Monday, October 20, 2003

Special UK “Big Brother” to be made for the secondary school market

When I read this and then thought about it a while, I decided it had to be a joke, an elaborate one admittedly, to get past the bullshit-detectors at the Guardian and SMH.

The main clue here was this line:

In a remarkable show of restraint, cigarettes and alcohol are barred.

Dripping with sarcasm, no? I mean, anything made for an educational, or even (as I’d prefer here) edutainment market, doesn’t need “restraint” to exclude cigarettes and alcohol, any more than a modern listed-company CEO needs restraint to stop bragging to shareholders at the AGM how much he/she is shafting them – it’s part of the job, dummy.

And then there are these caricatured-sounding quotes, supposedly from the mouth of the edutainment’s commissioner, one Heather Rabbatts:

We're trying to create innovative programming about stuff you didn't learn at school but should have. It struck me that we should start making programs that are much more synergistic with the station's audience, educational shows that work across the schedule and bring alive the issues and preoccupations of 14 to 19-year-olds.

People say public service broadcasting is all about creating those high-value moments which no one watches. But why not also have high-value moments which millions of people watch? I don't have any romantic notion about education. It's tough and the requirements of the [14 to 19-year-old] audience is different to what it was 10 years ago.

The ability to read and write are all [sic] important, but do they also have the life skills to navigate their way through a complicated world? It's tough, because a quarter of this age group [in Britain] leaves school without any qualifications at all. They are bored and they want to be entertained.

What kind of a fuckwit could say these things, from any position of power or authority? If I had kids, I certainly wouldn’t let them anywhere near such a babbling-psycho.

It turns out that Heather Rabbatts is real (and a baby boomer, of course), but in a scarily, post-modern parodic way – she is a guru, of sorts. Googling her name results in reams of (non-duplicated) hits, mostly of her speaking at management and motivational conferences. And her “thing”? – turning around, as CEO, the financially-stricken London Borough of Merton in the mid 90s, a feat achieved by her sacking 1200 staff.

When I think of a reality TV concept cruel – and appropriate – enough for Heather Rabbatts and her ilk to be on, I’ll post an update.

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