Thank God it's Friday

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Monday We are hosting Radio 4's Any Questions on Friday; but today's line-up is less newsworthy. An RE colleague and I take on the sixth form in a lunchtime debate on corporal punishment. We, of course, have to propose its reintroduction; the sixth-formers oppose us and win comfortably.

tuesday "Hear you got thrashed yesterday, Sir," says a student in my class.

It's the argument that matters, not the vote, I explain. "Yes, Sir, but you still got beaten." We'll see on Friday if the professional politicians can do any better.

wednesday Trying to catch up on topical questions, I swap my usual music station for the Today programme on the drive to work. The fight against global terrorism looms large and a life-or-death medical dilemma works its passage through the courts. School seems mercifully far away from such concerns; and even those piles of marking suddenly look a very painless way to make a living.

thursday My Year 8 class are enjoying Animal Farm as a powerful story. We can bring in the Russian revolution later; but I want them to feel more than just "Napoleon the pig = Stalin". They take an instant dislike to Squealer, whose rhetoric can apparently turn black into white. I wonder who will most resemble him tomorrow night.

friday BBC trailers and crew arrive to set up for the show. As the audience fills the hall, the head makes a welcome speech packed with well-received jokes. He's better than the BBC's own warm-up man and could clearly opt for a career in light entertainment.

Fifty minutes of lively discussion follow, but with the three party representatives taking up well-worn positions it is the non-partisan Peter Hitchens who gets the biggest reaction. Some of the audience applaud his outrageous suggestions, whereas I feel I've found my Squealer. I'm reminded of why we teach students to recognise persuasive debating tactics.

John Gallagher teaches English at King Henry VIII School, Coventry

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