Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Education and Discipline

Letter to Wanstead & Woodford Guardian – 29th July 2008

The Green Party believes that neither corporal nor capital punishment, or indeed wars, are the solutions to societal problems either here at home or abroad.

I therefore write with reference to your ‘Angry parents ban pupils from school’ front page article and the letter form Harry Valentine, entitled ‘Bring back physical retribution to schools’ (Guardian, July 24). The former reporting what was effectively an anti-army recruitment drive/anti-war demonstration at Wanstead High School and the latter prescribing a physical approach to the misbehaviour of boys and young men (due to the misbehaviour of some of the school's pupils) have struck the perfect discord to illustrate exactly why violence is not the answer.

Unruly school children are often the products of unfortunate circumstances, perhaps even brought about by their parents’ own doing. They may come from deprived backgrounds and have low self esteem, or even comfortable homes and been spoilt to blue blazes. In any event if a mischievous child’s life at home is far from ideal, what good can come of giving it a beating at school?

Aggression breeds yet more aggression. It is not a means to an end, it becomes the end. Children that are beaten into submission and then ruled by fear will learn to believe that that is the way in which they should conduct themselves, when they get into a position of physical advantage. From our homes, to our classrooms, to our streets and onto such far flung places as Afghanistan & Iraq the term for this type of behaviour is, quite simply, bullying.

Education, education, education was the mantra of our government during its early stages of power. And, yes, a good education is vital. However that should not mean stuffing our children’s heads with facts and figures and then instructing them in how to just pass assessments, for the benefit of school league table performance indicators. That approach, instead of making what is important measurable, has made what is measurable important and left almost a whole generation of people disenfranchised from the education system.

What is required is an holistic approach to the subject, with investment to make schools community centres of life-long learning, where would-be parents and mothers & fathers having parent hood difficulties could be given courses in child development and, especially in their early years, children would be allowed to discover themselves, how to socially interact with their peers and adults and understand the true meaning of the concept of respect.

Furthermore governments would do well to learn not to meddle with teaching, which should be left in the hands of professional educators, in order that much more caring, compassionate and comprehensive syllabuses may be delivered. Whatever the situation it will certainly not be helpful to go back to the dark days when sparing the rod was seen to spoil the child; nor is conducive to attack the problem by sending in the army.

Yours sincerely
Ashley Gunstock

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