Head Lines with Jonny Mitchell: I’d rather be a myth buster than gullible!

Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 13th October 2014, 4:22 pm
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.

Now he writes exclusively for us.

Every week he will give us his take on life in and outside school from his hometown in Dewsbury:

I couldn’t work out whether I was the one being gullible the other day when I heard about various users of the new iPhone being “scammed” – some had posted footage on Facebook of their new gadgets smoking having been told that placing them in the microwave for 20 seconds on full power would charge them at lightning speed; others had been conned into thinking that downloading the latest version of the operating software rendered their phones waterproof and had set about proving (or disproving) the point with disastrous consequences.

I wonder how many of them will be making claims on their mobile phone insurance for their stupidity?

It’s dead easy to be conned into believing things, especially when the power of social media gets to work on you. As sure as eggs is eggs, there are some people out there who will go out of their way to make others look daft.

I remember various urban myths which have been propounded over the years, such as Bob Holness, former presenter of cult classic Blockbusters, being the sax solo on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. So unlikely, it could have been true, but Bob himself was quoted on record a number of times saying he had never so much as picked up said instrument, never mind played arguably one of the most iconic intros in music.

I have also tried to prove or disprove such bunkum statements myself by experimenting with a tooth I had lost to see whether it would, indeed, dissolve if left overnight in a glass of Coke (other cold beverages are available). It didn’t. In fact, I continued the trial by replenishing the coke for five consecutive days before realising my pocket money didn’t stretch to Coke I wasn’t going to drink.

It is simply untrue. This sort of thing can have classic, and comical/tragic (depending how perverse your sense of humour is), repercussions. A chap appearing on a game show had the choice of gambling his half-million pound winnings for the million pound top prize. As the question was read out by the excited host, the contestant smiled.

He knew the answer. It was a pearl of wisdom he had learned from his Dad at a very young age, and it had always stuck. He immediately said “Play” and blurted out his answer. Despite the presenter’s best efforts to get him to think about his answer, phone a friend or ask the audience, he said “No – it’s 100 per cent right”. Of course, it was 100 per cent wrong, and the half-million quickly turned into much, much less. Thanks Dad.

You expect me to come up with some conclusions, I think, about urban myths. Of course, most of them are propaganda – the Coke and tooth story clearly to frighten kids into reducing their fizzy-drink consumption. But I don’t think there are any to reach. What I do know, though, is that they always intrigued me. I have still to find proof that Henry VIII wrote the tune to Greensleeves (would that it were true, of course!), or that you are never more than six feet away from a rat, but – sad man that I am – I will keep looking. And if I ever manage to journey into space, I will record the precise distance at which the Great Wall of China finally disappears from view. I reckon it’s not as far as people make out, you know.