Friday, 4 March 2011

Nothing to do with MS

Our schools are like a war zone. It’s a bit of a cliché and a bit of an exaggeration. But after last week I wasn’t sure how much. We were performing our show “Crime of the century”, a show about gang violence and disenfranchised youth, at an inner city secondary school. 120 fourteen year olds were our audience. Before you can get into the school we need to run the usual gamut of self locking doors, security badges, and more locked doors. The drama studio is unlocked for us. Once inside we find a well appointed space with raked seating on three sides. We bring our own lights - just a touring rig. The kids are marshaled in. There is much shouting from the teachers in an attempt to curb the volume of chatter from over excited 14 year olds for whom double science or whatever has been replaced by watching a theatre show.  Once in, a list of student names is read out. 20 students are bought to the front of the class. All except one…"he was excluded this morning Miss” says a brave boy. There’s laughter from two girls sitting near the front. The teacher is apoplectic. “You two have just forced your way onto the list. Come and join the rest of them.” All 22 (21 if you exclude the already excluded boy) have misbehaved on the way into the drama studio. We never hear how they have transgressed but their collective punishment is to be excluded from watching a show about how young people become disillusioned and divorced from their community…You figure it out. These teachers, good people I’m sure, were so busy excluding kids that they had forgotten to teach them.  “Our schools are like a war zone” is an exaggeration.  But if we’re not careful, some of our kids, in some of our schools will make education an enemy to be feared.  Told you it had nothing to do with MS.

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