Daily Mail's Hatchet Job On Teachers After MN Thread

(122 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

adoptmama Sun 16-Mar-14 07:06:29

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581883/Teachers-rants-mother-hit-four-letter-words-lessons-Complained-14-year-old-daughter-studying-play-containing-400-swear-words.html

I remember OPs thread well. In fact I am the first of the teachers whose MN comment is selectively quoted by the Daily Mail.

Selectively, because what I also pointed out to the OP is that she had acted in a very unreasonable manner by naming the school and making the teacher and her daughter easy to identify. I also called her out on the way in which she manipulated the head teacher's comments to her to make it sound as if she were supported by the school in complaining about the teacher's choice of text.

OP said she was asking for the thread to be removed because she had made herself and her daughter's school too identifiable. Obviously she doesn't have those concerns now, since she has named the school to the press! Of course that wasn't the real reason she wanted it removed.

Nor did she ask for it to be removed because she was so 'shocked by the vile abuse.' She asked for it to be removed because NOBODY agreed with her, wanted to sign her petition or felt she had any case against the school. After all, she failed to withdraw her child from the class when given the opportunity to. She was told by poster after poster her actions were unreasonable and her petition a joke.

I received an email from MNHQ on Friday - which I did not see until Saturday morning - asking me if I wished to contact the 'journalist' writing this story. I wanted to re-read the thread first, but couldn't for the reasons given above. By then it was apparently 'too late' because the deadline was to comment/contact was thought to have passed anyway. And the story is now published.

Of course the Daily Mail journo didn't just 'happen' to see the thread and decide to write a story. After all, the thread was only there a couple of hours before the OP had it deleted. The Daily Mail ran this 'news' story because OP contacted them, wanting to publicise her petition and her disagreements with the school. Furthermore she clearly copied the thread before having MN delete it so that she had the quotes to give to the Mail.

So dear Daily Mail, let me clarify a few things for you:

- I stand by my comments about the OPs desire to impose her values on the school and enable censorship.
- I stand by the fact that I use expletives. It's a free world and a public forum. The fact I chose to swear on it does not devalue me as a teacher. Many, many other people swore on the thread. Presumably however a news story saying 'people swore on public forum' is not as 'newsworthy' as a headline about 'teachers' foul mouthed rants' and a 'torrent of foul mouthed abuse by teachers'. It's the T Word isn't it? You just love to teacher-bash.
- Many - apparently non-teaching - posters agreed with what I and other teachers posted about the OPs attitude towards the use of the text and her attempt to impose narrow minded values on the curriculum and have a highly respected play removed.
- the OPs actions in naming the school and making the teacher identifiable were disgusting. As I said at the time, the teacher concerned remained - and has remained - professionally quiet on the entire matter. Unlike the OP. The fact she has now taken this 'story' to the Daily Mail is of no surprise.
- I'm always happy to stand by my opinion Daily Mail. Perhaps next time you are scrambling to try to fill a few column inches before deadline you could make a greater effort to contact people before you go to press or alternatively, you could fill your paper with something a little more useful, unbiased, researched and, dare I say it, not culled off a public forum?
- any of the students I teach would have been shame-faced at producing such a deliberately biased, one sided and ill-informed piece of writing. They would have commented on the fact the writer was deliberately selective in the quotes used and sought only to produce a piece of shock-value writing to inflame feelings and be provocative. The writing was not designed to add anything to a debate on the value of the play - the value of the play is never mentioned, nor is anything said of the high critical acclaim it has received - but was clearly, from the start a piece aimed at bashing teachers and flattering the point of view of the complainant mother. My pupils would also have pointed out, Daily Mail, that having quotes from 2 posters who 'claimed to be teachers' does not allow you to extrapolate a headline about 'Teachers rants at mother' or a comment about a 'torrent of foul mouthed abuse by teachers' as you lack any convincing evidence that the commentators are teachers. So you apply collective responsibility to all teachers on the flimsiest of evidence.
- Although, just for the record, I am a teacher. And in my classroom Mr. Petre, DM journalist your average article length (published in the last 12 months) of 617 words would be considered a 'disappointing' level of work. In my classroom 617 words is barely a paragraph and would not be considered sufficient to allow a proper examination of the issue under discussion. It's amazing what the internet can tell us, isn't it?

Ubik1 Tue 18-Mar-14 20:15:33

There's a wonderful scene in Sunset Song where the new minister preaches a rather racy sermon from Song of Solomon and the whole village is practically drooling by the end. grin

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 20:17:29

Pointy - good point, in that schools are exactly where young people should be discovering boundary-pushing stuff.

I was in an INSET session once when a visiting Forum Theatre co came from Belgium and demonstrated drama exercises they recommended for schools. One involved getting all the students to smell each others' necks. The blindfolding them and getting them to find and identify people by smell. Would I do that in a class of co-ed 14 year olds? probably not.... (I don't think any teachers did)

EvilTwins Tue 18-Mar-14 20:18:56

My drama lot are unfazed by it. There is swearing in three of the plays we've used for the project they're doing at the moment. They now have the choice of developing a scene from one of them or devising their own piece which is inspired or influenced by what they've done. There is a mixture. All those doing devised pieces though have sought permission befure using any swearing in their own work. They understand that swearing in devised work is only acceptable if A) it's appropriate for the characters and the situation (context is everything) and B) the target audience is appropriate. They're pretty mature for yr 10 and I trust them to make appropriate decisions. If their work does begin to get inappropriate, I help them find an alternative.

adoptmama Tue 18-Mar-14 20:34:47

Ubik1 - we did Sunset Song at school at around about age 14. Funny enough I wasn't shocked by it at all. Probably because i had an amazing Engish teacher who was so passionate about the book and had such a knack for facilitating discussions and creating a safe environment for them to take place.

I was far more shocked by Zammo McGuire's descent into drug addiction on Grange Hill - I remember being very upset by it (tween crush etc) and because my mother so heartedly disapproved of GH (and almost banned us from watching the overdose episode) I couldn't discuss it with her. It's one of the reasons i think it is so important we allow and encourage schools to deal with these topics and give children environments where their compassion, curiosities and fears can be aired.

And thanks MNHQ for reinstating the thread. I definitely appreciate it, if for no other reason than I can go back and re-read my 'poem' ;)

And actually, I swore a lot less than I thought I had! I've sworn more at a tin of tuna in all honesty.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 21:02:22

The press - who should surely care about the issue of free speech with a passion - have bought this hook, line and sinker.

Paper after paper, including those that ought to do better, like the Independent and the Telegraph, have reproduced GS's press release and not one has noted that they are lamenting that a woman has been 'shouted down' whereas she actually had dissenting views DELETED! The independent claims that "By far the most shocking aspect of this whole matter is the lazily abusive language of the teachers who took Mrs Stockford aggressively to task on Mumsnet" without having been able to check - because of deletion - that the most swearing was actually a pastiche of a Pink Floyd song. Who is lazy here, Susan Elkin?

Shocking display by the Press.

motown3000 Tue 18-Mar-14 21:16:00

I think the Daily Mail are setting teachers up , for a backlash from the "Strikes"...

I think you are going to see stories about teachers everyday up to the Strikes. They have not picked this story up from the Manchester Evening News tonight yet ,"But They will"

"DRUG- CASH
TEACHER.

Teacher Held Husbands Drugs Money

adoptmama Tue 18-Mar-14 21:31:54

Perhaps some of the said jouros might find their way to the original thread now MNHQ have reinstated it.

FYI lazy journos, here it is

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/petitions_noticeboard/a1990970-Schools-are-using-plays-with-very-offensive-and-explicit-language

now perhaps they will be able to realise that the 'most shocking aspect' of the whole affair is the fact that the Moral Mummy was a tad circumspect in her version of events. How ironic the person running to the press complaining about the nasty, abusive teachers created a shit storm of abuse for her DDs totally innocent drama teacher (would love to see their next parents-teachers meeting......)

Things I really dislike:
- people who believe an individuals morality is directly proportionate to their wealth
- people who believe an individuals morality is directly proportionate to their level of education
- people who believe that those who swear are less moral, intelligent, valued, educated or honest that people who don't swear
- people who think swearing is far, far more immoral than hypocrisy, lying, bigotry, bullying, deceit and prejudice
- people who think 'upholding moral standards' is about making everyone think what they think. I hate groupthink.
- the lazy application of collective responsibility

My dear old dad is a DM reader. He obviously doesn't know I am now the nations number 1 example of a Bad Teacher. I must make sure I ask him next time we talk what he thinks of it all smile Fortunately he's been known to swear himself from time to time. Hopefully he won't disown me smile He will, however, take the opportunity to remind me this would never have happened in Maggie's time.....

And it wasn't 'lazily abusive' - I actually put quite a lot of thought into whether or not to swear since I don't normally on the forum. It was swearing-with-purpose not 'lazy' swearing.

Those who burn books.....

SamandCat Tue 18-Mar-14 21:53:27

Films and video games are given classification on the basis of bad language.Why is it different with literature?

pointythings Tue 18-Mar-14 22:04:02

I thought you swore beautifully AdoptMama, creatively and purposely on the other thread and I'm glad it's back. I hope my DDs have teachers like you in secondary.

SamandCat films and video games are a little different because they place images directly into the brain. There's also the fact that these classifications are widely ignored at home.

With books it's much more difficult. Going back to King Lear - someone has their eyes gouged out on stage. Pretty strong stuff. What rating shall we give it on the basis of that and everything else that happens in the play? 15? 18? But it's Shakespeare, and part of our heritage. So should we not teach it in secondary?

And if we should, why is eye-gouging less bad than swearing? Should we really have a double standard by which 'heritage literature' = anything goes but by which modern literature is subject to censorship?

You see the problem with classifying literature? Not straightforward at all. They tried it with Lady Chatterley, as I've mentioned elsewhere, and it didn't work.

EvilTwins Tue 18-Mar-14 22:39:06

Until the 1960s, all plays had to be passed as appropriate for performance by The Lord Chamberlain. Are you advocating a return to that, SamAndCat?

SamandCat Wed 19-Mar-14 12:04:13

Yes I think schools should act responsibly in choosing books they read in class, in the same way as they would censor DVDs with regards not only to strong language but also violence, sexual content and scariness in the same way a film would be.These children are under 15 so would only be allowed to watch a 12a film at school
Ina public library (ours anyway) achildren are not allowed to borrow teen books and teens are not allowed to borrow adult books

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 12:26:18

Schools do act responsibly. Just because one parent objects does not mean the school did not act responsibly in opting to use a text which is exam board approved and used in many schools. The objection of one individual is not proof the school did something wrong.

There is no direct correlation between one individual's moral outrage and the suitability of the material chosen for study.

MoominIsWaitingToMeetHerMiniMe Wed 19-Mar-14 12:43:07

Well said adoptmama

I'm guessing the parent involved would object to a tin of baked beans if she thought it'd get her face in the paper.

SamandCat Wed 19-Mar-14 13:04:53

well I am not familiar with the play so i can't really comment, but in general GCSE students will be older than 14.

RustyBear Wed 19-Mar-14 13:08:21

How does your library define 'adult' books SamandCat?

MoominIsWaitingToMeetHerMiniMe Wed 19-Mar-14 13:22:17

SamandCat My brother is starting GCSEs in September, he's 14.

SamandCat Wed 19-Mar-14 13:22:39

Ha ha Good question! Those in the adult section is the glib answer, but I have no idea ho they classify them.

RustyBear Wed 19-Mar-14 13:51:41

Glad that wasn't the rule when I was a child - I started reading Agatha Christie at 10. I was a librarian BC and most of the libraries I worked in would lend adult books to children at the library staff's discretion if they were alone or with an accompanying adult's permission. They would of course charge fines at adult rates, not children's if they were late back! One library had a section on the membership form that a parent could sign to allow a child under 18 to take out adult books and the child's ticket was marked.

RustyBear Wed 19-Mar-14 13:55:34

Actually, I remember when I was working at Morden library we never catalogued paperbacks individually, so overdues used to just say 'Adult paperback' or 'Junior paperback' - I once had to reassure an elderly lady who had an 'Adult paperback' overdue notice and was most affronted that we thought she would read 'that kind' of book!

I used to borrow adult books as a teen, and teen books as a pre-teen. Was never questioned about it.

At ds2's school GCSE courses now start in year 9.

pointythings Wed 19-Mar-14 18:06:18

In our library children and teenagers can borrow whatever they like. And quite right too.

I supervise what my children read, I guide, I don't censor. That is my job as a parent. I will never expect a school or a public library to do it for me.

adoptmama Wed 19-Mar-14 18:25:18

totally agree pointythings As an 11/12 year old I loved reading Sven Hassel's WWII novels and Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise series. I used to borrow my grandfather's to start with and once I had read them all I borrowed others from the library. Neither author was writing books for children - but then J K Rowling wasn't writing books for adults! But they were all writing books I agreed and that sparked new interests in me.

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