Betting Can Never Be 'Responsible'. So How Can Anyone Possibly Justify Gambling Lessons in Schools?
Byline: THE Melanie Phillips COLUMN
THE recommendation that children as young as 12 should be taught 'responsible betting' in school will strike many people as some kind of bad joke.
GamCare, the support body for gambling addicts, has told a government review of personal, social and health education that pupils should be taught that studying the form of race horses, dogs and sports teams can improve chances of winning a bet.
It also said schoolchildren should learn about fruit machines and how to calculate betting odds.
Such a recommendation is almost beyond belief. How can betting ever be anything other than irresponsible? And what possible justification can there be for teaching this to children in school?
The Labour Party has welcomed GamCare's grotesque proposal (of course) on the basis that it would help prepare children for the adult world. Whatever next -- teaching children the responsible use of prostitution to help prepare them for the adult world?
Surely any responsible preparation must mean learning there is certain behaviour that is off-limits because it is intrinsically dangerous and harmful. Alas, GamCare's proposal is not some aberrant rush of blood to the head, but part of a more general pattern.
Some of the most profound coarsening of our culture has come about through a kind of ratchet effect.
First the law is liberalised. Then people get worried about the damage that's being done as a result.
But then, rather than undoing the liberal attitudes which are causing the problem, people try to pretend this damage can be corrected by picking up the pieces once it has been done.
We have watched this ratchet effect time and again with sexual behaviour. First the taboo on sex outside marriage was broken, and sex was redefined as having scant more significance than a recreational sport.
Then concerns grew about the ballooning rate of teenage pregnancies. But instead of guiding children away from precocious sexual activity, sex education focused on how to have sex without getting pregnant. The result: more and more children at ever younger ages are having sex. Well, what a surprise!
Then we saw it with drug-taking. First, lax enforcement brought the law against drugs into disrepute. Then concerns grew about the increasing number of young people taking drugs.
But instead of enforcing the law, a new policy was introduced of 'harm reduction' which told children how to minimise the risks to their own health when taking illegal narcotics. The result: more and more children taking drugs. Well, who'd have thought it?
Now the same thing is being proposed for gambling. Once upon a time, this was viewed as a vice that needed to be discouraged through strict social controls. Although it was legal, it was disapproved of because of the terrible harm it brought in its wake -- poverty, debt, bankruptcy, family breakdown and crime.
So betting shops were not allowed to advertise themselves and were seedy places from which the respectable kept well away.
All this changed in 1994 when the National Lottery was created by the then Conservative government. Suddenly, betting became respectable and a national pastime.
The Labour government went much further and liberalised the law restricting gambling. Within a short space of time, this led to an explosion of gambling addiction.
And so now the ratchet is turning once again, with the recommendation that pupils are taught 'responsible' gambling -- including identifying 'some of the more positive aspects of gambling' as well as the negative points.
But when applied to inherently harmful behaviour such as gambling, such apparent even-handedness is extraordinarily perverse and irresponsible.
There are already an estimated 100,000 problem gamblers under the age of 18, including some 60,000 12 to 15-year-olds -- a prevalence rate of 2 per cent, more than twice that for adults. …