Category Archive • Violence
December 15, 2004
You can ban pencil sharpeners but not the kid who used a pencil sharpener blade to stab somebody

Key quote from this Belmont Club posting:

The school management argued that while pencil sharpeners could be proscribed the attacker could not be prevented from returning.

This is the report that Wretchard was commenting on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Education, like any other human endeavour, is either a tyranny or a shambles or both if you can't kick unwelcome people out (using whatever force is necessary to accomplish this), or if those who don't want to be there aren't allowed to leave.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:37 PM
Category: ExclusionViolence
November 26, 2004
A posting about the relationship between fancy architecture and behaviour

Nice school:


Shame about the knifing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:45 PM
Category: ArchitectureViolence
November 19, 2004
Gun schooling

Emily Yoffe has a piece up about her learning to shoot, and Instapundit quoted, among other bits, this bit:

So anathema are guns among my friends that when one learned I was doing this piece, he opened his wallet, silently pulled out an NRA membership card, then (after I recovered from the sight) asked me not to spread it around lest his son be kicked out of nursery school.

I spent yesterday afternoon with my two young (male) Paradise Primary customers spelling out words like SHOOT, BANG, ZAP, etc., in big capital letters (and also doing such things as combining the two Os of SHOOT with a front-on picture of a double barrelled gun held by a mad monster), which they thought most satisfactory.

Once again, I have a busy day today, busier than I had anticipated, so again, not much to say. Please blog quietly amongst yourselves, or read your books.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:55 PM
Category: Violence
November 12, 2004
One of Yasser Arafat's early contributions to the world of education

Jeff Jacoby writes, of Arafat the monster:

Perhaps his signal contribution to the practice of political terror was the introduction of warfare against children. On one black date in May 1974, three PLO terrorists slipped from Lebanon into the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot. They murdered two parents and a child whom they found at home, then seized a local school, taking more than 100 boys and girls hostage and threatening to kill them unless a number of imprisoned terrorists were released. When Israeli troops attempted a rescue, the terrorists exploded hand grenades and opened fire on the students. By the time the horror ended, 25 people were dead; 21 of them were children.

I recall a comedy show once where there was a gag about someone nasty who had died, and they said: "Doctors describe his condition as satisfactory."

Or to put it another way

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:53 AM
Category: Violence
November 05, 2004
Bullets over Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School

Usually I try to skip past American stuff when googling for education-related dramas, but this is too choice to ignore:

LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. – A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds, authorities said Thursday. No one was injured.

The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School shortly after 11 p.m.

Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school at the time heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.

The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a target on the ground 3-1/2 miles away from school, said Col. Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. He does not know what happened that led to the school getting shot up.

''The National Guard takes this situation very seriously,'' said Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, a spokeswoman.

School board President Mike Dupuis said he's mindful that a firing range is nearby.

''Being so close to the range, that's always in the back of our minds. It is very scary." AP

Indeed. Now that's what I call attacking education.

Often when schools get attacked – fire being the popular weapon of choice – it turns out that the miscreant went there, but did not enjoy it and got angry about something. Could this be the story here?

Hated school. Joined Air National Guard. Took revenge.


Probably not.


Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:31 PM
Category: Violence
November 01, 2004
Education related violence around the world

Here's an answer to the bullying problem:

UTSUNOMIYA – A 23-year-old unemployed man who murdered his former high school classmate has been arrested after he turned himself in, police said.

Tsutomu Yoshihara, from Imaichi, Tochigi Prefecture, said the victim used to bully him at school …

That'll teach him.

Meanwhile, in Fiji, they are fretting about other kinds of violence, by teachers upon pupils:

Such punishment in schools, which are supposed to be custodians of values of peace and tolerance, can only lead to children growing up to become violent adults.

Supposed by whom? Plus, is the next bit actually true? In Britain the rules about teachers attacking pupils have tightened a lot recently, but the resulting adults are not noticeably less violent. More, if anything.

Why can't they just say what they surely think? – which is that adults hitting kids is horrid, and they ought to do a lot less of it.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the students of the Punjab University are showing the world what they are made of:

THE recent clash between students of the Social Work Department (SWD) at the Punjab University (PU) and Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) activists has raised the question of security for students and teachers, especially females, living on campus. Unfortunately, the PU administration, consisting of retired army personnel and higher authorities including the PU Chancellor, who is also the Punjab governor, and other federal high ups are quiet on the issue.

The incident took place last Tuesday when some students from the Space Science Department (SSD), allegedly involved and backed by IJT, beat up students of the SWD. The SWD chairman saved the students by hiding them inside the library. The incident is a result of the IJT’s attempt to control all PU departments, which is not liked by the majority of the SWD faculty. That is why some 'students' also misbehaved with some teachers, leading to tension in the Academic Staff Association.

Sounds like a Tom Sharpe novel.

This, meanwhile, turned out to be less exciting than the headline.

PROPOSALS to build 10 all-weather floodlit pitches has divided a community because of yobs.

Residents attended a meeting on Friday about the plans to build the astroturf pitches near Whitchurch High School in Cardiff.

The school would have use of them before 4pm and they would then be available for community use and for the capital’s five-a-side football league in the evening.

Some residents on neighbouring Clos Treoda and Glan y Nant terrace worry that the pitches will be a magnet for loud youths causing trouble at night and cause car parking chaos.

But many think these facilities are what is needed to keep youngsters out of trouble.

I think that many have a point. Gathering young people together to do something improving to them, no matter how improving it is, is not a complete answer to society's problems if, after a couple of hours of improving them, you then spit them out in a great gang onto the streets, at nine o'clock at night.

More educationa related violence news, from Israel, South Africa, Wales (again – the real thing this time), and of course the USA (most of that is USA stuff).

Have a nice week.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:32 PM
Category: BullyingViolence
October 14, 2004
No Child Allowed Home

WalterWilliama.jpgWalter Williams writing yesterday:

I'm wondering just when parents, especially poor minorities, will refuse to tolerate day-to-day school conditions that most parents wouldn't dream of tolerating. Lisa Snell, director of the Education and Child Welfare Program at the Los Angles-based Reason Foundation, has a recent article about school violence titled "No Way Out," in the October 2004 edition of Reason On Line (

As Snell reports, Ashley Fernandez, a 12-year-old, attends Morgan Village Middle School, in Camden, N.J., a predominantly black and Hispanic school that has been designated as failing under state and federal standards for more than three years. Rotten education is not Ashley's only problem. When her gym teacher, exasperated by his unruly class, put all the girls in the boys' locker room, Ashley was assaulted. Two boys dragged her into the shower, held her down and fondled her for 10 minutes.

The school principal refused to even acknowledge the assault and denied her mother's request for a transfer to another school. Since the assault, Ashley has received numerous threats, and boys frequently grope her and run away. Put yourself in the place of Ashley's mother. The school won't protect her daughter from threats and assault. The school won't permit a transfer. What would you do? Ashley's mother began to keep her home. The response from officials: She received a court summons for allowing truancy.

Speaks for itself.

I found the picture of Walter Williams here, where there is further information about him.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:01 PM
Category: CompulsionViolence
October 08, 2004
Why killing children makes sense for Islamo-fascists – and a speculation about smaller schools being a defence against that

Depressing but inevitable, and presumably now being said by governments and by education departments the world over, more or less loudly:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Department of Education has alerted school leaders nationwide to watch for people spying on their buildings as a possible sign of a higher terrorist threat.

The warning is based on an analysis by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security of the school siege that killed nearly 340 people, many of them students, in Beslan, Russia, last month.

The review was done to protect schools and not sent because of "any specific information indicating that there is a terrorist threat to any schools or universities in the United States," Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok said in a letter to school leaders.

The conventional Western view of war is that there are warriors, and there are innocent bystanding civilians - fighting men on the one hand, and the, old, the unfit, and women and children on the other. (Although during the great bombing campaigns of the Second World War that distinction was stretched way past its breaking point.)

War now is different. The stated ultimate aim of the Islamo-fascists is not to fight against the non-Muslim world and extract concessions from. It is to destroy the non-Muslim world, to wipe it out. And destroying the non-Muslim world absolutely includes destroying the non-Muslim world's children. Especially its children. There's no point in getting into a moral flap about this. Killing children is perfectly logical, given that their aim is to destroy the ability of non-Muslim societies to perpetuate themselves.

This means that all kinds of defensive measures for large assemblages of school-age children will now have to be thought about, just as the US Department of Education says.

And – a thought which has only just now occurred to me as I was typing in the above couple of paragraphs – what if the idea that schools are too big catches on, not just because big schools are (maybe, I think, others think) bad educationally, but also because large clumps of children all in one place are a nice juicey terrorist target. Disperse and defend. It's a thought.

The point is – just to make it clear in case it isn't – not that a small school is easier to defend, but that a big school gets the terrorists more bang for their bucks and their bodies, and is hence more enticing as a target and is hence more likely to be targetted.

Will the Pentagon and the FBI and the CIA and the rest of them start agitating for smaller schools, on the grounds that that way the casualties of terrorist attacks on schools are likely to be fewer? After all, one of the reasons why so many children were killed in that Beslan school is that so many children were at that Beslan school.

As I say, it's a thought and only a very slightly baked one at that. I wonder if others will join in with the baking of this notion.

While I'm on the subject of cumulative fractional baking, my thanks to the Instapundit of Education Bloggers for this posting, about this speculation here, and to her (on that posting) few but fascinating commenters there. Not such a "golden generation" after all, it seems.

UPDATE: Joanne Jacobs also posts today about school security against terrorist attack. Originally I put that this was schools in Iraq, that although the information came from Iraq the schools they're worrying about are in the USA. So I guess this might be the same story as the one I'm linking to.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:43 PM
Category: Violence
August 04, 2004

187.gif On the first day of this month of August I announced a blogging pause here, and I meant it, and it is in place. The rules of this pause are not that I don't post anything, merely that I don't have to.

I announced the same rule on my Culture Blog and since then, nothing. There will be cultural things there, this August, but for the time being … But here, I still find I have a lot of things to say.

Tonight for example, I'm watching a truly excellent education-based movie. It's 187, starring the truly excellent Samuel L. Jackson. It is as good as that grotesque Michelle Pfeiffer thing was absurd.

And here is what the Radio Times has to say about it:

Samuel L. Jackson's typically intense performance is the sole merit of this over-directed, uninvolving school drama, which shows the nasty flip side of the Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle Dangerous Minds. Jackson plays a viciously assaulted New York teacher who transfers to a school in Los Angeles to rebuild his life. It's all shot in a jumpy MTV pop video style by Waterworld's Kevin Reynolds. JC

Now I don't know who JC is, but I suspect him of holding many of the opinions that caused the civilisational catastrophe described so gruesomely by this movie. He's right about that Michelle Pfeiffer movie, but, faced with this one, he feels got at. And he feels got at because he is being got at. The message of this movie is that you, JC, and all the idiots who think as you think, have re-established barbarism. And rather than deal with that message, JC retreats and blames the handwriting of the message. That's a guess, and maybe an unfair one. Maybe JC is wholly in favour of civilisation, and just thinks that this movie is uncivilised. But I doubt this. This is a movie in which the central character says things like: "You are responsible for your actions." And I suspect that JC feels uncomfortable about ideas of that sort.

I've just got to the bit where one of the Senior Barbarians has had his finger cut off. Did Samuel S. Jackson do this? I'm guessing yes. My education proceeds. Just because it's the vacation doesn't mean I stop learning.

By the way, "187" is the police radio code for murder. Or something like that.

SLJ did cut off the finger, and then kill someone. He dies, as does the finger loser, in a somewhat over the top rerun of the Russian Roulette scene in The Deer Hunter.

Final word of 187: "A teacher wrote this movie."

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:10 PM
Category: MoviesViolence
July 28, 2004
More arson

Given how notoriously susceptible to peer group pressure children are, could the fashion of burning down your school if you don't like it perhaps be about to spread like … wildfire?

Two more arson stories, to add to these, from Quebec and from Kenya.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:11 PM
Category: Violence
July 05, 2004

Is your school a disappointment? Count your blessings.

SRINAGAR, India July 5, 2004 – Kashmir's oldest school was burned down Monday, destroying one of the world's oldest copies of the Quran and thousands of other rare Islamic texts, in a suspected arson attack that some blamed on Islamic militants targeting moderate Muslim leaders.

The destruction shocked many in the disputed Himalayan territory, with the loss of the 105-year-old Islamia Higher Secondary School where some of the region's most prominent figures studied and of its 30,000-book library.

The top two stories when I did this post both concerned people setting fire to schools. By comparison, this school in New Zealand got off lightly.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:58 PM
Category: Violence
May 16, 2004
Leaving the School from Hell

In my previous posting on Brian's blog I was planning to leave the School from Hell I was teaching at and start somewhere new in September. I left much sooner.

I arrived one morning at my department to find a boy out of lessons, when challenged I was met with the usual torrent of abuse. The Head of Department (HoD) came out (somewhat surprisingly) to see what the commotion was about and told me he was a known troublemaker and that I should go to my room and lock the door. "Lock the door?" I asked. "Yes" was the reply, "to be on the safe side."

I hid in my locked room and waited. The boy began banging on my door and issuing a variety of threats. I tried to ignore him, so he went outside and began banging on my window. At this point I summoned help on the phone that fortunately (only) I had in an adjacent store room. Someone actually came and took him away. Good. The next proper lesson I had resulted in another assault on me (being pushed around etc.) I phoned for help again and had someone taken away. Double good. So far, so good. Just another 'normal' day at this school.

The next day I find a note in my pigeon-hole from a member of the Senior Management Team (SMT). My facility to have pupils removed for misbehaviour was being withdrawn as I was using it too much. My HoD knew nothing of the decision, nor did the support staff who actually did the removing. The Head had already said that pupils could not be sent out of rooms (as they merely went and disrupted other lessons) so I just had to cope with them – without any support.

That was it. I was furious. I asked the support staff what they thought of it and they couldn't understand it. Other teachers thought it ridiculous. I went to see one of my colleagues who'd had similar problems. I found him at the back of his room, head in hands shaking. He'd just had another day of teaching at this school. "That's going to be me anytime soon" I thought to myself.

I made up my mind. Next morning I phoned in sick. And the next. I went to see my GP who, after explaining the situation wrote me a three week sick note for 'stress'. I wrote a letter to my Head explaining that I would not be returning.

I now had to find a supply job for the Summer Term ...

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:06 AM
Category: The reality of teachingViolence
May 07, 2004
A history teacher with a difference

I have no time for anything much today, but this has got to be today's most striking British education news story:

A history teacher was at the head of a network of football hooligans jailed today after conducting a violent pre-planned brawl along the platform of a busy railway station.

Dave Walker, head of year at Turves Green boys' technology college in Birmingham, was jailed for two years and three months for his "vital role" in orchestrating fighting at Maze Hill, south east London, in April 2002.

Walker, 37, who called himself "Three Lions", posted messages on internet forums setting up the confrontation between 30 Charlton supporters and 15 Southampton fans before a match in London, Kingston crown court heard.

Like quite a few of the most dramatic criminals (expect a TV play about this guy any month now) he seems to have lead a double life.

In a statement, headteacher, Ken Nimmo, described Walker as an "outstanding teacher" with an "exemplary record" and said he was saddened by events.

He said: "David Walker was an outstanding teacher who contributed a huge amount to the many successes of the boys here."

I bet he was especially good at explaining military history. (See below!)

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:58 PM
Category: HistoryViolence
May 02, 2004
A lesson they won't forget

As Dave Barry's judi says, do as I say, not as I do:

ORLANDO, Fla. – A federal drug agent shot himself in the leg during a gun safety presentation to children and his bosses are investigating.

The Drug Enforcement Administration agent, whose name was not released, was giving a gun safety presentation to about 50 adults and students organized by the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association, witnesses and police said.

He drew his .40-caliber duty weapon and removed the magazine, according to the police report. Then he pulled back the slide and asked someone in the audience to look inside the gun and confirm it wasn't loaded, the report said.

Witnesses said the gun was pointed at the floor and when he released the slide, one shot fired into the top of his left thigh.

That'll teach 'em.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:31 PM
Category: Violence
February 10, 2004
Hand eye co-ordination

I ought not to be encouraging this. But he should. It's his job.

I just think it's funny.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 06:10 PM
Category: Violence
November 18, 2003
"Noble goals and lofty aims"

Proof that education can be a dangerous thing:

A textbook on Islam that preaches the value of "holy war" and "martyrdom" for all Muslims is being reprinted by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for use in schools in the occupied West Bank.

Entitled Islamic Culture, it was originally published in 1994, but has been reproduced this year, despite undertakings from Palestinian leaders – following international pressure – that new books would be introduced.

The book, intended for 17-year-olds, explains: "Jihad is an Islamic term that equates to the term war in other nations. The difference is that jihad has noble goals and lofty aims, and is carried out only for the sake of Allah and for His glory." It also refers to shahada, or martyrdom. A suicide bomber sent to kill civilians in Israel is celebrated as a shaheed in the Israeli-occupied territories.

One passage in the book states that if a Muslim is "blessed with shahada and honour, his soul returns to its Creator to live a different life, content with the rewards and honour bestowed upon it, a life of grace thanks to Allah."

The general assumption at this blog is that education prepares you for life, and I join in as many arguments as I can find about how best you contrive that. This, on the other hand, is preparation for death. At best, for life after death. And not just your own death.

Meanwhile, the Merde in France (NOT The Dissident Frogman as originally stated, see comments) reports that in Gagny, in France, a Jewish school has been burned down.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:45 PM
Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:45 PM
Category: Violence
November 05, 2003
Sometimes its murder being a Headteacher

Here are the opening words at the website of Birkbeck School, North Somercotes, Lincolnshire. I do not doubt their sincerity.

Achievement By Caring

It is my pleasure to introduce you to The Birkbeck School.

We are a successful 11-16 mixed secondary school close to Grimsby and Louth.

We are a friendly, caring school, with dedicated, well qualified staff who share a vision of striving for the highest levels of success and achievement for all students.

We offer students of all abilities the chance to succeed. Our aim is to identify the unique needs of all children in order that we can help them attain the very best results from their time with us.

The school has three core values, Learning, Respect and Responsibility. These values underpin everything we do.

We believe very firmly in a partnership between the school, the children and their parents.

Our mission statement is simple. Achievement By Caring

Being successful at Birkbeck is as simple as ABC.

We think that The Birkbeck School is a great school, but don't just take our word for it. You are most welcome to see us in action. We will arrange for a tour of the school for any prospective parents.

Please call 01507 358 352

G P Loveridge (Headteacher)

Something tells me that the phone will now be off the hook.

A 14-year-old boy died today after being stabbed inside the Lincolnshire school he attended, police said.

A 15-year-old student at Birkbeck school, in North Somercotes, near Louth, was arrested and taken to Skegness police station in connection with the death.

Frankly I was amazed that the website was still functioning. It soon may not be.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:47 AM
Category: Violence
October 10, 2003
That'll teach them

There is throwing out and there is throwing out, and this is throwing out:

RABAT, Morocco (Reuters) -- Two Moroccan schoolboys were injured Monday when their teacher threw them out of a first floor classroom window for being too noisy, an Education Ministry official said.

One of the pupils, aged nine, ended up in hospital with a fractured shoulder and serious injuries to his face and head while the other, age 10, suffered only slight injuries, the official from the ministry's delegation in Casablanca said.

He said the teacher had warned the pair she would throw them out if they were not quiet.

"They did not listen. They should have listened," he told Reuters by telephone. "She (the teacher) suffers depression."

Quite so. If your teacher suffers from depression, then you, the pupil, need to take this into account when you decide on your preferred classroom misbehaviour strategy. If you make her too depressed and she chucks you out of the window, you have only yourself to blame.

Has Dave Barry been told about this?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:02 PM
Category: Violence
October 08, 2003
So what kind of punishment should it have been?

Here's a startling little story from the Guardian. A Victorian punishment device (wooden blocks for immobilising your fingers) found its way to a school, as a demonstration of how things used to be, and it apparently got used for real. The eight-year-old miscreant had destroyed a pencil. So how things used to be and how things are aren't so different after all.

This is a news item that could have been crafted by a front line novelist, and who knows? – maybe that's what the Mark Oliver of the Guardian will end up as. The final paragraph is particularly silence-inducing:

But the boy's stepfather told BBC Radio Newcastle: "I'm horrified that this could happen ... I'm a great believer in punishment, but not that kind of punishment."

Ouch. What fun it must be to have a stepfather who is a great believer in punishment.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:34 PM
Category: Violence
September 23, 2003
"… lay that baggage aside …"

You can't just stroll into Prospect magazine. You have to register. In fact if I understand the situation correction, you have to pay. But if someone else (like Arts & Letters Daily today – an invaluable source – thank you Lileks today, "I jest because I care", for the reminder) gives you the link, you're in, right?

Anyway, this piece by James McLeod on violence in the classroom is an excellent read.

Pamela Coward, head of Middleton technology school in Manchester, (who became a Dame of the British Empire in the June honours list for services to education) expresses the problem tersely: "The challenge really is to eradicate street values from the school." Bob Carstairs, of the Secondary Heads Association, stresses home environment as the biggest problem: "There is a significant increase in the number of children not supervised by family adults." This, he said, means that many children do not know how to behave. Public money to tackle poor behaviour was welcome, but the basic problem, he said, is "cultural."

This attitude is understandable but depressing. It makes the situation appear impossible to tackle. Fortunately there are several examples of teachers who took on a school filled with children from the worst social and emotional backgrounds and succeeded. Ex-headmistress Marie Stubbs, for example, was encouraged out of retirement to tackle the problems of St George's school in west London. Since an earlier head, Philip Lawrence, had been fatally stabbed outside its gates in 1995, the school had deteriorated. In early 2000, just before Stubbs joined, the local authority closed it for a week. They felt unable to ensure the safety of either staff or pupils.

Stubbs has written a book, Ahead of the Class, about her 15 months as head of the school, after which time the school received a glowing Ofsted report. She describes her central principle thus: "A child may come to a school of mine with baggage, but at 9am they should be able to lay that baggage aside and be their best selves for the rest of the day. None of us can control what happens to them outside school, but inside it they should have the best experience they can."

Many will dislike the self-righteous missionary attitude of all this. But if you really are stuck in the heart of darkness …

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:45 AM
Category: Violence
August 12, 2003
Carry on schooling

I only started watching That'll Teach 'Em (Channel 4 – Aug 12 – 9 pm) because of still needing something to put here after another drainingly hot London day, spent basically doing other things, but oh boy, it's hilarious. The entire show is poised at the edge of a cliff and threatening to plummet towards pure Monty Python insanity.

It's like a brothel, but without the sex. Not very good actors stride about picking arguments with the boys and girls, and the usual procedure would then be for the customers - which is what he would be - to have an orgasm. But this is a serious, or as serious as it is possible to be about such things, to recreate a "nineteen fifties" public school education.

The programme brings out all the snobbery in me, that is to say of a boy who went to a truly posh school, or who thinks he did. Mine was called Marlborough, pronounced Morl-brur. And I remember Marlborough as being a more relaxed, more decadent sort of place. We all assumed that it was only the "minor" public schools (public means the opposite for these purposes – sorry America) who took all this stuff truly seriously.

The teachers at this TV place are, frankly, not as posh as the ones I remember. They have no irony, no humour. Only the tremendously exciting English mistress seems to have the real Posh Stuff. The teachers here do have their virtues, but they remind me of NCOs, rather than officers. They are mostly deadly serious sergeant majors who shout about everything they see that is wrong rather than languid colonels and brigadiers who see much, much more than they can be bothered to complain about.

But we never had anyone like that English mistress.

If you're interested, the best explication on film of sort Iof place I went to is not this programme, but Lindsay Anderson's If, which is outstanding. The weirdest thing of all about these places was the way that they sprayed Christianity all over the Caesarian savagery. They're doing that as well at this TV place. But Lindsay Anderson does that outstandingly. Who could forget the priest who is kept by the Headmaster in his drawer. (You have to see it.)

Still, this is a great show and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

As always when it comes to adapting, the girls are adapting to it all far better than the boys. The girls are enjoying it. They are becoming fifties stereotypes – Stepford schoolgirls. They are knitting scarves for their brothers back home.

The boys - and good for them – are just waiting for it to end. But even they are starting to come round.

Even for them it will have been a learning experience. They will have experienced a very different way of doing things. There's nothing like a shared ordeal lived through. Some of them will be friends for life.

The best thing about this show is that it so very clearly illustrates that such a place would now be unrunnable for real. Interestingly, and extremely importantly, they are not using very much physical violence at this place. But you can't run this kind of old-fashioned totalitarian regime without extremely serious physical violence. Without the ultimate sanction of the cane, or at least some kind of comparably severe torture, these places don't function properly. After all the humour and irony had been exhausted, if I didn't do what those bastards at Marlborough told me to do, then I was physically assaulted. And if that didn't work I would have been expelled, an option which I wish I had explored more thoroughly than I did at the time. (Put it this way. I am often able to startle the ex-victims of Communism with my grasp of the finer points of Communism, what it was and how it worked. How the hell did you know that? – they say, of some weird communist nuance. Easy I say, I went to a British public school.)

In this programme they have contrived a few pretend tortures, basically endurance tortures. But the hardcore stuff? - that they have shrunk from imposing on these children. You simply can't do this kind of thing now.

Which means that the entire pyramid of power crumbles. Everything has to be done differently. The boys on this show are waiting for it all to end. And after all, it's only a TV reality show, not reality. But if there was no end in sight, and if this was for real, they might well have rebelled by now.

And equally important, there simply aren't the teachers any more to run this kind of show. Simply, we don't believe in this kind of regime any more. We look at it, and we can't help bursting into giggles.

Carry on schooling? Like they did in the nineteen fifties? It can't be done.

If we are going to deny ourselves the ultimate sanction, namely torture - and that is precisely what we are now doing – then the entire way that the lives of children are governed is going to have to be painfully re-invented. This is one of the central beliefs of this blog. This process has hardly begun. But at least it has begun.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:49 PM
Category: Boys will be boysHistoryThe private sectorViolence
June 19, 2003
We know where you live miss

So I started to write a little piece for my Culture Blog, and nine hours later I finished it, leaving very little time for my duties here. And I have promised these people something soon as well, on a civil liberties theme of some kind.

So, a link here to something about a teacher, but which also has civil liberties vibes. It is often said that those who have done nothing wrong, have nothing to be frightened of. The nothing in question that they have to be frightened about being the total surveillance regime, of cameras everywhere and uniquitous universally available information, potentially available to anyone with a PC.

The piece is basically about the serious horrors being suffered by Chris Cooper's Asian neighbours. But he makes a passing mention (in brackets) of the problems potentially risked by that other social minority, teachers:

(We've not suffered any of this – I went to bed last night without the thought of it crossing my mind. (In the past, however, we've had a few eggs thrown at the house by some of my wife's less affectionate students.)

I said a day or two ago that I was thinking of volunteering to teach reading. I still am. But I'm also thinking, maybe it would be a wise precaution not to do my volunteering too close to where I live, to start with anyway.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:25 PM
Category: Violence