Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 30 April 2010

Why Sir is a Union man

The jury took an hour to decide that Peter Harvey was not guilty of attempted murder. Indeed, as the judge said, it's hard to see how there could be any question of intention under the circumstances.

The premeditation here was all on the part of the pupils who cynically plotted to goad and provoke a stressed man until he lost control and to film the result. Well, they certainly got what they wanted!

Teaching is an anomaly, a job in which any sign of perceived weakness will be exploited and yet teachers are hedged about with draconian rules about how they may deal with disruption to the extent that pupils have developed a 'can't touch me!' attitude.

I am not advocating a return to corporal punishment - although the formal public belting of the school bully in my primary days had a markedly beneficial effect for the rest of us - but when a detention, or even a suspension, can be summarily overruled, the message the pupil receives is that his teacher has no sanctions available.

In addition, the class will be fully aware of the 'Rantzen effect' - the common assumption that children do not lie about assault - which allows a malicious pupil to engineer the suspension of an innocent teacher with unfounded and unsupported allegations.

It's easy for the public at large, watching the top dogs of the NUT in action, to assume that all teachers join a union because they are militant activists. In fact, the reason many of them join is the legal support and appropriate professional advice available to members. It's unlikely any specialist counsellor would advise a classroom teacher to 'let his anger out'.

For most teachers, union membership is more like having car insurance: horribly expensive and seldom claimed on but absolutely essential in case something goes horribly wrong.

Update: I am indebted to JuliaM for this from the Daily Mash; black humour at its finest.


  1. I was rather surprised at the verdict, actually.

    A clear case of jury nullification? Or just the CPS choosing to go for the most serious charge, when the lesser one (which he pleaded guilty to) would have sufficed?

  2. It is a surprising verdict, and it's a sympathetic verdict too. The man is finished, he's unemployable. The same thing happens to too many teachers, the kids have experience of 'breaking' the adults.

    Look at the picture too, it's a science lab. Do you recognise it as a place children can learn by experimenting? The tables are free-standing, no gas/water/electricity ...

  3. Good point about the 'science lab'. Note the roof, too. It looks to me about as much a 'place of learning' as a B&Q warehouse.

    Still, at least 'The Daily Mash' got to write one of their better posts... ;)

  4. JuliaM: whichever explanation is right, the message is clear - thanks for the Mash link!

    Mrs R: The Tavern's own Pa Peachum, in his teaching days, was told by a visiting County Advisor that he should remove the teacher's raised workbench in his Physics lab as it was 'too hierarchical' and that he should cease most of the more interesting (and entertaining) experiments on Health and Safety grounds.

    The madness continues; I know a Food Technology (or 'Cookery' to the rest of us) teacher who was recently told that, for H&S reasons, her pupils should not be allowed to handle knives.


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