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The Dave Woodhall column

"LOOK MUM, I'M FAMOUS"

08-09-2006

Dave Woodhall tells parents who run to the papers or television whenever their kids have the slightest problem - GROW UP!

I've got a few petty obsessions - the debasement of the English language and the increasing spread of Americanisms to name a couple. But one of the biggest is the way in which sorry-looking children are dragged in front of newspaper photographers of TV cameras whenever a ‘human interest' story occurs.

A burglary at Christmas - photo of the kids looking disconsolate. Dog goes missing - photo of the kids looking disconsolate and staring at an empty dog bowl. Misdiagnosed illness - photo of the kids looking disconsolate together with the phrase so common in such situations “considering taking legal advice.” Or to be more accurate “wondering if they might get a few quid out of it.”

The latest was as story in a local paper on Wednesdayaboutthat pupils at Bordesley Village School - they are apparently being ‘forced' to wear claret and blue uniforms, and because they are all Blues supportersthey aresuffering repeated trauma and anguish because they're all Blues supporters

Now, I may as well declare an interest here. I'm a Villa supporter, and I find it mildly, if childishly, amusing. But I know that if I had children that age and they had to wear blue and white as their school uniform I wouldn't be in the slightest bit concerned. I certainly wouldn't get so upset that I contacted the local media and made a big fuss out of it.

This story made the front page and filled most of page 3. On the surface it's a bit of fun, but on deeper consideration it also shows serious problems. Two children are photographed - the same two on both pages. This indicates to me that, far from “most children,” being upset, the only ones that are at all bothered are these two, or more likely their parents.

The children are being encouraged to ignore rules that they don't approve of, and the introduction of a quote from a member of a Birmingham City supporters club (who I assume doesn't have children at the school) that the move was “outrageous” just adds fuel to what is an often-volatile fire.

There's a long and ignoble tradition between Blues and Villa supporters; it would be naïve to think all will ever be sweetness and light between the two groups, but such comments can only help to foster the next generation of hooligans. After all, the children's thinking could be excused for going, if claret and blue are such appalling colours that wearing them as a school uniform is an outrage, the club who play in them must be equally bad.

And the children get their photos in the paper, looking sad. Isn't it funny that you can't take private photos of children anymore without their parents' permission, for fear that they may fall into the wrong hands, but it's perfectly acceptable behaviour to allow them to be splashed across the front page of a newspaper?

Here's a message for Leena Mills and Danielle Murray who were are so appalled by the choice of their offsprings' school uniform that they felt obliged to make a public display of their emotions - get a grip! While you're at it, get a sense of proportion too. There are plenty more things in your daughters' lives you could be worrying about. Education standards, crime in schools and the world they'll be growing up in, to name a few.

If your reaction to such a trivial point as the colour of their school uniform is to run to the newspapers, they're going to have a lot worse problems to come.

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