Flicking through the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail gleefully reported the comments of Tony McGuirk – chief fire officer of Merseyside, salary: over £200,000 a year – accusing the public sector of being ‘Riddled with the bone idle’. Given that the Daily Mail pays columnists such as Richard Littlejohn nearly a million pounds a year for churning out 1 or 2 lazily written and rehashed columns a week it all seems a bit hypocritical.

Show me a public sector worker who earns anywhere near what Littlejohn does simply by flicking though the Daily Mail or his email inbox for source material before cobbling it together in a few minutes and I’ll concede that Tony McGuirk has a point.

Meanwhile Facebook gets yet another headline mention: ‘Facebook and internet “can re-wire your brain”‘. The article is based on the opinion of one expert who does not appear to mention Facebook at all and actually suggests that using computers for such a large percentage of our lives must have a neurological impact and should be studied. She makes it clear that what she is giving is merely an opinion and uses words like ‘may’ a lot and calls for research to be undertaken. Yet the Daily Mail is quite happy to slap another completely misleading headline at the top of it, along with the obligatory mention of Facebook.

Also in today’s Mail is a lot of detail on why acknowledging students with Special Educational Needs is a ‘con’ and a waste of ‘our’ money. This seems to me an odd assertion to make, given the carefully constructed media narrative that the tabloid press have created concerning the state of the nation’s youth. We are repeatedly told that here in ‘broken Britain’ the feral youth runs wild, unteachable, sex-obsessed and completely without any morals or ambition to achieve.

Yet, when this media narrative seems to be somewhat reflected in the education sector – the increasing need for social workers to have a function within schools, the need for classroom assistants to closely aid certain pupils and many more holistic support services designed to include those pupils who struggle to otherwise engage with mainstream education, then we are told that it is all a big con.

Suddenly the young people entering education are fine and instead it is ‘bad’ teachers that are merely labelling students as SEN because they cannot teach properly. Having worked fairly extensively in education I’m becoming increasingly frustrated on the expectations placed upon teachers. Teaching should primarily be about passing on a subject specialist knowledge as specified by the relevant curriculum. This is to be achieved with the necessary classroom management skills, as well as the ability to build a good rapport with individual students to give them the chance and inspiration to succeed.

At what point did it become acceptable to expect teachers to fulfill their job role with students who have absolutely no respect for teachers, the school or anyone in any position of authority? I’m getting pretty sick of the whole mantra that ‘a good teacher can teach anyone’. You try it, I dare you. Go into an inner city school and get called a ‘cunt’ frequently by 12 year olds who then inform you: ‘what are you going to do about it, if you touch me I’ll get you sacked’.

Teaching is a unique industry in that people expect any old shit poured into the system to come out a well-balanced, well educated person. We don’t give chefs piles of rotten manure and expect them to turn it into something tasty, we don’t give house-builders a pile of rotten wood and expect them to turn it into a mansion. But we do expect teachers to turn any student – no matter how abused, socially, emotionally and educationally stunted they might be – into a citizen capable of a productive working life.

Well, teachers cannot perform miracles anymore than a chef or housebuilder. We all work with the raw materials we are given. Certainly, a good chef, builder or teacher can get more out of the raw materials than a bad one, but this is no longer about maximising potential, rather it has become about educating those not capable of integrating into mainstream education. If you dare attempt to bring in the staff and expertise to help such students survive – let alone prosper – in mainstream education the Daily Mail will run lots of stories about how you’re wasting the taxpayer’s money on a big con.

There seems to be something very wrong in the world when we shoulder teachers – who let’s not forget have to spend four years in University to earn a starting wage of around £21,000 a year – with the responsibility of not just stretching the brightest pupils, but also lifting up pupils whose home life has left them emotional wrecks without the ability to participate in the educational process. That the Daily Mail decides it is a important piece of journalism to savagely attack schools who try to bring in the right support – counsellors, Classroom Assistants (who earn a fraction of what they deserve for the difficult work they do) and relevant social services – for earning ‘in excess of £20,000’ when the Daily Mail is staffed by overpaid hypocrites who don’t understand a single thing about having a real job, is beyond tasteless.

We’re told all the time about how public sector staff wouldn’t last a minute in the ‘real world’ of private sector work, well, how about we turn this around: how many public sector employers would employ the dishonest, lazy, uneducated ‘journalists’ that fill tabloid newspapers each day with bile and bullshit in equal measure. Every single teacher I know could sit at a desk bending statistics until they proved that the whole world was being taken over by burka-clad Muslims, or write a few sentences on how a celebrity was looking good / fat / thin / old / young. Let’s face it, the majority of work a journalist does these days is copy and pasting from another news website or a press agency, or a press release. Their worst work can happily be hidden behind the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’, so they don’t even have to acknowledge what a soul-destroying existence they have working for a tabloid editor.

If anyone reading this has the power to create a TV documentary that could put some Daily Mail journalists – or even better, some of their moralising ‘we know best’ columnists – undercover into a tough secondary school for a short spell of teaching practice, then please make this happen.

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