How was school today?

tired+teacher

Oh, thanks for asking! Because today was definitely one tough day.

Let me tell you a bit about it. Because I don’t have my own classroom due to overcrowding and funding issues, I spent the morning racing from one room to another, laden down with books and exam papers and tests, being jostled in the crammed corridors, late for every class.
My first class was with senior pupils; it’s mixed ability and I have every level in there, but mostly pupils who hope to do well at higher level. The Ordinary level pupils are utterly lost; and every time I look at them I feel so guilty but it is almost impossible to get time with them because our senior options classes have been cut this year, from 5 classes a week to 4, and I just don’t have enough contact hours any more. We’ve also lost time this year due to the weather, and I notice there are two Junior Cycle training days scheduled over the next two weeks. More time lost.
Then I had my 1st years. I have a pupil with severe behavioural issues and a pupil who is an elective mute, as well as twenty more. I have never been trained to deal with these issues, so every class is like treading on ice, hoping there won’t be any mishaps. I have rarely been so overwhelmed by a group of kids; all so lovable, with so many abilities, strengths, needs and so, so many questions.
Then there was Tom; he’s the hardest-working child in the world, and also one of the most talented kids I’ve ever met. But today, with the Christmas tests looming, something mysterious got the better of him and he cracked. There were copious tears, but no words; and when you have 18 more teenagers looking on and no time for an extensive counselling session, you do feel overcome, to say the least.
At last it was break-time. No tea for me, because I had to organise a sports event for the next day – I manage two school teams. Any free minute I got during the day was spent compiling team lists, organising referees, sorting out time issues, counselling girls who either did want to play and hadn’t made it, or had made it, but didn’t want to play, liaising with the team trainer, and preparing class work for the substitute teacher who would cover my classes when I was gone. My tea was gone cold by the time I got a chance to even look at the cup.
Class then again; my fifth years were worried because they heard rumours about that there was going to be a drugs test on Wednesday. I informed them that I didn’t know anything about it, but that if there was a test, I couldn’t imagine that any of them would need to be worried; moving on, I tried to continue teaching exam techniques. Some of them got confused though because they thought I was talking about the drugs test.
Lunchtime: I spent more time organising tomorrow’s matches, went down to the canteen to get some lunch, was continually stopped by pupils who wanted to talk about one thing or another. More counselling, more talking – simply letting kids know they are cared for. I had barely time to gulp down my soup before the bell rang, and off I was again, on the run to yet another classroom. I had just got started, when there was a knock on the door, and another teacher told me Tom was crying again, and since I knew him better than her, could I talk to him? She supervised my class, while I did my best to console a child who was clearly very upset about something, but who needed time and patience for it to be dealt with. Eventually, the school counselor was freed up and she took the child to her office where finally he began to settle down and open up. The poor lady – I don’t know if she even had time to even breathe today.
Another class; this time, I had to reprimand a pupil who had a curse-word scrawled across their pencil-case.
It’s the end of the day finally. But I don’t go home yet. We only have one photocopier in our staff-room, again because we just don’t have money – so I spend a while catching up on printing and copying. It’s dark by the time I get out of school; I’m ravenous, because all I had time to eat today was a bowl of soup and two squares of chocolate. Driving home, I make a mental note to schedule a doctor’s appointment for that pain in my hip and shoulder; I’ve been putting it off for almost a year at this stage hoping it’ll go away, but all the running up and down corridors carrying piles of books and lugging a heavy bag are doing nothing to help. Then I start going through my mental checklist for tomorrow’s match: gear, water, first-aid, cheque for the referee… And then my mind wanders through the day, with it’s ups and downs, smiles and tears – and I feel so worn out, depleted, and utterly weary.

 

At home, I see that Minister for Education Richard Bruton and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone released a report on young people’s hugely negative experiences of school, and how everything needs to be drastically improved. It’s called ‘How was School Today?’
And I think of Tom and his tears, and suddenly realize that maybe floods of ‘unexplainable’ tears aren’t too far away from any of us teachers.

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‘Was it for this?’: Fine Gael and the Dangerous Regulation of Opinion

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    ‘I don’t think I’d like to use the full force of the law…to restrict free speech’Thus stated the Irish Prime Minister, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in July 2017 – a worrying statement indeed. While the Irish Constitution guarantees liberty for the rights of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions, this guarantee is subject to public order and morality; thus, the extent to which free speech is protected depends on the how valuable the government and judiciary of the time regard it to be. The Taoiseach’s words indicate his opinion of free speech. There is here no rallying defence of a fundamental human right; there is no recognition of the the realm of personal belief and opinion as one that a truly liberal government should never seek to regulate; there is no reassurance here that a citizen’s freedom to dissent will be respectfully protected. No! Instead there is the suggestion that free speech may indeed need to be restricted. These are the words of a leader who ultimately does not believe in the right of Irish citizens to freely express their beliefs.

The reality is that Taoiseach Varadkar and his party, Fine Gael (‘a party of the progressive centre’) do not highly value free speech. The right to freedom of expression is being steadily eroded in Irish society, as the government scrambles to create its ‘Republic of Opportunity’ and remain one of the European Union’s most devoted servants. Free speech gets in the way of creating docile, malleable citizens, and therefore it has been under constant fire in recent days. National personalities have been targeted, and made public examples.

Kevin Myers: ‘misogynistic, anti-Semitic’
The work of Irish journalist Kevin Myers is internationally renowned; in particular he astutely covered the decades-long Peace Process, bringing its complications alive for a wide audience. In August this year, he wrote an opinion piece in his usual caustic style for the Sunday Times in which he visited the issue of pay equality in a thought-provoking way, offering another point of view to that propagated in mainstream media. It was not well-received by the easily offended gender equality activists, and they were soon falling over themselves releasing statements, composing tweets, and writing comments. The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland came to his defence with the statement that ‘Branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier was an absolute distortion of the facts’, but to no avail. Myers is anti-women and anti-Semitic, headlines flashed across the country, and the Sunday Times took frantic measures to apologize for any pain they had caused by instantly firing Myers. And almost as though it was a national emergency, both the Taoiseach and his second-in-command, former social worker and Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald, emerged from the darkness of Leinster House and made their view known.
‘I read the article and it is misogynistic and anti-Semitic in my view and I think the Sunday Times has taken the appropriate action’, Mr. Varadkar said.
Fitzgerald went further. ‘I think …there’s an onus on everyone, including the media obviously, to make sure that articles like that do not appear’, she said sanctimoniously.
You could almost hear the bells toll for the death of free speech, as Myers’ fans around the country were left dazed by this swift decapitation of one of the most intelligent commentators of our day and newspaper editors took note to make sure they published only government approved articles.

George Hook: ‘I abhor the comments that he made’
In September, Newstalk broadcaster George Hook lost his job in a similar fashion over comments he made on his chat-show regarding rape and personal responsibility. There was instant criticism of Hook’s comment ‘Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?’ from certain leading social media influencers and media personalities. Wading into the furore came the Taoiseach, with the statement, ‘‘I totally disagree and abhor the comments that he made’. Within days, Hook had lost his position, despite huge public support for him from the ordinary people of Ireland.

Catherine Kelly: ‘criminal complaint of harassment’
Not only has the Fine Gael party made a clear stance against the healthy, democratic exchange of opinions, they have also used the Irish police force to do so, in contrary to the Taoiseach’s half-hearted desire not to use the ‘full force of the law’. In June 2017, blogger Catherine Kelly was stopped and cautioned by Gardaí at Dublin Airport regarding a blogpost she had written about Regina Doherty, current Government Chief Whip, and Minister for Social Protection. The Gardaí informed Kelly that a criminal complaint of harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 had been made against her. The offending blogpost was a critique of Ms Doherty’s questionable financial dealings, including taking an illegal loan from her own company and failing to disclose her bankruptcy details to her constituents as per election rules. The Minister’s penchant for making strong moralistic comments regarding her political opponents prompted Kelly to write: ‘Ms Doherty, God is watching us even when we are not publicly beating our chests in Church or in the Dáil’ (Irish parliament). As punishment, Kelly was forced to sign a document stating she would not ‘tweet Regina Doherty or any material relevant to her again’ before being permitted to proceed on her flight to the United States, where her husband lives.
The incident passed relatively unnoticed by both the media and the government, prompting the suggestion that resort to police intimidation of those practicing freedom of speech is no longer a condemnable action. A shocking situation indeed.

Ireland 2017: Was it for this?
In the interests of a healthy democracy, the independence of the press is of paramount importance. Government interference in media matters encroaches on political accountability, and thereby devalues the strength of a representative democracy. The search for truth through the exchange of ideas and the expression of opinions should not be regulated, but rather encouraged.
We, of all nations, should know that. Ireland is no stranger to the oppression of expression and opinion. Centuries of British rule contain many instances of persecution based on language, belief and customs; last year, Ireland celebrated the 1916 Easter Rising, the first step in the battle for independence from Britain. Yet the words of W.B Yeats come to mind as one views the current trend towards suppression of freedom of speech and expression by the Irish government:
‘Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave? …’

                                W.B Yeats, ‘September 1913’

March for Choice: Redefining a Moral Debate

Choice.

The action of choosing between two or more possibilities.

Tea or coffee. Rural life or urban life. Fianna Fáil or Labour. Religious or atheist. Conformity or rebellion.

A foetus or a baby.

Life or death.

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Choice is a permanent part of our existence, built upon the foundation of free speech, autonomy and personal responsibility. It is an act we are compelled to perform every day; it is what makes us individuals, delivers us from monotonous, carbon copy lives, and makes every single life unique.

If we are to view the current debate regarding abortion in terms of choice, we need to be honest as to what the choice is. It is about whether an unborn child has the right to life, and about what it means if a ‘bundle of tissue’ has a heart-beat. It is about the responsibility of a government to protect all life, including the most vulnerable, and the responsibility of a nation to cherish its weakest members. It is about that age-old divine command: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. The only choice to be made in this debate is whether one agrees that it is morally right to kill a preborn baby, or not. That is my unapologetic, proud, chosen opinion.
Abortion campaigners therefore label me as being anti-choice. Against a woman’s right to choose. Against personal autonomy. Against women’s rights. Against rape victims. Against reproductive healthcare. They label me anti-choice because of my choice to be anti-abortion, because of my choice to protect a child’s right to life, because of my choice to believe that stopping a beating heart is murder. I am anti-choice, because I choose to be.

Yes, it does sound rather foolish, doesn’t it? How could someone who makes a choice…be anti-choice? Recent days have seen members of Trinity College’s People Before Profit, who profess to support choice, gleefully tear down posters with a pro-life message, thereby shutting down discussion and scorning the right of the public to ‘choose’ their opinion on the matter. We have witnessed the forced cancellation of public meetings promoting the pro-life position in Dublin, with the Spencer Hotel and the Gibson Hotel refusing to host pre-booked meetings due to threats made to their staff. Tragically, in Ireland today, the ‘abortion issue’ is not even allowed to be a debate.
We must remember that the world is made up of many more people than just angry students and radical feminists demanding power, and that the Irish nation consists of many more than just entitled, left-leaning, placard-waving, social-media-addicted, twittering protesters. Clamour, protest and the banner battle can never replace reasoned, fact-based discussion. This debate is about cherishing life and maintaining respect for our Constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann. Many of our politicians have already indicated that they do not believe the unborn child has the right to life, including Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone who has repeatedly called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and is participating in today’s march for abortion. However, the decision belongs to the Irish people.

We must stay focused on the real choice – the choice between living and dying, between killing and sparing. And we must decide, as a nation, in next year’s abortion referendum, whether granting liberty of conscience over life and death is a choice any person should be entitled to exercise.

 

Bring Back Hook

The articulation of opinion has been, once again, demonized in Irish society. In the past I have appreciated the outspoken style of George Hook and have enjoyed his show on the few occasions I’ve had to listen in. There is something refreshing in hearing a man speak his mind – even if it is done so bluntly. There is no other radio show that offers listeners such an experience. This is the curse of Irish media; there is no place for dissent or discussion of controversial topics. It often seems that no show is different to another. One swings between Sarah McInerney on Newstalk Drive to the Ray D’Arcy Show to Mary Wilson Drivetime, eventually turning the radio off, because despite different styles, they are all simply singing from the same sanitized, politically correct hymn sheet.

democracy
High Noon is different. It’s different, earthy, unrefined, provocative. When you listen to Hook, you know you are listening to a man with opinions. There is more to this man’s life than the fabricated niceties of Dublin media society. He gives the impression that whatever he says, whether one agrees or disagrees, it is genuine opinion. For many of us who live outside the Pale, who drive to work on twisty, bendy roads with no overtaking lane, who struggle with inconsistent Wi-Fi connections, who eat cheese sandwiches for lunch and bacon and cabbage for dinner, who rarely travel beyond the borders of our home county, Hook is the man on the radio with whom we can identify. And that’s rare.
But last week, he was too much for the keyboard warriors and the liberal moralists. The topic was an alleged rape case, and when Hook dared to vocalise what many, many Irish people believe, by asking the question, “Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”, he was vilified, demonised and forced to leave his post. In the past, such treatment was reserved for people who denied the Holocaust or defended paedophiles; today, you can be demoted for practicing your right to express freely your convictions and opinions, as articulated by Art. 40.6 of Bunreacht na hEireann.

Not only that, you can be punished for voicing common sense. We teach our children not to run out on the road because they might get hit by a car, not to talk to strangers, not to walk down dark alleys late at night because they could get mugged, not to take drugs because they could ruin their health, not to meet people alone with whom they’ve been in contact online, not to get in the way of the bullies at school etc. We teach them to take responsibility for their own safety – we teach them not to put themselves in the way of danger. Hook applied this very practical reasoning to a situation where rape was alleged after a girl put herself in a dangerous situation, and he immediately became the subject of a hurricane of criticism. Where is the justice in that? 
If Hook loses his job over this, the future will look very bleak for free speech in Ireland. To demonize outspokenness and dissent from politically correct norms is to place a society in a vulnerable position. Naomi Wolf, herself a liberal author, once said, ‘it is never smart, even in a strong democracy to declare some debate off limits’. With the vilification of Hook, a whole stratum of Irish society is declared off limits, uneducated, unwanted. And that is an unhealthy situation to have in any democracy.

I say, bring back debate – bring back Hook.

Faith Formation: a Teacher’s Story

The role of faith formation in schools has become the subject of much heated debate; here is my own personal experience of being educated in the Christian faith as a child and how that education has impacted my life.

copyright: dreamstime.com

copyright: dreamstime.com

Christian faith formation was part and parcel of my childhood education. As a toddler, I regularly heard simple Bible stories – Creation, Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Plagues of Egypt, David and Goliath, Elijah at the Brook Cherith, Daniel in the Den of Lions, the Nativity, the Miracles of Christ, the Parables, the Crucifixion and Resurrection and many more. During my school days, I moved from stories to Scripture reading and analysis of religious belief and doctrine. Some of my teachers exhibited a genuine belief in God, thus impacting me through their subjects even though they were not specifically teaching religion. I grew up, relatively capable in Maths, English, languages and science, but also equipped with a confident knowledge of God and of my heritage as a citizen of a Judaeo- Christian nation. Not only did such learning increase my knowledge of Christianity, it also added a depth to my educational experience and ultimately to my understanding of life generally which has proved to be invaluable.

Boundaries brought freedom to be myself
It helped me make sense of History; Ancient Ireland, the work of Patrick, the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Ages of Exploration, Renaissance, Reformation, and Revolution, the great wars, and modernisation were all easier to understand when one understood the religious factors that played a role in the conflicts behind so many historical events. Maths and Science were underpinned, subconsciously, by the knowledge that God the Creator was a God of order and structure, and that human beings, made in the image of God, were equipped with the faculty of reason. On ethical issues, such as human relationships, I was gently instructed in the facts, and in the Christian beliefs concerning marriage. There was a sense of security in such education; I was allowed to be a child, to be untrammelled by the pressure of relationships with the opposite sex. The boundaries gave me freedom to be myself.
Understanding great literature
English was my favourite subject, and without a doubt my education in Christian belief gave me a deeper understanding of the great works of literature. My Leaving Cert texts included Silas Marner (George Elliott) and Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe), two texts dealing with various aspects of Judaeo-Christendom. Poets I studied included T.S Elliott, Emily Dickinson and Patrick Kavanagh, all of whom had both positive and negative interactions with Christian belief at the heart of their works. I thrived on the give and take of great literature, the challenging of belief-systems, the presentation of old truth in new light, the varied angles and perspectives on the issues of life. English was a fascinating adventure; I immersed myself in words, not just because I wished to do well in an exam, but because I loved what I was learning.
Bullying and peer pressure
It wasn’t just my education, however, which benefited from the early instruction I received in Christian faith and values. Like so many today, I was the victim of bullying and peer pressure, and in my early teens wept tears of hurt bewilderment as I tried to figure out what I was doing so wrong that my ‘friends’ wouldn’t let me be part of their group. I used to think the problem was with me; I wasn’t wearing the right clothes or I just didn’t know how to be cool. In those days, it was always comforting to simply know that God saw what was happening too; He would never leave me, even if my fickle ‘friends’ ignored me when it suited them. I learned to be content with my own company, and became strong enough to walk alone, a skill which was invaluable right through the tumultuous college years.
Fighting the darkness
When I left Ireland for a year in my early twenties, I was unprepared for the debilitating aloneness that assailed me abroad. While I was surrounded by acquaintances and people who did indeed care about me, I came face to face with a dark part of myself I hadn’t known existed. Advice from an acquaintance gave me the clue to overcoming: ‘Don’t focus on the darkness. Don’t look into yourself. Look away. Look to God’.
I did, reaching back to those fundamental facts that had been built into my life at a tender age. It was facts I needed now, not self-help tips, or emotional quotes. God exists. God has created me. God made me for a purpose. God cares about me right now, here in this cold, friendless city.  To those facts I clung, as a drowning man clings to a safety ring. And, eventually, looking away from my weary, broken self to One much greater Who understood what was beyond my fallible comprehension, I learned to walk fearlessly through the darkness.
Life as a teacher
Today, in my career as a teacher, my belief in God forms the foundation of my own teaching philosophy. For the kids that are hard to love, I remember that all are made in the image of God, and are therefore invaluable and worthy of the deepest respect. I teach them to respect themselves, help them to see their immense potential, encourage them to be positive. But there are times when such platitudes are not enough. Just recently, a pupil shared with me about an extremely challenging personal circumstance. Deeply moved, I talked about being strong and brave, and looking on the bright side, when the child politely interrupted, ‘I know all that’. So I added, ‘And because I believe that God is all powerful, and can do anything, I will pray for you’. Only then did the light come to that child’s face, a spark of hope ignited by the prospect of Divine intervention.

Faith education in my formative years impacted my life immensely, and has provided me with the basis upon which I built my own personal faith. My soul now has an anchor. I feel strongly that our children will incalculably miss out if they are not provided with a knowledge of God and His Word and a strong foundation in Judaeo-Christian beliefs when they are young. To attempt to de-Christianise schools will only end in moral and social disaster for the state school system, as has happened in other countries.

Merely ‘spectators at the carnival of belief?’
Minister for Education, T.D Richard Bruton, believes that schools ought to be places of inclusion and understanding between different groups. He has referred positively to the Goodness Me Goodness You faith and belief nurturing program which ‘is based on mutual understanding of different religions and belief systems, and of people who don’t subscribe to any religion’. He proposes a worrying alternative to straightforward education in Judaeo-Christian belief, for to educate a child in all religions equally will inevitably turn that child into what journalist John Waters once called ‘a spectator at the carnival of belief’. When no belief system is preferred, a barren vacuum ensues, leaving children adrift with no anchor in a cruel world. We do our children a dire injustice if we refuse to educate them in basic truths concerning God. For my part, I know that my belief in God, the seed of which was planted when I was a little child, has been my mainstay, my life-line and has given true meaning to my existence.

The Leaving Cert is not the problem

It always amuses me to watch celebrity do-gooders come out around this time of the year and demand that the Leaving Cert be overhauled.

 

funny

Clever or stupid?

There is nothing wrong with the Leaving Certificate exam. It’s an indicator of the level of your academic ability, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s a pity.  The LC is an exam with three different levels (Foundation, Ordinary, Higher) in core subjects and two in optional subjects (Ordinary and Higher), and thus gives pupils the opportunity to work towards the level they are comfortable with. There is also the option of doing the Leaving Certificate Applied, a fantastic program which allows academically weak pupils to procure a certificate in their final year at school. Through the Points System, The LC system delivers an accurate measure of the pupil’s academic ability and prepares him/her for the occupation to which they are most suited.
Of course there are problems; our secondary school graduates often lack creative thought and critical skills and they are ill-prepared for the world of 3rd level. These are problems have nothing to do, however, with the actual structure of the LC. Rather, they are indicators of some serious issues which lie at the heart of the teaching profession today.

Teacher Burnout

Morale levels among teachers are at an all-time low with the profession reporting one of the highest levels of depression within the public sector. Reasons for this include unwelcome Junior Cycle reforms, increased classroom discipline and behavioural issues exacerbated by societal change and dysfunctional, broken homes, and the invasive demands of pay reform agreements which include unpaid working hours. Add to this the upcoming obligation on schools to provide mental health services for children in the form of Wellbeing. Depressed, confused, badly-treated teachers cannot be expected to teach to the best of their ability. The government must take care of its teachers if it wishes to have successful schools.

Downgrading of the Teaching Profession

Teaching course requirements are attainable by most average LC pupils; Arts requires 300 points, while specific 2nd level teaching courses begin at 380 points. Statistics show that approximately 40% of pupils receive between 300-445 points in their Leaving Certificate therefore making almost half of school-leavers possible candidates for teaching. The cream of the crop, the high-achievers, are not being attracted into teaching. The faculties of medicine, law and business snap up the most talented young people with lucrative training offers and countless opportunities for travel, upward mobility and salary growth. The mediocre and the plodders, on the other hand, file into Arts degrees, and then struggle through the two obligatory years of teacher training (another area which needs a major overhaul). The financial incentives to become a teacher are non-existent; a McDonald’s employee tossing burgers earns almost as much as an NQT.  They come into our schools to do teaching placement, and those that give you hope for the future with their innovation, sense of vocation and genuine love of the profession are, sadly, few and far between. The reality is that our pupils will only perform as well as their teachers expect them to perform; the attitude and ambition of the teacher has a crucial effect on the pupils. If the government wants successful schools and a highly-educated workforce, it must urgently address key issues such as pay for new teachers and teacher training. The current situation is unfortunately bleak.

Leaving Certificate Applied
Not all pupils have the academic ability to sit the Leaving Certificate. This fact needs to be recognized and respected – we should not force pupils, by means of societal expectations or otherwise, to sit an exam which they are incapable of successfully completing. The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) is a fantastic resource for these pupils to, nonetheless, receive an end-of-school certificate and go on to further education, be that a FETAC course or an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, the LCA has received a bad name in school circles as merely an opportunity for pupils of lower academic ability and with poor behaviour to come together in a class and do nothing for two years, and worse still, wreak havoc. This is the result of mismanagement and poor school strategy. It has all but ruined the reputation of an assessment which some pupils should be completing instead of the Leaving Certificate. The majority of schools should be obliged to offer the LCA program, particularly rural schools. Pupils who wish to go into professions such as hairdressing, mechanics, childcare, etc. should not be enduring the stress of the Leaving Certificate, and indeed causing extra work for already hard-pressed teachers, when they could be enjoying the more practical LCA. Societal attitudes in schools and communities around the LCA need to change.

Call for Change

The Leaving Cert is not the problem. Teacher morale, downgrading of the teaching profession and negative attitudes to the practical LCA ARE definitely problems.

Sort these out and the Leaving Certificate will be sorted too.

 

Little Mix and the Sexualisation of Our Children

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Little Mix (copyright http://www.thesun.co.uk)

 

Recently I asked a group of second-year girls who their favorite music group was. All of them replied, ‘Little Mix’.
Up until recently I knew very little about Little Mix – I knew they were born out of X-Factor and that they were four young women who sang run-of-the-mill pop songs. Last summer however, I joined the gym and was introduced to the world of music videos through the 7 screens that entertain gym-goers. One of the groups that appear regular on Capital TV, streamed in the gym, is this group Little Mix.

Suggestive Lyrics, Provocative Outfits

I was embarrassed when I first saw them – so much so that I took a quick glance around me to see if anyone was watching me watch them. Their revealing outfits, suggestive lyrics and provocative movements are not only distasteful and inappropriate, they are also dangerous.
Little Mix song lyrics include ‘Photograph with no T-shirt on/Why you making me wait so long?’ (‘Touch’), ‘For tonight I’m gonna get my mind off it/Don’t care that someone’s got his hands all over my body’ (‘No More Sad Songs’) and ‘Forget that boy, I’m over it/I hope she getting’ better sex/Hope she ain’t fakin’ it like I did, babe’ (Shoutout To My Ex’).
Given their huge popularity among teenagers, Little Mix are playing an aggressive role in the sexualisation of young girls. It is worrying that parents are allowing their children access to these lyrics and music videos. It may be, of course, that they do not realise, or care to realise, what an effect such role models are having on their children.

 

Sexualisation of Teenage Girls and Boys
Children imitate what they see. Young girls think that if Little Mix singers can wear almost nothing in front of millions of viewers, they can do the same. Drive by the local teenage disco in your town and observe the girls – they will be wearing incredibly provocative clothes and heavy makeup. Some of them will be carrying the ridiculously high heels they force themselves to wear and may be walking the streets barefoot. Whether they understand it or not, they are portraying a blatantly sexualised message through their behaviour. They are also posing a huge risk to young boys who will interpret their dress and actions to mean sexual behaviour – and many boys will not feel able or ready to respond. They may be mocked by the girls, and feel abnormal, insufficient, uncool. If they are not enthusiastic about sexualised culture, they run the risk of being ignored and being labelled ‘gay’ or ‘unmanly’. This is happening in our schools among our young people and we are simply fooling ourselves if we do not acknowledge it.

Parental Responsibility
Groups such as Little Mix are normalizing adult sexual themes to children and are a root cause of the problematic sexual behaviour we see in our communities today, both urban and rural. Parents have a duty to allow their children to develop and mature without complex adult themes thrust upon them. Parents have a duty to enable their children to mature in a state of innocence, and, as much as is within their power, to restrict and ban access to sexualised behaviour and attitudes.
Never before have we had so many children and young people that are anxious, depressed and lonely. 62% teens have reported that their mental health is average/poor and a recent article in the Irish Times reported that the number of teenage girls being hospitalised for eating disorders had doubled over the past 10 years. There is no doubt that the rampant sexualisation promoted by mainstream groups – such as Little Mix – is playing a major role in the depression and negative self-image from which so many of our children suffer today. We need parents to step up, take responsibility and make those tough decisions that will save their children.
Groups such as Little Mix are ruining the innocence and potential of our 14-year-old girls, and while teachers can do their best, it is up to parents, ultimately, to do something about it.