Alan Dee: A for effort, but D for desperate lack of excitement

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IF you keep up with the news, there haven’t been that many reasons to be cheerful in recent weeks.

Every day we’re regaled with fresh bulletins on the latest condition of the decaying corpse of the global economy. Guess what, there rarely seem to be any silver linings and even if you’re a glass half full sort of person the best you can say is that at least we’re not as far up excrement alley without a sat nav as the good folk of Greece, Portugal or Ireland.

Then there’s all the fallout from big city riots, complete with hand-wringing from all sides of the political spectrum about why rootless teenagers with no prospects and no respect for others have been smashing their way into shops and helping themselves to the contents.

And if that’s not enough to bring you down, you can take your choice from sundry slayings, suicide bombings, and the return of Celebrity Big Brother from the grave.

But none of those sorry subjects has depressed me as much in recent days as a snapshot of exam success I came across in one of those backslapping round-ups that always appear at this time of year, accompanied by pictures of pert teenage girls hugging each other and celebrating their glorious grades.

What was is that made me groan and grimace? It was this – a teenager proudly reporting that after three years slogging away to earn high marks in business, maths and psychology, her grades were good enough to get her on to a course in accountancy and finance at Keele University which was the next step on a planned career path which would see her become a chartered accountant.

I have no criticism of a young lady who clearly has her head screwed on and is planning for the future, but there are so many things wrong with that sentence, aren’t there?

If you’d asked her back in primary school what she wanted to be when she grew up, do you think she would have said that her greatest desire was to learn how to count things in complicated ways?

And sadly she’s only going to get there if she spends three years stuck at Keele, which for those of you who only know it as a service station on the M6 is Britain’s largest campus university, moored to the edge of Newcastle-Under-Lyme in Staffordshire. I wouldn’t exactly call it the north, but it’s certainly grim.

The original settlement has been swamped by the uni in recent years just as the original village of Heathrow has been steamrollered by the airport.

But if this young lady is aiming at accountancy, I’m sure she’s done the sums – not only to calculate how much she’ll owe when she heads off from Keele with degree in hand, but also to work out how much the local economy depends on her and thousands like her to carry on spending in the years ahead.

Many university towns up and down the country absolutely depend on students as a raw material for the local economy, and the students in turn rely on borrowed cash – so it’s clear that we are unlikely to learn that lesson about living beyond our means any time soon.

That’s depressing enough, heaven knows, but the fact that a bright teenager with a whole world of possibilities in front of them is prepared to settle for Keele followed by accountancy is even more of a downer.