Hello! Not everyone wants to be a celeb

28th November 2008 at 00:00
It's absurd to think girls only want to win The X Factor or marry a footballer, says ATL secretary in defence of today's youth

Reading through Hello! magazine does not generally qualify as homework. And, much as teenage pupils might wish otherwise, watching an episode of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here is rarely seen as an educational activity.

But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), undertook both challenges so that she could hold her own against backside-tapping Romanian popstars and a footballer's personal assistant best known for allegedly sending suggestive text messages.

This week, Ms Bousted addressed the Oxford Union as part of a debate proposing that great celebrity comes with great responsibility.

Supporting her were the Cheeky Girls, famous for their hit "Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)", and for dating Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat MP.

On the other side of the debate was Rebecca Loos, the former PA to David Beckham who shot to fame in 2003 after an alleged affair with her boss, during which she is said to have sent him the text message: "I want to hear you groan and moan. I can't wait."

From her Hello!-informed position, Ms Bousted told the union that the public was to blame for the cult of celebrity. We have allowed infamy to replace fame, she said.

"Let's be honest, we all love to read of the downfall of the famous. We say we want our celebrities to behave well, but we delight in their distress and their downfall. We bolster their bad behaviour. We say we disapprove, we say we are disappointed, and then we go and buy more magazines."

Earlier this year, the ATL asked more than 300 teachers about pupils' attitudes to celebrity. They believed their pupils were more likely to model themselves on David and Victoria Beckham than any other famous people. And more than a third said their pupils wanted fame for its own sake.

But, speaking to the union, Ms Bousted suggested that celebrity antics could generate classroom debate. She quoted one ATL member who had said that real role models included Martin Luther King, Richard Branson and Anita Roddick.

"I don't buy into the denigration of today's youth," Ms Bousted said. "I don't agree ... that little girls either want to win television talent shows such as The X Factor, or marry a footballer. I think that's an absurd over-simplification of a complex issue."

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