What we want our children to learn


We all have views on what children should be learning in school these days, don’t we? For instance – it would be great if they all came out of the system being able to read, write and add up. And then, there’s Citizenship that they’re learning… Oh – and how to use computers, though it seems to me that most of them emerge from the womb being able to text and manipulate the trickiest DVD player so they have that totally unsuitable programme on the minute you’re looking the other way…

What about learning about food? At the very least, with the explosion of obesity in our population, it might be a good idea if they are taught about a healthy balanced diet and where our food comes from. How about Primary age children raising a few animals? A school farm, maybe, where the children help to rear the animals, before they are slaughtered for their food… So that our children don’t go away with the idea that meat comes ready-packed in clingfilm, but once upon a time wandered around on four legs…

And this is where is gets messy. As Kent Headteacher, Andrea Charman has found to her cost. Her idea of teaching children exactly what happens to animals came an almighty cropper, when she proposed to the Lydd Primary School Council that Marcus the sheep should be slaughtered and joints of meat should be raffled off to raise money for the school – and the School Council agreed. Some parents, horrified that the cute little lamb their children had helped to feed was about to be butchered organised a protest, bringing a storm of hostile publicity down upon the head of Mrs Charman, who finally succumbed to the pressure and resigned, yesterday. In response, a number of extremely upset parents and children who had supported her, demonstrated outside the school to have her reinstated.

Any way you look at this business, it’s regrettable. A clearly inspirational and competent Headteacher who had pulled Lydd Primary out of special measures and turned it around, has been lost to the school and a number of children have been thoroughly upset – either at the loss of Marcus, the sheep; or their Head. Or both… It’s always easy to be wise after the event. Maybe, it would have been a good idea not to name the lamb that was always destined for the dinner table.   Maybe it would have been advisable to ensure that everyone was aware right from the start that he was never intended to be a pet. Some parents claimed it was a horrible shock when they learned he was for the chop.

But I do worry about the sticky, sentimental attitude towards animals that has slewed this whole issue. Andrea Charman was threatened with violence by Animal Rights protesters and harassed by a Facebook campaign designed to get her sacked – despite the fact that at no time has anyone suggested that Marcus wasn’t given the very best care. Events took an ugly turn when she received death threats and excrement through the post. I wonder how many of the protesting parents are vegetarians – because if they ARE meat eaters, then there is some seriously muddled thinking going on in those households. Those of us who are carnivores should know what it costs to go on eating meat on a daily basis – not just the financial and environmental cost, but the stark fact that our eating habits cost the lives of hundreds and thousands of animals every single day.

During the last war, households all over the country raised pigs, chickens and rabbits for meat in back gardens. Children were expected to look after them as part of their daily chores – and I’m sure there were tears when the day came for them to be killed, but the expectation was they needed to deal with it. Or not eat the meat. It’s different, these days. Mrs Adele Grant claimed that her ten year old daughter needed counselling after Marcus’s death. In our drive to protect our children from traumas and upset, I wonder if we aren’t muffling them inappropriately. The price of meat is an ongoing issue. One that we should keep in mind every time we walk into a supermarket and pick out a mass produced, cheap cut of meat instead of the expensive, more humanely reared product.

And if Adele Grant, who announced herself delighted at Mrs Charman’s resignation, picks up the cheaper cut of meat when she goes shopping, then at the very least, she’s a thorough-going hypocrite.

The two victims in this mess – Mrs Andrea Charman, forced to resign after the  vindictive  campaign against her.  Marcus the sheep – who had a much better life than most of his fellow lambs and – hopefully – caused some of the children to think hard about eating meat and what it entails…

One response »

  1. It would be great if schools concentrated on the basics, and getting them right, anything else would be icing on the cake, but I can’t see common sense prevailing in any situation in today’s world. Here in Scotland there was recently a case where a head teacher committed suicide because of the pressures of school reports. There was also a news report about a school banning Valentine’s cards. We’re going to Hell in a handcart – the good news is the politicians have lost the map and haven’t been repaying the mortgage on the handcart so there’s a good possibility it will be repossessed before we get anywhere near Hell.

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