Mummy's been expelled

24th October 1997 at 01:00
Political correctness, which is usually assumed to inhabit American universities and Blairite middle-class London, has reached the Irish Republic of all places. The terms "mummy" and "daddy" are to be banned from schools as part of the Catholic Church's attempt to recognise the growing number of one-parent families. In a new programme aimed at four and five-year-olds, teachers are asked to use phrases such as "the adults who live in your house" and "the people who look after you".

The Church has had its moral problems, not least in Ireland, but in dispensing so readily with family values it is in danger of throwing the baby, or "sibling you may have living in the house with you", out with the water in which you clean yourself (children who have only showers might object to the word "bath").

As usual it is teachers who end up wrestling with other people's dilemmas. The child's laboriously produced picture of "an adult who lives in the house" may be the person once known as "mummy" or it may be the lodger, and if it is the latter who is to say what the lodger and ex-mummy have in common or, for that matter, together? Ex-daddy who thought he was still pater familias may get into a bit of a paddy come parents' night, but then the invitation has probably been sent home in the schoolbag to "The occupier", so lodger, ex-mummy, ex-daddy and ex-granny who said she was only coming for a week but is still here after six will all arrive to clutter up the classroom.

Primary children in Islington have long been confused by schools' desire, through missives for the "Parent or Guardian", to communicate with daddy's reading matter as an alternative to the man himself, but the young will adjust to any oddities in the adult world, and so Irish five-year-olds will quickly accommodate themselves to the fact that teachers don't know the meaning of mummy and daddy. They don't ever have to use the toilet either, do they?

It would still be a pity for a nation that uses language so colourfully to give in to cringing euphemisms. The Catholic Church may be beyond common sense these days, but George Bernard Shaw would have dealt with the pretentiousness of its spokesmen. He accepted that there were mummies and daddies, and added: "What God hath joined together no man shall ever put asunder: God will take care of that."

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