Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Column, February 21, 2006

I WAS a good kid.
This meant that I escaped the two fates that awaited the troublesome in my old school.
The only blot on an otherwise spotless copy book was a comment by Mr Hinks-Edwards, my art teacher, who gave me a D, and said simply that I was ‘slow, talkative and lacking direction.’
He was a fine judge of character, Hinksy. But other than my inability to take the drawing of an apple too seriously I was generally attentive and very occasionally hard working.
The educationally-challenged were sent for special lessons on the top floor of the school house. The other two floors were occupied by the school’s sixth form, surely an accidental cruelty to send those with such problems through the ranks of the more gifted.
For those who were bright but whose behaviour left something to be desired, the channel for their energy was drama lessons.
There was I, all these years, thinking they’d been sent to act out being a tree, or miming a bloke stuck in a box.
What was I missing?
Now we hear that drama can be a hotbed of passion egged on by peeping tom teachers who get their kicks watching their young charges re-enact the best bits from Last Tango in Paris.
If I’d known that back then I would have knocked technical drawing on the head and signed up to become a young Romeo, understudy for young Romeo, spear-carrier for young Romeo, I don’t care just let me in on the Romeo action.
But alas and alack (see, I’ve even got the lingo, what a loss to the Shakespearian stage I am, if only I could have given North Wales audiences my Bottom) I emerged from school able to draw a radiator valve, but unsnogged by the various female denizens of the drama class – one of whom ended up on The Bill – I’d have dined out on that for years.
Of course, it’s possible that the drama classes were not the sinkholes of depravity I have imagined. Maybe they were all pretending to be trees, or blokes trying to stand up in a strong wind.
Which rather makes one wonder why the Assembly has gone top the trouble of providing draft guidelines for the teaching of drama in school to stop teachers acting out their fantasies by getting their young actors to…well…act out their fantasies.
Well, actually we know why, it’s because one teacher at a school in South Wales was doing that and videoing the results for his own gratification. He was due to be tried for it but killed himself before the trial.
Let’s recap shall we, because if you’ve a scrap of common sense you might be wondering what the fuss is about.
One chap gets his jollies by watching his pupils act their socks off, and if only it had just been their socks. He gets caught, prosecuted and kills himself.
As a result of this the Welsh Assembly has produced draft guidance for all schools in Wales.
Never mind the fact that thousands upon thousands of hours have been devoted to the teaching of drama and not a whiff of scandal has there been. Ignore the fact that countless productions of Oklahoma have taken to the stage and, mysteriously, no nude scenes have been inserted by teacher.
Disregard the fact that in the vast majority of schools any teacher behaving as this one did would have been reported to the police and prosecuted.
No, what those with nothing better to do with their time have come up with is a set of guidelines that, whatever their intent, will make teachers think twice about doing anything with an adult theme.
So Shakespeare, forget it. One of the most enriching experiences of a child’s life, to be introduced to the works of the Bard, could be denied them, because one teacher was found wanting.
Where is the evidence to justify the need for this patent waste of time and money?
Where are then allegations of widespread abuse by drama teachers? And if there were, why hasn’t there been a public inquiry into that instead of coming up with national guidance that will hamstring all teachers because of the misdeeds of just one.
Because, make no mistake, what this guidance will be is a tap on the shoulder to teachers saying ‘We’re watching.’ At any moment they know the nanny state will want them to justify every last moment of every last scene that their children take part in.
So will they allow Romeo and Juliet to kiss? Well common sense would say yes, but if they’re conscious that Big Sister Jane Davidson is watching them then probably not.
Romeo will have to make do with an affectionate pat on the shoulder, or better still, a friendly wave from his Juliet, from across the stage – safety first.
No-one wants to make life easy for an abusive teacher, but unless someone can furnish me with evidence of drama teachers across Wales making use of the casting couch, then it smacks a bit of panic.
How many schools are going to err of the side of caution rather than put on productions that they wouldn’t have thought about twice in years gone by? But now they have to beware the phone call from some busy-body who sees abuse around every corner, or some knuckle-dragger who has already bricked his local paediatrician and is looking for another ‘paedo’ target.
This guidance is a waste of time, and the shame is it could lead to a waste of talent.

THE response to my suggestion that windfarms are not necessarily instruments of the Devil has been amusing to say the least.
Especially those who seem to think the fact the wind doesn’t blow all the time is a fatal flaw in their technology – please note, even the most tie-dyed-in-the-wool green hippy doesn’t suggest they’re the only answer, just part of it.
But if you only read the letters page of the Daily Post you might form the opinion that the majority of Welsh people are against such developments.
Nothing could be further from the truth, although well-organised letter-writers wouldn’t necessarily want you to know that.
An independent poll of Welsh people carried out by NOP, an authoritative and well-respected polling organisation, found that 75 per cent of people in Wales agreed that wind farms are necessary to meet the country’s current and future energy needs.
The NIMBYs who are against wind power generate a lot of hot air of their own. But those who make decisions, such as Conwy councillors, should remember that no matter how vocal they are, they don’t speak for all of us.


Matt Withers said...

Banksy - I note with interest your continued insistence on claiming to be Wales' "most outspoken and controversial" columnist. Now, I'm not entirely sure of my legal rights here - poorly taught - but I'm sure you're contravening some code or other. Get it sorted.

Banksy said...

Two words for you Mr Withers.



I trust the orthodontist has restored your cheeky grin.

Matt Withers said...

Thanks for your kind concern. I'm now as ravishing as ever - at a cost of a mere £1,000. I'd write something about the dearth of NHS dentists in North Wales, but I don't think anybody would be interested.

cymrumark said...

Off topic but thought you would like to see this here first:)

Letter to Daily Post

Columnist David Banks is clearly struggling to keep up with the new look and new found confidence and coherence of Plaid Cymru.

If he had read Saturdays and Mondays Daily Post he would have seen how Plaid is developing new and innovative ways of working with the public to develop its policy programme for Wales.

He would have read the reports of the conference speeches of leading Plaid members which laid bare the devastating effect the failed Labour governments in Cardiff and London are having on Wales. He would also have read how the party has installed Ieuan Wyn Jones as overall party leader thus ending any previous confusion.

If he had attended the conference he would have found a confident united party determined to win power in order to tackle the very poverty he mentions. He would have seen that the new image and new logo reflect a modern vibrant party and that our unique selling point is, as ever, that we are the only party based entirely in Wales and seeking only to further the interests of all the people living in Wales.

David’s attempt to find something negative about the return to frontline politics of Dafydd Wigley was so desperate as to be funny. His failure to attack any of our ideas expressed at the conference or our record in the Assembly over the last few months suggests we are moving in the right direction. David is struggling to find anything negative to say about us on issues of substance and is reduced to moaning about our new look and the fact that we will have a ring tone for supporters to down load to mobile phones. Meanwhile Labour are tearing the heart out of our communities by closing schools, shutting community hospitals and pushing local councils into privatising council housing. Hardly compares does it?

Mark David Jones

Banksy said...

Hello Mark, your comment/letter, makes exactly the same point as I have.

If Labour is doing this to our communities, what on earth is Plaid doing pratting about with ringtones.

By all means lets talk about policy issues. But as long as your party devotes time and effort to producing something as idiotic as a 'sonic logo' you shouldn't be entirely surprised that I, and others, wonder whether you've got a little too much time on your hands.

cymrumark said...

So you dont like sonic logos....given that our biggest problem has been our inability to campaign effectively and our desire to cling to techniques used in the 70's I actually welcome anything new. As I said in the letter we must be doing something right if the only thing you have to grumble about is the tiny amount of time spent developing a new logo sonic or otherwise.

Happy St Davids Day.....

Did you ever complete your Welsh classes? I only asked as I was on a course last week in Nant and have come back fired with evangelical zeal for finding converts to the classes!!

Banksy said...


Tiny amount of time eh?

I think you might be being a tad economical with the actualit├ęs there mark.

As for it being the only think I have to grumble about. It's the only thing this week...that and the new logo.

I did 18 months of night school trying to improve my Welsh. I understand a lot of what is saiud and written, bujt lack conversational practice to give me a bit of confidence.