23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Gross, offensive, sexist and unsuitable for primary children? Yet many children watch TV wrestling, or "sport-ainment" as the manager of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, the world's most successful pro-wrestling outfit, calls it.

What is the fascination of these obviously choreographed falls, grunts and groans, overblown biceps and scanty outfits? Every primary teacher has come across playground incidents fuelled by TV wrestling and may despair. As the website familyeducation.com puts it, such influences do not affirm desirable values.

Yet useful material works in the wrestling craze, especially for spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education. Although it is supposed to pervade the whole school, SMSC is often tucked into odd corners of religious education. But the antics of such celebrities as Hulk Hogan can highlight issues of burning importance for young children - particularly boys.

Instead of shuddering at the exaggerated, testosterone-fuelled masculinity of the wrestlers, why not consider issues such bodies raise, such as whether they are attractive or healthy.

The well-known fact that "it's all fake" needs exploring, too. A "piledriver" may be fake when performed on elevision, but it will feel anything but fake when you are flung on hard asphalt. Questions that also need to be asked include: What is a real man? What is a hero? What is fair play? What is sport - and is it different from entertainment? Is hurting people ever a good thing, even for entertainment?

While young children may not be able to sustain a long discussion on such issues, they can be tackled, for example, by writing fiction, whether individually or in groups. Through drama, the fun of combat can be safely acted out and then challenged.

Biology and health education offer chances to look at the effects of diet and drugs (those bodies are not all gained purely through exercise). Dance and PE provide scope for trying out moves and feeling the power that comes from restraining impact. And there is lots of maths in scoring systems.

It may also be useful, with children in Years 5 and 6, to try a web search to compare the claims of rival outfits WWF and WCW (World Championship Wrestling).

As teaching is not a wrestling bout - whatever much it might sometimes feel like - you will not "win" all at once. But over the long term, you will be more heroic than Bret "The Hitman" Hart.

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