25 SEPTEMBER 1942, Page 13


SIR,—Your trenchant criticism of the Conservative Sub-committee's re- port on the 14-18 age group (The Spectator, September 18th) is based on false argument in claiming that because the aims of the German Youth training are wrong their methods are wrong. We are up against an unpleasantly efficient mass of Nazi Youth, brought up and trained to fight desperately and fanatically for an ideal. That the ideal is wicked beyond all comprehension should not blind us to the fact that their training has undoubtedly been effective.

Most youth workers will welcome any move towar is compulsory training for our adolescent_ population, but regret that it had to come from the Conservative Party, which, as the most influential political body in the country since the last war, has been largely responsible for the fact that, until this war, it was extremely difficult to arouse any interest whatever in Education or constructive spare-time activity among more than a minority of the working youth of the nation.

No figures are at my disposal, but I estimate that not more than 5 per cent. of this age group was taking an active part in the Youth Life of Britain during the vital years preceding the outbreak of war. Lacking was the sense of urgency that has drawn thousands into the Cadet Force and the A.T.C.; almost non-existent was corporate spirit among young people. Many hundreds of adult workers have struggled in vain to raise football teams, evening classes and the like, for in spite of the contrary examples that can be quoted the deplorable fact remains that the latter touched but the fringe of the youth population. Whether an individual belonged to the fringe or the mass depended largely on parental influence, which itself has never yet been educated for leisure, and if young folk's spare time is to be given that purposeful activity which is so essential, a start must be made by the substitution of State compulsion for parental example. In. passing, there never has been a time when it would be accepted as readily as now.

One wonders if the Conservative Party realise what a powerful weapon they are proposing to put into the hands of the working classes, or if they are playing a very clever game to trick the left wing parties into denying themselves the use of it. Surely most adults who have been associated With young folk during these last few difficult years hope the other parties will support, or improve on, this latest plan, with a stem resolve that its originators will not be allowed to misuse it for their own ends.

Waveney Lodge, Ditchingham, Bungay, Suffolk. JOHN PRICEY.