Sunday, 20 February 2011

See me after class

Whereas some TV chefs are happy to use their onscreen time to promote cryogenics or practice their bullying techniques, Jamie Oliver is on a mission to make us a more caring, sharing society. And sell a few hundred thousand recipe books in the process.

Having already shamed the UK's dinner ladies into throwing out the Spam fritters and getting to grips with hummus and crudities, he's now attempting to overhaul the entire educational system. His latest series, Jamie's Dream School, sees the fat-tongued pan-rattler attempting to inspire a bunch of young drop-outs by sending them to a school filled with celebrity teachers.

Not everyone's impressed with Jamie's lofty ambitions to show Michael Gove how to implement educational innovation. Conservative critics are outraged at the fact that one edition of the new shows "features two teenage boys being asked to produce sperm samples". Maybe they thought he was trying out a more economical recipe for Crème anglaise?

Actually, the exercise was part of a lesson by Professor Robert Winston, fertility expert and owner of the finest moustache outside of an Asterix cartoon. Attempting to engage the troubled teens in a science lesson, Winston asked the boys to generate a sperm sample to be studied under a microscope, alongside samples from horses and pigs.

To be fair, the boys weren't expected to rustle up a batch during the lesson, which suggests that Jamie's school is more civilised than most state-run comprehensives. Defending his progressive lesson plan, Winston commented: "Every scientist, if he is good at his job will have experimented on his own body at some point... Instantly kids of both sexes were very excited." Not least the ones with special dispensation to visit the bathroom with a petri dish.

As the controversy over the programme erupted, a Channel 4 source pointed out that "viewers would not see the samples being collected". As though such clarification was actually necessary. Furthermore, "Written consent was given by the parents of the boys providing samples. All of the students were happy with the lesson and found it enlightening." Well, it certainly beats trying to knock one out in a geography lesson without the desk shaking.

Censorship tub-thumpers Mediawatch UK are already on the warpath about the show, which is yet to air. Spokesman David Turtle claims, "from our point of view it’s condoning a form of behaviour in a classroom situation. If you’re going to have a proper discussion about reproduction and sexuality you don’t do it like this." Turtle would prefer that the kids be given forty lashes and told they're going to burn in hell if they touch themselves.

The perpetually outraged ex-politician Ann Widdecombe has also been approached for her utterly predictable response, adding "I think it’s hugely distasteful. I am amazed Channel 4 are letting it go out. It is horrible. It’s yet another step towards the road that there is no limit to what you can put on television these days." Having witnessed her being dragged around a dancefloor in a variety of unbecoming ballgowns, I second her opinion that there's a limit to the indignities which should be visited upon unsuspecting viewers.

Hopefully, Jamie's new show will re-engage a disillusioned generation in the power of inspirational learning. If nothing else, there's always the homework to look forward to.

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