A Spurious Theory


There have been some adverts in the UK this year trying to recruit people into the teaching profession, under the slogan 'No one forgets a good teacher.' I have considered adding the graffito 'Or forgives a bad one' to the posters, but that's neither here nor there. There is a TV advert in which a large number of famous people--John Cleese, Joanna Lumley, Stehen Hawking even St Tony himself--simply say the name of a good teacher that they remember.

Now, one of the celebs in the advert is Jeremy Paxman and the teacher he names is one George Sayer. According to the flyleaf of my copy of Jack: C.S Lewis and His Times by George Sayer (probably the best Lewis biography going, if you haven't read it), the author was indeed a schoolteacher, head of English at Malvern, so, unless anyone wants to contradict me, I assume that Paxman's teacher was the same guy who wrote the book.

American readers and those who go to bed before ten presumably don't know who Jeremy Paxman is. He's the best known of the BBC's anchormen/poltical interviwers. He fronts the high-brow current affairs show Newsnight, and is well-known for his belligerent interviewing style, which strikes terror into the hearts of all politiicans. He's also the merciless question-master of the intellectual quiz show University Challenge. ('Come on! Must have your answer!') He actually won an award for an interview with the then Home Secretary Michael Howard (aka The Prince of Darkness) in which he (Paxman) repeated the same question 17 times.

Now: Paxman was the pupil of Sayer, and Sayer was the pupil of Lewis. Did Paxman learn his style of argument from his favourite schoolteacher? And did he, in turn, learn it from his revered tutor Lewis? And if so, is it, perchance, possible that in Paxman we see the preservation of a tradition of belligerant, confrontational dialectic in pursuit of truth which goes all the way back to the Great Knock himself?