Hang ups

28th March 1997 at 00:00
As a recent TES survey revealed, teachers' morale is at an all time low. They are fed up with under funding, dilapidated buildings, larger classes, and the way they are routinely treated as scapegoats for all of society's ills. Not even IT can bring a ray of sunshine into their wretched lives.

They grumble about shortage of equipment and the lack of adequate training - indeed, as many as two thirds of the profession are so ill-prepared for the information revolution that they won't go anywhere near a computer. Rather than despair of their lot, they should take heart from the comforting thought that there is always someone worse off than themselves.

Take, for instance, Liverpool goalkeeper, David James. He has surely been feeling as sick as a parrot since the dreadful Saturday when in front of a capacity crowd that included the England manager, he let in three easy Newcastle goals.

However, he did have an explanation which he was happy to share with readers of the Sunday newspapers. "Computer games have affected my performance badly," he said. "I was getting carried away playing Tekkon II and Teamraider for hours on end. Goalkeepers need . . . concentration to be at their sharpest and that might be dulled by playing too many computer games before a match."

With the discipline that characterises our top sportspersons he has banned himself from the VDU until the end of the season. Other athletes - including the British Olympic rowing squad - have revealed that playing electronic games has had an adverse effect on their training schedules.

But the real worry is that the malign influence of IT extends to other walks of life. It might be responsible for the appalling examples of men behaving badly that are featured so predominately in our newspapers - those incorrigible self-publicists Chris Evans, and Chris Woodhead, spring readily to mind. Tory canvassers, anxious to explain away the arms-to-Iraq fiasco, the cash-for-questions scandal, BSE crisis, the nursery voucher debacle or even Mr Hogg's unforgivable hat could do worse than reveal that our leaders had spent too long with their fingers on ministerial mice.

Schools, too, may have fallen victim to the curse of the computer. A report published by Research Machines reveals that compared with the other members of the G7 group of the world's leading industrial nations, the UK is exceptionally well equipped with new technology. The average comprehensive school (whatever that is) has at least one computer for every 10 pupils. There would be no harm in this if the hardware was used merely as decoration on open days or to keep the school's complement of techies amused. But this sadly hasn't been the case: for the last 16 years there has been a relentless campaign to persuade teachers to use computers.

But at the same time, if the politicians of every party are to be believed, educational standards have been plummeting. It's very tempting to conclude that IT must be to blame: by allowing computers into their classrooms, teachers may have scored an embarrassing own goal. Sophisticated integrated learning systems, awesome CD-Roms, and the wonderful World Wide Web might be fun but there is always the nagging suspicion that children would make far better progress if they spent their time doing whatever children used to do before IT reared its ugly head.

To be on the safe side, teachers should follow David James's example and stoically volunteer to accept a ban on any further use of IT.

It might cause some heartache, but at least two thirds of a beleaguered profession are certain to breathe a collective sigh of relief. And in future, when teachers are expected to carry the can for society's ills, they should shrug their shoulders dismissively and point an accusing finger at the computer gathering dust in the corner. Everybody needs a scapegoat.

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