10 April 2007

Brutality in schools

From that despised organ, the Daily Mail.

Article by Carl Storm, who served for nine years in the British Army, including spells in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, but who says that "nothing prepared me for the violence in London's schools". His words in italics, my comments in plain.

Thanks to the complete breakdown in authority and discipline, too many of our schools are now places of naked fear, with staff left at the mercy of thugs who have neither manners nor morals. Handling aggression, foul-mouthed abuse and raw belligerence have become integral parts of classroom routine. The situation is now so bad that a teacher working in one of the worst of our urban schools may encounter as much hostility as someone serving in the Armed Forces. Now, that might sound like a wild exaggeration, and it is true, of course, that the chances of being killed or seriously injured are far smaller in teaching than in the Army. Nevertheless, today's classroom professional often has to operate in a relentlessly antagonistic environment, with the menace of sudden violence always lurking in the background.

Is it surprising that many schools have become places of “naked fear”, when you have unwilling, bored, frustrated males shut up against their will in an environment from which they feel they are deriving no benefit?

Two generations ago it would have been unthinkable for staff to be kicked, punched, sworn at, shoved or threatened. Yet that now happens all the time in our schools. ... A teenager I was trying to teach began to play with one of the computers in the unit, despite my having ordered him to switch it off. Suddenly he went berserk, swearing at me and lashing out. The last thing I remember was his arm looming over my face. After being struck by him, I must have fallen to the ground, smashing my head and back against something, and I lost consciousness immediately. When I first woke up, I found to my horror that I was blind ...

Teenagers are not only justifiably frustrated with being locked up in order to be exposed to dumbed down, ideologised learning material; they have been encouraged by the ideology pumped out on TV to express their resentment by means of stroppiness, and to direct it at immediate individual figures of authority (parents, teachers, etc.), rather than at (say) the government, or those who pull the strings within the educational establishment.

After being interviewed by the police about the incident, I was asked if I wanted to press charges. I decided that I did. ... But that was not the way the school viewed it, though. During a frosty phone call, when I was still being interviewed by the police, the head teacher, through her assistant, told me that 'it is not our policy to press charges'. I told her that I would still be going ahead. Within days, my supply contract was terminated. 'Services no longer required,' said the notice. ...

While inner city schools are gripped by chaos, the Government, councils and education experts pretend that they have never been doing better. Ever improving exam results are paraded as evidence of these rising standards, while ministers trumpet the vast sums of public money that are poured into the system. But those of us who have worked in the system know better. We see beyond the cynical spin and hollow propaganda. I was in one school, for instance, where the pupils barricaded themselves into a classroom in an act of violent rebellion, yet the school was given a top rating by inspectors only a few months later.

The main priority has become one of concealing the true state of affairs. What should we trust, horror articles in the Daily Mail (despised by the intellectual elite) or statistics from the respected educational establishment?

No one could come from a tougher background than me, yet I have to say that I would not dream of sending any children of mine to an English state school. I would rather crawl through broken glass than inflict such a punishment on them.

Let us assume that what this author implies (and what anecdotal data, rather than government reports, suggests) is true, i.e. most state schools constitute a punishment for those unfortunate enough to have to attend them. What does this say about the motivations of those responsible for creating and perpetuating this system? Do they really want to create “exciting, valuable” opportunities? Or are they not that bothered if the lives of intelligent children whose parents are unable to send them to a private school (because they have had 40 per cent of their spending power confiscated to pay for — among other things — an unworkable state education system) are messed up?


No comments: