A sorry chapter;Leading Article;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

19th November 1999 at 00:00
WHEN Glasgow's Lord Provost complains about the image of young people in a book aimed at 10 to 12-year-olds, there is nothing that the publisher can do but apologise. A runaway 13-year-old with a drugs habit is not typical of Glasgow youth, and even if the contextual intention is to show that some people can succeed whatever their background and upbringing, the accusation of insensitivity is bound to stick in No Mean City.

Hodder amp; Stoughton, the publisher, has apologised and we will not see Society and You, the offending title, on display again at educational book fairs. Yet there is another side to the story. The book has been in schools for more than a year. It has won a national award from the Saltire Society and The TES Scotland.

In declaring an interest, we can also say that Society and You makes a contribution to upper primary environmental studies and personal and social education. It tackles difficult themes like bullying. It sets these in a familiar surrounding while recognising that social problems here are nothing like those experienced by many young people in less favoured countries. Pillorying the authors and publishers for one misjudged cartoon and caption is absurd, though fair game for the "Outraged, Mount Florida" school of publicity.

The truth, which the publisher cannot publicly acknowledge, is that youngsters with horrendous social problems exist in Glasgow. Some are undaunted - the theme of that part of the book. Others, and their children, sink in the mire. Put on the spot out of the blue by the media, the Lord Provost reacts with political correctness. Hodders then responds in similar register. A story is created. Everyone tut-tuts.

For the future, writers and their publishers make a mental note to avoid reality.

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