My wordsh? Nevah!
But then come those who have decided they are right, and that is an end to it. So it was that headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh, darling of the Tory Party, appeared before the cameras with, in the background, the words “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it’s the courage that counts - Winston Churchill”. Ms Birbalsingh added a commentary.
“We believe in children being courageous, in all of us being courageous, and the point of that Churchill quote is to say, ‘look - don’t think hooray, I got the eight that I wanted on the GCSE, it’s all done, because success is final, and don’t think when you fail at something, that failure is fatal’. It’s about being courageous all the way through”.
But here a problem entered, and the Tweeter known as Otto English had bad news. “Britain's strictest Head teacher [Katharine Birbalsingh] has a fake Churchill quote on her school wall. Nowhere in the canon of Churchill's writing or speeches did he say this. Suggest you get some paint”. So how did that strict head teacher respond?
“Now they are calling for apologies for any mistake we make as a school. We make several mistakes a day. We learn from them and move on. I suggest you all do the same”. It wasn’t her mistake - it was made “as a school”! So did she learn from it? Was the Churchill attribution duly erased? Did anyone take responsibility for the howler?
Also, who had called for apologies? “Lots of people. You can call me a poor leader all you want. My successful school would suggest otherwise. I won’t bow to the mob and give you the repentance you want. Indeed I raise an eyebrow at it”. Quite apart from the defensiveness, no-one has called her a poor leader, or indeed demanded repentance.
It’s just not a Churchill quote. Got that? Er, no: “It is the essence of the quote. For us not to be distracted by meaningless nonsense and have the courage to be stoical, determined and seek to do good. But too often we are interested in the wrong things. And children, in particular the most disadvantaged, suffer”. Cue chorus of Climb Every Mountain.
And it’s still not a Churchill quote. The International Churchill Society has researched all of his writings and speeches, and has concluded thus. So it was that Ian Betteridge told Ms Birbalsingh “If the children in your school’s history classes used a made up quote and tried to argue it was ‘about the essence’ rather than factual accuracy you would fail them. Yet, as so often, it’s fine for you. What a terrible role model”. Would she now own up?
You jest. “Well of course it was a mistake! Isn’t that obvious? It is the insistence on a crucifixion that is disturbing and weird”. No. Just no. What is “disturbing and weird” is the very public meltdown of someone who so many students, and their parents and guardians, look up to, to whom they look for leadership, to tell them what is right - and what is not.
Instead, she just ends up morphing into Sideshow Birb. Sad, really.
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