Bring back the Spam fritters

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Did anybody watch the recent Channel 4 series That'll Teach Em? I didn't, save for a quarter of an hour here and there, but that's not going to stop me from commenting on it.

A group of teenagers were filmed experiencing a 1950s boarding school education. They were given Spam fritters and an 11-plus exam, both of which proved to be fairly indigestible. Proves that standards are slipping, eh what?

Unfortunately, no device exists to transport pupils from the 1950s or 1960s to the current year and give them a level F science test or ask them to research a personal topic and produce a desktop-published report.

I did think it was a pity that a boarding school was used. As a teacher, I would have found it more interesting to compare an "ordinary" school from 50 years ago with today's set-up. Only a relatively small number of children ever went to those granite personality-defect factories so beloved by the well-off. In any case, the real differences do not lie in cold showers and matrons (love that word . . . Ooooooooooh matron!) but in the way that approaches to learning and teaching have changed.

Imagine that we could steal an idea from another television programme - BBC2's Restoration - and apply it to education. What would you vote to restore to present-day classroom culture? Please don't say the belt. Let us not have clowns in gowns boring the pants off bairns, failing to stimulate them or motivate them save through the threat of a good leathering.

In my early days of teaching (I started the year after the tawse was outlawed), a senior colleague told me sadly that I'd tried to be a bastard and failed. He was sorry I'd failed. Now I'm sorry I tried, if indeed I did.

Let's restore something decent. What about Latin? I never studied that subject but I'm sure I would have gained some benefit from doing so, as long as it did not entail sacrificing time spent in other classes. Latin might have helped me in my studies of French, English and possibly even physics, but not as much as more lessons in French, English or physics would.

Nope, I think it'll have to be the Spam fritter. It isn't the healthiest of foods, but at least it doesn't cause the short burst of additive-enhanced hyperactivity followed by mid-afternoon lassitude that sugary nosh tends to do. I seem to remember a BBC2 programme that featured a song about this worthy meat product. In rows, children, repeat after me: Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam . . .

Gregor Steele only got the belt a couple of times and it never did him any harm (did it?).

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