The Christmas edition of the Times Educational Supplement makes depressing reading. The culture of fear, risk-aversion and stunted aspirations – the defining characteristics of contemporary society – pervade its pages.
We are told that pupils at a primary school have been banned from bringing wrestling magazines into school because of fears that they may be "copying their heroes' antics". It seems one or two children had been seen "practising holds" – or perhaps just indulging in normal playground scuffles. Passing over the dubious logic involved in this ban, which assumes that no such "copying" will occur if the children only read wrestling magazines outside the school gates (and the school's apparent ignorance of the forbidden-fruit effect, which will ensure that the banned magazines now become twice as desirable), one wonders what dangerous sporting propaganda they will ban next. 'Pony' magazine, perhaps? After all, several riders have been killed and more seriously injured in equestrian competitions this year, whereas no fatalities have been reported in wrestling, as far as I know.
On the very next page, we are informed that dictionaries are to be banned in language exams in secondary schools because "research showed that they gave able pupils an unfair advantage." Again, one has to wonder: what next? Any written material will give able pupils an advantage, as they presumably have better reading skills than their less able classmates. Pens might also be said to give able pupils an edge, allowing them to display their superior writing skills. Perhaps, as well as being denied the chance to consult dictionaries, the brighter pupils should have their hands tied behind their backs, just to even things out a bit?
It seems reasonable to ask how all this banning of literature and deliberate handicapping of literate pupils is supposed to promote thirst for knowledge and improve the reading and communication skills of the next generation.