This is a reply to a comment kindly left by OldAndrew of Scenes from the Battleground blog, which was a reply to this blog entry. I originally just replied to OldAndrew’s comment in a comment, but my reply got too long for a comment.
if students object to the very idea of the teacher being in charge, then there is nothing the teacher can do and still teach. You can make all the points you like about how the teacher is “responsible”, the point is that in that situation the teacher has responsibility without power.
Quite right. The situation is worse than I thought and I have edited my comment here from my original, flippant response. Obviously, little learning or teaching can take place in chaos.
You’re caught between a rock and hard place: you are denied the power (or authority) to act responsibly, and yet blamed for not acting responsibly or authoritatively. It seems a Catch-22 situation. The problem seems to be largely a legal and political one, yet also an ideological one in that a few teachers are not enough to make a difference, and if the school as a whole from the Head downwards is not backing up a serious attempt to impose order in the chaos (e.g. by recognizing, as OldAndrew says, that appeasement does not lead to increased order but the reverse; that some of the dearly held beliefs about children, their nature, and human behaviour may well be not only wrong but contributing to the problem), then most attempts will fail and the efforts of OldAndrew and his ilk will be limited. (I’m thinking of the example of Marie Stubbs, who was headmistress and managed to either bring around most of the staff to her way of thinking or hire her own replacements.)
I recall reading about an incident earlier in 2009 in a British school, when a teacher was fired for forcibly removing an obstreperous student from a classroom: he physically grabbed the boy by the collar and the seat of his pants and pushed him out of the classroom. The police were called, and I don’t know what happened to the young man (15 or16, I can’t recall exactly), but the teacher had the book thrown at him: defrocked, disrobed, you name it. The poor guy was approaching retirement age, but I doubt if this is the way he had imagined leaving the profession. (I wish I could find the link).
(I’m reminded of the entrepreneurs and industrialists in Atlas Shrugged, forced to somehow continue inventing and producing despite a plethora of laws and regulations that effectively demotivate and prevent them from making a profit.)
“if the teacher were to slap anyone’s face the teacher would be suspended, fired and probably prosecuted.” I realize that times have changed since I went to school.
“the change in the law prohibiting this and all forms of corporal punishment in state schools was passed by Mrs Thatcher’s government, so I’m not sure where the “dominant socialist” thing came from.”
I interpreted the push for group work and mixed ability classes as coming from an ideology that said elitism is bad, ranking and streaming students is bad, hence (by implication) achievement is bad (or at least should be downplayed), in other words egalitarianism or socialism. I don’t equate socialism only with the left wing, or the Labour party (Hitler’s party was the National Socialists). I had not realized Thatcher’s specific responsibility, but it does not surprise me.
Thanks for commenting.
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