The Big Question: Does celebrity culture damage schools?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

This week’s question: Does the effect of celebrity culture matter in schools?

Behaving badly is the byword of some celebrities, and this is damaging for everyone, says one  teachers’ leader.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers union expressed the view that some celebrities send the wrong kind of message to children and wider society through their controversial antics.  The fact that the public delights in the coverage of their downfall encourages some celebrities to repeat their attention-seeking behaviour and simultaneously reinforces negative messages, she said.

Others feel that topical news stories of celebrities behaving badly bring good opportunities for pupils to engage in discussion of ethical and moral issues which form part of the PSHE curriculum.

Celebrities who are positive role models can be beneficial to children’s aspirations, said Dr Bousted.  But it can still leave children with a lacklustre attitude to school work as they think celebrity status can be easily attained, she continued.

By contrast. other education commentators believe that news stories of celebrities behaving badly bring opportunities for pupils to discuss ethical and moral issues, which form part of the PSHE curriculum.

Barbara Follett, the culture minister, that children’s ambitions are in danger of being thwarted by having no further aspirations than being a Wag - wife or girlfriend of a famous footballer - or winning the X factor.  Additionally, an earlier survey of schools by the ATL revealed that over 70% of teachers felt that celebrity culture was having an impact on children’s aspirations.

Here are some thoughts from the school community:

“I have occasionally had students express admiration for controversial figures such as Osama Bin Laden (!), Russell Brand, Pete Docherty etc but I believe that is only the natural desire to rebel and shock that is part of adolescence; they have never said that they actually want to be a heroin addict or a terrorist.

“In my 14 years of teaching, I have never heard a student say they would like to be a WAG or a celebrity.  Moreover, even if they did I think the X Factor makes it pretty clear that it is in a tough and unpredictable business.  In fact, most of the Beckham’s press is so vitriolic, why would anyone want to live their lives anyway?

“Celebrities are always going to get up to ‘antics’ – I think we should credit our youngsters with enough common sense to see that is purely what they are.”

Lyn Lockwood, secondary English teacher, Sheffield

“The rise of the dysfunctional celebrity in modern culture over the last decade or so has debased family and social values that have traditionally promoted and supported cohesion and community spirit. The attitude of “sod you I can do what I like type” responses from some  young people can be firmly  laid at the feet of many self promoting and opinionated, counter culture threatening personalities and so called celebrities whose only contribution to modern living is that they may act as a warning to others.”

Dr Len Parkyn, senior special needs teacher, from Vines Cross, in East Sussex

“Yes, we have a cult of celebrity which affects some of our pupils whose role models are not only questionable, but we also have the culture now of winners and losers; being voted in and being voted out. It is reminiscent of the public power seen in the crowds at Gladiatorial Roman games.  Just witness the X Factor judges arriving like demi-gods to the strains of Carmen Burana. 

“At a time when our education system is encouraging children to risk take, this all seems at odds with that. I worked with a class of seven and eight year olds last week who talked animatedly about ” I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here ”  and all I kept thinking is ” why are you not in bed at that time ” ? The cult of celebrity is an unfortunate part of our social structure and is media fed, driven and controlled. Hopefully we can use part of our curriculum time to educate children to see this.”

Susan Coles, arts, creativity and educational consultant, from Washington, in Tyne and Wear

Has celebrity culture permeated schools?  Does the effect of celebrity culture matter in schools? Share your views below

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