Teachers’ leaders have warned that the cult of celebrity among children can damage their education. According to teachers, pupil’s obsessions with footballers, pop stars and actors are affecting their progress in school as well as limiting their career aspirations.
In a survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), some 60% of the 304 teachers quizzed said their pupils most aspired to be David Beckham. More than a third said pupils motivation to become famous is only the sake of being famous. And 32% of teachers said their pupils modelled themselves on heiress Paris Hilton (photo).
The results of that survey were released ahead of the ATL conference in Torquay, that started on Monday. Teacher delegates will debate a motion that argues the “decline in this country into the cult of celebrity” is “perverting children’s aspirations”.
If the motion passes, the teaching union will call on the government and other agencies in order to promote positive role models of “ordinary people across the media.”
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary said celebrities could raise pupils’ aspirations and ambitions for the future. But she also warned: “We are deeply concerned that many pupils believe celebrity status is available to everyone.” “They do not understand the hard work it takes to achieve such status and do not think it is important to be actively engaged in school work as education is not needed for a celebrity status.”
Positive and negative effect
Elizabeth Farrar, from a primary school near Scunthorpe, said too many pupils believed academic success was “unnecessary”, because they thought they would be able to make their fame and fortune quite easily on a reality TV show. “They believe that they are much more likely to achieve financial well-being through celebrity than through progression to higher education and a ‘proper’ career.”
For a secondary teacher from Colchester, Essex, quizzed in the survey, the media focus on celebrities’ “negative behaviour”, encouraging underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.
But nearly three-quarters of teachers said they thought a focus on celebrity culture could have a positive effect, as well as a negative one. “The racism issue raised by celebrity Big Brother created a useful platform for class discussion”, said Julie Gilligan, from a primary school in Salford.
But she added : “on the other hand, I have seen and heard negative emulation of celebrity footballer/pop star language and behaviour in the playground and in school – including disturbingly age-inappropriate ‘acts’ by young girls in school talent shows.”
According to a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, schools already promoted positive professions such as nursing and teaching. “While the worst excesses of celebrity culture may lend themselves to lurid headlines, it is worth remembering that there are many more celebrities who set a good example on a local and national level.”
“They help in schools and community projects, promote sport and healthy lifestyles, take part in anti drug campaigns and encourage children to stay on in education and to stay safe.”
Then the problem could partly come from the medias, as they put the emphasis on celebrities who misbehave, giving a terrible example to children, easy to influence.