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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

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?

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Mon 17-Mar-14 23:48:36

Ooooooops blush

Wrong link. Copy fail. It's here:

Fuck you, Daily Mail

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Mon 17-Mar-14 23:51:32

The song, btw, was in response to this shoddy article. DM is shameful in so many ways.

deakymom Tue 18-Mar-14 00:15:44

im sorry but this attitude is making me rethink my daughters wish to study drama at GCSE level. yes she is highly talented but really i want my daughter to learn potty mouth it might be "gritty and realistic" to some but not all. i can write better with less swear words something that might have some basis of real life as it is, not the car crash everyone thinks it should be.

and i thought text speak essays were bad

adoptmama Tue 18-Mar-14 04:59:56

I can't think of a better place than the classroom for these types of issues to be explored. A classroom provides a safe, structured place to facilitate discussions. Teenagers can explore issues which may be concerning them without having to 'out' themselves over the issues. They can explore issues related to sex, violence, sexuality, identity, relationships, abuse etc in a safe and respectful environment where the teacher can keep an eye of the way things are going and guide the discussion. As well as doing all the things a good drama teacher will do in enabling discussions on language, its impact, context etc. It's not as if they are just sitting around and, like that famous scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral (which I bet everyone who has watched has laughed at) repeating 'fuck, fuck, fuck' to themselves and their peers!

Teenagers will be discussing these things anyway and better, I think, that they do so in a safe and open way under guidance, than 'at the back of the bike sheds'. In my time teaching I - and therefore the children in the schools I have worked in - have dealt with child suicide, parental suicide, teen drug addiction, parental drug addiction, alcoholism - teens and parents - murder (of teen/murder of parents/murder by parent), gang warfare, accidental death, death from illness, racism, racial and gender identity, self harm, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, rape, incest and child sexual abuse and criminal offending. I have listened to chilldren - children!! - tell me they have been beaten, raped, starved, prostituted, become addicted, got pregnant, had abortions, and tried to kill themselves. I have watched parents break down as they tell me their child is facing death and they don't know how to tell their siblings. All genuine incidents in mainstream comprehensive schools and in 'normal' areas. After more than 20 years of teaching I can tell you the name of every single one of these children who was lost. We have dealt with these issues because, very tragically, this is the world we inhabit. Children do not live in a little bubble where these things don't happen and - honestly - the least significant part of any of it has been whether anyone expressed their feelings with 'bad' language. It's not 'bad' - it's expressive and emotive and the fact it is 'extreme' enables us to convey the fact our emotions are extreme and stressful.

These things happen to children in the real world and drama needs to deal with it a real way. In the real world people swear. I don't think it is inappropriate 'gritty realism' to give pretty mature 14-16 year olds material like the play Mogadishu (passed by the exam boards) to read and discuss under supervision and with support and guidance. Providing them with material where everyone reacts in a way teens are astute enough to see is fake will make them react and discuss and think about the issues in a very different way.

SamandCat Tue 18-Mar-14 07:06:58

Well I am with the DM on this one.
Totally unsuitable and unnecessary for 14 yr olds to be studying this

EvilTwins Tue 18-Mar-14 07:11:05

Have you read it Sam?

HelpfulChap Tue 18-Mar-14 07:34:27

It is not just Mumsnet that treats the Mail with the distain it so richly deserves, pretty much every football forum on the internet is full of vitriol for the rag.

On the positve impact teachers can have on a child - the Ian Wright documentary was a case in point and extremely emotional. If any teachers here need to have some reassurance regarding their importance they should try and watch it.

EvilTwins Tue 18-Mar-14 07:46:44

Anyone who thinks that drama teachers are forcing children to study needlessly mature texts should have a look at the fabulous NT connections programme. The National Theatre has been running for a number of years. Each year, a number of highly respected playwrights create new plays specifically for young people. Hundreds of schools across the country get involved, working with the playwrights and with young people in their schools to create performances of the plays. They are diverse, engaging, original and challenging, and expose teenagers to new, quality writing. This term, with my Yr 10 groups, I have used several past Connections plays. All have been publicly performed by schools across the country, and I bet the audiences were full of proud parents. Almost all have swearing, but I don't consider it to be gratuitous or inappropriate, and clearly neither do the people who run NT Connections or the hundreds of schools who get involved each year.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 07:55:40

I completely agree that it is unfair that Geraldine Stockford was able to have the thread deleted by MNHQ and then quote and edit out of context in The Daily Mail. And that if adoptamama and other MN-ers are to be held up for scrutiny and to account for what they sad, then so should GD for what she said about The Teddington School, Richmond, and other things.

And the full argument and context for her and the DMs claims should be published.

MNHQ, what is your take on this?

tiaramasu Tue 18-Mar-14 08:46:49

I dont think that mumsnet are going to come out against the Daily Mail!

tiaramasu Tue 18-Mar-14 08:48:54

Political lines will then definitely have been drawn, since Justine's husband used to work for the left wing Guardian!
It would also put his current job at Newsnight under a lot more scrutiny.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 09:16:52

EvilTwins - especially Enda Walsh's excellent play about the chat rooms wink

deakymom - seriously, if your dd is talented her talent will involve a very clear ability to imaginatively explore life from a pov totally different from her own. Different. This is very different from 'picking up bad habits' as you may do in the school playground, and IMO drama students, because of this ability, develop very mature understandings of complex arguments and are also equipped, through drama with the ability to articulate and express their views. Your dd is even more likely to stay strong in her own values by exploring the opposite in theatre, IMO.

adoptomama and others - is there a line you would draw in selecting texts? I would be very happy about Mogadishu because the subject and content is totally age appropriate and essentially relevant, and think 14+ years are able to handle the subject matter AND understand that the swearing etc is on context and about authentic characterisation, and is not, primarily, a 'How To Swear' manual.

However there was discussion on the original thread about Blasted, and personally this is not a text I would select for U16s, or use in school, because I don't think 14-16 yos are mature or experienced enough to really understand the material. I also think there is a potential safeguarding issue in the material - fictional or not, it can be very exposing for a child survivor of extreme abuse to be asked to deal with a text like that in a public forum.

At a school near us Yr7s in a first English lesson were asked to make a presentation to the class on 'The Worst Thing That Ever Happened To me' or 'My Scars'.

I have l knowledge of kids in similar schools who are here because they saw their parents raped and butchered, or were themselves the victim of atrocities. The chances are that they would sit quietly and not speak...possibly for the next half term's lessons. In my mind that is an ethical and safeguarding issue.

But swearing in a text about bullying? Most teens are vocal about things they disapprove of and a few would be calling 'naaarsty!' at the language.

And believe it or not most teachers actually discuss things like swearing in a text - why it is there, context, character etc, probably in the context of it not being a good routine tactic in RL. Most lovers of literature and language (incl teachers!) deplore the lazy use of banal swearing. Do GS and the DM not realise this?

This is what adoptamama and other MN-ers are on about: education.

I think part of the problem is that in these days of education being synonymous with testing, people assume that any material in education is 'How to do it' rather than 'how to learn to think about things'. It was the same with Clause 28 - it was assumed that any discussion of fictional gay characters must be training in 'how to commit a homosexual act', rather than 'let's explore the world form many different viewpoints and see what we might learn from that'.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 09:18:17

tiramisu: re-instating the original thread in the interests of properly discussing what was in the DM and on the radio is hardly 'coming out against the DM'.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 09:23:33

In fact I see form another thread about this, tiaramasu, that you did not actually see the original thread, so perhaps you would find re-instatement illuminating.

Ubik1 Tue 18-Mar-14 10:36:11

I saw the original thread. I think op felt rather humiliated as the vast majority of mumsnetters - teachers and parents - seemed happy to trust the judgement of their children's teachers on these issues.

The bad language really is the least of it - as long as teacher is encouraging the children to think critically about the language used - does it enhance or detract, is there integrity in its use? It's just another element to the play along with its plot, structure, character, dialogue.

maillotjaune Tue 18-Mar-14 13:48:36

To the pp who suggested Hollyoaks as a better way for teens to see relevant current issues dealt with - you do realise Hollyoaks is crap right?

I haven't read Mogadishu or Citizenship but would have more faith in an acclaimed play that teachers thought would be worthy of study than a teen TV soap.

At a similar age practically everyone in my school was busy reading Go Ask Alice (think that's the right title) which, although not dripping in swear words, set out in graphic detail the consequences of meddling in drugs including sexual abuse and overdoses. The problem of just getting it out of the school library was that there was no adult led discussion of the issues and I remember feeling disturbed by some of it but unable to ask my parents.

As a result I am glad to read my children (who aren't quite at this age yet) are more likely to have an opportunity to discuss topics like racism and drugs in literature or drama lessons alongside Romeo and Juliet.

PiqueABoo Tue 18-Mar-14 14:46:37

Blu "Do enlighten us into the complexities, from your more mature pov"

You folk know it all, are not disposed to listen and of course enlightenment comes from within.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 15:56:50

Wherever enlightenment comes from (within and debate and discussion with others) I doubt very much it comes from people who arrive on a thread, offer nothing but an insult, and disappear without further comment.

Shame, really.

I asked a question below, and I really would like to know from the people who see no problem with Mogadishu whether there is material they would not use with 14-15 year olds, and why.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Mar-14 16:40:33


tiaramasu is one of our regular trolls, we're afraid. We've banned them now (again).

Thanks also for the point about the original thread being deleted - we do see there's an unfairness here. The original reason for deletion, from memory, was that the OP had given a lot of detail that could lead to her daughter being identified - but then she does rather seem to have blown that argument by naming her daughter in the Daily Mail. So we will dig out the thread and see if we can reinstate it. If we do, we'll link to it here.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Mar-14 16:50:11

Hello again - we've reinstated the thread now: you can see it here.

Blu Tue 18-Mar-14 16:51:56

Thanks Rowan.

I did wonder about tiaramasu.

Threads connected with newspaper reports are bound to attract unhelpful visitors.

Ubik1 Tue 18-Mar-14 17:11:25

Blu I've nearly finished a second degree in eng lit and psych. I hope to become an English teacher. I really, really want to do it. So I am not a teacher. But:

I think selecting texts for 14/15 year olds should be based on the quality of the literature rather than shock value/therapeutic value.

I think children should be educated about the literary canon - context of material, themes and devices used by author. I think most teachers are capable of exercising judgement about appropriate titles.

That said Sunset Song a staple of Scottish literature starts with a double infanticide and suicide of mother, father trying to rape his daughter, daughter raped by husband, extra marital sex and is one of most moving books I have ever read.

So I suppose you would not choose a work that had gratuitous content, you would be mindful that children do not choose thus, they have to read it.

maillotjaune Tue 18-Mar-14 17:15:41

Thanks for reinstating it Rowan was very interesting to read.

And thanks for adoptmama and the other teachers who made an excellent case against censorship. I'm not surprised that this wasn't what came across in the Fail article but it's good to see the proof of how one-sided it was.

MoominIsWaitingToMeetHerMiniMe Tue 18-Mar-14 17:33:46

Regarding choosing texts that are "gratuitous" - is that not part of teaching pupils the context? Sarah Kane's use of language, extreme physical and sexual violence in 'Blasted' has been described by some as 'gratuitous' - it's been described by others as a metaphor for the Bosnian war (which she herself said she was inspired to write 'Blasted' by the news reports about it that she saw). Some could say '4.48 Psychosis' is gratuitous in its use of swearing and the extremely grim, gritty content - but others would argue it's a very powerful portrayal of someone in the grip of a psychiatric disorder (having recently directed a performance of this, I'd obviously say the latter grin )

And shock value is one of the main reasons for In-Yer-Face theatre, Theatre of Cruelty etc. We can't just teach them the 'nice' bits of theatre, ooh look at the musicals, let's study Stanislavsky. IME we much preferred learning about Artaud and Grotowsky and similar practitioners than Stanislavsky and Brecht.

The point is, if we hide our little dumplings away from the tough stuff in theatre, you may as well hide them away from the tough stuff in life too, and by the time they get to adulthood, they'll be in for a shock. By all means, hide your children away from the fact that there are nasty people in the world, but don't expect teachers to do it, and don't expect the theatre to do it either. If people want their children to learn about theatre, they should be prepared for their children to learn about all aspects of theatre - not just The Sound of Music and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Feenie Tue 18-Mar-14 17:46:17

tiaramasu Sun 16-Mar-14 18:00:18
What difference does a ban make?
They just reregister with a different email address.

They? hmm hmm

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