OPINION: Learning to respect personal space is vital at any age

High school students

Teaching high school students to respect each others space is a good life lessons, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Age and our attitudes to it throw up a whole raft of fascinating contradictions.

While 70 is the new 50, and we’re all feeling/behaving/doing stuff that our parents’ generation would consider far more appropriate for people far younger, the gulf of understanding between youth and mature remains as great as it ever was.

A high school in Manchester this week whipped up ire among the more mature by publishing greater clarity to its rules on its students’ physical contact with each other. Or, as it was portrayed, its ban on any physical contact

High schools are where young people prepare for the world of work and adult life, so school rules to teach students to respect others’ personal space seem perfectly reasonable to, in the school management’s words, to “further improve our positive school culture.”

It’s about the 11-16-year-olds keeping their hands to themselves. In what school would pushing, pulling, lifting, or jostling, ‘play fighting’ - the physical equivalent of ‘banter’ as a cover for low level bullying – or inappropriate touching and unwanted hugging – again, “I was just hugging him, Miss,” when clearly gripping him in a head lock – be accepted?

All of the above is unacceptable in a workplace so the school is doing exactly what it should do to prepare these young people to behave properly and appropriately.

Life would have been far easier for so many had these rules been laid down in the 70s when I was at school. It would have saved many trips to A&E and episodes of humiliation for so many people, where being pulled and pushed in corridors and playgrounds, grabbed inappropriately by male peers and jostled were all in a day’s work at my rufty-tufty comp.

Most Read

It wasn’t character building, it was horrible.

Reaction was quick and angry to these rules. It was teaching children to be robot, to be easily offended and to avoid any physical contact in sympathy and affection.

Those shouting loudest are probably those who would be the first to take offence, finger point and accuse if their personal space was violated.

The school has imposed the rules for students to “feel safe in school,” “have a supportive environment in and outside of lessons,” demonstrate mutual respect, are kind to each other and promote “positive attitudes towards each other and healthy relationships with their peers.”

What is there not to like or want for our children?

Objectors are those who see pulling people’s jumpers, jumping on backs, and inappropriate jostling is just “having fun,” asking “where has people’s sense of humour gone?” Objecting to being someone else’s plaything is a sense of humour bypass?

All the above is teaching young people socially acceptable conduct and how to interact maturely and respectfully with other people.

Parents and students say they feel “pressured” to act with restraint, respect, and decorum. That’s life, chuck, get used to it

If everyone knows what’s expected, it will save a lot of teachers’ time.

Teaching young people to respect others’ personal space will bringing about a calmer, friendlier and kinder atmosphere.

To those shouting that none of the above did them any harm; I’d beg to differ.

Old is the new young

On the subject of generational divide, the average age of Glastonbury performers this weekend is 45 and two months.

At 63, Kate Bush is chart-topping again with Running Up that Hill, release in 1985, and back again via Netflix’s Stranger Things,

Paul McCartney, at 80, is on the headliner bill followed by teenagers and twenty somethings who will be as much in awe of someone older than their grandparents on the stage to 20-year-old Billie Eilish, who will be the youngest to perform solo on the Pyramid Stage.

Old rockers are flocking this to see the Rolling Stones and The Eagles, and my ears are still ringing from 75-year-old Elton John’s set at Carrow Road last week, where his voice was as strong as ever.

Like the Rolling Stones, he and his band appeared to love every minute of what they were doing, never taking themselves too seriously, with Elton leaving the stage of his final tour Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on what looked like a stair lift.

My friend and I were reminiscing this week that it is 40 years since we sat our A-levels. Our 58-year-old selves are far from who we imagined we might be – old and crumbly with it all behind us – in ‘wind down and taking it easy’ mode, and “elderly women”, as we used to be called in local newspapers back then.

We still believe the best is yet to come and continue to plan what we want to be when we “grow up”.

We’re fitter and more active than we’ve ever been, retain our passion for fashion and are embracing new pastimes and activities all the time, taking as inspiration the 70 and 80-odd year-olds we meet along the way, for whom giving up is a dirty phrase, and are doing more, embracing more, keeping up and keeping relevant.

These people, mostly women, are lessons to us all, mostly widowed, with their own illnesses and health conditions overcome, with packed weekly schedules, as fit as fleas, keeping themselves moving, stepping into new adventures, embodying living life to the full because it is for living, and most importantly, having fun, laughing, and having opinions on everything.

Getting older is a privilege, and one that should never be wasted.