Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

14th March 2003 at 00:00
I SIGHED when I read of the head who has stirred up the spectre of "political correctness" by removing stories about pigs from her early-years classrooms.

We've been there before, after all. Some years ago, in these pages, I reviewed Fourways Farm, an excellent animated early-years science programme made by Case Television for Channel 4. A school, though, wrote to say they couldn't use it because one of its farmyard animal characters is a pig.

Then, as now, Islamic authorities in this country couldn't see what the fuss was about - the programme has for 10 years been sold to countries all over the world, including Egypt and Turkey.

As teachers, we try hard not to give offence. It's not just Islamic sensibilities that give us pause. I'd guess that for most heads it's the attitudes of some Christians that are likely to cause problems.

Anything that smacks of devilry, for example, is anathema to evangelical Christians. Roald Dahl's 1983 book The Witches worried some parents, and in the C of E school where I was head we kept a low profile at Hallowe'en because we knew we'd get objections from the evangelical wing.

Most years we decided the argument wasn't worth the effort. Maybe we should have stood our ground and said: "We're Christians, too, but we don't believe making pumpkin lanterns amounts to conjuring up the powers of darkness."

That may have caused offence. But I subscribe to the notion that although we have rights which are fundamental and sacred, the right not to be offended doesn't figure among them.

And just one more thing, as Lieutenant Columbo says. The story of "The Three Little Pigs" features a big bad wolf. Ihappen to know that the creators of a forthcoming educational TV programme which features animated creatures are having discussions about whether it's right to stereotype the wolf - which is apparently afraid of humans - as a big bad animal. I kid you not.

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