h1

Bad Idea for Dealing with the Behaviour Crisis #3: End Compulsory Education

April 25, 2007

There is some appeal to returning to the nineteenth century and making education optional. While there is a case that the system should make more allowances for those who are not learning in school, but nevertheless might learn in another environment, it is greatly over-estimated as a panacea for behaviour.

Secondary education is close to optional at the moment. Local Authorities are reluctant to fine parents who aid truancy and even those who do take parents to court are still slow to set the wheels in motion. For the worst behaved students there is very little that would actually get them into the classroom if they didn’t want to go. The suggestion that compulsory education is the cause of poor behaviour in schools ignores the fact that lots of badly behaved students want to be in school. Where else would they find a ready supply of adults to torment and peers to impress? More than one teacher has suggested to me that “EBD”, the current term for students that seem unable to behave, stands for Every Bloody Day because that’s how often they turn up. Conversely, there are a lot of well behaved students who would be the first to disappear if school became optional (often to escape the kids that won’t behave).

Furthermore, it doesn’t take too many bus journeys or walks through my local park, to realise that the propensity of groups of adolescents to misbehave is not dependent on being in school. Many of the students who are out of control in school are equally out of control on the streets. While teachers might well cheer if their behaviour was moved out of the school and became somebody else’s problem, it is unlikely that anyone else would be happy, making an end to compulsory education a political non-starter.

About these ads

16 comments

  1. Are any of your students naturally curious to learn what you teach? I suspect, from observing my own children who attended school then deregistered and deschooled, that *compulsory* education snuffs out a child’s natural curiosity which inspires the urge to learn. So it’s counterproductive to make learning compulsory and students would learn much more if it wasn’t. And a curious, engaged, learning student is generally a well-behaved one, no?

    I agree that it’s a political non-starter though. But I can dream.


  2. Gill, I think you will find that Andrew has already dealt with this below, in a comment on ‘Bad Idea #1′.

    If only we could rewind time to before the Enlightnment!, as that is where it started to all go wrong.


  3. Hmm. I myself agree with Comenius, if that’s what he said. I also agree with you, Newsisgood, when you said this:

    “Myself, I think that discipline can only be tackled once a largy majority of students in a school agree that school is important. No amount of discipline could inspire this belief out of nowhere, and until this belief becomes common there is no reason for the students of that school to care about discipline at all.”

    and this:

    “I can’t imagine that your grandparents taught you how to set up and post in this blog, Andrew.”


  4. “Are any of your students naturally curious to learn what you teach?”

    Yes. Never more than a handful and mostly in the sixth form. Peer pressure ensures that most show no interest in learning.

    “I suspect, from observing my own children who attended school then deregistered and deschooled, that *compulsory* education snuffs out a child’s natural curiosity which inspires the urge to learn.”

    I’d be the first to argue that most secondary schools seem to have just that sort of a culture. However it has nothing to do with compulsory education. If it did it would affect all schools and all developed nations.


  5. “If it did it would affect all schools and all developed nations.”

    Hmm. Interesting point. So children in some countries are being raised to be more compliant with authority than they tend to be in the UK?

    I’m deliberately raising mine to be more autonomous because I think autonomy is more useful to them in our culture than obedience. Maybe other parents are instinctively feeling the same thing, which might explain the problem?


  6. What a joy you must be on parents’ evenings Gill. May I assume that your preferred mode of autonomy is nevertheless accompanied by some appreciation of the need to respect the right of others to learn? That your son has, via your training and example, internalised enough behavioural standards to be able to learn as part of a larger group? Obeying his parents even if the O word is never used at home?

    There’s nothing wrong with obedience from children. They are not little adults. Unless you are the sort of spiteful behaviourist who allows their child to get cold and wet because they didn’t want to wear a coat, obedience is expected whatever term you dress it up in.

    Obedience is necessary when many children from different families have to conform within a classroom. God save us from thirty autonomous eight year olds.

    There are plenty of qualities that will give your son an edge in later life – lying, cheating, ruthlessness.


  7. I’ve got five children, all home educated. Every evening is parents’ evening and every day is parents’ day for me. And of course they all respect each others’ rights to learn. This is innate and nothing to do with obedience.


  8. I said “I’ve got five children, all home educated. Every evening is parents’ evening and every day is parents’ day for me. And of course they all respect each others’ rights to learn. This is innate and nothing to do with obedience.”

    in reply to

    “What a joy you must be on parents’ evenings Gill.”

    But the blog put my comment in the wrong place! (Very disobedient!)

    Yes, I mean obedience is only necessary because of compulsory education. When you take the compulsion away and the need for obedience, the children behave fine.


  9. “Obedience is necessary when many children from different families have to conform within a classroom. God save us from thirty autonomous eight year olds.”

    We seem to agree that obedience is not for adults (“There’s nothing wrong with obedience from children. They are not little adults”). The point of difference is whether kids need to show obedience too.

    When educated at home, no, as other methods of persuasion are possible.
    When educated in class, yes: “Obedience is necessary when many children from different families have to conform within a classroom”.

    So this obedience in a class is to make the class function, and it is not actually really an important part of education?


  10. “There are plenty of qualities that will give your son an edge in later life – lying, cheating, ruthlessness.”

    Spot on. The conflict is not between obedience and autonomy it’s between right and wrong.

    The badly behaved are doing something morally wrong.


  11. “The badly behaved are doing something morally wrong.”

    This makes the institution of schooling and the methods used to control behaviour necessarily right, which is abhorrent to me. No wonder you’ve said previously that teachers can never be wrong; that in a dispute it is always and unquestionably the student that is at fault!

    I wager that your position is not built on any diagnosis of morality – it is instead reverse engineering from the position that the ‘school is always right’.

    “The conflict is not between obedience and autonomy it’s between right and wrong.” Yet there is, demonstrably, a conflict between teaching students in a way that promotes obedience, and one that promotes autonomy. I am sure that far more studies by psychologists could show this occurring than they could agree on ‘right and wrong’. Of course, you could bring philosophers into it, but I am sure many would disagree with you in your attribution of moral problematics to the classroom situation! Either way, I believe that you would find very little support.


  12. give us a break newisgood!

    surely its wrong for a kid to poke another kids eye with a pen?

    surely its wrong for a kid to kick a teacher?

    surely its wrong for a kid to interrupt a teacher speaking, preventing students from hearing instructions or information?

    surely its wrong for a student to insult a teacher or student?

    surely its wrong for a student to be late thereby disrupting the flow of a class and the learing of other students?

    i dont know if you are playing devils advocate but in case you arent, I would entreat you to realise that school rules are made to enshrine human rights particularly those of learning.

    So yes it is morally wrong for students to break such rules and you dont need Plato, Freud or Judge Judy to know that.


  13. surely its wrong for a kid to poke another kids eye with a pen?
    Of course. Newsisgood wasn’t saying it’s not wrong. Read again what he wrote.

    “The badly behaved are doing something morally wrong.” I doubt many would fundamentally disagree, but the question is, what are you going to do about it? OldAndrew seems to hide behind his indignation, as if repeating this phrase were enough, but rarely comes out to say how he would enforce this. The implication, which perhaps Newsisgood and others pick up on, is that you use a big stick. I suspect OldAndrew would actually use a combination of stick and carrot, as did Marie Stubbs. However, bafflingly, when carrot is suggested, OldAndrew berates the suggestion as “appeasement” or “rewarding bad behaviour”. Go figure.


  14. “I doubt many would fundamentally disagree, but the question is, what are you going to do about it?”

    And this blog contains many posts answering that question.

    Perhaps, you should read them instead of finding a post that isn’t answering the question and trying to discuss it there?


  15. the propensity of groups of adolescents to misbehave is not dependent on being in school.
    No. Is someone suggesting it is? On the other hand… “propensity”: you mean, original sin? As you yourself have noted elsewhere, well-behaved kids will soon turn “bad” as they become accustomed to the “norm” of bad behaviour. Isn’t that an argument to either drop the legal requirement that children up to 16 be in school, or to positively encourage folks to homeschool. Dr. Robinson who successfully and singlehandedly homeschooled his 6 children, has written eloquently about his strong desire to spare his children (and others’) the indignities and dangers of attending a public (i.e. state) school: Why have children, the most precious blessing imaginable, and then turn them over to the state to raise – where their teachers will be a peer group of immature children refereed by disinterested government employees? Don’t worry about all of the details. Simply decide that your daughter should not be exposed any longer to the degraded social, moral, and academic environment of a government institution, and then just keep her home. The rest will eventually work out wonderfully for you both regardless of what mechanics (which curriculum, etc.) you decide upon. If I had a seven-year-old daughter, I would not permit her to spend even one single day in a public school.


    • “As you yourself have noted elsewhere, well-behaved kids will soon turn “bad” as they become accustomed to the “norm” of bad behaviour. Isn’t that an argument to either drop the legal requirement that children up to 16 be in school, or to positively encourage folks to homeschool.”

      Not really. The problem is having schools where bad behaviour is normal, not having schools per se.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,195 other followers

%d bloggers like this: