Why do so many people feel sympathy for a teacher acquitted for attempted murder?

4 May 2010

The Peter Harvey case has come at a particularly interesting time, just before one of the most turbulent elections of recent times, and at a point where there is a crisis of confidence in our schools. Peter Harvey battered a pupil of his with a dumb-bell, fracturing his skull, while saying “Die, die, die!” Harvey had lost his mind, having been goaded and teased and bullied by his pupils to the point of an uncontrolled, psychotic rage. A jury acquitted him of attempted murder because it was clear that he’d lost his mind. The case comes at a time when the Tories are proposing that parents should be running schools, and the media in general are saying that teachers are not in control of our schools. I appeared on Sky News, Channel 5 News, and GMTV talking about why teachers feel sympathy for his plight. I talked about my experiences of losing control in the classroom. I was interested to note that most people in the outside world don’t particularly blame teachers, but perceive that parents play a major role in causing their children’s misbehaviour.

People feel sympathy for Peter Harvey because he is an embodiment of our anxieties about teenagers. He did what many people fantasize about; he expressed the depth of his unhappiness about the youth of today in physical terms.

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