In response to the recent riots in England, Michael Gove, the education secretary, is bringing corporal punishment back to British schools. The use of force and other harsh penalties is now allowed by the British government.
Yes, you read that correctly — according to Gove, the use of physical force will teach those rioters a lesson. I wonder if he has even thought of asking any of the offenders why they were rioting and considered how that might relate to the classroom? Are we still living in Charles Dickens’ London?
British Education Secretary Will “Restore Adult Authority” In Schools By Bringing Back The Cane
According the The Guardian, in a speech delivered at Durand academy, in Stockwell, south London, Gove said the regulations on the use of force inhibited teachers’ judgment. He added that there had been a slow erosion of adult authority, subverted by a culture in which young people felt able to ignore civilized boundaries. “The only way to reverse this dissolution of legitimate authority is step-by-step to move the ratchet back in favour of teachers,” he stated.
(For the record, corporal punishment in British state schools, and also in private schools receiving any element of public funding, was banned by parliament in 1987. In the remaining private schools it was banned in 1999 in England and Wales, 2000 in Scotland, and 2003 in Northern Ireland.)
Wanted: More Male Teachers To Provide Authority Figures
Specifically, Education Secretary Gove is scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to “restore adult authority” in the wake of the riots in England. Gove went on to say that he wanted greater numbers of men teaching, particularly in primary schools, so as to provide children with male authority figures who could display “both strength and sensitivity”.
From The Guardian:
He said: “So let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, ‘sorry, we can’t physically touch the students’, then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed.”
Gove said men considering teaching were deterred by a fear of rules that made contact between adults and children “a legal minefield”.
Let’s Recruit Ex-Soldiers For The Classroom
And if all that were not depressing enough, Gove also announced that the government is planning to start a program this autumn encouraging former members of the armed forces to take up teaching, specifically to ensure more male role models.
My first question is “How come the education secretary seems to know so little about education?” Corporal punishment was outlawed in British schools over 20 years ago for a number of very good reasons. Instilling blind fear in children to make them behave does not promote learning. Corporal punishment, more often than not, is more harmful than beneficial. It compromises the educational environment by injuring the students, dissolving the trust between teachers and students, and distracting students from learning.
Might does not make right.
Corporal Punishment Is Wrong
We teachers know that classroom management and effective discipline are vital to ensure that learning occurs in the classroom. But the use of former members of the military to enforce this? This amounts to bullying by the teacher, hardly a value that we should be promoting.
Classroom discipline is far more complicated than forcing students to obey, but Michael Gove doesn’t seem to get that. The goal of teachers should be to instil self-discipline, rather than imposing the rule of law from outside.
In addition, while I agree that more men teaching young children would be great, the inner strength necessary to educate those kids is not a male or female prerogative. I’m sure we’ve all experienced fearsome teachers of both genders!
Last year in Britain, more than 430,000 children were absent for 15% of school time, and more than a million pupils missed 10% of the academic year.
And the remedy is to bring back corporal punishment?
Please Take Action
If you agree that this decision is misguided, please click here to sign our petition to British Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, asking him to reconsider his decisions about corporal punishment and bringing former members of the armed forces into the classroom.
This is a huge step backwards for British education.
Photo Credit: Steve Punter via Creative Commons