26 July 2008

An anecdote for the holidays

Scottish schools broke up at the end of June but I'm just back from sunny Buckinghamshire where my niece has just finished her first year at the local grammar. I appreciate the sort of people who support this blog are unlikely to agree with this but as far as I'm concerned, the crucial benefit of grammars, as with private schools, is that not everyone goes to them. In comps we take the lot, have to take the lot. A melancholy thought that sometimes floats through my brain is that tomorrow's rapists and murderers have to go to school somewhere - and I think I've seen a few of them.

Anyway, since it's been in the news recently, I thought I'd share a wee tale from Glasgow East where I was teaching last session. It's not that I don't think conditions like ADHT or dyslexia don't exist - it's just that they tend to be over-diagnosed. There are two reasons for this, in my view. One is that ordinary mechanisms for social control have been progressively delegitimized by people often described as, um, progressives. Hence the tendency towards the medicalization of mundane social problems. (LBS - lazy bastard syndrome.) The other reason is there are incentives involved. Those diagnosed with such conditions get Learning Support, extra time in exams, general excuses made for them and so on.

So when you're told that a pupil has ADHT, I have to confess my initial response is to say, "Yeah - right." Not always though. When I was informed that a particularly 'challenging' pupil of mine had this condition, I said, "Are you sure that's all that's wrong with him?"

Because he was, I'm sure through no fault of his own, mental. And I mean totally. Completely unteachable, almost uncontrollable, took tantrums - the works. He was, for example, chucked out of the final exam in my subject after about ten minutes. It takes a special kind of loon to achieve that.

Anyway, towards the sunny end of term, a couple of us were doing a little al fresco smoking as is our want obligation when we noticed our friend - let's call him Kevin McDiddy - wondering into school after the exams. Since he's over sixteen and has hitherto done a very good impression of someone who loathes school with every fragment of his DNA, we wondered what the hell he was doing there. Buying a senior school tie is what he was doing. He thinks he's staying on! It's not that pupils like him don't hate school - they just hate the idea of leaving and having to organise something else to do - like working - even more. I hope his 'pastoral care' teacher has disabused him of this whole staying on plan of his - although these days you can never tell. Anyway, you'll have guessed already the point I'm going to make. Imagine a situation where the school was obliged to take him for another two years. But if you teach in an English school, you won't have to merely imagine much longer. Two more years of compulsory education; what a mental idea. As mental as Kevin McDiddy as a matter of fact.


Al said...

Yep. You're right. My wife is a teacher and you're absolutely right. Let's just hope if the law ever does change, the likes of Kevin will end up in apprenticeships, ideally in MacDonalds. Although, having said that, half of my wife's pupil's would probably struggle with calculating the 1p change on a £4.99 Big Mac meal.

The Screech said...

Kevs are everywhere, whatever walk of life you are from. I agree with what you say about the the ADHT and dyslexia card being overplayed. It's just a convenient way for overpaid shrinks to just brush off their responsibilites and say "it's nobodys' fault" instead of going to the core issue of the matter and that is discipline starting at home.