Appearances on BBC News and Daily Politics

14 July 2008

Appeared on BBC News talking about Alan Steer’s new recommendations that teachers should have the right to search pupils for alcohol and drugs, as well as knives. I pointed out that it was sad that there had to be a law to enable teachers to do this: it was yet another indication that we’ve lost control of our children. I blamed the government above all of the other usual suspects — parents, gangs, teachers etc — because they’ve created this child-centred culture whereby the child feels he is in charge. We’ve got to the ridiculous point where teachers are not allowed to ask children to pick up litter, to serve them at lunch time, to open doors for them, to listen and be prepared to do some hard work, because such things would not be meeting their needs’. I went to expand upon this theme on BBC’s Daily Politics with Andrew Neil and the Shadow Education Minister, Nick Gibb, explaining that we need a root and branch reform of the philosophy of education. We, as rational adults, must draw up a list of reasonable ‘demands’ on children, things they MUST know and do, rather than chasing around attending to their unique needs. It’s this meeting the ‘needs’ of children that has ultimately led to the cancerous erosion of values in our education system. We’ve reached a critical point now, with 66% of front-line teachers believing there is a discipline crisis in school. I think the public are fed up with New Labour’s cosy rhetoric because they see through it: results may be improving, but our children are obviously becoming dumber, ruder, more truculent. Having spent the weekend in Italy at a wedding, I was reminded of this: at midnight in the large town where we were staying teenagers were ambling peaceably about the square, chatting, joking, having fun. What’s the equivalent in Britain? Puking, fighting, stabbing, abuse, chaos.

On the way to the TVC, I had a fascinating conversation with the cabbie. He was an ex-builder and we got chatting about all the asbestos in TVC and why they are shutting down the building. He explained to me how negligent big business and the government were over the asbestos crisis: covering up its lethal nature for years, pretending that certain kinds of asbestos were safe when they weren’t. He himself worked in buildings where there was a lot of asbestos: every time he gets a cough now he wonders whether he’s had it.

He also told me a funny story about giving a lift to an infamous Muslim cleric to TVC. The fundamentalist cleric was very jokey at first — cracking anti-semitic jokes like nobody’s business — but became very agitated when they passed by a number of building and land fill sites when he freaked out, shouting at the cabbie that he was a dodgy man and that he wanted to get out of the car. He completely flipped. Apparently, the cleric was worried that the cabbie was in fact a contract killer and not taking him to the Beeb at all. He only calmed down when he spoke to the editor of the programme on the mobile. The cabbie commented: ‘So much for him accepting death with a calm face.”

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