Editor's comment

27th February 2004 at 00:00
Alan Jeffery says the pictures displayed in his Devon car workshop will stay. Plymouth College of Further Education, which has a modern apprentice at the firm, says they must go.

The pictures, in case you haven't guessed, are of semi-naked women - some from glossy magazines and others from page 3 of the Sun.

The college argues that such images are discriminatory. Mr Jeffery, right on cue, says the college should mind its own business.

And representing the nanny state, because that's the most fun way to see it, David Sherlock, head of the Adult Learning Inspectorate, tells FE Focus this week that the pictures could adversely affect the grades his organisation gives for the college's MA programme.

What has unfolded is a familiar battle. Like the cheese-seller who insists on using imperial measures, Alan Jeffery has a point.

Any attempt by the state to change our behaviour should be regarded as sinister until it can be proved to be justified.

But Ian Clark, the colleges' vice-principal, should be supported for sticking his neck out, even if it spoils Mr Jeffery's fun. This is not about pointless rules being imposed for their own sake.

According to the National Health Service, the social pressure to be thin, particularly among teenage girls, is a cause of anorexia, a psychiatric illness that claims the lives of up to 20 per cent of sufferers.

To blame the problem purely on the "reading" habits of car mechanics would be sanctimonious in the extreme, even snobbish.

Broadsheet fashion editors, programme-makers, advertising agencies and "women's" magazines would all do well to consider whether their actions have played some small part in the deaths of so many teenage girls.

Until they do, others must do what they can to change attitudes.

Mr Clark has been fighting his corner in the media.

In a sense, what goes on in a car workshop is none of his business. But this only makes his intervention all the more admirable.

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