Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Boys Will Not Be Boys

My memories of school involve play fighting pretty much on a daily basis. Boys have a natural desire to wrestle at the slightest opportunity and we did so enthusiastically. It rarely escalated into full blown punch ups so no harm was done and everyone learned the pecking order from an early age, which is a useful thing to know. (Everyone also learned how to repair their School Uniform as well)

If spotted by a teacher the general punishment varied from a quick reprimand, a clip round the ear, lines or a detention. ie it was not taken all that seriously.

Nowadays however, two boys fighting is treated with the seriousness of a major diplomatic incident. Parents are involved, the boys could possibly be excluded for a few days and there will be much hand wringing about violence and bullying. Everyone will be taken to hospital for a CAT scan and counseling will be offered. Questionnaires can be filled in to demonstrate that everyone was being bullied by someone else and if anyone involved is not white then we can all get excited about racism too.

Now let's look at another crime. If, in the dim and distant past when I was at school, you were foolish enough to answer back to a teacher then you would be slippered or caned. (or just summoned to the equipment room and given a swift punch in the guts.) If you had been foolish enough to swear directly at a teacher (which I can't actually remember happening), then you would undoubtedly have been hung from the school gates as an example to others, possibly after being disembowelled by the Head of PE with a javelin.

Nowadays, if you want to answer back to a teacher or shout at them, go right ahead. Nothing much will happen. Even if you swear at one, it will often be ignored. Feel free, children; to push and shove them as much as you like. As long as you pretend that it was an accident, it will usually be brushed under the table. Failing that, just claim that the teacher pushed you first and they will back down. In the unlikely event that this still doesn't work, bring in one of the gormless adults sitting in front of the TV at home to claim that "you never tell lies, no not never" preferably accompanied by the 'No win- No fee' solicitor from their last pavement tripping claim.

The conclusions I draw from all this are:

1) Boys are no longer allowed to do 'boy like things'

2) Although there is much twaddle spoken about needing to improve pupils self esteem (which is generally far too high already) it's often the teachers who have lost their self confidence.


Mary said...

I agree about over-reactions to play fighting, as long as people keep in mind there's a big difference between friends having a bit of a rough and tumble, and the runt of the --litter-- class regularly getting pounded to a bloody pulp with the bully gang saying "oh we're only playing..."

Same for answering back. World of difference between "Sir, you're ugly and you smell bad, you *%&£ *%$&*£!" and a bright kid pointing out a bad spelling on the board. But I've seen both punished as "answering back".

Anonymous said...

Secondary School teaching is becomming an all female profession. They do tend to over react to boys doing boyish things.

Chalk does make it quite clear that he's on about play fighting rather than gang warfare.

Teachers seem to have stopped thinking of themselves as being in charge and teaching and started regarding themselves as 'facilitators' or 'encouragers'

Genghis said...

I see no future for state education in this country (and quite a number of others) as long as education is in the hands of politically motivated ideologues who enforce their insane PC agenda with all the ruthlessness and bigotry of the schutzstaffeln. And as long as teachers are f*****g stupid enough to accept the mindless drivel spouted by "educational experts" and self-interested, lying, hypocritical politicians.
The current situation is, quite literally, insane. I really mean it.
Modern state education in this country makes "Alice in Wonderland" a study in down to earth common sense.
I've said it before, I'll say it again; we are turning out train loads of illiterate, ignorant, self-obsessed, arrogant, lazy, violent scumbags who think the world owes them "respect innit" as well as a living when (surprise, surprise!) they don't all become footballers/rap stars/celebrity arse wipers/supermodels or actors.
My brother works in mental health and has made a special study of sociopathy. After many conversations with him, I realise I see the symptoms and pathologies he describes every single day in school in large numbers of pupils.
So, truly, an insane system growing worse every passing week and posing serious danger to society.
It is only a matter of time (and not very much, I fear) before the news headline is of a teacher killed in a classroom or school corridor. Then we shall see much hand wringing and discussion of the "deprived background" the poor confused child has had. Possibly whichever smug, half witted nonentity happens to be Minister of Education at the time will appear in the news studios to express sympathy and make determined noises about establishing a committee to look into a working party to examine the possibilty of providing, er, waterskiing holi...., er, workshops for these confused children who are dissaffected from boring maistream education and can only find the release their kinesthetic learning style demands by carrying and using knives.

lilyofthefield said...

From the safety of my office this afternoon I listened to a whole class of Y11 mainly male scum interject the f word into almost every sentence at the top of their voices. I heard one of them call the teacher "A gay f*ck" to his face, for which he was sent out of the room. I heard a group of Y8 kids screeching as they raced along the corridor "C*nt-ass" and "Spunkgob" at each other.

I watched amazed in the exam hall yesterday as bored Y9s taking mock SATs (eh?) engraved their names into their tables or decorated them with the usual cannabis leaves and anatomical drawings, whilst evry member of staff in the hall appeared not to notice. I nicely asked one kid to desist and in his temper he kicked the empty chair in front of him over. The senior teacher indicated with a gesture that i should not interfere (old habits die hard).

There is a big chunk of British Yoof that thinks their right to accede to the whim of the moment is paramount over all other considerations. The fear of punishment has, as you note, gone; but when the offence isn't even registered as such, what hope is there?

I digress. Society, especially the "civilised" sort, has become feminised. Masculine traits are treated with deep suspicion unless they appear in a video game or movie. As you stamp down on their natural aggression outlets, they react by arming themselves.

alanorei said...

In 1956, in a school in Australia, I once saw two 9-year old boys caned because another pupil told the teacher, "They were swearing, sir."

The 'snitch' was despised, naturally, but I don't think any reprisals followed - it would have been demeaning. The lads got caned because they owned up on interrogation. Rules were simple in those days.

(I do remember a certain amount of bullying at about that time (1954), aimed at an individual who was noticeably scruffy and for that reason, apparently - he looked different. At break, the class gang leader would gather his cronies about him and charge out onto the playing field shouting, "We're bashin' McGraw!" i.e. the scruff. To their credit, the teachers (all middle-aged to elderly females), put a stop to it fairly promptly, though everyone still disliked McGraw for being scruffy and unwashed, quickly noticeable in Australia.)

In the early 1960s, in Australia, I knew of a secondary school teacher, fairly heavily built, who in full view of his colleagues, seemed to delight in violently slapping boys around, aged 12-14. (I've always hoped he eventually got his comeuppance. He was an exception but it does show that the other extreme is just as undesirable as that which exists now, evidently.)

In the 1970s, in an inner city school in Australia that could have been a forerunner to Mr Chalk's St Jude's, I concluded via acquaintances that the language of the teachers, including females, was about on the same level as that of the (male) pupils I was at school with in 1950s-60s.

These teachers seemed to have lost the plot, sadly. Possibly the catchment area, a bit like Mr Chalk's Cherry Tree Estate, had something to do with it.

But I do know from an acquaintance, now deceased, who taught in (I think) an inner London school in the 1950s, that the roughest of boys would tone down their language if they saw a female teacher approaching.

Times were different then.

Between 1990-2004, when our lads were at school in the north of England, in schools that were more like Mr Chalk's St John's, I think they had a good experience overall, without encountering any of the problems described above.

(Regrettably, some crass (in)discipline problems seem to be creeping into a local secondary school with a 6th Form (or Year 12/13) called Conyers, which hitherto had a splendid St John's type reputation. If this is the case, it is to be hoped that the degeneration can be arrested and reversed asap.)

I'm not sure how you reconcile all of that. Clearly home-life is key, though and whilst I fully support a restoration of discipline, I think self-discipline is also important by way of example - remembering without fondness our rogue teacher who couldn't control his fists and the female staff members with earthen vocabularies.

However, I agree with Mr Chalk that everything possible should be done to sustain and hopefully enhance schools like St John's and to teach technical skills to less academically inclined pupils like Wayne, Dwayne etc. - like they used to do in Australia during my schooldays (provided teachers can prevent W, Dw, etc. from lacerating, self-amputating or decapitating themselves during woodworking and metalworking sessions - that is a potential concern, of course.)

But there's always hope that if the political will could be etablished to follow Mr Chalk's sensible strategies (and I'm sure those of many of his colleagues at the chalk face or the equivalent these days) education nationwide in this country might progress (back) to the 1950s, in less than a generation.

It's worth a go, for the Liams, Kylies, Lornas and even Billie Jos of this world - all schoolage characters featured in Mr Chalk's informative tome.

It will need a complete change of government, of course. You can write off all the mainstream parties. They are a load of plonkers.

Brendan Allen said...

Don't despair completely, Mr. Chalk. Here in Ireland, it seems that there is evidence of school kids facing up to the consequences of their violent actions.

Miss Profe said...

I think that the feminization of teaching has largely contributed to the way we interact with boys in schools, and this is not just in the UK. This occurs in the US as well, and it doesn't matter whether it is a public or an independent (private) school.

Anonymous said...

I remember at secondary school in the sixties, we had quite a few teachers we looked up to and respected. Nowadays what role models do boys have at school? So many teachers are women and the men that are attracted to the profession seem to be becoming more and more feminised. ie the caring, helping, gentle type rather than those who stand up and instruct.

Anonymous said...

alanorei: in last 1970s england, my maths teacher, a welshman called regan, used to walk up and down the rows of seats delivering what he called 'beanos' (blows with his knuckles) to the back of the head of any boy he felt wasn't paying attention.

some years later, i was passing the school with my wife and turned down the drive on a whim. we wandered in and i started showing her round.

who should we bump into but mr regan. he was a lot smaller than i remembered.

him: can i help?
me: er, not really. i used to go to school here and was passing and just thought i'd show my wife round.
him: ah yes... you're XXXX XXXXX aren't you? (big smile) how are you? it must be 20 years or more?
me: yes. you're mr regan aren't you?
bit more idle chat. then:
me: you used to give us beanos, didn't you?
him. no i didn't. (turns white and nearly faints).

point is, i didn't bear him any ill will and i didn't suffered by being beanoed and i did keep quiet in lessons (though sadly i didn't become a maths genius).

discipline is what we need in schools. left to their own devices, as many are now, kids run amok. i would have.

Anonymous said...

sorry 'late' 1970s, not 'last'

lilyofthefield said...

anonymous of 7.10: I went to a convent school and physical discipline was the only sort provided apart from warnings of eternal burning, which, delivered by a nun of indeterminate age and sex at the top of her voice was actually worse.

Whilst the rulerings, canings and casual slaps were grossly disproportionate to the actual offence committed, there was no question that we had actually committed it, and thus we felt resentment but not injustice. It seems to me that the default reply to any wrongdoing in school is "It's tight", "I was only...." or "I didn't do it."

Mike Harland said...

It is amazing how modern teachers get so upset about what the pupils say and do to each other but cannot stand up for each other when a pupil swears or assaults one of their own.

The great thing about this blog is that it makes me realise how lucky I was to take early retirement fifteen years ago.

Mister Teacher said...

Over here in the states, I don't think teachers have lost confidence as much as they have lost a lot of authority, at least when it comes to these matters.
One of my friends and fellow teachers, a small white woman who is 5'3" in heels, was struck by a black child in kindergarten. The day after the child had been reported, his mother came up to the school accusing the teacher of being a racist and wanting to personally administer a beating.
Gotta love the parental involvement.

phatboy said...

When I was at school (I left in 1996), I remember two teachers who were polar opposites of one another. First, the short skinny man who was terrified of the kids. I was in a lunchtime lesson (not detention... i was just thick) when a group of boys kicked the door open and screamed abuse at him before walking off.

The other teacher was a very large fat man who could shout louder than anyone I ever met. Strangely enough the kids never mess with him... ever!

Interestingly, the second teacher was universally popular with everyone he taught and the first teacher was hated by most of the school! Weird.