charming individually, as a crowd they are frequently obnoxious. One might call it 'Lord of the Flies' syndrome. Because most teenagers spend a very large part of the day at school with other teenagers, they must either try and fit in or become lonely and isolated. One of the ways of fitting in is of course by adopting the mores of the group, including its prejudices and hatreds. These prejudices are loathsome enough in themselves, but they can also have a damaging effect upon the child's very education. In many secondary schools there is an anti-academic ethos among the pupils. There are special sneering terms for those who wish to study, work hard and achieve. Those who do the homework and attempt to take an intelligent interest in what is being taught may be stigmatised as 'boffins', 'swots' or 'crawlers'.
It takes a good deal of character to resist these pressures to conform. Even when it is done, the result can all too often be a child who feels lonely and left out at best and becomes at worst the victim of bullying. Yet another reason for those of us who did not send our children to school to feel confident that we made the right decision!