Thursday, 3 May 2012

No Big Deal

There has been some controversy this week over The Sun's frontpage following the appointment of Roy Hodgson to the position of England football manager. Whilst Jonathan Ross - famed for his 'rhotacism', and sometimes his very bad humour - defends the mockery as harmless fun, The Independent has published two thoughtful critiques on why The Sun was arguably wrong to mock Roy Hodgson's speech impediment in the way it did.

Jeremy Laurance observes in his commentary that Roy Hodgson will no doubt be very resilient to this kind of ridicule (having been affectionately nicknamed 'Woy' by Fulham and West Brom fans), but questions what message it sends to young people who experience the same kind of difficulties - highlighting that 60% of children with a speech impediment experience bullying and related emotional issues such as low self-esteem.

Another commentary, by Joan Smith, basically yawns at the latest 'joke' from The Sun and suggests that Roy Hodgson should in fact be celebrated for overcoming his specific difficulty to achieve such a high-profile, demanding role. Away from his football coaching skills, she also notes that Roy Hodgson is an adept linguist - able to speak five languages.

It's also worth highlighting that Harry Redknapp, the other leading candidate for the post, has previously described himself as having writing and organisational difficulties (The Sun was notably more sympathetic on this occasion). Again, the fact this has not hampered him in his career is something that could be shared with young people who experience similar difficulties.

In my current setting we do this with a simple display titled "It doesn't hurt to be different...", situated on a main corridor, which features photos and a short description of various celebrities known to have experienced specific learning difficulties at school.


I suppose with difficulties of this type, there's a time for good-natured humour (the test being where the butt of the joke genuinely laughs along too), a time for celebrating those who bypass / overcome them, and most of the time, simply seeing beyond them. Most people would not even know Roy Hodgson and Harry Redknapp had these difficulties, because it's their personality and achievements that define them, and ultimately that's how it should be.

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