Question: How Can An “Academic” Suggest Something So Stupid?

Here follows a rant.

On the BBC news today is an article, presumably to soon be tucked away in the file labelled “Stupid Things Said By People Who Have No Idea What They’re Talking About”, is this:

Calling teachers Sir and Miss ‘depressing and sexist’

These labels give female school teachers “a lower status than their male counterparts”, according to academic (not teacher) Prof. Jennifer Coates. This academic (not teacher) goes on to say that pupils should be able to speak to their teachers on a first name basis.

I have some questions: did the good professor actually go to school? Does she know what school kids are like, how they are prone to behave given half a chance? The titles of “Sir” and “Miss”, which may have demonstrated a hierarchal gap in distant days of yore, are there more as a sign of respect between pupil and teacher. I suppose you could promote the female teachers to such titles as “Lady” or “Dame”, but to go as far as to let pupils use refer to their teachers by their first name is just asking for trouble.

I actually worked in secondary schools for a year or so and saw one prime example of why this first name basis not only destroys the respect between pupil and teacher, but also renders the lesson they’re teaching a complete waste of time. The teacher in question, whom we shall refer to for these purposes as Mr. Jones, was a history teacher. He was a nice teacher, laid back. Probably too much. He’d just started the new term thinking his kids deserved the chance to call him by his first name. At the same time it seems that all of the pupils in the school had recently rediscovered the classic black comedy The League Of Gentlemen. The show featured one particular character, Papa Lazarou, famous for a number of choice catchphrases, including “Hello Dave’s”.

Guess what Mr. Jones’ first name was.

Guess what he constantly heard in class!

When I was a school kid just a short time ago *coughs*, our history teacher never let slip his first name. He did, however, have a nervous tick that became more obvious the more stressed he got. During his lessons he would stroll about the classroom, talking passionately about important events of the past while moving his head back and forth in a similar style to that of a street-wise chicken. Only slight at first, but within 10 minutes of a lesson starting with our class, which had a reputation that could’ve turned the Dalai Lama to anti-depressants, he looked like he was properly “funking out” to an old James Brown tune. This earned him the name Funky Chicken (B’dum-TSH!). This mantle soon got changed when we saw him play drums in the school pantomime (and to his credit he was bloody good) which altered his name to – wait for it – Chicken Drummer! He quit the teaching profession at the end of that year.


I’m not saying every kid is as bad as my old school collective, but put them together and kids can be little buggers when they want to be, and they will use any hint of a chink in a teachers armour to make their lives difficult.  Removing a line of respect like a title is at best an open invitation for classroom mockery. Yes it depends on the teacher and how they deal with the situation, but even considering this is another battle that they would have to face and don’t need.

One of my old teachers, David Balazyck, firmly believed in that line and enforced it too. After previous years spent mocking every teacher we came in to contact with, Mr. Balazyck became our year 9 form tutor. We spent the first 30 seconds of our first day under his rule mocking him, and he spent the next 3 months destroying us (in a nice way!). He enforced silence in the room, he commanded respect at every turn. And even though his first name was common knowledge, to us he was either Sir or Mr. Balazyck. One kid, Shayne, tried to mock him on our second day. He was soon made an example of, aided by the fact that he had a hairstyle resembling that of a rats carcass on his head.

I don’t know of any female teachers who have a problem being referred to as ‘Miss’. I think, as with many of their male colleagues they may prefer their title and actual name, but if the pupil has no idea what the teachers name is, ‘Miss’ appears to be fine.

People who have no real experience of the industries they discuss or even govern (Hello Mr. Gove. Hello Mr. Hunt.) should have no business in making these kind of recommendations. Leave it to the people who actually know what they’re talking about.


Rant over.

News Not Suitable For Parents

Last night I managed to catch the late night news. I’d just got home from a mind numbing 11 hour shift, the kids were asleep, the lovely wife was busy catching up on the latest episode of some long running American doctor drama. Anyway, I thought I’d make a concerted effort to be less ignorant and catch up on world events, having been recently incapacitated by the paralysing anti-male condition known as Man-Flu.

The first three stories made me want to return to The Land of Ignorance and bathe in its warm waters.

BONG: “Video showing kidnapped Nigeria girls released”

BONG: “Friend of Rolf Harris’ daughter tells of assault in family home”

BONG: “Egyptian girl dies from female genital mutilation” 

These were not parent friendly headlines. The first story, of the continuing events in Nigeria is every parent’s worst nightmare. I go in to a panic when I lose sight of my kids for more than two seconds in a supermarket. But imagine you’ve been living under the shadow of over five years of fear and terror only to be told that the same people responsible for destroying your country have now taken your child.

It’s a chilling thought. 

Abubakar Shekau, the “flamboyant” leader of Boko Haram (loosely translated to “western education is sinful”) said in the recent 27 minute video that they have “liberated these girls” by converting them from Christianity to Islam. I think all would argue on the use of the word ‘liberated’, and many would agree that the act of forcibly taking another persons child is very un-Islam. This act was committed by cowards who now hide behind the innocent lives of literally hundreds of young girls, who just want to go to school. They did this simply because they wanted hostages to trade for their imprisoned colleagues. Again, cowards. 

There have been recent reports of spy planes taking to the skies over Nigeria to monitor mobile phones in an attempt to track the girls down, and outcries of disbelief that it has taken far too long to even start to look for them. But all the time people express their frustration, as every day passes there are parents sat waiting, worrying, hoping for the safe return of their child/children. The thought of this is paralysing, and we can only hope that the girls are found.



In the UK the Rolf Harris investigation, while not in the same vein as the previous story, is none the less a tragic one. It’s the kind of story that makes you do a double-take of disbelief as soon as you hear it. It was the same for Coronation Street actor Bill Roache (found innocent of all charges),  Dave Lee Travis (currently awaiting trial on new charges after being declared innocent on a previous investigation) and the recently convicted Stuart Hall. Not so with Max Clifford.  I’m probably not the only one who thinks that a man who makes a living from orchestrating the public display of people’s private misfortune is a slime ball. His arrest just made it official in the eyes of the law.

The Yewtree investigation, launched in the wake of Jimmy Saville’s crimes has turned over many stones to find tales of similar abuse by icons of 70’s and 80 entertainment – entertainers that I and those of my generation grew up with. Away from the case itself, it’s sad simply because it soils a small part of our childhood. These kind of stories have become almost commonplace recently. So much so that I’m half expecting to find Rod, Jane & Freddy are neo-Nazi’s, Tony Hart runs a secret multi-national drug cartell and Zippy Bungle & George are masters of some seedy criminal organisation that keeps Jeffery From Rainbow (because that’s his full name) in a dungeon dressed in a gimp mask.

Some people I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks have gone so far as to describe Yewtree as a “witch hunt”, prosecuting men for acts that took place decades ago in a different time which had different attitudes. But time does not excuse any kind of abuse towards a child. The only affect the passage of time has had on this and other similar investigations is the loss or lack of hard evidence, which could theoretically hamper a prosecution’s case. Some have also suggested that the people making these claims against celebrities are merely jumping on the post-Saville bandwagon, possibly even cashing in. This makes it an even sadder story. I personally hope that the charges against Mr. Harris are wrong, if only to preserve a small part of my childhood, but with every passing day we are hearing evidence that tarnishes his character. The unfortunate fact is that even if Mr. Harris is found not guilty, he will still have the accusations attached to his name and reputation.


The next story, and we were abroad again. I was speechless. The recent reports on female genital mutilation (now shortened to FGM, presumably to make it a smidge less uncomfortable to talk about) was, for me, the worst of a terrible trio of awful stories. FGM is an illegal practise in Egypt, where a 13-year old girl recently died during the procedure. (For more details click here for a BBC Online report)

13 year old Suharr died during a procedure that her uncle said would "keep her sexual desires in check". He claims that her death was "Gods will". Again, she was 13!

13 year old Suharr died during a procedure that her uncle said would “keep her sexual desires in check”. He claims that her death was “Gods will”. She was 13.

I watched this horrific report with my wife and we both had tears in our eyes as we heard that the girl had been taken for the procedure by her own father to a qualified doctor (both of whom are now being prosecuted in a landmark legal case) to have the FGM done. Even though the practise is illegal, we saw footage of other parents who declared that they will still be taking their own daughters when they are a bit older for the same procedure. We heard these parents say that people opposed are “ignorant” of the reason for this mutilation of their girls. Sat in the comfort of our luxury sofa with our own 3-year-old daughter sleeping soundly upstairs, we were both incensed by this. I must have looked like I was going to throw up, I was that angry. Many parents in Egypt and other areas of the world apparently still believe that the act of mutilating their daughter’s body is doing the right thing. They believe that if their child does not have this “female circumcision” performed they won’t be able to find a husband, as not showing signs of the procedure is a sign of promiscuity. All of these parents we saw talking and almost championing FGM lived out in rural Egypt, where mothers and grandmothers had themselves been through the same procedure. My wife simply shook her head, saying one word: “education”. These families are growing up in an area that is living on ideals that are possibly centuries old. They say it’s part of their tradition, their religion, their culture. They are apparently completely untouched by the more “civilised” teachings of the modern westernised world. At this point I’d like to make a tenuous link back to the second story – Jimmy Saville was once a big part of our culture. Just as our society was wrong about him, why wouldn’t the advocates of this horrific FGM accept that they could be wrong too? Why can’t they see that this is harming their children?

These parents need to be educated on the reasons for FGM being made illegal, not just be told “stop doing it”. They need to understand that there are no medical benefits at all for this procedure, and that it can in fact cause lasting damage including infections, miscarriages and infertility. This information should be passed on by the country’s doctors, who are educated. It is their responsibility to not only deny this procedure to families, but also explain clearly and concisely why it is banned and the harm it would do. Sadly in many cases, this hasn’t been happening. Religion and tradition have their place in this world, but when it’s used as an excuse for terrorising and mutilating children, it becomes unforgivable. Why anyone would want to subject a child, their own or someone else’s, to a painful procedure that causes both physical and mental scarring, and even death is beyond me. It confounds the mind and if I’m honest brings a tear to the eye. The best possible outcome from 13-year-old Suharr’s tragic story would be that it raises so much awareness of the continuation of this barbaric procedure that it finally makes people stop. At least then her death won’t have been a pointless one.

I don’t ever remember seeing these kind of stories when I was a kid. If there were any stories like these, then my parents would have done everything to make sure I didn’t see it. Mind you, I’d have been too busy running around with a towel-turned-cape on my back pretending to fly and occasionally licking trees to even notice. I was a kid. That’s what kids are supposed to do! (Well maybe not that specifically but you get the idea!) They’re not meant to live every waking moment of their formative years under a shadow of fear. That’s something that no father, mother or even decent human being would want for a child.

Rant over.

Justice League Vs. Warner Bros.?

As Anticipation Mounts For The Upcomming DC Team Up, Is The Justice Leagues First Battle With The People Who Own Them?


“The next one’s Batman Vs. Superman”.


“Vs. Wonder Woman”

“Oh, okay”

“Vs. Lex Luthor”


“Vs. Cyborg Vs.Aquaman”

“What the…?”


After the seemingly unstoppable Marvel propelled their most famous team-up to the big screen with Avengers Assemble, everyone’s been waiting for the Warner Bros. owned DC to send forth their own superheroes to stake their claim on the big screen. It’s already been announced that a Justice League film will be released in 2018, but first we’ll have the 2016 follow-up to Man Of Steel – the recently titled Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, which, while clearly a prelude to a Justice League film, makes you wonder why a sequel to a character many regard as the original superhero is playing second fiddle in his own sequel. This gripe is just the tip of the iceberg, and we fans are getting a bit antsy about (what we know of) the burgeoning expansion of the DC cinematic universe. Ever since Henry Cavill’s Big Blue Boy Scout demolished half of Metropolis and then snapped General Zod’s neck (like, how very un-Superman!) there has been an almost uncomfortable “what next?”


“What next?” soon became “what the ****?” when the new Batman was announced. Ben Affleck – one-time Kevin Smith stalwart turned J-Lo ex turned Oscar winning director was revealled as the latest Dark Knight in August last year, and I’m pretty sure everyone’s head on the planet imploded when they heard. Everyone had an opinion on “Batfleck” (see what they did there) which was rarely positive, citing his previous superhero experience in the much derided Daredevil, to his string of various other movie flops, to his ridiculously large chin (which, given Batmans attire, I thought was a positive!) It didn’t matter that he’d turned his career around, being recognised as a credible actor and even becoming an award winning director for Argo. No, he could never be Batman. And yes even I was guilty of passing judgement, immediately declaring the title of the Man of Steel follow-up as Superman Vs. Gigli.

Then Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious) was announced as the first ever cinema Wonder Woman, to which people responded with “she’s too thin”.

Then Lex Luthor was announced in the form of Jesse Eisenberg (presumably too much hair?)

And Robin (too…“Robin”?) and Joker (too…..not-Heath-Ledger!) and Cyborg (too…what?) and Aquaman (too Matt Damon!) 


Rumours of Damon’s involvement as Aquaman have since been denied.

It felt like Warner Bros./DC, clearly so envious at Marvels success, were throwing everything they could in to a big pot in sheer panic to try and grab a piece of the superhero cinematic pie. And this is even before a fully fledged Justice League film. I’m sure that the Powers That Be at WB/DC have a plan, but is that to make the audience enjoy their stories, or to simply cash in on the superhero genre that they have only grabbed a small portion of thanks largely to Christopher Nolans version of Batman.

I’m a massive DC fan, and yet I can’t help be impressed by how Marvel have treated each of their properties. With DC, who hold the rights to what many regard as the Holy Trinity of Superheroes – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – I can’t help but want to bury my head in the sands, praying that despite all the apparent odds, other DC characters will finally make a successful transition from page to screen after Batman and Superman.

Maybe that will even include Green Lantern. Maybe! Image