Miss-ing the mark in debate over teachers' names

IT'S that time of year when scunnered 15-year-olds ­traditionally rebel at being told they must suffer school until they are 16.

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Wait until the wee souls hear they'll be expected to suffer work into their 70s.

I know, that's a sweeping assumption, that they'll actually find a job in the first place.

More than 20% of Scotland's 16 to 24-year-olds are currently unemployed. The government would have you believe that's an improvement but it's still seven per cent higher than in 2008.

Problem is, even among those lucky enough to find work, employers complain that in too many cases school has not prepared them for our big, bad world.

Home and school life should teach discipline, respect, even the importance of good timekeeping; recognising if not agreeing with authority, and the need to work with folk you dislike or who don't fancy you.

HR departments are less than chuffed at offers to sort out any disagreements behind the bike sheds after work.

Ideally, every school leaver would have benefited from what they call 'soft skills' teaching, such as presentation and interview techniques, even how not to dress for the work experience placements that pupils shouldn't be left on their own to find out.

But, sorry, you can forget all that wishful thinking.

The fact is, many kids leave school all but illiterate, having failed to master even the basic three Rs, never mind learning about managing their money, marriage, parenthood, and all the rest.

On its own, even a good academic education doesn't fully prepare young people for independent adult life. Maybe that's why so many of them stay at home for so long, employed or not.

Kids don't just need to know what to think, they also need to know how to think.

So what are we to think of academics (ie: people with too much time on their hands) lobbying for pupils to stop referring to teachers as "Sir" and "Miss" because, wait for it, they think it's sexist and demeaning?

Jennifer Coates, of Roehampton University, has sparked that debate in the learned pages of the Times Educational Supplement, claiming pupils should instead refer to teaching staff by their first names.

Ms Coates ("You can call me Professor") says women teachers were given "low status" connotations which make them appear less capable than male counterparts.

She said: "'Sir' is a knight, but 'miss' is ridiculous, it doesn't match 'sir' at all."

No, I don't understand that middle-ages madness, either.

So, Prof, how about teachers being known as Duke and ­Duchess? Would that soothe your feminist itch?

Why not go the whole hog and let the wee darlings use their nicknames for teachers?

In fact, in the interests of equality, the teachers could reciprocate by using the nicknames they dreamed up for their more colourful pupils over tea in the staff room.

It's true that outwith the school environment there was a time when the title "Miss" did suggest someone who is unattached, single.

In school, though, it has nowt to do with a woman's marital status, it just signifies your teacher is female. It is also recognition of mutual respect, a commodity seemingly in terminal decline.

Teachers will decide how they prefer to be addressed. It's their choice to be informal if they believe it will aid their work, but pupils are not their equals in the classroom.

It's simply more politically correct nonsense. Would you call your GP by their Christian name? (Sorry, am I allowed to say "Christian" without a rival dogma feeling alienated?).

Teachers have a hard enough job these days. According to union leaders they are currently suffering from a "dangerous cocktail" of excessive workload, relentless pressure and poor morale.

And as recent tragic events have shown, teachers every day run the very real risk of being assaulted and even killed.

The PC polis are slowly infiltrating the UK public sector, having already cajoled prison officers to call inmates Mr or Mrs for fear of infringing their human rights.

You couldn't make it up. Imagine Mr Mackay sharing such Porridge pleasantries with Mr Norman Stanley Fletcher.

Meanwhile, as if the NHS did not have enough problems, we hear nurses and doctors, cleaners and patients are encouraged to be on first-name terms.

What's that all about?

Apart from folk who don't wish to be addressed by their first name, it must be worrying when a sick patient doesn't know whether talk of Sandy refers to their nurse or the cleaner or the guy who is meant to be taking out their appendix in the morning.

Will such familiarity not breed contempt?

You bet.

Back in my school days, we had a psycho science master whose first name was Richard.

Imagine our delight if he could actually have heard us calling him Dick.

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