By Mike Southon
FT Columnist

Young people today are feckless and lazy, their minds softened by computer games and trashy TV. Their morals are debased by the obscene and blasphemous Lady Gaga and the violent culture promulgated by gangsta rap. No wonder crime and unemployment rates are so high, especially amongst school-leavers.

Sadly this seems to be a commonly held view, especially from those who have not spent any quality time in schools for 40 years. If, like me, you are fortunate to be invited in to meet students you see a completely different picture.

Perhaps I do not get to meet the really difficult ones, who may well be smoking behind the bike sheds, or worse. But listening to those students who have been asked to prepare a presentation or a business idea you are struck immediately by their well-developed sense of social purpose.

Back in my day, if you exhibited any sense of brotherly love, you were dismissed as a pansy, communist or hippy. Today, you find in schools a real sense of social awareness, actively encouraged by the teachers and often building on the philanthropic goals of the original founder.

Sir George Monoux was a wealthy draper who later became Lord Mayor. In 1527 he built alms houses and an associated school for the poor of Walthamstow. In 1659 it became a grammar school for boys, and then a comprehensive until 1986 when it became a sixth form college.

Today the students reflect the diverse and multi-cultural nature of the local area infused with the strong entrepreneurial spirit you always find in first and second-generation immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves.

Rather than have a project or set of values imposed from above, a group of students at the college put together their own entrepreneurial programme around the theme of ‘Love of Mankind’. This includes a number of ambitious projects, starting with a workshop program called ‘Little Stars’ to improve literacy amongst younger children at a local school, Mission Grove Primary.

Saima Khalid, Rukhsar Hussain, Abu Choudhury and Salman Rehman gave me a very fluent presentation, which was both inspiring and humbling. They had first to raise some funding for the project from college sources and the Drapers fund and then their team spent a day working with the children, under the guidance of experienced coach and mentor Usha Nair.

The feedback was outstanding. Mr. Darling from Mission Grove School said the day was a resounding success and all the children took part enthusiastically. He was very impressed by the team’s professionalism and observed that it seemed like a typical day in their diary rather than the launch of their first project.

As with all good training, the team members learnt as much as their audience. Aniqa Hakim improved her communications skills and has now decided to become a primary school teacher, while Omar Hussein learned that he can actually work with younger children and it felt good helping them develop some skills.

Whether the students I met decide to go to university, get a job or even become self-employed, programmes like Love of Mankind will give them many of the soft skills they require to succeed.

For their in-house teacher and mentor Jose Vincent and the principal Paolo Ramella it not only supplements the prescribed curriculum but also decreases the allure of the ever-present external threats I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Wherever he is now, I hope Sir George Monoux has Internet access. If he does, I am sure he regularly looks at the students’ Love of Mankind Weblog, which must make him feel very proud indeed.

The Love of Mankind Weblog can be found at

Originally published in The Financial Times: ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon- Co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur & Business Speaker-

Mike is one of the world’s top business speakers, a Fellow of The Professional Speakers Association. Mike is a Visiting Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London South Bank University. He has made frequent appearances on television and radio, has a monthly sales column in Real Business magazine and is a regular commentator in the Financial Times.

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