This is a blog about fast-track careers, celebrity couples, footballers, reality television and singing competitions that potentially damage the aspirations of all our students. What’s your view on a subject that potentially damages what you try to achieve in the classroom..
This blog was inspired by Raising Aspirations and Equal-Access which stated that our “UK education system faces a range of inter-related challenges: students from non-selective state schools are under-represented at top universities; with schools increasingly accountable for progression to higher education.” (Source)
In today’s media, children fully understand the concept of career quick-wins. That if one has a good voice, they can ‘go-all-the-way’ to the final of X-Factor and not have to ‘back to those supermarket tills’, or if I walk, dress and pout in this kind of way, I may get noticed on the high street, or even easier, from my YouTube channel and avoid those dark, sweaty days, pubbing and clubbing across the country to make ends meet and get noticed doing something I love …
And despite what the media stereotype offers, within every career, hard work is required.
A few months ago, I read in a Sunday morning supplement that if Wayne Rooney were to drop a fifty pence piece, he would have earned more than that before the coin had hit the floor. The staggering amount of money earned seems to be one of the first things we think of as a society when we think of footballers and their influence on the media and our young people. The idea of the lifestyle afforded by such earning power is a magazine column filler and that this type of media is hugely influential to young people.
(Image: Mirror.co.uk) – Wayne Rooney – Manchester United versus Crystal Palace
I saw a comment on Twitter just about Rooney’s new hairstyle. Without the money would he even have hair? In a society where there is more pressure than ever, for boys to look a certain way in order to be successful and happy, this is something important to think about. Did our boys’ dads feel as much pressure? When I grew up a generation ago, I don’t remember boys being quite as obsessed with their appearance.
Wayne Rooney’s influence is not only on boys. His very loyal wife Coleen is often in the media. They have survived scandal, and perhaps admirably so from an adult perspective, they have worked at their marriage. They have a child and they continue to work professionally and live a married life. So, good for them. But how do young girls see this? Do they see Colleen as an independent woman? Do they see her as having been treated badly, but sticking it out to continue with her lifestyle?
The dream of playing football for a living for young people is much more than the potential to earn indescribable amounts of money. However, our young people often don’t realise the level of sacrifice that goes alongside a career like Rooney’s. A celebrity culture lifestyle will not bring about a normal teenage life and little opportunity to learn through naturual course of learning-by-our-mistakes. Our young people tend to see all the pluses, but none of the difficulties associated with a life belonging to a football club. The norm appears to be once players are older and a little wiser, they talk about the ups-and-downs in interviews and autobiographies.
I read an article written by Frank Lampard on this subject and it was something that hadn’t occurred to me. Young players pursuing success tend not to think about the level of sacrifice at the time. When it comes to reporting on footballers’ lives, our young people see the angle the media choose to pursue. This can give them a skewed perspective and stops them considering how they might feel if they themselves were no longer allowed to hang around with mates or tweet what they wanted. This skewed perspective can lead young people to strive for an ‘imagined golden existence’, rather than creating for themselves, a life in which they are happy with good opportunities, values and friends.
My school contains children too young to ask this question. I’d be interested to know what pupils of my secondary colleagues think.
Rihanna – or Robyn Rihanna Fenty – first signed with Jay Z’s then label Def Jam in 2005. She had a couple of billboard hits, but it wasn’t until 2007 when she reinvented her image that she began to really hit the big time. The 2007 album was entitled ‘Good Girl Gone Bad‘ and she has continued in this vein ever since, going from strength to strength. Rhianna has released some fabulous songs and has an incredible voice. She is undoubtedly of huge talent.
So, why did the idea of re-branding her as a ‘bad girl’ lead to so much more success than just her talent could? And what does ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ actually mean? And to our young people?
There is a huge amount of debate about sex in the media and the way it’s presented to our young people. The subtle and not so subtle messages that are there about their future relationships and sex lives. Young girls seem to constantly get the subliminal message that dressing in very little, wearing a lot of make up and making some attempt at controversy; for example, tattoos and piercing, or proactive pouting and posing on social media is a way to forge forward successfully into womanhood. That talent, whilst all very well, is no substitute for column space in the media based on your current ‘strong look.’
Young people have always tried to challenge the status quo over the years when it comes to fashion and fad. Rightly so and, as a person in my late thirties, my time at the forefront of fashion is long behind me to say the least! However, this ‘bad girl’ idea and persona worries me today. Social networking didn’t exist when I was a teenager. Encouraging ‘bad girl’ behaviours can now mean that young girls make some really bad decisions when it comes to sharing photos and using webcams. Young boys make bad decisions with how they share these on and comment upon them. Decisions that cannot be taken back. For Rihanna, all publicity might be good publicity, but for our young people it definitely isn’t.
What do you think? Is celebrity culture damaging the lives of our students?
Read more about Lynne on her blog or visit her school website.
I was contacted by Heather Mendick of Celeb Youth UK.
Comment: I was very interested to read the blog post on your site ‘Celebrity-Culture, Quick Wins and the Impact on Student-Aspirations’. I’ve recently done some large-scale research into the role of celebrity in young people’s aspirations that directly contradicts this post. The research shows that: young people do value hard work, they don’t want to get rich quick and they have complex understandings of the upsides and downsides of celebrity. We have a site where we bust myths like those in the blog post. You can access this here: http://celebyouth.org/mythbusting/category/myths/
I and my research collaborator, Kim Allen, would be very happy to write something for your site giving a different viewpoint, if you feel that would be of interest to your readers.”