U.K. to Authors: Prove You're Not a Predator
The latest paranoid innovation in British education sounds like something only the U.S. would dream up. How distressing to realize that U.K. adults are equally likely to go absurdly overboard in their attempts to protect children from imaginary risks -- like, say, being assaulted or killed by that nice children's author who's come to address the entire school.
The Guardian's Alison Flood reports:
Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of £64.
That includes authors who appear at schools as guest speakers. Unsurprisingly, the notion of paying to be insulted and humiliated hasn't gone over terribly well with them.
"I refuse - having spoken in schools without incident for 32 years, I refuse to undergo such a demeaning process," former children's laureate Anne Fine told the Guardian. "It's all part of a very unhealthy situation that we've got ourselves into where all people who are close to children are almost seen as potential paedophiles."
Philip Pullman, fresh from volunteering at the Oxfam bookstore in Oxford (who but a dangerous character would do such a thing? let's hope they conducted a thorough background check), is also vowing this is the end of his visiting schools. "When you go into a school as an author or an illustrator you talk to a class at a time or else to the whole school," the author of the fantasy trilogy "His Dark Materials" pointed out. "How on earth - how on earth - how in the world is anybody going to rape or assault a child in those circumstances? It's preposterous."
As Pullman noted, refusal to be vetted won't harm the bank accounts of writers like him, whose books bring in substantial income. But other authors, who depend on money from school appearances, may have little choice but to fork over their cash and comply.