Ain't Misbehaving: Do British children need the army to sortthem out?
Battle of Ideas debate, 30 Oct 2011Notes by Harley Richardson
These are my sketchy personal notes of debates at the Battle of Ideas 2011, which I attended in a personal capacity. I thought they might be of interest to folks who weren't able to attend. They're not comprehensive – I'm a fast typer but some of the speakers were faster talkers - and any quotes I give are from memory and may not be 100% accurate. I tried to capture the main points I thought each speaker was making, but if you're one of those speakers and you feel I'vemisrepresented you, please let me know. I've flagged up the names of questioners from the audience where I know them.
Fromhttp://www.battleofideas.org.uk/index.php/2011/session_detail/5751/ The Conservative-led coalition white paper on ‘the importance of teaching’ appears to have gone back tobasics on behaviour in schools. The army has even been called in with the Troops to Teachers proposal for ex-soldiers to go into failing schools. But most teachers are already familiar with ‘behaviour managementstrategies’ (aka, ‘getting the buggers to behave’) and parents know all about the ‘naughty step’ from TVprogrammes. So is the hard line on behaviour a step too far by the new government? Or, as David Starkeyclaimed in the Channel 4 programme
Jamie’s Dream School
earlier this year, is behaviour so bad even thebest teachers can’t deal with it unless they become ‘like lion tamers dealing with savage beasts’.Meanwhile, many school-age children were involved in the riots in London and other English cities in August,leading many to lament a more general collapse of adult authorty. Every day, schools receive complaintsfrom shop owners and bus drivers about the general rowdiness and rudeness of schoolchildren, so at leastone hardline comprehensive (the Mossbourne Academy in Hackney) has banned its children from enteringlocal shops at all. So, as a BBC
programme ‘Classroom Warriors’ hinted earlier this year, will thearmy make the difference for a generation of softies who do not know what it means to be disciplined? After all, a recent study showed ex-soldiers made a difference in New York schools, and British comprehensiveswith cadet squads claim to be showing improvement in exam results as well. So why not roll it out across thecountry as an example of what the Big Society really means?So do teachers – and parents, passers by and the general public – all need the back-up of the army to dealwith this problem inside and outside the classroom? Can we all learn a lesson in discipline from the onesection of society that really knows about authority and how to do it? Or is this a step too far away fromeducation in the drive to sort out the basics of civility? Should schools focus on teaching, and make that thebasis of discipline rather than seeing it as an entirely separate problem? Do we really need the army to do a job on the yobs - or are British kids really just ‘being themselves’ and not misbehaving at all?
, section editor, Times Educational Supplement; invented the term 'happy slapping'.
, head of violence and extremism programme, Demos; writer on extremism and bingedrinkings.
, English teacher; author
Skills and Knowledge in the UK Curriculum
Dr Mark Taylor
, assistant head, Addey and Stanhope comprehensive school; London convenor, Insitute of Ideas Education Forum
Chair: Kevin Rooney
, head of social science, Queens' School, Bushey; Insitute of Ideas Education Forum
Doesn't think there's a crisis of child behaviour which needs the army to sort it out.