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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 12:10 GMT
Is Prince Charles out of touch?
Prince Charles with a mother and her son

The Prince of Wales is to publicly deny claims he is "old fashioned" in his views about modern teaching methods.

Education minister Charles Clarke said he was out of touch after the Prince said the system gave people hope beyond their capabilities.

In an internal memo the Prince complained about a learning culture based on a "child-centred system which admits no failure".

Prince Charles will say in a speech on Monday that not everyone has the same talents or abilities but that we can all, with the right nurturing, make a difference.

Do you agree with the Prince of Wales? Is it unrealistic to teach our children they can be anything they want? Is there a "one size fits all" education system?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

This topic was suggested by Miranda Kemp, England:
Is Prince Charles right? Is it unrealistic to teach children that they can do anything and be anything they want?

Prince Charles wasn't suggesting that people should stay in their place and not rise above their station. He was saying that schools shouldn't make children believe that they can do what they want to without putting in the hard work needed to achieve success, which is a valid point really.
Mark S, Manchester, UK

It may be true that HRH Prince Charles is out of touch - but out of touch with what? Out of touch with a selfish world in which the individual's potential is overshadowed by what is best for the whole. Out of touch with a world in which the standards and morals instilled in the past have been discarded for a selfish, immoral and perverted age. Let's go back to the standards that HRH stands for.
Chistopher Holmes, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

This is the sort of comment we have come to expect from certain members of the Royal Family. If it's not Prince Charles putting his foot in it then it's his father. I wish the Royal Family would keep their crass, ill-informed opinions to themselves.
Les, London, UK

They have everything and expect the world for nothing
Jason, Essex
I am a teacher who has to teach in this current climate at sixth form. I totally agree with the Prince, as this generation does expect something for nothing. I have to experience it every day and in fact it is getting worse. Today's kids are a generation where they have not learnt the values of 'hard honest work brings rewards'. They have everything and expect the world for nothing.
Jason, Essex

Failure is part of life and part of growing up. As is the realisation that the vast majority of people, yourself included, cannot do everything well. To shelter people from this is giving them an unrealistic view of the world. People have aptitude/talent for certain things, and the "one size fits all" approach does not give them the opportunity to excel at something, as well as not allowing anyone to "fail".
Erik, UK

I agree with Prince Charles. Having high aspirations, and being prepared to work hard to reach them, is quite different to being unrealistic about one's capabilities. Furthermore, if a child never acknowledges failure, how can they learn to try again and hopefully get it right next time?
Ann, Hampshire

I am no fan of the monarchy but in this instance Charles is right. We are not all equal. Not everyone is able to be a brain surgeon or judge. That is a fact of life. If you cannot accept these differences then tough. Our education system is letting a whole generation of children down.

The Price of Wales is obviously a man with a much more down to earth view of things than people seem to give him credit for. I would more readily trust him than any politician that is for sure.
Jamie Thompson, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

These sorts of comments just go to show how irrelevant the monarchy is in the modern world
Martin, Ipswich
Clearly Charles, William and Harry are not fit to be head of state on this basis - none of them are academic achievers by any stretch of the imagination. These sorts of comments just go to show how irrelevant the monarchy is in the modern world.
Martin, Ipswich

It's very big of Charles Clarke to say he welcomes the Prince's speech and that the matter is now ended. It was his (Clarke) total misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation of the prince's original comments that needs to be apologised for.
Loz, UK

Surely Charles was just saying that people shouldn't expect to succeed without putting in the necessary effort and work. What's so wrong with that? This whole thing seems to have been blown out of all proportion.
Nick, London, England

Thousands of children want to be the next Britney Spears or the next Justin Hawkins, well it's not going to happen. Good on the prince.
Oliver Turner, Yorkshire

I think this just goes to show that he's got his finger firmly on the pulse of the nation. He's absolutely right.
Bob, UK

To 'be out of touch' would suggest that at sometime he was 'in touch', could someone please remind me when that was.
Arthur Pitt, Abingdon, U.K.

Let Mr Clarke carry on in his education fantasy world, and the rest of us try and deal with the ludicrously over confident, and under educated, graduates that now yearly, enter our organisations.
Steve, UK

Many children leave school now days believing that the world owes them a living
Matt Deacon, Romford, Essex

Many children leave school now days believing that the world owes them a living without having to work for it. Schools with their 'no losers' policies and failing to point out their mistakes does not set them up for life in a working environment.
Matt Deacon, Romford, Essex

He's half right. It's clearly unhelpful to tell people that they do can achieve anything they want without effort, but also unhelpful to suggest too much, or too early that they do not have the "brains" for some career. This latter assessment can too often cover racial or class prejudice, or a lazy teacher not willing to keep trying to find the right way to reach a particular pupil.
Steve Linton, St Andrews

Yes he is out of touch and in future maybe he should refrain from offering his "solutions" to something he knows nothing about - the real world. I must say though I applauded the response from Charles Clarke on the Today Programme I have not heard a cabinet politician speak in such a frank manner for years.
John Keegans, Nottingham, UK

I think Charles (the prince that is!) is absolutely right. Children are molly coddled for fear of hurting them. There is also an ever growing obsession with celebrity. Most celebrities become successful (if you call material wealth success) through looks and image rather than necessarily talent. This sets a bad example for growing kids who think they have a right to be rich and famous without having to put in the hard work. There is nothing wrong with being honest to a child about their ability which will help them find the right direction in life.
Ian, UK

Stop telling our children that they can have it all for nothing
Lyn, Dorset, UK
As an employer, I understand, agree with and fully sympathise with the Prince. Not all by any means, but far too many, young people seem to believe that they are being treated badly if their lateness, carelessness or poor behaviour is criticised by the person handing them a pay packet at the end of the week.

This isn't about class distinction - often the most disadvantaged people are the ones most prepared to put in the work and they are the ones who succeed. Rich or poor those who sit on their backsides and think the World owes them a living are becoming a national problem in the workplace. So stop telling our children that they can have it all for nothing. I actually don't see much point in the monarchy but if they are prepared to stand up and tell it how they see it - then more power to them!
Lyn, Dorset, UK

On 19th November, under the headline "Academics 'pressured to pass failing students", The Guardian published the results of a survey of 400 academics. Almost half of the academics questioned had "felt obliged to pass a student whose performance did not really merit a pass" A worrying 42% said that "decisions to fail students' work have been overruled at higher levels in the institution" It is not the Prince of Wales who is out of touch. It is politicians like Mr. Clarke who live on a different planet, surrounded by targets, quotas and sound bites which are meant to make them appear 'caring' and 'inclusive.
Mrs. D.B. Ridgway , London

He didn't say we shouldn't aspire to be greater, he said that not everyone should be encouraged to be judges etc because not everyone has natural ability. Quite frankly, if you can't see the obvious logic of what he said and only react to what you think you want to hear, you're proving his point that the child-centric education we have doesn't work! Listen to what people say, then debate with that, not what you make up in your head. On another point though, Charles is the last person on earth to speak about earning one's place through hard work and merit...
Tom Franklin, London, UK

Charles Clarke is the one out of touch. It is not the fault of pupils or students who do the work set but the work set & the curriculum now is irrelevant to the world of work. I work in training adults for work and most people have no idea what to do or what they can do. Most simply do not aspire but merely dream of a good job.
David Butterfield, West Yorkshire

For every success there are many failures
Michael, York
Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve? Yes. Everyone will achieve? No. Isn't that what Charles said? If so, it is simply the logic of reality. In every area of human endeavour, for every success there are many failures.
Michael, York

I am a Comprehensive School Teacher and The Prince of Wales is the one who is making sense, it is the education Secretary who is the one who is out of touch.
rob, Newport, Wales

I agree with the prince, I am an FE lecturer and I have students who cannot understand maths wanting to be rich engineers and teach basic English to students who fancy themselves as journalists and song-writers. Aspiring to be better is one thing, telling kids they can be anything they want without brains or effort is another! I am sick of the attitudes of most of my students, all they want to be is celebrities and pop idols! GGrrrrrggghhh!
Bill Wood, Belfast, NI

The recent comments made by Prince Charles sadly show how little the Royal Family understands today's meritocratic life in the UK, where people are encouraged to study and work hard to realise their personal goals. Not everyone is born into the position of a Prince due solely to the hereditary principle; a position that does not require, "putting in the necessary effort or having natural ability". Such comments really should call into question the validity of the Royal Family's role as the figurehead of British Society when it is plainly so remote from the people it supposedly represents.
Paul S Johnson, UK

By all means encourage people to have goals but make them realise that it takes time and hard work to get to them.
Eileen, UK
I agree with one aspect of what the Prince had to say. Effort and/or a degree of natural talent are required in order to achieve success. Society today seems to be geared towards instant gratification and it is only the very lucky that achieve their aspirations without working hard for them. Yes by all means encourage people to have goals but make them realise that it takes time and hard work to get to them. I am currently studying on OU degree and have just finished the 2nd of 6 years. When I tell people this their attitude is usually, Oh I wouldn't do something that takes that long but I know that I cannot achieve what I want overnight
Eileen, UK

I think the Prince has a point. Too much education seems to promise people the world when they simply won't get it. Many graduates, including me, have ordinary jobs, we don't have massive salaries or status. Education for education's sake is good but it is time to stop encouraging pupils and students to chase rainbows and get real about what they are good at and what they can achieve.
Fabian, UK

To see Mr Clarke declare that Prince Charles doesn't know what is really going on in schools today makes me wonder whether any education minister really understands the same thing. Daily abuse of teachers, a culture of under-achievement, disciplinary systems that seem to be based more on persuasion that on the rule of law. I would like the government to be completely honest about the catastrophic state of discipline in our state schools and do something about it once and for all.
Peter, Bristol

Charles Clarke said that the Prince "doesn't understand what is going on in the British education system at the moment". I thoroughly disagree. Prince Charles understands only too well what the problems with our "education" system are. The government are trying to make everybody conform to the same criteria, and it simply isn't working. People ARE different, in many ways, not least in terms of natural abilities. Yes, people should always try to better themselves, but they should also realise that everybody has their niche to fill in society. However, if the government continues with their current policies, we might as well erase the word "individual" from our dictionaries.
Anon, UK

The weight of opinion on this page seems in favour of an elitist education system that selects in the few "clever" kids and screens out the less able ones. Government policy appears to be aimed at increasing education opportunities for as many people as possible. This must be a good thing - except for those who sneer at "rinky-dink" qualifications that they don't understand or appreciate.
David, Broxbourne, UK

Prince Charles made pertinent and sensible comments, and he was not suggesting that we should not encourage young people to do the best they can, but pointing out that they need to appreciate that if they are to succeed in their chosen career/profession/ambition they need to work for it - it will not be handed to them on a plate.
Anon, Wales

If we follow the line adopted by Prince Charles we could save a fortune by just not bothering to educate the 'serfs' and send them at 11 to work in the mills or clean chimneys! A comment from someone like this who, despite his failure to achieve at public school, still managed to get into Cambridge.
Dave, Bury, Lancs

I think children can do anything if they put their minds to it and work hard. There is no harm in encouraging children to better themselves and get qualifications. I am currently working full time and doing a law degree on Saturdays and believe I can achieve my degree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to better oneself.
Fiona Joules, Telford, England

Fiona Joules from Telford said "I think children can do anything if they put their minds to it and work hard". Well of course they can, and that is to be encouraged. But what Charles was saying is that there is a culture of not wanting to work hard but retaining the expectation of great rewards. I completely agree with Charles, he is spot on, and the people who have suggested that what he meant was to educate the wealthy and send the poor down the mines have completely missed the point.
Helen, Bucks, UK

Setting a high standard brings good results
Njideka, Milton Keynes

Charles is seriously old fashioned. Setting a high standard brings good results. I believe everyone has the ability to do better when encouraged. What stops a Special educational needs child from thinking he could one day become an engineer?
Njideka, Milton Keynes

I agree with the Prince, my Wife and I are prime examples of the current new age teaching. We both grew up in the same town and went to the same comprehensive school. I was classed as an under achiever due to my failure to respond to the 'new' methods used, yet my wife went on to Cambridge. This is mainly due to the way the education system is designed to try and use one means of teaching for all pupils.
Rob Hughes, Chesterfield UK

I think that there is no need for a return to the days when children were told they were stupid, and suffered humiliation as a result. However I would like to see an end to the dumbing down of exams, and teaching in general, simply so that those less able can pass all their exams.
Adam Dyer, Cambridge

We have teachers who don't correct spelling mistakes as the child may feel inadequate, we have schools that give all who participate in sporting events top awards so the children who lose don't feel a failure so yes the Prince does have a point.
Walter Sives, Catterick

I think children can do anything if they put their minds to it and work hard
Fiona Joules, Telford, England

Prince Charles is right. Too many children leave school with ambitions beyond their qualifications and ability and become disillusioned with work. Some are prepared to make sacrifices to gain experience and qualifications after leaving school but too many believe they have some sort of right to senior positions without offering an employer evidence of ability beyond the pack.
Ed Smith, Nottingham UK

I agree with Prince Charles. If you have a 'one size fits all' system, there will be nothing for anybody to aspire to. Kids will shrug there shoulders believing they don't have to work hard at anything, as it's their god given right to be the same as everybody else.
Nick, UK

Whatever you think of the Prince of Wales' remarks (and he may have a point), I'm not surprised by Labour's intolerant reaction to this criticism of one of their policies.
Gerry, Oxford

People these days just don't seem to know their place!
Jon, Southsea

For once someone is saying what we all know but are afraid to say in case we are accused of discriminating.
C Smith, England

I tend to side with the Prince of Wales on this one
Andy, Leeds, UK

I tend to side with the Prince of Wales on this one. The government is trying to vastly over-inflate the career options of school and university students. What the government forget is the fact that many students who achieve degrees and diplomas don't actually continue into a career with their line of study. Many choose a different path once they leave further education.
Andy, Leeds, UK

Currently the government want many students to study for a degree, regardless of their skills. If a child cannot pass their A-levels what hope have they of gaining a degree - unless of cause it's dumbed down...
Caren, England

I agree with the Prince of Wales. For years the education system has been ruined by politicians who think they know best but one-size does not fit all.
Rose Howard, Milton Keynes England

Many of the papers have portrayed Price Charles' comments as a class thing and everyone should know their place. The current system, both educational and business, encourages people to want promotions without them working for them. For example a colleague claimed she had not been promoted because she was a women and would not accept that the reason was her lack of relevant skills.
Caron Marie, England

Do we want our education system to churn out academics or a cross-section of different skills required by the business community?
Karen, England

It just shows what era he is living in!
Jaswinder, Birmingham, UK

It just shows what era he is living in! Why should we listen to a pompous old toff, who clearly wants to go back to days of the class system, working class people were not supposed to have ideas 'above their station' He should learn from his mother and keep his over inflated opinions to himself.
Jaswinder, Birmingham, UK

The current A-levels are a prime example. Many are mainly based on course work and there is nothing to stop a child being helped by a parent/teacher/a private company in order to achieve a high mark. We must revert to exams were possible.
Caroline, England

The idea of putting 50% of the population through university, doing invariably rinky-dinky degrees like media studies is a joke. Only 10% of the jobs out there are graduate based. Raising peoples' expectations that they will be the next "big thing" is both cruel and unfair.
Richard Smith, Arundel

Charles' school comments defended
18 Nov 04 |  Politics
Former secretary accuses Prince
18 Nov 04 |  London

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