On Thursday I had a truly wonderful day running writing workshops for Year 6 pupils (10 to 11 year olds) at Croft Primary School – my old primary school. I was delighted to have been invited to work with them and found myself learning just as much from them as I hope they learned from me.
What I immediately noticed was just how savvy and switched on these kids were – far more so than myself at that age. The workshops were designed to show how we can create stories from nothing, examine what inspires us, and show that with a simply structure and some pointers we can build a story from scratch very easily. In the context of discussing our life experiences and how we all subconsciously use that in our stories, I gave the kids carte blanche to brainstorm story ideas. The idea was that we would together as a group pick a genre, a setting, a general central plot, and a set of characteristics for a main character, and they must finish the story in any way they see fit. So far, so good.
There were four groups of between 6 and 8 participants, and every single group – without fail or exception, nor any prompting – brought up Donald Trump, the US presidential race, and Hillary Clinton. More than that, both were unanimously painted in shades of evil. Most wanted Trump to be the villain of our concocted story, and one child even went so far as describing the proposed protagonist of the story as having a nasty side and generally being ‘Trump-like’.
We are talking about a small village primary school in the north west of England, with only 140 students approximately. It amazed me that they were all so clued in on such broader, more adult topics. But there were all sorts of other examples of how these kids seem to be growing up quicker than I did at the same age.
All the stories they came up with all featured dystopian futures, corrupt governments and administrations, discrimination (racism was mentioned frequently), rioting and general societal fracture. One group even wanted to set the story in World War 3. I asked when this was. The answer given? ‘About 2 years’. It was amazing to hear what the world around us has got these kids thinking.
I’m not in any position to make any grand societal statements about what I learned from this tiny cross section of the youth of today, but I certainly found it revealing, very interesting and surprising. Where as a ten year old I was all about dinosaurs and football stickers, are ten year olds today really preoccupied with oppressive regimes, political fracture and grim futures? I have no idea. I’m sure there’s a lesson in here about how access to information is so much easier for modern youths (with phones, internet etc), and we are all moulded to an extent by what is around us.
Either way, I loved the chance to work with such a bright, polite, engaging and downright clever set of individuals. My thanks to the headteacher of Croft Primary School, Mrs Mains, and the Year 6 teacher, Miss Perry, for the wonderful opportunity – and I certainly hope to work with the children again.
PS I’m off to write a middle grade dystopian comedy thriller, set shortly in the future during World War 3, featuring oppression, discrimination, rioting and Donald Trump…