Had a really, really enjoyable meeting this morning with Year 6 pupils from Millpond School. I don't think I've ever met a bunch of kids who were so interested, so keen to ask questions - there were hands going up all over the place. I stayed for 90 minutes, and they still hadn't run out of things to say. Sometimes - usually with teenagers! - it's difficult to get much out of them and the teachers ended up asking all the questions, but these kids were great.
A lot of the questions were about what politicians could do to stop people smoking, drinking, dropping rubbish, carrying knives, carrying guns, etc, including this: "If smoking kills, as it says on cigarette packets, why isn't it illegal?" Good point!
We got into quite a debate about how laws can be passed to stop people doing things, and how this will mean that the majority of people comply - e.g. when seatbelts were made compulsory, most people starting buckling up. Then there's the issue of enforcement; some people will comply only if they think they're going to get caught. But the police have to prioritise what they do, so can't always be there to stop them. And then there's social pressure, when things like smoking in public places and drink driving becoming increasingly unacceptable.
When it came to talking about litter, I told them a couple of anecdotes. The first was when I was driving out towards Avonmouth one evening, stuck in traffic behind a minibus. The back doors of the minibus opened, and a carrier bag full of rubbish was dropped bang in the middle of the dual carriageway. And then they drove off. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was in traffic in London; the passenger door of the car in front opened, and a Wagamama bag, presumably full of leftovers, was again deposited on the highway. We've all seen people throw cans and crisp packets out of car windows, but I've never seen anything quite so blatant before. (And don't you kind of assume that people who buy takeaways from Wagamama wouldn't be the sort to dump rubbish in the road?)
The pupils looked suitably horrified when I told them about this. They were also really keen to tell me what they'd learned in lessons about the environment, and to discuss what could be done to encourage people to do more to tackle climate change; I told them the most important thing they could do was to evangelise about these issues to their parents, grandparents and anyone else they could win over. When they're not busy nagging their parents about smoking and drinking and walking to work, that is.
I'd say they were the brightest, best bunch of 10 year olds I've ever met. They've promised to write to me, and to have a look at my website. I really hope that in years to come I bump into some of them again, as they make their way through secondary school. And I hope they stay just as enthusiastic and passionate about the issues we discussed.