Sex, drugs but no rock 'n' roll

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
A NEW star has risen in the educational firmament. Bookings must surely now flood in for Bishop Richard Holloway, after his opening address at this year's TES ScotlandEdinburgh Council conference (page four).

Holloway narrowly avoided a standing ovation, judging by the clapometer. This was not necessarily because he told his audience what they wanted to hear. Indeed, what they heard were some testing philosophical passages from Nietzsche, Marx and Isaiah Berlin. Meat and drink, of course, to your average educational audience. It's not all about conditions of service.

The "Controversial Bishop" - to give him his full media title - more than fulfilled his remit to talk about social inclusion . . .

eventually. He had been asked to be "wide-ranging, challenging, reflective and controversial".

So, as he put it, "all I have to do is to equal the inspiration of the Sermon on the Mount, the challenge of the Communist Manifesto and the concision of the Gettysburg Adress - nothing to it really". Mission accomplished.

Even Douglas Osler, chief theologian at HMI, who had bravely agreed to chair the session, did not seem to feel excluded as the bishop laid into "the powerful and the comfortable" and urged those in authority to "learn to interrogate themselves" to guard against being changed by "the chemistry of power".

Osler, of course, has more claim than most to have invented social inclusion in educational terms before it became politically fashionable. Not many people know that.

No doubt those in the audience had their own targets in mind as Holloway warned: "When poachers become gamekeepers, they change more than their trousers; along with the plus-fours, they put on a whole new wardrobe of ideas and justifications."

Bishop Holloway is not just an ivory-towered theologian. He likes to talk to people. He revealed that he goes into schools "to talk about sex and drugs - I know nothing about rock and roll".

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