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Home > Media

Fuck Off, Mr Chips

2 September 2005

Kids love swearing. They always have and they always will. You can tell them it isn’t big and isn’t clever till you’re blue in the face and the chances are they’ll tell you to fuck off. Then they’ll laugh and high-five one another, feeling both big *and* clever. Knowing this, and also knowing that prohibition is futile, Alan Large – headmaster of Weavers School in Northamptonshire – has introduced a new policy on profanity. Starting next week when the new term begins, pupils are allowed to cuss in class. But there is a catch. They’re only allowed five f-words per lesson. Any more than that, and they will be ‘spoken to’ by teachers.

This radical new approach to potty-mouthed pupils has, unsurprisingly, been attacked by traditionalists. Anne Widdecombe – who despises bad language almost as much as she despises sexual intercourse – is appalled. ‘Whatever next?’ she asked. ‘Do we allow people to speed five times or burgle five times?’ She is of course being sarcastic. ‘You don't improve something by allowing it,’ she continues, ‘you improve something by discouraging it.’ Right. Unfortunately that makes no sense.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, is also upset: ‘In these sorts of situations teachers should be setting clear principles of “do and don’t”. They should not be compromising in an apparent attempt to please the pupils. This will send out completely the wrong message.’ For Seaton, it smacks of appeasement. Allow schoolchildren to eff and blind and you are capitulating to the terrorism of profanity.

Large meanwhile, couldn’t give a fuck. ‘The reality is that the f-word is part of these young adults' everyday language,’ he pointed out. Well, yes, but for many of these children, smoking and drinking and fierce masturbation is also part of their everyday lives, but it might be difficult to concentrate on your quadratic equations with pupils struggling to fit five f-words, three Benson & Hedges, two Bacardi Breezers and half a dozen wanks into every single lesson.

Large insists however, that the policy is in no way an encouragement for children to swear, and is absolutely not an excuse to verbally abuse their teachers. He sees it more as a way of making students aware of how they choose to express themselves. ‘Some students are using the words without realising,’ he says, ‘while they are getting on with their school work.’ Tourette’s it seems, is rife in Northampton.

There are other problem areas. Will teachers also be allowed to swear? Can pupils say ‘cunt’? If so, how many times?

At the end of the day, Large really needs to shit, or get off the pot. If kids are allowed to swear, let them swear. If they’re not, don’t. But if children are allowed five f-words, teachers should get ten, and two c-words to use in emergencies. Thinking about it, it really is a very bad idea.

Teacher: Do you think Hamlet was right not to kill Claudius while he seemed to be praying?

Gary: I couldn’t give a fuck, Miss. Hamlet bores the piss out of me.

Teacher: Fair point. Anyone else?

Emma: Claudius was a cunt, Miss.

One thing is for sure: it’s going to be a great first day back to school.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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