Friday, June 05, 2009

Education: wha' happen'?

Gervase Phinn, retired longtime primary schools inspector and author, has admitted (I was there) that teacher lesson ratings are a lottery; Chris Woodhead, former Chief Inspector of Schools, has recently said that OFSTED is a waste of time; primary heads have this year overwhelmingy voted to get rid of SATS.

So I thought I'd revisit the notion of corporal punishment, too. Here in the UK, we had a tiny but influential pressure group called STOPP (Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment). Its spokesman was a Tom Scott*, who used to teach in London. What do I find in the Guardian online?:

One of the leading figures in the campaign to abolish corporal punishment was Tom Scott, then a teacher in Tower Hamlets, east London, who helped set up Stopp, the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment. Scott is believed to have quit teaching since, and retrained as a theatre director.

I've watched it all happen. The replacement of CSEs and O levels by GCSEs; the move towards, then away from continuous assessment; phonics as obligatory, then phonics as career suicide, then phonics as essential again; book-burning by heads of English in secondary schools (literally) to ensure that coursebooks could never again be used, followed by the fay ce que voudras English curriculum; then the "we'll sort the teachers out" National Curriculum; then the exploitation of the need for new textbooks by commercial publishers; then the teaching of sciences coalescing into a general science, the withering of maths, combined with introduction of PC characters in the SATS assessments to mix-in multicultural social issues...


*I don't know whether he's the same Tom Scott who ran the Eye Theatre and/or later joined the BBC's whizzy digital department...


James Higham said...

Great - I've one on education coming up on Sunday - please allow me to lift portions of this [attributed].

Good post, Sackers.

Sackerson said...

You're welcome.

Paddington said...

How about capital punishment?

You know why these changes have happened. There were so many educational 'experts' generated by schools of education who became convinced that we could improve things. Once the results were in (a slow and painful decline), the same people are emotionally invested (not to mention their reputations being at stake), and so cannot change back to a system that got better results.

sobers said...

Spare the rod and spoil the child. I wonder if the writer of the Guardian article realises the Biblical origin of the title of his piece.

I have this theory - it is more a case of child abuse to fail to discipline a child, and potentially allow them to spiral into a life of crime, than to administer that discipline, physically if necessary, and set them on a path of knowing the differnce between right and wrong.

Adults fail children if they allow them to become criminals. That is the worse thing you can do for the long term life prospects for a child from any background, but particularly one from 'the wrong side of the tracks'. If parental discipline is nonexistent, the state MUST act in loco parentis. Society demands it.

Corporal punishment is also about the deterrent effect. There is a good chance you will end up beating the same boys over and over again. And not all will be persuaded against a life of crime. But the other 98% will be deterred from following them. I personally was never given the cane at school, but was definitely afraid of it. If I had known the worst that I could get was a detention, then I'm sure I would have been much more badly behaved. And I was as timid a kid as you could find.

I can concur that many teachers want CP back - I have a friend who teaches and he confirms exactly that. Its just too dangerous to say so in the current PC environment.

hatfield girl said...

The other European countries have perfectly competent education systems. What is it about education in the UK that gets everything so wrong? A small example, our five year old didn't want to learn to read or write and after her first year at school we were being bombarded with frightening views on what was wrong with her and what they were going to do about it. So we took her to the other world, where they start school (conveniently) at six, didn't say a word and she learned to read and write perfectly happily with everyone else in her class. Asked about it she said they didn't care in England but there was going to be trouble if she didn't do her work in Italy.

James Higham said...

Hatfield girl - it's not just Britain, it's the English speaking world.

Joseph Oppenheim said...

I have this theory - it is more a case of child abuse to fail to discipline a child, ...physically if necessary,<<<<<

Sorry, but discipline is nothing about being physical, in my opinion. Discipline is about having the ability to lead/teach a child into the right direction. All "physical" methods indicate are a FAILURE to properly discpline, and just TEACHING a child to look to use violence to resolve his/her problems.

One of the things which really moved me positively about Obama, was when he mentioned that he doesn't spank his kids.

There is a role for violence, for self defense, and only that.

I do think it is important, though, to show a child that the parent has the ability to have physical dominance over them, like picking them up to move them and/or restraining them, but that is all that is necessary when a child wants to challenge too much. It is all about out-thinking a child. Also, there are many ways to punish, better done than by using violence.

If a child fails at something, like school or whatever, that can actually be a good thing. The younger a person is free to fail at something the sooner they learn to develop the skills to overcome. I'm not talking about safety issues, but there, too, there are better ways than to use violence. One thing which is really great about the American educational system, is that unlike some countries, like Germany where a child only has a few times to pass a test to get into college, in the US, a person can try unlimited amount of times to succeed educationally.

Paddington said...

Jospeh - I have been teaching in the US for 31 years. Our students now 'expect' to re-take tests whenever they feel like (I say no, but when we have tried this, they didn't do much better). That was the primary idea behind Outcome-Based Education, and *it didn't work*.

Joseph Oppenheim said...

Paddington, this is a letter of mine which BusinessWeek Magazine chose to print in 2001:

"As soon as a child begins school, an individualized education plan should be formulated by the school after consultation with the child's parents. The plan should be updated each year and follow the student throughout his/her K-12 schooling. Goals specified in the plan must meet minimal standards which can be measured. With plans in place for each student, resources (specially trained teachers, counselors, computers, funding) can be more efficiently allocated.

Joseph Oppenheim
Rancho Bernardo, Calif."

By the way, the first school I ever attended claims to be the first progressive school in America.

sobers said...

It is precisely that touchy feely BS as espoused by Mr Oppenheim that is ruining the young people of the UK. Its all very well to have such lofty ideals, but they tend to wither somewhat in the cold light of day dealing with a bunch of teenage tearaways from the local sink estate, where fathers are not to be found, and crime and benefit dependency are the norm.

As for this idea that CP 'teaches violence', well its nonsense. Otherwise why has violent crime increased massively since CP was abolished? Why do teenagers carry knives as the rule, and and even guns in a few cases? Surely if CP taught violence the years up to 1985 (when CP was finally abolished in the UK)would have been far more violent.

I and most people I know grew up in families and schools that had CP as the ultimate punishment. There were levels of course, and you wouldn't get the cane for a minor discretion. But you knew it was there if you kept on the same path. It kept me on the straight and narrow, and all my friends too, who have grown up to be upstanding citizens, with good jobs, and children of their own.

I agree it is POSSIBLE to bring up children correctly without CP, I know people whose children are beautifully behaved with no CP whatsoever. But we live in an imperfect world. Not every parent has the skills to do that, or is even there 100% of the time. Its rather like communism - great in theory, a total disaster in reality.

It is a typical failing of the Left to deal in airy fairy ideals of what they would like things to be, rather than the hard reality of what is. It is also typical of the Left to ban things they dont like. Why should I not be able to send my children to a school that uses CP? I bet such schools would be VERY popular with parents.

dearieme said...

"fay"? It's getting to you, Sacks.
Anyway, it's my belief that the rot set in when they built indoor bogs for Primary Schools. The bairns had been perfectly happy peeing in their wellies outdoors.

Sackerson said...

@DM: "fay"? It's getting to you, Sacks..

No, it ain't. That's the way the Hellfire Club spelt it. Otherwise I'd have writ "voudrais" an' all.

dearieme said...

Touchet. As the Hellfire Club might have it.