Friday, 24 September 2010

A perfect world

Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School for Boys

Watching Nigella making a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, it struck me that she is the sort of person you should really have running some sort of convalescent home for invalids. She would soon build up their strength with homemade chicken soup and extra-rich puddings. Similarly, if you were going to run a school, you would want Gareth Malone in charge of lessons and Jamie Oliver cooking the dinners. Both of these guys have recently had cameras tailing them as they try to improve standards, usually against stony-faced opposition. 

Gareth Malone first appeared on our screens as a choirmaster who took non-singers from schools, and later whole communities (such as our very own South Oxhey) and showed them the joys of trying something new, practising till it hurt, and competing as a team. He may look geeky, but he quietly has a will of steel and isn't afraid of naysayers, the reluctant or the lazy. Now he is taking his inspiring brand of innovation to that neglected group; pre-teen boys. As our schools seem pretty ineffective in general, the fact that boys get left behind girls is mere side note. Is it a lack of male role models? Is the current style of teaching / testing more suited to girls? Or are girls just ore academically minded? 

Gareth got the boys interested in reading, and involved their fathers in a camping trip with a good old-fashioned storytelling session around the campfire. Despite the headmistress's doubts, the boys did of course enter into Gareth's spirit of competition (the ace card when dealing with kids) and surpassed expectations. Being able to DO STUFF is empowering for children – whether it's reading, cooking, starting a fire or reading a map. With Gareth's regime, boys blossom and realise that they CAN achieve. 

Unfortunately schools are resistant to change, as Jamie has found out while taking his culinary expertise to Huntingdon, West Virginia (America's fattest city). Maybe it was a mistake to constantly refer to the "American diet", as if the rest of us aren't stuffing our faces with chicken nuggets and cream cakes (I know I am). It's all played for drama as Jamie has stand-offs with the burly dinnerladies, cries, and bemoans the carb, carb and double carb makeup of the school dinners. But he genuinely cares about the kids who are being trained up to be seriously obese, by the adults who should know better. Will Jamie change the world one meal at a time? With Oprah on his side, let's hope so!

No comments:

Post a Comment