I believe the children are our future”, warbled Whitney Houston, “teach them well, and let them lead the way”. Well, that’s all very well Whitney, but who’s doing the teaching? What happens if they pass on their own prejudices?
You get The Great British School Swap (Channel 4, Tuesdays, 9pm), that’s what. A well-intentioned attempt to tackle prejudice in a group of West Midlands schoolkids, before those attitudes become entrenched in fearful adulthood.
A group of white kids from the majority-white town of Tamworth are bussed 15 miles to the majority-Muslim Saltley Academy, in Birmingham.
There the two groups learn together in a special set of lessons, designed to make them think about the prejudices and stereotypes they have been growing up with.
Next week, the Muslim kids visit their white counterparts’ school in Staffordshire, but in this first episode it was striking how many misconceptions both groups had –Muslims smell of curry, for example, or white people are lazy, and enjoy the pleasures of nudist beaches.
Ludicrous, of course, but no more ludicrous then a Dan’s mum, a barmaid, who thinks Muslims are after her job. As a barmaid. In a pub. Serving alcohol.
To be fair, the kids, who of course are specially picked to be super-diverse, mouthy and articulate, they also hold other bizarre ideas, from thinking Wales isn’t part of Great Britain, to risking the axe for criticising the Queen.
As they grow up – hopefully – they may learn these attitudes are false, so if that’s the case, maybe they’ll learn other attitudes are false too.
As one of the teachers – a uniformly brilliant bunch – says: “The important thing is we are working with minds which are open to new ideas, not closed minds.”
Maybe Whitney had a point, after all.
New sitcom Ghosts (BBC1, Mondays, 9.30pm) arrived, and was terrific. I’m not sure if I was just relieved the Martin Clunes disaster-thon Warren had finished, but this was high-concept funny.
A ‘major’ new drama series Chimerica (Channel 4, Wednesdays, 9pm) started, and had some interesting ideas, but looked weirdly cheap. Worth sticking with though, I think.