Leading Article: Why the callers got the right man

Share
Related Topics
Seventy-seven thousand self-selecting telephone callers do not necessarily constitute a reliable test of the nation's mood. Some of those who - in the four hours available - called the BBC Radio 4 Today programme's poll for Personality of the Year may have been solicited to do so by political parties, may have followed the old Ulster precept of "vote early, vote often", or may have got the number for Tony Blair mixed up with that for the Queen Mother - it is easily done.

Nevertheless, their choice of the London headmaster Philip Lawrence - who was murdered while attempting to break up a fight outside his school - is of great interest. Of course, he had just been in the news - but so had the Princess of Wales (fourth). True, he had been killed, and there is always a sympathy vote - but this was also the case with Yitzhak Rabin (third). Something more than the obvious was going on.

Mr Lawrence was a victim of a phenomenon that fills many of us with great anxiety and fear. That a group of young boys in pursuit of a trivial feud were prepared to use deadly violence against an innocent man exemplifies the culture of arbitrary lawlessness that seems to have seized sections of our youth. The murder highlighted other stories of gangs roaming school premises looking for victims, of the widespread possession and easy availability of the types of blades that never grace a kitchen, and of authority held in complete contempt by teenagers. Finally, it suggested what can be the fate of those citizens who "have a go", whose conscience does not allow them to pass by. So the vote for Mr Lawrence may reflect our pessimism in the face of disintegration and brutishness.

There is a more hopeful interpretation available. Mr Lawrence could probably have fashioned a successful teaching career anywhere in the profession. Educated at a public school himself, he would have risen in the private sector, teaching bright, confident children from privileged homes. But that was not what he wanted. The challenge for him - as it is for us - was how to educate the children from the inner city and the sink estates. He did it by exercising imagination in his teaching methods, by demanding high standards from his pupils and by constructing a safe environment for them to learn in.

Mr Lawrence was a citizen activist, a man who understood that individuals have to take action for a community to prosper. He is, therefore, an appropriate and a wise choice as the man of 1995.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower