Now, I’ve got to say, when I first put my books out there for people to read, I imagined reviews, both good and bad and steeled myself for those times when readers might hate what I’d written. What I never anticipated though was being asked really tough questions that I would feel duty bound to answer. Consequently I have been mulling it over for the better part of two days now but I am still no nearer an answer.
The question concerns Georgie Connelly herself, who is something of a blunderer and always says what she thinks, regardless of what may or may not be politically correct. For the reader who posed the question, this was Georgie’s appeal and she wanted to know what my own views on political correctness are, given that I have created a character who tramples all over it. I’m sure you are wondering what I’m making such a song and dance about; it is after all a straight forward question. But when you actually start thinking about it, it really isn’t.
Surely we all want to live in an inclusive society, where people are allowed to flourish regardless of age, gender, race, or disability. My heart did a little flip of joy the other day when I witnessed some youths castigating their friend, who had yelled, “gay boy,” at the top of his lungs, for being homophobic. It seemed at that moment that maybe the message about equality and fairness was actually getting through. When I think back to the terms bandied about, quite unchecked, during my own youth, I feel mortified.
I have seen firsthand how hard it is for students with disabilities to thrive in a mainstream school and yet so many of them do and achieve outstanding results. If regulating our language, to avoid terms that may make people feel bad about themselves, allows someone’s journey to be a little easier then surely that’s not much to ask. The Paralympics are almost here and we will get to see athletes who have achieved excellence regardless of their disabilities. I think it’s shaming that the BBC aren’t planning to devote the same amount of coverage that they did for the Olympics and it’s an indication of how much still has to be done to combat discrimination.
So far then, you might be forgiven for thinking that I am firmly in the politically correct camp but, hold your horses. As well as seeing any potential good points, I have also seen the damage that well meaning people and the constraints of being politically
correct can do. People don’t want to hear it but schools are in disarray. And the reason they are in disarray is because discipline and the idea of imposing rules has become a minefield, where no sane-minded adult would want to stray. When I was training to be a teacher, the main focus of the training was about inspiring students to want to learn; now it’s about how to avoid a law suit. Never ever touch a child, never be in a room alone with a child, never agree to see a parent alone, never tell the truth just tell parents what they want to hear.
Pupil power rules supreme and it really does feel as if the lunatics have taken over the asylum. The sense of entitlement of some of the families that I have worked with has been staggering and ultimately, I believe, detrimental to any progress their child might make. I have seen families who apply for hardship funds unable to afford to send their child to school with a uniform or any equipment and yet every member of the family has a BlackBerry. The kid while not able to afford regulation shoes is wearing a pair of £100 trainers. These things are unmentionable, however, because to mention them I would incur the wrath of political correctness and no doubt be branded a fascist.
Nobody wants to go back to the days when schools were places of dread. I can still remember being punched in the shoulder and called “an insolent madam” by a male teacher and I hated him and his subject from that moment on. I’m sure we can all agree that nobody really learns anything through fear. We just create a generation of lab rats, who regurgitate whatever we want them to say, but don’t have an original thought in their head. Surely though there has to be a happy medium because I can tell you now, regardless of what politicians or politically motivated head teachers may say, the system we have is not working.
Do you see my dilemma then? I feel as if I am going around and around in circles. I suppose the conclusion I have come to is that, whilst true Georgie Connelly does ride rough shod over political correctness, she has a good heart. I recognise that once you create a character and put it into a public forum; you have to allow people to interpret that character as they will. I would be devastated, however, if anybody read Georgie as a mean spirited person. And maybe that is my answer. I don’t believe in political correctness as an institution but I believe in human kindness. I believe that we should all treat each other with dignity, fairness and honesty. If we did that, we wouldn’t need to be regulated and told what we can or can’t say and think. As often happens though my answer has merely served to throw up another question; am I just being a naive fool?