Thursday, February 15, 2007


Some quotes for you:

It ended when many parents decided they should be their children's 'friends', give them everything they wanted on demand and set absolutely no boundaries for behaviour.

There's too much friendship and not enough (actually, no) fear within many parent-child relationships these days.

TES staffroom contributor – apparently a head teacher

We have to make our voices heard, "BRING BACK THE CANE!" It should be on every teacher's lips. It's no good saying it's the fault of the parents. We all know it is. Can we change these parents? No.
Can we bring back the cane. Yes, but not if we keep saying we can't.

Another TES staffroom contributor

One of my secret vices is to go and lurk in the TES staffroom – to see what teachers think of education news stories, and so on. Not all the posters are teachers, but a lot of them are. Not all the posts are of the flog’em and fear perspective, but many are. The two gems above hit me hard today. Maybe because I’d just come from the BBC news site and read the stories of teenage boys shot dead, of a toddler raped and murdered, of adults taunting and goading toddlers to hurt each other, of a teacher sexually abusing little boys. To me there is one thread here, one clear, strong, thread linking all this – it is the twine made of fear and violence.

In our society children are well schooled in violence – they always have been. I believe the posters on the TES site calling for fear and the cane are just wanting the violence back in their hands – they fear it spilling out, pouring over the schools and want to have it back. They want it back like they had it in my day, or the years before. They want to be free to rap a few knuckles, clonk a few heads, or indulge in the ritual brutality of a public caning. Better still they want it exercised in homes – they blame the hopeless parents who produce these violent children and they are sure that the answer lies in… you guessed it, violence.

There is a popular message in our culture at the moment (not just on the TES site!) that somehow ‘the pendulum has swung too far’ that ‘children’s rights’ and ‘political correctness’ are ‘undermining society’. I can’t really believe that this is ever taken seriously. If you just glance at the news you can see what nonsense it is – sickening nonsense. What I see is just the same old story – violence, violence, violence. All around the world - in their homes, in the streets, in the schools, in the bloody war zones - children suffer because of violence. I think that violence is like water flowing around our world – you suppress it somewhere it flows somewhere else.

I was brought up in a family home where adults did not use violence against children. I never got smacked, slapped or clipped round the ear. This was really quite unusual at the time - back in the good old 1970s. I also wasn’t raised with fear. My mum was, and still is, one of my greatest friends. Moreover, I was also brought up to believe that I should let no-one (not even a teacher) lay a hand on me. What I did receive at home was an anti-violence message. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t ever get into a scrap with my siblings – I did. I have a fiery temper and often lost it. But I can still hear my elder brother intervening in a scrap:
“Allie. Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”
So, sometimes I slipped up. People will slip up – that’s life. But when I did there was nothing to fear, no violence but something much more powerful – reasoned argument.

I'm not saying that the way I was brought up is some sort of perfect model! I am just pointing out that there are families - and always have been - who use conflict resolution models that don't involve violence or fear. That doesn't mean operating in a moral vacuum, or asking nothing of children. It doesn't mean not caring how your children behave. It isn't 'political correctness gone mad'!

It is about facing up to the violent impulse in all of us and rejecting it. It is about pulling the plug and letting the violence drain away.

I don’t understand what is so complicated about this. Fear breeds violence and violence breeds fear – and on and on. We’ve tried violence for resolving conflicts, people – and it doesn’t work. The debate never seems to move beyond discussing who should be meting out the fear and meting out the violence. It saddens me.


peri said...

Thank you Allie. Well said! I have never understood how you teach a child violence is not an option when you punish/correct with violence - big paradox. Plus if violence as a punishment worked then prisons would have never needed to be invented etc.

I enjoyed reading your thoughts this morning - you make a lot of sense.

Hope you all have a good weekend.

Min said...

Very moving blog entry. Well said. I agree with you 100%

Nic said...

My parents had the same anti-violence stance themselves - again unusual in the 70s but they had both had fairly violent parents and recalled beatings as children as fairly standard occurances so never wanted to inflict that on their children.

I have huge issues with violence, I will turn off the tv if it features violence and fill physically ill at the thought of beatings. I once had a debate with someone who tried to tell me that violence is part of life and society and I disagree - it is not part of mine and it shouldn't be part of anyone else's.

I too have a quick temper and have at times been rougher with my children than I should have been through anger and have always apologised and told them how wrong violence is under any circumstances. Those teachers quotes are simply dreadful.

Qalballah said...

Yes violence breeds violence. I think the concerns for the teachers is that they themselves are quite often the recipient of violence at the hands of school children. I know schools where teachers have to walk to their classrooms in pairs for protection. And the children know their rights and its true the teacher is a pathetic and impotent creature in a den of lions.

That is not to say bring back the crane is the answer. I think government etc should be asking themselves what are the root causes of the violence and what can be done to eradicate it. Hitting people and then saying hitting is wrong is a bit lame....

Allie said...

I have read lots of accounts of the violence teachers face today. I am sure it is true that, in a lot of schools, they are genuinely fearful. That is obviously a terrible thing. I don't think anyone should face violence at work. But it is always the same - violence, fear, violence. And whatever they appear to be they are not lions, but children.

To over-simplify hugely, when I was a child the teachers used violence and the children felt fear. Not every teacher, but always some. Now the children use violence and the teachers feel fear. It is not a new problem - it is the same one.

To me this is a fundamental question and something we all need to deal with. One of the things that stops us dealing with this properly is the urge to always identify it with others and not realise that we all have the potential for violence. I, like Nic, have shocked myself with the strength of my anger and have been rough with my kids. I too have admitted my fault and apologised.

Just at the moment we are in the middle of a moral panic about teenagers being violent. I don't belittle the suffering involved but I think we need to understand that the problem is violence and our children are just people, like ourselves.

Ruth said...

Great post Allie - I also lurk in the TES staffroom:)