Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Can I be the only one perturbed by the story running in the UK media today that revealed (yes it was obvious PR stunt) that teachers expect children called Callum, Kyle, Chelsea or Chardonnay to be naughty and Alexanders, Alices and Sophies to be good? It has been a long time since I saw something so riddled with class prejudices. Those living outside of the UK may not at first glance appreciate that the "naughty" names are all associated with working class families while the "good" children have nice middle class names. No wonder we find failing schools in poor neighbourhoods - it would seem children are being written off on the first day of school with just a glance at the register. The wonderfully named Faye Mingo who commissioned the research says "It's only natural for teachers to make judgements . . . but I'm sure there are happy to be proved wrong. After all, there is always an exception to every rule." Well I am sure that is a great comfort to all the Daniels and Jessicas who start school this week. Our children deserve better whether they are named Jack, Charlie or Elizabeth.
Monday, 7 September 2009
So the BBC is considering inviting Nick Griffin on to Question Time - cue much handwringing and angsting about whether it is appropriate to give the leader of the ugly BNP a platform. Well, I say bring it on. As I have said before, the "not giving them the oxygen of publicity" strategy has never worked. Right thinking people should be prepared to tackle BNP lies everywhere and anywhere. I personally can't wait to see what contribution the unpleasant Mr Griffin makes to thoughtful political debate. However polished he starts out, he will soon reveal his and his party's true colours. The veneer of respectability is very thin and he willl soon start ranting about the need to keep England English, railing against the BBC for including black characters in Robin Hood or other such nonsense. He can't help himself, the hate just pours out of him. My only plea to the QT production team is that it ensures that the other panellists won't be cowed in the presence of a racist, are prepared to have the debate and aren't handwringers themselves. May I suggest a few potential candidates? Archbishop John Sentamu, Stephen Fry, Val Amos, William Hague, Gary Younge, Tony Benn, Malorie Blackman. As for me, I would love to be in the audience, watching his thinking being taken apart piece by piece.
Friday, 4 September 2009
January take your place behind September - for me this is the start of the new year. Years spent in formal education and then working in politics provoke a Pavlovian response in my to the days after the August Bank Holiday. I want to make resolutions, get my uniform ready, buy a new satchel (these days its a handbag). This year is no exception. Indeed this year the feeling is more acute for my company (Grayling) has in the last few days merged with two sister companies (Trimedia and Mmd). So we start the new year as a new company - a much bigger company, many more people in many more places. It is very exciting and, if I am honest, a bit daunting. New colleagues to meet, new opportunities seize. I feel as I did when I moved from junior (Dollis) to secondary (Copthall) school . Excited and looking forward to the challenge ahead but ever so slightly anxious about the change. The good thing this time is that we are all new girls and boys starting big school at the same time, all hoping to impress the teachers, make new friends and come out of it having had a good experience and with a string of A*s to our names.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Just back from France (Provence, wine, the air heady with the scent of lavender and thyme - very Jean de Florette) where I was once again struck by the French penchant for naming streets after individuals. In most French towns you will find places, cours, boulevards, rues and avenues named after Jean Jaures, Victor Hugo and Balzac. And in spite of their reputation, the French warmly embrace foreigners with Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and Churchill all finding their way into French A to Zs. This desire to commemorate the lives and work of great politicians, poets and polyglots has even led to the renaming of metro stations hence stops in memory of Simon Bolivar, Raymond Queneau and Pierre & Marie Curie. The French are not alone in this, in South Africa there has been a huge amount of renaming in honour of the heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle (although if I were Albertina Sisulu I might be a tad annoyed that my contribution to the freedom of my nation was marked by the naming a highway after me). In Britain on the other hand we tend to shy away from this kind of adulation. Yes there may be a few Churchill Avenues and Mandela Places scattered about the country but in general we don't like naming things after people (except monarchs) and certainly would avoid renaming somewhere after someone however great. We don't go in for hero worship. So sadly we won't be seeing Oxford Street renamed Darwin Street (although anyone familiar with that thoroughfare knows it is an excellent spot to witness the survival of the fittest first hand), Jane Austen will not be immortalised as a square nor Charles Dickens as a train station - but check out Simon Patterson's the Great Bear to see how the tube map might look if we were prepared to be a bit more imaginative in how we acknowledge the accomplishments of the great and the good.