Debate about the debate

I recognise that it has been, for many friends and the wider community another difficult week. I think now we all understand that we are in this for the long run. We certainly cannot be thinking that, as some politicians may want us to believe, this will all be over by… you add your own date to that but Christmas seems to be the most popular one. The old phrase ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ comes to mind. We’ll need to take a medium to long-term view and ensure that we pace ourselves. For us all in our schools and the college, our sole focus is on the experiences that children and young people get in the classroom and around the school and college. We are absolutely committed, as professionals, to ensuring that we remain open and that we remain as safe a place to learn and work as we possibly can.

Beyond COVID I think many of us will have been in some way strangely engrossed and, in equal measures, repulsed by the Trump / Biden debate of Tuesday. I really want to take care in respect of an indication of what I might think about those two politicians as people – that’s not my business and this platform should not be used to drive any political agenda however I do feel it is legitimate to comment upon the debate itself and how the participants conducted themselves during that debate.

It has been described, in the media, as a car crash debate. I’m not sure whether that goes far enough. What I would say is that as individuals standing for the most important political position on Earth, two men in the 70s, with the world looking upon them, that there should be something of a degree of shame and navel-gazing. I spend my week, and it’s always a pleasure, moving from the primary, through secondary and into the post-16 sector. At no point do I ever observe children or young people behaving, arguing or posturing in the way witnessed during that debate on Tuesday. What sort of example are we setting to our children and our young people? I fully understand it when young people say that they are turned off by politics and do not want to engage in political debate when they see such behaviour.

There has been, running on social media, some wonderful pieces by nursery and primary school teachers on how they would have managed that debate or how they would have managed the behaviour of their children; if their charges had conducted themselves in the manner observed on Tuesday. Yet again, society and politicians in particular, might learn something from our schools and colleges, our teachers and professional support colleagues. We would never accept children behaving in that manner. We would sit them down and talk them through their behaviours and we would ensure that they understand what they needed to do to affect real change. Our patience and our tolerance is central to managing childish and inappropriate behaviours. We are preparing our children and young people for adulthood and a future in which they will know and display good manners, kindness, humility and a belief in humanity.

It’s a real shame that the convenor for the next debate isn’t one of our primary school teachers. I’m sure they would manage that debate infinitely more successfully than we have seen this week and those ‘naughty boys’ would very clearly understand why their behaviour is unacceptable in a caring and civilised community.

‘In a lifetime of observing and participating in political debate, I have seen a lot of meanness.’ Dennis Prager 

‘Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.’ Groucho Marx

I hope there is the thinnest shaft of light in this message, this week. It can become very difficult to find things to be positive about when we look at our domestic challenges and our personal lives, when we consider the current crisis. The changing guidance and rules will not be helping. Control what you can control. Do what you can do. Make the best of what you’ve got. Find fun when you can find fun.