The wisdom of Henry Walpole
THERE IS nothing I resent more than the teaching job intruding on my summer holidays, but sure enough my vacation has been rudely interrupted by the news that there is a new public enemy number one for schools: websites such as YouTube hosting films of brutal fights uploaded by children.
I've got to admit that the idea of community video upload sites does interest me. It seems to herald an age of culture "by the people, for the people", a situationist experiment in abolishing the idea of art as a specialised activity and making it part of the fabric of everyday life. Plus, I can watch videos of skateboarding dogs without having to endure Esther Rantzen first.
Misuse of computers by pupils is nothing new. I once heard of two children who used Photoshop to stick the head of ICT's face on some porn pictures and upload them to a website, which they then advertised in school. Aside from the design skills they showed, they had their site hosted in the United States, making it almost impossible for it to be taken down. The head of the school had a dilemma: should he exclude the pupils (as the head of ICT demanded) or give them an A* for their GCSE coursework?
I hunted for some of these bullying clips. Looking at some of the other video items on these sites, I think we can be reassured that natural selection will take care of these pupils when they graduate from bullying videos to covering each other in lighter fuel and pushing themselves down a hill in a shopping trolley.
Pupils should be aware that if their school finds out they have been recording violent acts and distributing them on the internet, there could be serious consequences. You may even be asked to remove them. Teachers should be aware that if they record incidents of violence and use them to draw attention to the state of discipline in some schools, they may be called to a General Teaching Council tribunal and suspended.
Looking at the number of hits they get, these videos don't seem all that popular. I suspect that the only people watching are BBC researchers, outraged Daily Mail readers and bored columnists. At present, the most popular clips seem to be of football matches, fans fighting and an intriguing piece of social realism called "Two Big-Boobed Beauties". It is no surprise to see this list. Football is much like softcore pornography: overpriced, boring, and they don't get their shirt off until the very end.
I am going to start the next trend: video footage of teachers sneering at pupils' terrible spelling on websites. We could start with this gem from YouTube: "Da camra is proper bad quaility man i cud just barly c wat was ahppenin." Still, in the GCSE English "writing to inform, explain and describe" section, that will get you nearly full marks.
More from Henry in a fortnight