Tuesday 25 May 2010

More 'Lord Of The Flies' Than 'Goodbye Mr Chips'...

Victoria Coren thinks we didn’t get upset enough about the case of Peter Harvey. in this column from a week or so ago:
Last week, hundreds of pupils staged a rebellion after seven of their peers were expelled for bullying. They marched into the quad, chanting for the headmaster and shouting abuse, before heading off to smoke and drink on the playing fields.

The headmaster, Richard Harman, held an emergency assembly in the chapel, where he explained why he had no choice but to expel the bullies. The rebellion was contained and the mutinous pupils are back in class.
Hmm, perhaps he should have expelled a few more, pour encourager les autres...
It's got everything, hasn't it? A quad. A chapel. A rebellion. Smoking on the playing fields. This is like public-school life in a film: flexing pubescent muscle, finding a voice, all under the safe wing of a firm-but-fair headmaster, against a backdrop of ancient stone and springy grass.

And what a headmaster. Zero tolerance of bullying, full tolerance of free speech.

Listening, explaining, "respecting", then sending them back to double maths where they belong.
Well, you get what you pay for, Victoria. This headmaster probably isn't bound by a telephone-directory sized book of rules and 'guidance' from the DoE and Ofsted...
What brings a lump to the throat is remembering how few schoolchildren in this country get to have that experience. You could cry, comparing this story to the other one, last week, about the state school science teacher who clubbed a pupil over the head with a 3k dumbbell, fracturing his skull.
Yes, it's appalling that the discipline problem in our schools can drive a man to these sorts of lengths, and...

Oh. That's not what you meant, is it?
The response to that story has been bizarre. The teacher's acquittal of attempted murder was greeted with a sort of public jubilation.
What do you expect?

You view the one incident of him snapping, yet ignore the constant taunts and bad behavious and sheer bloody arrogance of these children, secure in the knowledge that they cannot be touched, and that if they are, the CPS will swing into view immediately, no matter how small the injury.
There isn't an appropriate sense of sad, gentle relief that our justice system behaved mercifully to a mentally ill man.
On a lot of comments, that's exactly what was shown. But you'd rather concentrate on the others, wouldn't you?
People are actually on the teacher's side. There has been a flurry of articles in the press about feral modern schoolkids, all sympathetic to the idea of "lashing out".
That's because a lot of people are as fed up as this man must have been. They've seen the wilful arrogance and 'can't toubch me!' attitude of children today, they've seen the state constantly meddle in how their children can be disciplined, and the recognise this case for what it is; the inevitable result of such policies.
It is as if they think the teacher was acquitted not because he was ill and had no murderous intent, but because he did the right thing. It's as if they think children are so unruly that they deserve to be battered and attacked.
Some of them are, Victoria. Some of them are...
This is terrifying. If people really believe that discipline among state school children is now so out of control that any reasonable person would be tempted to fracture their skulls with a dumbbell, then why are we talking about anything else at all?
Why wouldn't people believe this, Victoria? The MSM has daily horror stories about the behaviour of state-educated children. They've even crippled teachers.

Even people with no children see the behaviour of state-educated pupils every day, particularly those unfortunate enough to travel on public transport with them.
There must, surely, be something we can learn from the difference between these two school stories. Whatever is at the heart of Uppingham, which allows those children to have a confident, non-violent protest but go back to class when they're told, needs to be identified like the Higgs Boson particle, bottled and passed around every school in the country.
Luckily, she mostly avoids the 'class and wealth' easy options:
Is it because they come from rich families, giving them the confidence to kick against a status quo but the motivation ultimately to uphold it? Is it because, in a fee-paying situation, the headmaster has the freedom immediately to expel troublemakers in a way that someone with national responsibility does not? Is it because their teachers are better paid, less tired, less in thrall to Ofsted and thus better able to radiate a sense of authority and power?
Think you've put your finger on it, Victoria. Well done. Any more observations?
I'm writing this article on Thursday. By the time it's published, I assume Nick Clegg will be prime minister.
Ah. OK, we'll draw a veil over that one...
The public response to that pupil attack, the idea of "Yes, well, he would, wouldn't he?", is the scariest thing to have happened in this country for years.
No. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. As MacHeath points out:
“The premeditation here was all on the part of the pupils who cynically plotted to provoke a stressed man into losing control while they filmed the result. Well, they certainly got what they wanted.

Teaching is an anomaly, a job in which any sign of perceived weakness will be exploited and yet teachers are hedged about with draconian rules about how they may deal with disruption, to the extent that pupils have developed a 'can't touch me!' attitude.”
One pupil learned that that only goes so far. A pity the others haven't yet taken on the lesson....


Macheath said...

Thanks for the mention.

Interesting to see the angle taken by Ms 'my parents sent me to a very posh school in West London' Coren.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Bastards ("kids" treat the teachers like prison officers. So let the teachers act like PRISON OFFICERS.

Preferably TURKISH prison officers.

DerekP said...

I imagine schools are a reflection of our society. Create a power vacuum, by removing teachers' sanctions against unruly pupils, and it's the unruly pupils who take power - influencing or bullying the less aggressive pupils, and finally turning on the teachers themselves.

At that point most teachers won't act against the bullies - they're awkward characters so that's too difficult and time consuming; instead teachers who feel the need to assert their 'authority' will act against the quieter kids whose behaviour, though harmless, can be considered non-PC. So, slowly but surely, the teachers turn ALL of the pupils against them.

Any of this strike a chord, or mirror some aspect of our society?

JuliaM said...

@MacHeath: Oh, indeed, like all commentators at CiF, she may talk the talk, but will never ever walk the walk...

@DerekP: Quite!

banned said...

Bravo JuliaM