Bullying is bad. A bit less bullying at school would be a good idea. Schools that put in place policies and approaches that reduce the incidence of bullying – often based around perceived difference on the part of minorities – should be praised.
All pretty unexceptional ideas. But not, apparently, if you write for the Daily Mail.
Earlier today, Ofsted published a survey – “No Place for Bullying – whose purpose was to “evaluate the effectiveness of the actions that schools take to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying”. So far so good.
They identified three categories of school. In the best, the report suggested:
“the culture and ethos in the school were very positive. The schools’ expectations and rules clearly spelled out how pupils should interact with each other. Respect for individual differences had a high profile.”
Political correctness gone mad? Or just simple common sense? These contentions are supported by a range of case studies, through which various themes run like ‘Blackpool’ through a stick of rock.
Talk to pupils. Talk to parents. Involve. Allow the expression of difference. Allow the exploration of difference.
On gender, if a young child wishes to play with non-standard forms of gender expression – a fairly common phenomenon, as attested by every online commenter who starts a diatribe with the assertion that “I used to dress as a muppet, but i didn’t grow up to be one” (sadly, in the case of individual commenters, quite frequently wrong!) – the report simply suggests that schools give them the space to do so.
Without being bullied for their pains.
(And here, i guess, i have one criticism of the report itself: which is that it does appear, in places, to argue the case for allowing gender variant behaviour to thrive mostly in terms of transgender. Which feels like a major fail and a bit of a poke in the eye for every woman, every feminist who has been asking that this be allowed for the last umpteen decades. Its not JUST about t’Tranz!).
…shame about the spin
Sadly, this just isn’t good enough for the Mail. A piece that otherwise reports extracts from the report relatively accurately, with plenty of direct quotage and citation, is inevitably skewed – damned from the off – by a lede that goes:
“Schools are labelling children as young as four as ‘transgender’ simply because they want to dress up as the opposite sex.”
No, Ms Clark, to whom this article is by-lined: they are NOT. Nowhere in the report is there mention of SCHOOLS labelling pupils as trans at age four.
There is mention of policies in respect of children who “are or may be transgender”, which is a matter of dealing with labels applied by experts outside the school system…and i guess, if one really REALLY wishes to stretch a point, the Telegraph’s treatment of this same story might be allowed as literally accurate.
Their sub-head reads:
“Inspectors have praised infant schools for supporting their cross-dressing students, with children as young as four being labelled as “transgender” “
Its accurate, because it does not attribute the labelling to the schools themselves: even so, i’d say that is stretching a point.
The Mail has not even that figleaf of a literalism to defend itself with. I checked back through the report. Perhaps it is an Ofsted failing: an automatic identification of gender-variant with transgender which is leading the Mail to create a wider elision out of what is written.
But no: where they mean gender-variant, that is precisely what Ofsted write. Which leaves me to conclude either that the person writing this piece doesn’t quite get the difference between the two.
Or that the lede was constructed mischievously, with the aim of derailing what would otherwise be – heaven forfend! – a wholly positive piece about how policies designed to promote inclusivity actually work to diminish bullying.
No excuse for the Press Complaints Commission
I hope someone will complain about this to the Press Complaints Commission. And if the PCC come back, as they are oft inclined to, with weasel words about how, if you read the article precisely, literally, then what the words mean are urgle-wurgle-wurgle (that’s not QUITE how the PCC phrase it, but it might as well be), then i’d say it is past time to tear up the pcc rule book and DEMAND that questions as to whether an article misleads or not should be considered NOT by some bunch of self-confessed abusers of the english language, but, quite simply by reference to a survey of what the public actually think.
Sort through the comments on this piece, and they are very negative. Sort out the most negative, and it is clear that a large chunk of the readership are upset, concerned, at the idea of schools taking pupils as young as 4 and applying a trans label to them.
As i would be. Because labelling is mostly a bad idea – espesh within the educational system.
The Mail has egregiously misled its readers on this issue. It should certainly apologise. And as it won’t, it most certainly deserves complaining about. s1(i) of the editor’s code, methinks!