Suffer the little children..

Following on from the Social Farming post yesterday, today we have a report from the government’s ‘new behaviour tsar’ (what?!), Charlie Taylor, a ‘leading head teacher’ who is presumably well-qualified in the fashionable mores of state indoctrination education.

The numbers involved are mind-boggling. Our fearless tsar has produced 50 pages of guidance on dealing with bad behaviour, a reduction from the 600 page document produced by the last government – has pupil behaviour improved so much or do we indulge ourselves in too many pointless rules and regulations I wonder?

Yet again, we are given a report that deals with symptoms rather than causes: if the Telegraph‘s interpretation is to be believed, many of the problems in schools are the result of our children not dressing in a neat, tidy, uniform manner… although its own story indicates that in addition to badly knotted ties, other problems allegedly include violence, pupils making false allegations and carrying weapons, alcohol, drugs and stolen goods. Schools are a pretty fair representation of society as a whole, it would seem.

It turns out that the solution to schools’ ills just happens to be much the same as the solution to society’s ills despite the fact that said solution appears to producing Airstrip One rather than the new Jerusalem. Schools are now to have the use of reasonable force, the abandonment of ‘no-touch’ policies and airport-style security scanners – this headmaster jumped the gun on all three counts by introducing handcuffs and an extremely rigorous scanning system. How long it will be before schools get full body scanners to complement the CCTV cameras in the toilets and changing rooms is anybody’s guess.

The Telegraph goes on to breathlessly report, “The document even claims alcohol being carried by pupils can be poured down the sink or “sold at the school fair.” Yeah, right.

My favourite suggestion invokes the current benchmark of our caring, sharing but completely clueless governing class. The tsar suggests that “…schools in the toughest areas should consider recruiting therapists to work with the most problematic pupils who fail to respond to normal punishment.” (At last – an admission that therapists are in the punishment business). Do we have any ‘problematic’ readers who could venture an opinion on the validity and likely success rate of this proposal?

I repeat, the behaviour tsar, in common with most bureaucrats before him, is dealing with symptoms: symptoms of an education system that treats young people as a commodity rather than as the individual persons they are. Education is meant to be enabling and we should recognise that its value is directly proportional to the willingness of the individual to engage. Measures such as fiddling with school-leaving ages to massage unemployment statistics treats the student population as social ballast: it insults the intelligence of young people who are in most other respects, deemed to be capable of making considered, adult decisions for themselves. The difficulties in schools arise from this central tension – schools are supposed to be places of learning; instead, they are becoming more like detention centres.

As with so many of our social policies, I fear that we are blindly following the American lead. We are moving away from education as liberation of the intellect to rush headlong towards the American solution of containment as depicted in the documentary ‘The War on Kids’.

It’s a shocking film. Whatever you do, see it. If you have an ounce of humanity, you cannot fail to despair at the sight of a distressed infant girl being manhandled and handcuffed by several burly, tooled-up cops… Coming soon; to a UK school near you…



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4 Responses to Suffer the little children..

  1. Having only watched the trailer of the film you linked, I can only surmise that it’s focus is mainly on urban high schools, ie, secondary schools.

    I’m surely not here to defend the American public school system. (I call myself a victim of it.)

    Yet I do want to point out, that in my experience placing a son into a lovely little rural C of E primary (reception thru year 2, when we moved back stateside), that this school was every bit as stifling as American schools.

    The ills are far more insidious than the obviously sad affair that is the American inner-city public high school. It’s a matter of propagandizing on multiculturalism and psuedo-science. The failure to treat these young ‘uns as individuals is just as complete. Gifted kids get no special challenges, and those that fall outside “the box” of accepted behavior are scorned, labelled and drugged if possible.

    Back in the States, I thought, we’ll just pay for private school. Yet still I find the curriculum full of propaganda (why does a 5 year old need to learn about recycling?), overly fussy rules and formats, and misc. fluff. My older is now in 3rd grade (year 4 in UK), and he laments the powerpoint presentations. Powerpoint? I hated those as an adult in an office job!

    Little wonder that homeschooling is going mainstream here in the U.S., and when we change locations again next year, I may join their ranks.


    • nooneofanyimport – thanks for your first-hand perspective from America. And your use of ‘stifling’ succinctly fits the UK approach to state sector schooling..

      Yes, the film does focus on urban schools although the infant girl to whom I referred appears to be no more than about 5 years old. The scene is (almost) so unbelievable that I worry it may be a set-up but her distress looks real enough to me.

      You’re clearly ahead of the curve if your private schools have also succumbed to the propaganda: those of my experience here still maintain a healthy aloofness from political whim and an education worthy of the name. Of course, our last government tried its best to hobble them..

      Homeschooling works! The proof – apart from well-mannered, well-adjusted self-sufficient and knowledgeable children – is that the government wants to regulate it.. Courtesy of our complicit British press, we’re being drip-fed disinformation such as homeschooling being a front for paedophilia..

      • Whew, a 5 year old girl? I don’t know what to think. I will say that things have gotten pretty crazy.

        I am still reeling from the disappointment from my experience with private, Catholic school curriculum. What is the point of paying all this money, exactly?

        Thanks for the encouragement about homeschooling. It has gotten so popular here, that there are private schools that let you participate in their team sports or single classes for a small fee, and also homeschool clubs that arrange fieldtrips and tutoring options, etc.

        Some folks still get a little leery about “socialization” or how this will allow abusive parents to hide their children away, but I’ve not yet heard anyone connect it pedophilia. Yikes.

        On a personal note, it’s been a couple years already since we moved from the UK, and there is much I miss. The next time you have some lovely Indian take away or a chippy dinner, think of the poor American who’s missing it, will ya?


      • A friend of ours homeschools her 3 children – as far as I can tell, it’s more by a process of osmosis than formal lessons. They have no socialisation problems; indeed they always appear confident and relaxed in company.

        It’s a difficult path to tread because none of us wants our children to be exposed to dangerous situations but I suspect that the socialisation children receive in schools actually creates and reinforces a sense of suspicion and paranoia – to such an extent that we are creating young people who cannot fully interact socially due to fear. And as we know, the alienation works both ways – adults, especially males, are increasingly anxious in the company of children.

        I’ve got to admit – British chip shop chips are special!


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