Terence Blacker: What children want, they must have

Misguided adults are allowing kiddie-rule to win the day

Share
Related Topics

In the very funny American TV series Glee, one adult teacher of teenagers encourages another to be brutal to his charges. "They're children," she says. "They need to be treated rough." It is a good line because these days the slightest hint of teacherly roughness towards pupils is unthinkable. Indeed, to judge by recent events, the exertion of any kind of unpopular authority is slipping out of fashion.

Two primary school head teachers have this week paid the price for behaving like grown-ups. Both have been taken to task by children, supported by those imitation-children, their parents. In our infantile, self-gratifying culture, any tricky conflict between what children want and what those in charge of them believe they should get is likely to go one way. The last word is always with the kids.

Last year Lydd Primary School in Romsey decided to teach children about where food comes from. As part of the process, a sheep which had been hand-reared at the school was, it was agreed by the school council, sent at the end of its stay to a slaughterhouse. When the inevitable "concerned parents" told the press, all hell broke loose. There were photographs of blubbing children with their outraged mums. The TV and radio star Paul O'Grady offered to buy the sheep. The headteacher, Andrea Charman, explained that the point of the exercise had been to show the connection between animals and the food we eat.

A campaign to have Mrs Charman sacked followed. Some 2,500 people signed an online petition demanding her dismissal. A Facebook group calling itself Ban Andrea Charman from Teaching Anywhere attracted 650 followers. She was threatened with violence. The mass media sided, as always, with silly emotionalism over good sense. In the end , Mrs Charman, who is said by all who have worked with her to be an excellent head teacher, has had to resign. The rule of the playground – bullying, sentimental and unreasoning – has won.

Another storm has blown up around a primary school in Weston-super-Mare where the head teacher has daringly and sensibly banned St Valentine's cards. Children aged between five and 11 are too young to be caught up in such things, he has said. Card-giving, the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing, leads to anxiety, bullying and unhappiness at that young age.

In a sane world, this man would be quietly praised for holding firm against not one but two forms of contemporary pressure: the sexualisation of children and commercial exploitation by the cards and gift industry. Instead, predictably, he has been vilified. The right-wing press, which might be expected to uphold traditional values, has jumped the other way, sniffing that new favourite, political correctness. The school is run by "Valentine killjoys", one newspaper complained. Ann Widdecombe, suddenly an expert on romance, has pronounced that Valentine's cards are simply a bit of fun. "Teachers should be worrying more about academic standards than emotionally wrapping up their pupils in cotton wool."

It is a truly idiotic statement. The cotton wool is provided by those who believe that what a child wants, it should get, whether it be a Valentine's card or a fairy-tale about where meat comes from.

Kiddie-rule will win the day again. Gripped by a fear of disappointing children, or allowing them to learn a lesson which may make them think, adults prefer to take decisions which are easy, weak and wrong.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?