Phoney answer-machine quips contained a worldly message about pushy parents

School's sarcastic messages were only a joke, but one that tapped into a few home truths

I have many friends around the world and we keep in touch by sending each other jokes. The other day I received a recording of an Australian school's telephone answering message that tickled me. You may have heard it before, but I thought it worth repeating for those who haven't, for not only was it funny, but it made me wonder if anything similar could happen in Scotland. You see the joke is not really about a school, but about pushy parents. Here's the message:

Brrring, Brrrring. Click. "Hello, you have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist in connecting you to the right staff member, please listen to all of the options before making a selection.

"To lie about why your child is absent, press 1. To make excuses for why your child did not do his homework, press 2. To complain about what we do, press 3. To swear at staff members, press 4.

"To ask why you didn't get information that has already been enclosed in your newsletter and several fliers that have been mailed to you, press 5. If you want us to raise your child, press 6. If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit anyone, press 7. To request another teacher, for the third time this year, press 8. To complain about bus transportation, press 9.

"If you realise this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behaviour, classwork and homework and it's not the teacher's fault for your child's lack of effort, please hang up and have a nice day.

"Thank you for your interest in public education."

The message came about because the Maroochydore High School in Queensland introduced a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for absences and missing homework, or so the story goes. This led to its being sued by parents who wanted their children's failing grades changed to passes, even though the policy meant that 16 or more absences resulted in pupils not completing enough schoolwork to complete their courses. The message was, it seems, voted for by the school staff. Unanimously.

Were such a message to be placed on a Scottish school's answering service, would it be any different? Would staff have the guts to do this? Is the moon made of cheese? The answer to all these questions is no.

Sadly, the message is not real. I did some surfing to see if the joke had any basis in truth and it turned out to be a hoax. Pity. Maybe that's the way to get your opinion across - construct a false message that becomes an urban legend and goes global.

Console yourself with the knowledge that pushy parents are the same the world over and that even Aussie teachers can't get away with saying what they think about their demands.

Political commentator Brian Monteith is still looking for jokes.

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