Thursday, 17 April 2008


It was never a problem for Yul Brynner. In fact, he went out of his way to keep his bonce free of fuzz. But a fine head of skin is less desirable for former teacher, James Campbell.

According to the Telegraph, it took an employment tribunal ruling to show Sir that a hairless pate was not an impairment within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The reason for this seemingly self-evident revelation is that Mr Campbell claimed he was victim of disability discrimination because the children he taught used to call him "baldy". This led him to feel harassed and bullied. He told the tribunal: "How can I stand in front of a class with confidence to get on with my job when I am getting teased and bullied about baldness, when I think they are laughing at me all the time?"

Harassed? Bullied? By a bunch of snotty-nosed brats who probably can't even spell their own names? But it gets better. The shiny-headed Mr Campbell, who taught at Denny High School, Stirlingshire, said he did his best to avoid corridors, where he would meet pupils who shouted "baldy" at him, and left school late every day to "avoid the kids".

Teachers avoiding the kids in our schools? It's a sad reflection on Nu Labour's Britain, that's for sure. But, in truth, this is hardly something new. Although discipline in the education system may be at an all-time low, kids have mocked their teachers for... well, for as long as there have been teachers, I should think. Certainly, the small, bald, good-natured but incredibly geeky science master at my school came in for far more stick than he ever realistically deserved, and not just from the lads, either.

It was the poor man's fate to closely resemble a bipedal turtle bereft of its shell, and he attracted the kind of comments that pass for wit amongst adolescents everywhere. Never, ever, did this kindly chap let it get to him (or show it, if it did), and he went out of his way to run a science club in lunch breaks for interested students - no avoiding the kids for him! And you know what? Kids went to the club, because, bald or not, he made a potentially very dull subject FUN.

That is the skill of a true teacher. They make even the most tedious information interesting, and turn the drabbest subject into something alive with magical intrigue. In their classes, the kids, no matter how rebellious, are too entranced with the subject to bother about Sir's lack-of-hair-style.

As for Mr Campbell, I can sympathise to some degree. Although I've never given a damn about what folks think or say about me, I can imagine that, for a more delicate soul, it might be a little irksome to be called "baldy" every day (awww, bless). But that's life, isn't it? If you're going to deal with the public - even junior members thereof - all day, every day, you are going to run into this kind of thing pretty much all the time. It's human nature, and it's both unfair and unreasonable to expect an employer to do anything much about it.

The appropriate response is not to pursue matters through the courts but to find another job, with working conditions in which one's head-covering is unlikely to be the subject of much hilarity. Of course, in the litigation-obsessed, nanny-state world in which we live, such a common sense approach is shunned in favour of the compensation culture. But even today, one should invoke justice with caution for, as this story has made the nationals, I very much doubt that it will only be Mr Campbell's former pupils who now address him as "baldy".

Billy Seggars.

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