Barking Mad

Just as the fag end of August comes into view the traditional summer silly season of news stories seems to have finally taken off. The usual mad, trivial and funny news stories that traditionally litter the news outlets at this time of year have rightly been sidelined by events in Norway and inner cities.

Until now.

A dog charity is calling for the Department of Education to add ‘Dog Education’ to it’s already unwieldy curriculum. ( The charity manager, a dim and deluded sounding dog lover by the name of Sue Smith seems to believe “there is ample space for both schools and colleges to to include dogs on their curriculum.” She actually said that. She did. Read it again if you don’t believe me.

So where would like us to fit in ‘Dog Education’? Just before our lessons on Cat Culture? In a curriculum that is already at breaking point as schools try to offer personalised learning (yuk!) At a time when Subject Leaders will fist fight to ensure they get their quota of art or music or history or PE on the timetable Sue Smith wants us to fit in a session that explains “having a big dog, particularly a bull breed, is nothing like having a labrador.” Really? Thanks. Now let’s get on with some real fucking schooling please.

Let’s just humour Sue for a moment here. Let’s imagine that Michael Gove suddenly reveals he believes that correcting the dog ignorance of our youth is what is needed to position the UK back up there in the international hierarchy with Finland (what is that man’s obsession with Finland? Do they have Dog Education timetabled? Must find this out). Immediately I foresee two problems.  Firstly no other subject would highlight the class and socio-economic divisions in school than dogs.

Imagine the day our young dog owners are asked to bring in their canine pals. I can see it now. Tyrone strutting down the corridor with Tyson the ‘Staff’ walking unleashed but  obediently alongside him with saliva dripping off a studded collar (that’s Tyson, not Tyrone). Then there’s Chelsea sauntering through the dining hall with some sort of dog-rat-ferret thing peeking out of her Paul’s Boutique handbag feeding it handfuls of Haribo. Then there’s Charles. Charles is frolicking on the back field with the glossy coated Toby. Toby frantically shagging Charles’s leg every time he gives him a Happy Dog Treat. Charles is not altogether dismissive of Toby’s affections. Three kids. Three dogs. Personalise that!

Also whenever a new subject arrives on the curriculum you’ve got to staff it. Think of all the heads of PHSCE (or whatever we’re calling it these days) that didn’t exist until 15 years ago. Where would we find the staff for this? Who would want to be accountable for being Team Leader for Dog Education? Head of Dogs? Canine Subject Coordinator?  Just to see what kind of response we’d get I’d love to advertise for Head of Dogging… I know at least one teacher who’d apply…

So if you don’t mind Sue let us concentrate on what we do do best for the time being and unfortunately dog education is not for schools. You’re flogging a dead horse, or should that be dog.


Time for Starkey to Make a Bad Ting Good

This week I have found myself home alone with my daughter due to my wife working away. My wife returns tonight and I am worried. Whilst my daughter has remained in rude health in her absence (just about, she only ate cat food the once) I have done a bad thing. I have exposed myself and my daughter to black culture. Upon waking on each of the last 5 mornings we have settled down to 15 minutes of dangerously corrupting television. Television that uses a patios “that is wholly false”, uses a language that has “intruded into England”, at times my living felt like a “foreign country”! What was I thinking? We were of course watching the “nihilistic gangsta” that is Rastamouse. Exactly what the historian David Starkey thinks us white folk should be steering clear of.

For those of you without kids I’m kidding. Rastamouse is not really a nihilistic gangsta–He’s the Cbeebies reggae playing mystery solving mouse. (Yes, you did read that right).

A week ago today the historian David Starkey slithered into the Newsnight studio to voice some pretty controversial views. I’ve always seen Starkey as something of a harmless toff. A kind of Toad of Toad Hall caricature–something a little but harebrained about him I always felt.  Few of us were expecting such a virulent attack on black culture, most people I know were shocked and angered by what he said. A few laughed it off, refusing to take him seriously, probably rightly so. In the week that has passed I have found myself mulling over much of what he said and in particular his view that sections of black culture “militate against education”. I suggest that he put Jaime’s Dream school on the back burner for a while and pop along to my school. I teach in a community in which many factors seem to militate against education– high levels of local crime, fractured families, high percentages of drug and alcohol abuse, at least two generations of antipathy towards education. And guess what. Hardly a black face in sight. How does he explain this? Have they like me been getting up at 7:00am to watch Rastamouse? Have they been influenced by da crucial rhythms of da Easy Crew? Has Bagga T’s penchant for bling made them want some of the shiny stuff to hang around their own neck? I doubt it.  These suggestions are as ridiculous as the ones Starkey made himself.

It is of course true that sections of all cultures have their disaffected parts, their disenfranchised underachieving youth. To suggest that that this section of the black community is impacting on others is factually wrong. And of course inflammatory. I think Starkey could do with a chat with Rastamouse–hopefully he’ll understand the patois. As the mouse himself would say: David me brethren it’s time to make a bad ting good. If this was an episode of Rastamouse Starkey would be asked to apologise face to face to the people he had offended–makin’ a bad ting good. Sounds good to me. The number 38 or 73 will get you from central London to Hackney David. Go and meet the people.

Starkey has had a week to reflect on what he said and as Owen Jones said this may be a career ending moment. For now who knows. One thing that remains constant? Even if you turn the screen off and just listen, unlike David Lammy, Starkey still sounds like what he is, a bigot.


Oh not another bloody blog…

Afraid so. Have decided to share my thoughts, views, moans about the day job and whatever else provokes me via this blog. It’ll give me something to do as I’m now friendless in the North! No doubt it will be incoherent mush that most of you will sack off before the end of the first sentence–well done if you’ve made it this far. Now just need September to trundle into view to give me something to write about.