Monday, 14 March 2011

Dream School?

British people will no doubt be aware that chef-cum-Superman Jamie Oliver, who in earlier series has saved us all from the evil Twizzlers of Turkeia, who zoomed down from outer space to defile our children and destroy the nation's health, only to be vanquished by the Crepe Crusader, has recently turned his attention to the failing education system, and has taken to trying, in his own inimicable way, to solve its problems.

Oliver's plan basically rests on the idea that celebrities can teach subjects they claim to know about far better than so-called professionals. Predictably, however, most of them were catastrophic failures - David Starkey alienated the entire section of the population that Oliver had earlier tried unsuccessfully to humiliate and segregate by calling a boy "fat", and then proceeded to carry on with the ensuing argument for so long that I had to check he wasn't actually one of the children. After all, as Connor reminded us, he is "only four foot tall". Alastair Campbell gave splendid advice as to how to follow in his footsteps: to become a lying, sycophantic apologist for a war criminal, and, rather imaginatively, simultaneously aroused the homophobic sentiments of some of the class, leading to an outright brawl of words of the kind not seen on Channel 4 since Brookside was cancelled.

As far as I can tell, the kids seem about as interested in this scheme as Nick Clegg is in listening to the electorate, judging by the amount of time they spend on their gadgets, hiding away from doing any work and wearing the now-patented gormless hangdog look that has become so associated with Clegg over the last year. This whole programme seems like a propaganda exercise for Michael Gove's Free Schools project. No, you don't need specialist or trained teachers, any old C-list celebrity will do! I can only imagine the sequels:

Jamie's Dream Hospital, where Hugh Laurie carries out emergency heart surgery while Ducky Mallard sets 80% of the commissioning budget...

Jamie's Dream Forestry Commission, where TV's Robin Hood Jonas Armstrong carries out the demanding task of keeping ramblers off land that is rightfully theirs while Bear Grylls and Ray Mears show us all the proper way to tend to 5% of our national area...

Jamie's Dream Foreign Policy Crisis Unit, where Ross Kemp solves the Libyan problem by having a mealy-mouthed shouting match with Gaddafi from the top of a Chinook while Jack Osbourne tells the search-and-rescue operatives of the day how to correctly throw yourself out of a plane at thirty thousand feet.

(Although in that case I still might consider them over William Hague.)

There is a real issue here. We seem to have been sucked into the vacuum of assuming that "celebrity" equates to "worthy", that fame and fortune and everything that goes with it are substitutes for training, hard work and a real focus on doing your job properly. In their continuing war against the state and what it stands for, the coalition government seem to be following a very dangerous paradigm that suggests that anyone who actually does a job for money (in the capitalist tradition) is some kind of scrounger off the state - hence why we apparently need to cut all the real staff at libraries and post offices and run the bleedin' things ourselves, in our spare time. I'm not sure whether this is stupidity or arrogance, because the two are never too far apart within the Tory party.

It seems that in this age of 24-hour news and instant gratification, we only want stories that can be tied up neatly into bundles. No-one wants to hear about the teachers who work day-in, day-out to slowly improve the standards of less talented kids in their schools - we'd all much rather some televisual superhuman waltzed in at the eleventh hour and saved the day with moments to spare. So this is the real message of Dream School for me, and I hope the producers will be honourable enough to make this their ultimate conclusion too. Very little outside the goggle box happens in a scripted order, with climaxes before the ad breaks and a neat conclusion at the end. Life is messy and inconsiderate, and so our TV companies, and, more importantly, our elected representatives, must stop looking for elegant and quick solutions to our nation's woes and concentrate on what really matters - helping people to live their lives in a better, fairer and more understanding society.

CREDITS: The idea for this comes from Charlie Brooker's Guardian column and commentators thereon. It's alright.

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