STOP PRESS: Dreadful gun accident at Clarkson home. Great man injured in foot!
We all love Jeremy Clarkson. We love him because he's funny, we love him because he's just as politically incorrect as the rest of us, and doesn't mind who knows it. We love him because he grabbed a hoodie at the shopping centre and dangled him by the ears until he cried for his Mummy. We love him because he says, loudly and publicly, the things most of us think.
We even voted for him, along with 30,000 others, in an online petition calling for him to be made Prime Minister. He wouldn't be a very good Prime Minister, of course, but then who would? He could hardly be worse than the real ones we've had for the last forty years.
But this week, sadly, we have to say that he's slipped up.
Writing in the Sunday Times this week, he tackled the vexed subject of education. Here is what he said …
Since it came to power the Labour government has introduced 2,685 pieces of legislation every year. And each has been either ill-conceived, draconian, bonkers, bitter, dangerous, counter-productive, childish, wrong, thoughtless, selfish or designed primarily to make life a bit more miserable for everyone except six people in the BBC, 14 on the Guardian and Al Gore.
Still, with such a torrent of new rules and regulations pouring onto the statute books every day, it was statistically inevitable that one day they'd accidentally do something sensible. And last week that day arrived.
They decided that everyone who's capable of reaching the takeaway shop without being shot in the face is eating far too much Trex and that the way to get them eating fair-trade lettuce and organic tofu instead is to make cooking a part of the school curriculum for children aged 11 - 14.
Teaching cookery is a great idea. It's all so 1956. A class full of kids in aprons, baking bread, talking like the Queen and then pausing on the their way home to scrump a few apples for tomorrow's crumble. Yum. Yum. Rhubarb will become the new crack. And the only thing those new school gate metal detectors will find is Fotherington's cheese grater.
So far, so good. No great argument there, and we particularly like the Trex bit. We've long felt that the contribution of lard to our society has been underestimated.
He goes on …
I've argued since I was a boy that school, in its present form, is almost completely useless.
All school does is put you off things that might, in later life, be interesting.
Having been forced into chapel every Sunday for five years, I vowed I would never set foot in a church until the day I died. And not even then. I've said in my will that I want my funeral service to be held in a burger van. What's more, by being made to read William Shakespeare at the age of 14, I developed a lifelong aversion to the Bard and his silly witterings.
Hold on a minute. Shakespeare we understand, although personally we rather liked it, having a very good English teacher. Yes, they do exist. But forced into chapel every Sunday for five years? What kind of school did you go to, Jeremy?
Oh, I get it. You went to a public school, right? That certainly qualifies you to express opinions about the education of us oiks. OK, go on …
It should be a place where you learn to be an adult. And cooking is a good start.
Polish is a good idea, too. Why teach us French when we all know that they can understand what we're on about perfectly well if we poke them in the chest often enough? Far better to be able to say, in a Warsaw burr, "My boiler is broken. Can you come and mend it?" Or, better still, why not teach everyone how to mend their own boiler instead. Seriously. Why not have plumbing lessons? Because basic welding, I promise, will stand you in better stead as an adult than being able to conjugate Julius Caesar's table.
I distinctly remember being put into the school minibus when I was 14 and driven on vomity roads to the Peak District simply so that I could see a millstone grit outcrop.
Why? Who thought that would be in any way relevant to anything I might one day do for a living? Couldn't they have spent the time instead teaching me how to change spark plugs on a car, or how to remove a low-voltage bulb without burning my fingers, or how to carve a leg of lamb, or how to play poker or how to cut hair?
Yes, Polish we can go along with. Plumbing lessons we can imagine being rather useful. But really, Jeremy, did you need someone to teach you how to change a spark plug? Or a bulb?
We went to an old-fashioned grammar school, and learned Latin. Not a light-bulb or a leg of lamb in sight. But we can change a spark-plug or a water-pump. We can not only change a light-bulb but install those pretty recessed ceiling lights in our bathroom. We can certainly carve a leg of lamb without too much difficulty, and we recently bought one of those little electric razor machines and started cutting our own hair, what's left of it. We can put up shelves, lay a carpet, re-roof the garden shed, build a boat and take a motorbike to bits.
And how did we achieve these dizzy heights of technical know-how? Why, by (a) using our common-sense, (b) reading the instructions, and (c) getting a book out of the library. How hard is that? We understand that we are just common folk, salt of the earth and all that, with not a pony or a Range Rover to rub together. We didn't have the advantage of a public school education or fagging or toast over the common-room fire with the rest of the Remove before a happy evening spent fiddling around with each other's bottoms, but why the hell do we need to be taught in school the obvious and simple skills of life when we can pick them up perfectly well as we go along?
And finally …
Or, and this brings me on to the most important point of all, they could have opened my eyes to the joys and importance of reading a newspaper. I really do mean this.
Oh, really, Jeremy. How does that work, then?
They sent you to chapel, and you hated it and resolved to worship Mammon for the rest of your life. They took you to Derbyshire and you hated that and have never been back. They made you read Shakespeare and you hated that so much you went to work for the BBC, the arch-enemy of all intelligent discourse.
So why the hell do you think that if they'd made you read newspapers at school, you'd have taken to it like a duck to mud and become a well-known journalist and Sunday Times columnist? Surely you'd more likely have hated that, too, and gone off to do something completely different, like … driving cars, or trying to cross the Channel in a pickup truck?
No, sorry Jeremy. It doesn't add up. Nor does it conjugate. You see that big flappy thing at the end of your leg? You see that red stuff oozing out of it …?
Oh, and there's no such word as "vomity".
There should be, but there isn't. Didn't they teach you anything at Roedean?
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