British students harass smokers: Is it virtuous?

When British taxpayers funded public education, the antismoking antics of The Hundred of Hoo school was not what they had in mind.

Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters/File
A man smokes a cigarette near an iconic sculpture outside the Elephant and Castle shopping center in London July 9. Do British students have a right to snatch away his cigarettes to combat smoking?

Friends of mine whom studied Media at A level typically filmed mock-music videos of themselves performing their favourite artists’ tracks and opening shots to horror movies. Such inoffensive productions are not, however, for the sixthformers and teaching staff of The Hundred of Hoo Comprehensive School, Rochester.

As Big Brother Watch reports, students at the school have instead filmed themselves harassing smokers. Puffed up with self-righteousness, they take to the streets as self-appointed “ciggy busters”, illegally snatching cigarettes from the hands of ambushed bystanders. This is not without their teacher’s encouragement. In a display of her own prejudices, their media teacher, Margherita Gramegna remarked to the Medway Messenger: "The adverts don’t work, so we are going to make you stop smoking."

This is appalling. The school receives taxpayer’s money in order to educate the children that attend it, not to harass the general public. Teachers are employed to develop the their pupil’s minds, not to stunt them into Stasi-light.

It gets worse. The constabulary, led by the Chief Constable of Kent Police, Ian Learmonth, seems happy to condone this school’s encouragement of violent behaviour towards a part of the public; Kent police knew of the planned filming well in advance and did nothing to prevent it.

This event, both worrying and shocking in its own right, is also a microcosm of a more general problem. Our public services, grown bloated and distant, are increasingly failing to serve the public. The problem seems caused by centralisation, and the resulting inability of the public to directly hold public servants to account. One wonders whether this could have happened were parents, rather than Whitehall, to determine schools’ priorities and locally elected sheriffs, rather than remote officers, to set the objectives of local policing.

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