A story has been doing the rounds over the last week that unruly kids are using quips from TV comedy shows to 'answer back' at teachers. "Am I bovvered?", "Whatev-ah!"
It's this modern, disrespectful comedy, you see. Not like the good old days. The various commentators and phone-in rent-a-quotes who are saying this stuff should pop round to our house and read the comics from as far back as the 1950s that Alex gleefully reads. Believe me, the treatment that Dennis The Menace and the Bash Street Kids dished out to their teachers was far worse than a shrug and a "Whatev-ah".
I'm not trying to deny that kids can behave badly at school, nor that teachers have a really hard time of it. It just seems nonsense to me to suggest that it's Catherine Tate's fault. I'm not even a particular fan of hers, although she was great in the last Doctor Who Christmas Special. Call me middle-aged and humourless, but I really don't get the staple of a lot of contemporary comedy that repeating the same phrase over and over again is amusing, even if it was funny the first couple of times.
Cheeking teachers is rooted in kids' alienation from the education system, which comes from under-resourcing of schools, the pressures of constant testing, the proscriptive and boring curriculum, the petty tyrannies of the school regime, private-sector involvement leading to increasing commercialisation and lack of accountability, the over-sized classes and the lack of sensitivity and responsiveness to individual pupils' needs. None of which are the fault of youngsters, teachers or comedians. And given the record of the ATL (known to members of other, better teaching unions as the Association of Tory Lecturers) in abject failure to fight against these problems, it seems to me that it is partof the problem rather than part of the solution.