Our children are in danger, yes, but ‘from the jobsworth’s mindset, and from

the rule book untempered by common sense’


Anyone with an ounce of wit or just a vague understanding of how decent people tick would look at Martin Davis, a Geordie supply teacher (sorry ex-teacher) and father of two, and know instinctively that he is not a threat to children or young people.


But he was suspended not long ago for, by implication, being just that. His “offence” (so called) was to give one of his pupils a lift home in his car when the 17 year old pupil in question mentioned he’d forgotten his bus fare.


Far from seeing this everyday act of kindness for what it was his employers construed helping out a young lad in a fix as QUOTE “gross misconduct” and effectively gave him the push - knowing full well presumably that such a blot on his record (despite his subsequent exoneration) will make finding a job as a teacher again very difficult indeed.


It’s official attitudes like that - the jobsworth’s mindset, the rule-book entirely untempered by common sense - that are putting the frighteners on us all and stirring a cauldron of panic that’s slowly but perceptibly shaping our behaviour in ways that are certainly not conducive to a healthy society, “Big” or otherwise.


When asked in a recent survey how they would react to a lone child in apparent distress nearly half of the men polled (and nearly a third of the women) said they’d be wary of intervening for fear of having their actions misinterpreted.


No one’s against child protection measures but when some of those measures have the net effect of impeding the very protection adults might offer vulnerable children, it’s time for a rethink.


Perhaps we could rethink, for example, the sinsiter trend towards criminalising by stealth entirely innocent activities. Activities like parents videoing the school play, relatives snapping their nephews and nieces on sports day, ice-skating coaches filming (with parental consent, please note) the progress of their proteges - lest the photographic record in all three cases be used for God know what salacious purposes.


We know there are some horrible people out there. The world isn’t good. But it’s not entirely bad either.


Persistently questioning innate decency, however, and indiscriminately judging the good by the lowest-common-denominator of the bad helps no one - least of all our children. For when those who could step in to help them in an emergency now feel impelled, out of fear or self-protection, to walk by on the other side we’re in trouble. And so, potentially, are they.


What we're witnessing is nothing less than the slow death of the Samaritan and the corresponding rise of a collective hysteria that’s already savaged common sense and could well, if we let it, sink its teeth into human compassion as well.

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