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TV UK, 27 January

Teacher training ads appeal to Big Kids who like Little Kids.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

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The opening line of the government’s TV advert for teaching as a career exemplifies its irritatingly craven approach. ‘They can get called cheeky, naughty….’ Get called? That’s playground syntax; surely the Teacher Training Agency can do better? In fact, the whole point of the advert seems to be to elevate the manners of schoolkids to the status of a culture to be emulated by us all.

‘Work with the most exciting people in the country’, goes the slogan. Well, no doubt it helps if teachers actually like children, and get something out of working with them, but shouldn’t that be the satisfaction of transforming young minds, rather than the fun of hanging out with crazy kids? In its efforts to present schoolkids as fundamentally entertaining, the advert presents a number of myths about them. Here are just two.

First, schoolkids are always singing and dancing. Like the kids of Fame, they can’t seem to help leaping on to tables and launching into musical numbers at the drop of a hat. Perhaps this is to be expected, since most schoolkids in this advert, as in British TV in general, are black. (Hey, I’m just reporting – if you’ve got a problem with the representation of black kids as naturally rhythmic, take it up with the Teacher Training Agency.)

Second: ‘They tend to think what they think, not what they’re supposed to.’ Anyone who has ever talked to a school pupil knows that this is just not true. Kids by their very nature are intellectually conformist; lacking the knowledge and experience to develop ideas of their own, they tend to regurgitate conventional wisdom if they express any opinion at all. That this is followed by the image of a white girl and a black boy holding hands only confirms that the argument can only be sustained by presenting conventional wisdom as daring and radical. Unless the point is that the black boy is obese, in which case I take it back.

What’s really depressing is that anyone attracted to teaching by these adverts, anyone persuaded that working with kids really is ‘better than any anti-ageing cream’ is likely to have very little to offer schoolkids. It’s bad enough that TV should be dominated by a cult of youth and the celebration of banality. Is it too much to ask that schools should encourage pupils to aspire to something more?

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Topics Culture

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