A case of Saint misbehaving

17th August 2001 at 01:00
WITH attacks by pupils on teachers running at record levels, union leaders are understandably eager to be heard on the issue. We've heard everything from calls for martial arts classes for new teachers to mass expulsions. But the prize for the most innovative contribution to the debate must go to Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who contacts the diary pointing out that Monday was the feast day of St Cassian of Imola.

Apparently, it was St Cassian's misfortune to be killed by disgruntled pupils in a particularly challenging comprehensive just outside Ravenna in third-century Italy. They stabbed him to death with their pens after he refused to honour pagan idols while working. "It may be the only recorded episode in which the pen was at least as mighty as the sword, if not mightier," writes Mr Smith. "St Cassian was not an ATL member. Had he been, his tragic demise would have been averted by skilful negotiation, or, failing that, a clutch of strategic exclusions!" Much to Mr Smith's annoyance, St Cassian is not a Catholic patron saint of teaching, while the handful of saints the profession has include four who did not so much as pass a PGCE and one who seems to have earned her honour by being martyred alongside 11,000 virgins.

Far be it from the diary to interfere, but if Genesius of Arles can find a job as the patron saint against dandruff and the Archangel Michael can hold down a part-time position as the "patron saint of paratroopers", surely the sacrifice of a lowly classroom teacher in the bearpit that was the Roman classroom could be recognised?

Mr Smith, a lapsed Catholic, has called for "immediate action" from the College of Cardinals. A letter is on its way to the Vatican.

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