Male ego gets a Bashing

5th March 2004 at 00:00
Two seemingly unconnected news items coincided recently. First, we learned in a national poll that women teachers are in the top 10 of most desirable partners and that we male teachers scarcely received a mention.

This rather distressing difference in ratings, we were told, was probably due to single women being put off by the male teacher's modest income and long hours. Hmm, I don't think so. Most of us earn at least enough to pay our way during an adequately romantic, Saturday night set meal for two at the local Harvester.

As for the long hours, surely the very challenge of prising us away from our mark-books could prove an irresistible draw? Our very elusiveness and modest wage might even create a mystical, bohemian allure, given the right cultural environment.

No, the real explanation for this rather demoralising poll vote surely goes much deeper. The real cause, I suspect, lies in a second news item - the Bash Street Kids have just turned 50. Surely nothing has been more ruinous for the male teacher's image than the depiction, year after year, of harassed "Teacher" in Bash Street.

Etched in many female minds from early Beano-reading childhood is his gnarled, anguished face and remarkably elongated skull - his bald head topped by a mortar-board. Gullible and outwitted by even the dimmest in the class, he is hardly a heroic figure for a young girl to romanticise over.

(That person has traditionally been shooting goals or Germans on the next page.) And the negative portrayal in popular literature of we poor males doesn't stop there. In the Dandy, Winker Watson's form tutor "Mr Creep" invariably falls foul of Winker's wiles. As in Bash Street comprehensive and just about every other comic school, the public schoolmaster appears untrained in all social graces and in any effective behavioural management strategy.

As generations of impressionable young girls moved on to adolescent school fiction, the image hardly got better.

Nowadays, the majority will meet a set of very disturbed and diabolically possessed male staff teaching Harry Potter. Prior to Harry they might have read of the "crusty face" of Mr Quelch in the Bunter stories. I suppose if the odd girl were looking for celibate studiousness, furrowed-brow intensity and voluminous corduroy trousers, then she need look no further.

But given such a literary backcloth, Adonis himself would have struggled to pull.

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