Bleak North - The Website of Author, BARRY LITHERLAND


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By litherlandb, Nov 2 2015 06:04PM

Just the other day Susan told me about a sign she saw by a children’s playground. It said,

‘No children without an adult.

No adults without children.’

The playground was fenced round and had a single gate. She found the whole place quite intimidating.

The implications were obvious and, in my view, horribly misguided:

All adults beyond the perimeter fence are dangerous.

Anyone outside the fence and looking in should be suspected. They may be danger to you.

Stay inside the fence and you’ll be safe, provided you’re not alone.

The world is a dangerous place. You shouldn’t venture there without an adult.

I wonder if we actually believe this. I sense paranoia and emotional hysteria at work.

It reminded me of an incident at a school some years ago. I was head teacher there at the time. We were visited by a group of African drummers. I forget where they were from, somewhere sub Saharan. They were living cheaply and staying in hostels as they toured and were driven from place to place in a cramped minibus by a British co-ordinator. They were amazing - I mean truly remarkable. I don’t think I have ever seen a group of people smile, laugh and radiate such good humour anywhere else. The children, from the five year olds to the twelve year olds, were enthralled and enthused.

At the end of the day two of the older girls gave some of the drummers a small gift. It was nothing much, a laminated bookmark they had made. The girls told me about it; they came across the hall, laughing. One of the drummers was so pleased he had given each of them a hug. We laughed. I thought nothing of it.

Five minutes later I was in recovery mode in the staffroom. It had been a busy day. The door opened and a rather downcast drummer stood there. The British co-ordinator had taken him on one side and told him he shouldn’t have hugged those children. He was sent back in to apologise.

I told him he had nothing to apologise for. When I look back now I know that I was right. This was our problem not his. We created it.

There was something more. When he came back and apologised like that I felt ashamed, really ashamed.

The sign at the playground gate made me feel the same.

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