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February 25, 2004
Clare Short says please a lot but gets the hang of it eventually

I'm watching former Cabinet Minister ("Overseas Development" I think she was) Clare Short pretending to be a teacher, in one of these unreal reality TV shows. She starts, poor thing, by thinking that she'll be teaching, when in fact her basic job is child minding and power projection. Child domination in other words. She keeps using the word "please", which is not good news coming out of the mouth of a prison officer.

Her basic problem is that she is in the middle of a hierarchy, and she has a problem with authority. She has a problem with the authority of her superiors (whom she keeps reminding are only pretend superiors, for a week, and generally patronising and refusing to listen to) and even more she has a problem with her own authority. She is in a school and her job is to keep the inmates under control. She is becoming a bossy cow in front of our eyes, being a bossy cow being her job.

I'm torn at this stage between thinking that Clare Short has a point, and that she is a silly cow. As a senior politician, and a Labour one at that, she has been presiding over this system of command and control. Did she think that it could ever be this inspiring utopia that she wants to operate in?

On the other hand, she's just given a talking-to to a young boy which might actually have made some sense to him, and made him into a better person.

And now, there's what looks like a completely pointless mass expedition into the car park by thirty children, and this bossy little git is telling them all with maximum officiousness - and effectiveness, given what he's trying to achieve, which is power over everybody - about what they all "need" to do. But what I would "need" if I was trapped in this insanity would be something not insane and not ridiculous. Now Clare is in charge of this lunacy, and of course, her not being a trained prison officer, it all gets out of control. The prisoners don't do their tasks. Clare starts to beg them to do what the system wants, but why should they?

I'm torn between thinking that Clare Short is ridiculous, and thinking that she is actually quite sensible but that what she is doing is ridiculous.

Now her tutor group are "not cooperating". "Please", she keeps saying.

Please behave like good prisoners. Please stop behaving like bad prisoners.

Oh dear. Now she's making her group give us her Third World propaganda pitch. We Brits ought to moan less and: "We want justice for developing countries!" shouts one of them. Applause. Her superiors are very impressed. They don't care about the Third World. What they care about is that Clare has got her little set of poodles performing like performing poodles. Oh well, better that than wolves devouring each other.

It wouldn't take long for Clare Short to fit right in and become an expert childminder/power projector. She's obviously getting the hang of it. She's learning to give orders with words like "Would you like to " at the start of them, but in a tone of voice which actually says "I order you to "

Yes. She's cracked it. And her superiors are exultant. They've converted her.

Interesting programme. I basically agree with the teachers, which is that if you have compulsory school attendance, this is how it has to be done. You can't force people to attend a place like this, and then pretend, and make them pretend, that it is all voluntary. Better to be honest about what is going on. Yes miss, no miss, three bags full miss. This was a "good" school. Poodles and not wolves.

But I now feel the way Clare Short felt at the start. It ought to be possible to do better than this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:39 PM
Category: The reality of teaching
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