Much has been made in the news about the recent ‘fracas’ between Jeremy Clarkson and his producer Oisin Tymon. Essentially, Clarkson was upset that instead of being given a hot steak, he was provided with cold food. His reaction to this was to (allegedly) hit his producer. This was accompanied by an apparent 30 minute expletive-laden tirade. Accounts of this vary, but suffice to say, he didn’t conduct himself well.
Whilst the actions of Jeremy Clarkson don’t surprise me overly much, I am truly horrified at the campaign that has sprung up to support him. I am even more appalled to discover that some of my friends have pledged their allegiance to this cause on FaceBook. the justification, being, apparently, that he is valuable to the show, and it wouldn’t be the same without him.
I mean, REALLY?
Imagine you’re sitting in an empty train carriage and another passenger gets on. He chooses to sit opposite you, crosses his legs and proceeds to swing his raised foot back and forth, in such a way that it repeatedly makes contact with your shin. You ask him to stop. He launches into a shouty rant, where he repeatedly uses language designed to upset or intimidate you. Looking around, you notice the ticket inspector has entered the carriage and is standing watching the whole thing unfold.
You go over to the ticket inspector and ask him to intervene as you are feeling very uncomfortable and not a little aggrieved.
However, instead of the ticket inspector telling the passenger that his behaviour is unacceptable, you are subject to a lecture about how the particular passenger is a frequent traveller (and thus valuable to the train company) with a very demanding job, and he was probably just letting off steam.
You are advised to move, or to find ways of coping with the onslaught.
Well, you’d be horrified, wouldn’t you?
How is the reaction to Jeremy Clarkson any different? Noel Edmonds has even gone one step further, blaming the BBC for failing to “give Clarkson the support that such a mercurial talent requires.”
Yes, that’s right. Jeremy Clarkson’s inability to control his temper is someone else’s fault.
Where have I heard that before?
Now clearly Jeremy Clarkson is not really in Year 9, but his behaviour most certainly is. Early this morning, Andrew Old tweeted about a piece in the Telegraph, in which the author was celebrating the revocation of guidance that would have enabled a headteacher to more easily exclude a problem child.
The author (Mark Greaves, director of the School Exclusion Project), states that:
It is of note that the latest set of statistics released by the Department for Education showed that students with SEN account for seven in 10 of all permanent exclusions, despite making up only 20 per cent of the school population.
That suggests that far too often young people with SEN are simply treated as “naughty” and kicked out for “misbehaviour” which they shouldn’t be held responsible for.
I take issue with this statement.
I have noticed, that many of my non-teaching friends have an association of the term ‘SEN’ with the word ‘disabled’. That is, a child with special needs has either a physical or mental disability.
Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and in fact I’ll write again specifically about this article.
As Andrew Old rightly pointed out, many of those children labelled SEN are simply naughty. They have been pandered to throughout the educational career, until they reach the point at which they can no longer be expected to conduct themselves properly. How else do you explain the child who apparently ‘can’t follow any form of instruction as he has confrontational issues’, thus can’t be expected to even write his own name at the top of the page, let alone write a few sentences without a TA to scribe, before he needs a ‘brain break’ to enable him to calm down. Yet somehow, this same child can happily concentrate intensely for an hour when either sat before a computer or following the instructions of the scarily strict football coach. SEN? Really?
My analogy with Clarkson and an explosively-tempered train passenger may seem to be stretching the comparison. After all, if such an incident occurred, you’d move and then make a complaint to the rail company. You’d hope that it would be dealt with appropriately.
But, just for a moment, imagine you’re 14 again.
You’re being bullied by a pupil in your class. When staff aren’t looking he hits you, he calls you names and generally succeeds in making your life in school pretty miserable.
You’d hope that if you told a teacher it would be dealt with pretty quickly. But what if it wasn’t? What if, after a number of incidents, you were told that you would have to learn to deal with it, because it wasn’t the bully’s fault? That he would receive no punishment because ‘he couldn’t help it‘. How would you feel? The injustice would cut deep. The very people who you turn to, to look after you, would have let you down.
How would you feel if, as a teacher, you were told that the bullying pupil would not be excluded as he was a Pupil Premium child, and so ‘brought in an extra income stream‘? Speechless? I know I was.
Consider Jeremy Clarkson again for one moment. Apparently he also threatened the producer’s employment, saying that he would ensure the producer lost his job over the lack of hot food.
Well, we’ve heard that one before, from the school bullies and the uncontrollable children, haven’t we? Furthermore, he took to Twitter to joke about which film could be aired in place of the cancelled Top Gear episodes. Sorry for his beaviour? No, not a bit of it. He even went as far as to crow about pushing a piece about Ed Milliband further down the news agenda. And, in the Daily Mail article, it seems that, as in so many schools, the badly behaved triumph as he had his steak cooked by the general manager, eating this in a private dining room.
So whilst I’m dismayed at the support Clarkson has received, given his appalling behaviour, I’m not really all that surprised.
For too many years schools have existed in a bubble of ‘anyone’s fault but the perpetrator’s’. Is it any wonder then, that there are now adults who feel exactly the same way? They have grown up with this outlook and really can’t see how inappropriate such actions are.
And incidentally, I bet that if Clarkson really was in Year 9 now, he wouldn’t be called naughty, rude or aggressive – he’d be labelled as SEN…