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Category archive: Bullying
Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Education in the UK, wants “cyberbullying” of teachers to be a disciplinary offence. Apparently, school pupils sometimes ridicule their teachers in online chat rooms and on social networking sites. Well knock me down with a feather, there’s a shock.
Look, Mr Balls, children have always taken the mickey out of their teachers - and politicians. But there is a common theme. I remember my Latin teacher, Mr Beattie or “Bogroll” as we called him. He was a nice enough chap, but wholly unable to cope with 30 teenage boys. No doubt he knew his Latin well, but he couldn’t teach. We mercilessly took the rise.
Sure, it’s unfair; certainly it’s rude; and perhaps you could call it bullying. But it’s a fact of life for bad teachers. There’s the common link - pupils do not take the mickey out of good teachers. They like them and they would defend them against criticism. Poor teachers, on the other hand - like poor politicians - get ridiculed.
I may be jumping to conclusions, but I suspect this guy went to a basically good school with the occasional bad teacher, but that he has far less idea of what it is like in a less than good school.
I certainly agree that micromanaging the unwelcome symptoms of a system is not the way to improve it. But my understanding is that teaching has got a whole lot more difficult in recent years. People who couldn’t make the grade as Latin teachers in the kind of schools that teach Latin are indeed probably not cut out for such a job. But damning all teachers who now have their lives made hell by those whom they are now trying to teach? That’s not something I’d care to do.
Like other ministers, she felt “under pressure to make announcements all the time”.
So she frequently signed news releases announcing, for example, £5m for an anti-bullying initiative without really having the “slightest idea what happened to it”.
Although, on second thoughts, going through the motions of meddling is probably an improvement on actually meddling.
The Independent reports on how educating otherwise is on the rise. Partly it’s the fear of violence and bullying.
Ann Newstead, the charity’s spokeswoman, said there had been a steady increase in the number of families teaching their children at home. “Whether it is perceived or real, the apparent rise in drugs and knife culture in schools is shocking and makes people think their child might not be safe in school. We have had a big increase in people joining with pre-school children. They are looking at the state system but do not believe it is working.
Mrs Newstead, who has four children, aged 12, 10, 5 and 8 months, withdrew her two eldest sons from school in July 2005 because of bullying. “My seven-year-old [now aged 10] was being badly bullied,” she said. “When we took him out of school we gave our eldest son the choice. It’s worked so well that this September we made the decision not to send our third child to school.”
But now there is a new fear, of too much testing:
Last week the biggest review of primary education for decades revealed that parents were increasingly choosing to educate children at home because they objected to the state school regime of testing and targets.
The link at the bottom, where it says “Interesting? Click here to explore further”, leads to further interesting stuff.
I’m mostly watching the rugby today, so my thanks to Johnathan Pearce, who has just done some edublogging for me, here:
Children are naturally inquisitive and rebellious against authority - thank goodness - so my reservations about some of the people who want to school their kids at home are not very large, although I do not dismiss them lightly. I sometimes hear in discussions about home-schooling the old canard about how children educated this way are less well ‘socialised’ than their supposedly more fortunate, state or private-school peers. I doubt this: having myself suffered the joys of state schooling, with all the charms of bullying and indifferent teaching that went with it, the idea of encouraging a possibly more individualistic culture as a result of home schooling is to be welcomed (my education experience was not all bad: I got a good degree in the end, so must have done something right). Many people who have been subjected to more than 11 years of compulsory education in a boarding school or some state school never recover their self-confidence as adults. In any event, the whole point here is that education should not have to follow one ‘ideal’ system at all. As a libertarian, I say let education evolve where it will. Does that mean that Walmart or Barclays Bank should be able to run schools? Yes, why the heck not? I look forward to reading headlines like this: “Education Ltd, Britain’s largest listed schooling company, launched a daring bid for Lycee France, the Paris-listed school chain which has boasted the highest examination result tests for the last five years. The deal, if it goes through, would produce a group to rival that of School Corp, America’s largest education chain by market cap.”
My sentiments exactly.
Commenters raise the specter of home-schooled children being dumbed down by Christian Fundamentalists, rather than smartened up by, you know, us. Midwesterner responds thus:
My sister has home schooled all of her children in a state that gives home schoolers carte blanc. By state law, the government bodies are forbidden to even test home school children unless they are entering the school system and are being tested for placement.
She is a fundamentalist, the wife of a fundamentalist preacher. She believes in creation and kept computer internet connections out of her house until very recently to prevent access to child inappropriate content. Her definition of child inappropriate.
So how bad did things turn out for those poor helpless children. Four of them have reached college age. All four have gone to college and graduated with full academic scholarships. All in ‘hard’ sciences. 2 have bachelor of science degrees, one is going on farther, the other one just graduated and may go on later. One is now working on a PHD in some extremely mathematical micro electronics. One has a health related degree and wants to work in the 3rd world.
All of them can pick and choose their jobs and are actively recruited by headhunters.
Yup. Sure is dangerous letting fundamentalist parents teach their own children. A lot safer to turn them over to the teacher’s union.
Heh. Also: pardon his French.
Last year, I used to catch Angel peering up staircases, hiding behind columns, terrified of what might happen to her if she were to run into Psycho and Vicious. Of course, they were in her class, so it was hard to avoid them. Often she would truant lessons, desperate to save herself from the constant humiliation to which she was subjected. Angel was horribly horribly unhappy.
These days, Angel is transformed. Everyday I am amazed that the Angel I know now is the same Angel I knew then. She skips around, happy as ever. Her confidence has grown in abundance and no longer is she to be found hiding from other children.
But, it is not a happy story. To find out why it is not a happy story, read the whole thing. It’s not that long but it packs quite a punch. And see also the first comment, one of those “let me say this as well before anyone challenges this” comment-number-ones by the blogger herself, after she has seen what she’s put and imagined the possible responses.
I have no idea about the rights and wrongs of this affair ...
Two teachers have been suspended after mobile phone footage showed a 16-year-old pupil being tied up with electrical tape and taunted in front of his classmates at a new academy in Kent.
... other than to repeat my usual sermon about freedom of association. Obviously the teachers didn’t much like this pupil, and in Brian School, that means they don’t have to teach him. But that aside, I do find the mobile phone footage angle interesting.
What happens to teaching when CCTV cameras are installed in all classrooms, to measure teacher quality, to adjudicate in disputes, to help with teacher training (how to and how not to, etc.), to enable schools to sell their best teachers in action, and just generally to enable the Department of Whatever It’s Called Now to eavesdrop on Absolutely Everything in real time?
Just as many people feel safer in public spaces surveilled by CCTV cameras, I imagine many teachers and pupils would actually like such surveillance in schools. As might some parents. (And other less savoury persons.)
In my opinion, bullying is caused by people being trapped inside groups. Thus, when bullying occurs of a sort that the victim cannot punish into silence with a burst of massive retaliation, the victim cannot do the obvious alternative, which is to get out of there.
It does not make sense to say that bullying is “caused” by the weapons and the means of communication used by the bullies, not because this is straightforwardly untrue, but because it is not reasonable to propose or expect the abolition of such things.
I wonder if it even makes sense to say that “cruelty is the problem”. You’ll not abolish that either. However, the right to avoid cruelty is often lacking but can often be created and asserted, and it would often be nice for other reasons also. It is thus reasonable to regard the absence of such a right as the “cause” of bullying.
But what if you don’t think it reasonable to propose the right of children to avoid uncongenial company, because you regard such juvenile freedom as a sledgehammer to crack a nut, a cure worse than the disease, a creator of more problems than it could ever solve? Then you will regard the above thoughts, at any rate as applied to the lives of children, also to be unreasonable, even if in some sense true.
Jackie D suggests “swift harsh punishment”. Indeed. But what if the bullies are the official punishers of bad behaviour, the ones in charge? What if the official punishers punish the freelance retaliation against bullies by their victims?