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

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Stranger Danger and Pork Pies

Food for thought this week:
Two youngsters reported being approached by a stranger as they walked to school along Coppins Road on Thursday.
They claimed to have run away from the man and reported the incident to teachers when they got to school.
Schools have strict protocol for situations like this; the other pupils were warned and text alerts were sent out to parents - no doubt causing much fear and alarm.

The police were called and investigated the alleged incident, as a result of which:
A spokesman said: “Officers have spoken to the two boys who reported the accosting incident and are satisfied that it did not take place.”
It would be satisfying to think that the boys were soundly told off for lying and required to apologise to all concerned for the unnecessary panic and the waste of police time but, alas, it may well not be that simple.

As plenty of ex-teachers have found out the hard way, most school policies require pupils' stories of threats to their well-being - however far-fetched - to be accepted at face value, thanks to the grossly-oversimplified orthodoxy that 'children don't lie about abuse'. A false story is thus deemed to be the product of misunderstanding or error.

In an attempt to establish the truth, pupils are likely to be told that withdrawing the story will not result in punishment. However serious or malicious the allegations or wide-reaching the consequences, they can walk away scot free - though they may be offered counselling to address any 'issues' that could have encouraged them to come up with the story in the first place.

There have always been children who have a complicated relationship with the truth; our forebears dealt with it though a combination of chastisement and the fear of God but, in our more enlightened age, the stakes have never been lower.Whether the motive is idle mischief-making or deliberate malice, children know that a lie is unlikely to bring about any serious retribution, whether human or divine.

The idea is for the school to offer pupils an easy way out so they can back down without fear of punishment; the law of unintended consequences says that, a few years down the line, the lesson such children have learned about their own importance and lack of accountability is likely to bear dangerous fruit.


  1. There have always been children who have a complicated relationship with the truth

    Yes there are - one breed in particular called the Westminster MP.

  2. The expenses scandal certainly brought that home, JH.

    I suspect the cut-and-thrust of political life weeds out the innately truthful ones long before the end of selection process.