Visual Methodology of Politics?


Or of education? Two pictures which, posted side by side, say a lot about the ways politicians manage – or don’t manage – their image when they are with children. One shows David Cameron seemingly failing to engage with a child; the other shows Jeremy Corbyn engaged with a well-known and lively text. I am presenting them here as examples to be discussed: what demonstrates engagement? How do they exemplify the educational process?


Note, for example, that the politicians are both sitting down; look at their facial expressions. Look at the ways in which Corbyn is able to use eye contact – dare I say it “like a real teacher” whereas side by side gives Cameron no real way of engagement.


Sitting back gives Corbyn the advantage of looking at ease; Cameron leaning forward may be an attempt to look engaged, but the girl undermines this, and the Cameron pose is made to look pleading.

The two poses might be seen as typical of the successful and unsuccessful new teacher: demonstrating how to read for pleasure, for example, or lost in the attempt to interest a child in an activity. Irrespective of who the adults are, they are trying to show involvement in education.

What message do they give about what education is?

As I post and edit this, Theresa May is on the TV talking to apprentices in a toothpaste factory. To end, therefore, I want to think about this deeply unflattering picture (at the bottom of this post)  of The Prime Minister. Theresa May is pulling a face that may look disgusted – but this needs to sound a note of caution. She is, I think, immersed in the activity. Emotional engagement may mean joining in all sorts of conversations with children, and the picture itself gives no clue as to what she is talking about. Is she feigning fear? Is she caught as she looks surprised? It’s not the best of pictures, but actually might be evidence of her really trying to connect with the children.

As the next few weeks roll on, we need to use sone criticality when images of politicians are used to promote some message about children’s services or education: we need to remember the decisions made by the politicians, their agents, the photographers and editors. What message is intended? Is it successful or not- and why?




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