Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One-armed CBeebies' presenter exposes parents' prejudices

A rather disturbing story. Cerrie Burnell is a presenter on CBeebies. You can read about the furore surrounding her here in the Daily Mail.

Basically, nine complaints have been lodged with the BBC from parents who think their children may be upset by Ms Burnell, who has had a disability from birth. And, of course, as usual, coverage in the media has whipped the whole thing up so that there have been some pretty unedifying remarks about the presenter on various net message boards.

Lucy Mangan in the Guardian covers the issue very sensitively and sensibly:

Parents have complained that they cannot let their children watch her because the sight will "possibly cause sleep problems", that she is scaring toddlers, and that they are being forced to discuss the issue of disability with their offspring before they are ready.

Altogether, it makes you glad that the medieval witch-hunters weren't internet-enabled. The comments of course reveal nothing about the children's true feelings and everything about those of the adults involved. Young, CBeebies-age children do not have profound concerns about disability. I worked for several years, on and off, at a school for physically disabled children and it was never their able-bodied peers who were the problem when our paths crossed on school outings, but their parents, who kept them pinioned to their sides and made sure they turned their faces away.

I have to agree. I watched CBeebies with our child for about six years until a few years ago. I have always found that young children are extremely accepting of everyone they encounter. They don't even notice disabilities - not in a negative way anyway.

I congratulate Ms Burnell on her continuing role on CBeebies.

As for 'scaring children'. Have these parents not read any children's stories recently? Little Red Riding Hood is only the half of it.

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