Exactly who is anti-social, Mr Teacher?

30th March 2007 at 01:00
The American chat show host David Letterman made the point that it was a shame Oprah Winfrey - in her interview with Michael Jackson - had not asked the one question all America wanted to ask: "What the hell is wrong with you?"

I felt similarly when reading about a Jewish teacher (or teaching assistant, depending on which paper you read), David Appleman. At his leaving do from the Chauncy School in Ware, Hertfordshire, Appleman smiled while he shook hands with his 15 and 16-year-old pupils, according to Denis O'Sullivan, the headteacher, before they chanted "Yid Army" - a Tottenham Hotspur football song. Later, on seeing the video of the event on YouTube, Appleman complained to the police.

Subsequently, eight police officers turned up to the school and arrested the boys on suspicion of racism. They were fingerprinted, photographed and had DNA swabs taken - followed by nine hours of questioning. After releasing the youths on bail, a police spokesman said: "We take allegations of this nature seriously and we believe we acted accordingly".

That the "Yid Army" chant is not racist is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a teacher would contact the police to get his pupils arrested for calling him names, and also that the police would then see it as legitimate to arrest the boys. Interestingly, only three newspapers - the Times, the Telegraph and the Sun - covered the story.

Do you have to be a conservative to find this incident worrying? Appleman may be a fragile individual, but society is operating with this feeble model of manhood as their norm. When a child tells tales on their friends, it is bad enough. But when an adult, a teacher, tells tales on his or her pupils - and to the police who take it seriously - it is a worrying sign indeed.

Denis O'Sullivan was rightly disturbed by the event, questioning the way the boys were treated as criminals. But he felt the need to add the mantra:

"None of us should accept racism in any part of our lives."

Not only is what Appleman did pathetic, it is anti-social and degraded behaviour. But it appears to be behaviour that is encouraged by today's laws and police. That the "liberal" press finds nothing of significance in this story is more worrying and, perhaps, a good indication of where this illiberal culture stems from.

Stuart Waiton is director of GenerationYouthIssues.org

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now