At the chalkface: Punch and Judy

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

Aren’t world leaders meant to conduct themselves with a little more gravitas? Emotional intelligence? Or just intelligence? Not brain dead, misogynist clots. Aren’t they meant to be role-models for our pupils?

Barack Obama recently spoke of the need to stop the “corroding civil discourse” of politicians, that bat chirrup of twittering, tweeting and toxic insult, which coarsens the soul and poisons debate. It is ubiquitous. Does it even have a malign effect on the discourse of the classroom? A trickle down effect?

I fear so.

Take the recent, delicately nuanced duologue between Donald “very stable genius” Trump and Kim “the nuclear button is on my desk at all times” Wrong-Un.

It went roughly thus.

“My willy/H-bomb is bigger than your willy/H-bomb!”

This is no way to conduct the nuances geopolitics, no way to run the world. It is just terrifically bad manners.

Their other recent gems include, “I will totally destroy North Korea. You are short and fat”, from the Donald and the considered rejoinder, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”, from the short and fat one.

Now I like knockabout humour. But this is something else. This is ugly Punch and Judy. Or Dr Strangelove. These clowns are clearly not well, they are mentally very ill. They give loonies a bad name – and me nightmares.

What does it do to our pupils! To their infant minds? I’d like to think they’re pretty immune from these buffoons, on nodding terms with any language, but who knows?

The Donald may be carted off to a loony bin before this is printed, but there’s more where he comes from. He’s a symptom, not the disease and this disease is a modern plague.

Toby Young, that unpleasant controversialist, is the latest prime clot to treat us to his witty, satirical views about the “universally unattractive working class”, wheelchair ramps, functionally illiterate troglodytes, lazy teachers and woman’s breasts.

Jonathan Swift it ain’t.

Toby has just been appointed to the post of university watchdog. Boris Johnson, another raving narcissist, thinks he’s the “ideal man for the job”. Others don’t. He’s just had to resign.

But there’s still an infinite supply of this “corroding discourse”, this Restricted Code gone mad, this ocean of inarticulacy. It blossoms like tumours.

Aren’t world leaders meant to conduct themselves with a little more gravitas? Emotional intelligence? Or just intelligence? Not brain dead, misogynist clots. Aren’t they meant to be role-models for our pupils?

Their language doesn’t make our job any easier. English teachers, I suppose, can try to stem the tide of this foul stuff, but we’re flogging a dead duck.

We can only hope we’ve reached the tipping point. We surely can’t get any lower, can we?

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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