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Desert Part 1: Rewards

November 22, 2008

Returning to my earlier discussion of ethics, desert is another ethical concept that has been repeatedly neglected, or used only selectively, in education in recent years. “Desert” is the extent to which an action is worth rewarding or punishing. These days there are real problems with the very suggestion that children might deserve to be treated differently depending on their behaviour, or effort. Most of the time, the objection to desert takes the form of an objection to punishment, however, in its most extreme form rewards are also challenged, for instance:

It is conventional for schools to demand respect from the children. But does the school and the behaviour of adults, show respect for the children? There are so many ways of showing disrespect, and some of them are ways I thought had disappeared in the 1970s. It says: How many stars have you got this term? And here are the children’s names, in alphabetical order:

Amy (here are 12 stamps, each saying ‘well done’)

Amrit 15

Chloe 12

Daisy 2

Freddie 5

Do I need to continue? From the publication of this data on the classroom wall, Amy, Amrit, Chloe, Daisy and Freddie are expected to respect their teacher?

Sedgewick (2005)

According to this account, even public rewards for those who deserve it are simply an attack on those who don’t. “Respect” has been redefined to mean its opposite, a contempt for personal merit, rather than esteem for it.

Sometimes “rewards” are still allowed, but are made meaningless by being unrelated to merit. One disturbing fashion at the moment is to reward students who don’t misbehave, giving the clear message that poor behaviour is normal and mere compliance with the rules and expectations of the classroom is of particular merit. Cowley (2001), having warned that rewards should, in theory, be earned, nevertheless, gives the following advice:

To keep a difficult class focused in the computer room it might be an idea to offer them a reward (for instance the chance to use the internet) when they have completed the work set to your satisfaction. Although this is not strictly ‘allowed’ it can be very effective and it will also win you a reputation as someone who is open to negotiation

As ever those wanting to undermine our understanding of morality can turn to psychology for a morality-free interpretation of basic moral concepts. Behaviourists (now often called Behaviour Analysists) have used the term “reward” to refer to any incentive given to encourage a particular behaviour. This is to lose the entire point of the concept of reward; rewards are not simply inducements to comply, but are positively deserved. Wilson (1971) explains what a “reward” that isn’t deserved actually amounts to:

…to give pleasure to someone, if he had no notion that he deserved such a thing, will seem to him to like flattery, currying favour or offering a bribe, not like a ‘reward’… even when he feels there is an acceptable reason for the pleasure in terms of custom or precedent (as on his birthday, for example), he will construe it not as a ‘reward’ but as a gift. Only when deliberate pleasure-giving is for moral desert, is it properly speaking a ‘reward’. Other sorts of deliberate pleasure-giving come under categories such as ‘gift’ or ‘prize’, or on occasion ‘bribe’ or ‘inducement’, and so on.

This is where the problem lies. Nobody can develop the idea that an activity is worthwhile through a bribe. Nobody can realise that good behaviour is worthwhile for its own sake if it is bought. There is nothing wrong with rewards, where they recognise merit, but everything wrong with them when they are part of a transaction or a negotiation.

And finally, a wider point can be made about cultures where people feel they should be rewarded or respected for simply compliance with minimal social expectations. In his controversial routine, “Niggas Versus Black People” the comedian Chris Rock, describes the value system of the criminal underclass within the black community in the United States (controversially described as “niggas”):

You know the worst thing about niggas? Niggas always want some credit for some shit they supposed to do. For some shit they just supposed to do: A nigga will brag about some shit a normal man just does. A nigga will say some shit like, “I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker. What are you talking about? What are you bragging about? What kind of ignorant shit is that? “I ain’t never been to jail.” What do you want, a cookie? You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker.

It doesn’t take long in a British classroom to find a student who wants to be rewarded for not interrupting or for doing some work, or something else they are “just supposed to do”. Instead of seeking to achieve, students think their teachers should be grateful if they merely comply. I’ve frequently encountered students attempt to enter negotiation about rewards for accomplishments such as “I didn’t get a detention this lesson”. One student proudly told me they hadn’t been excluded at all since year 8.

What do you want, a cookie?

References:

Cowley, Sue, Getting The Buggers to Behave, Continuum, 2001

Sedgewick, Fred, How to Teach with a Hangover: A Practical Guide to Overcoming Classroom Crises, Continuum, 2005

Wilson, P.S. Interest and Discipline In Education, Routledge And Kegan Paul, 1971

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35 comments

  1. ‘One disturbing fashion at the moment is to reward students who don’t misbehave, giving the clear message that poor behaviour is normal and mere compliance with the rules and expectations of the classroom is of particular merit.’

    Although I agree students shouldn’t be rewarded or bribed for behaving in a ‘normal’ fashion, I do think they need recognition for doing so. Personally I no longer think in terms of rewards and sanctions but recognition of good behaviour and sanctions for poor behaviour. We all need someone to recognise we are doing ok children and adults.

    I hate the current trend for reward systems which involve material things – prizes for turning up to school (sorry isn’t it illegal not to without good reason?), etc. Children who come from dysfunctional and ‘good enough’ families need firm boundaries (sanctions) and the warm words of an adult for doing the right thing(recognition). Surely we want children and young people to appreciate getting approval from adults rather than re-inforce the notion that happiness can only come from a shop.


  2. I’m delighted to have been the howling-with-laughter part of the audience at that particular gig (hey, am I coooool or what?), and laughing far more loudly than my non-teaching companions.

    BUT you have to deal with what you get, not what you’d like. I know this sounds like appeasement, but truly it is all some schools can hope for. We KNOW there’s nothing we can really hit them with, no sanction that they or their dimwit parents could appreciate the non-seriousness of, so getting them on our side with patronising non-real-praise is often all there is.
    F*cking useless in class? Yeah, but you dance real good.
    Irritating to the point where your experienced teacher can’t have you in the room for one more minute? Yeah, but so was [England International footballing ex-pupil whom I shall not name for reasons of protecting Oldandrew :)
    Youturnedup for your GCSE exam? High five innit, man.

    We have reaped what we sowed. Yet the likes of my kids can only satisfy themselves with Inner Satisfaction. Which is not really fair and might well lead them in the future to be less than charitable towards the non-deserving.


  3. Personally I no longer think in terms of rewards and sanctions but recognition of good behaviour and sanctions for poor behaviour.

    The question is: what is “good behaviour”?

    It is easy to see the distinction between behaving and not behaving, far less easy to see a scale of behaviour in which it is possible to go beyond simply behaving and into “good behaviour”. How do we tell when students are engaged in “good behaviour” rather than “doing some shit they supposed to do”?


  4. BUT you have to deal with what you get, not what you’d like. I know this sounds like appeasement, but truly it is all some schools can hope for.

    It doesn’t just sound like appeasement; it is appeasement.

    I should, perhaps, be more willing to admit that individual teachers are often placed in situations where they have no choice but to appease.

    But I do not accept that this is the case for whole schools.


  5. The thing I dislike most about all this stuff is the disappearance of the neutral, middle ground. Most of us, most of the time just get on with things. We don’t win Nobel Prizes or Olympic medals, we don’t go to jail or appear on page 1 of the world’s newspapers for ludicrous indiscretions.

    These rewards and penalties are exceptions. Smaller prizes – for best tomatoes at a fete or long service at a job, and smaller penalties like parking fines and losing a job for rudeness to customers are the blips and variations of ordinary life. And this is where school life is. Just rolling along should attract neither penalty nor reward.

    And the rewards and penalties on offer should reflect values. Cough, splutter, excuse me a moment. I think one of the reasons people dislike ‘old-fashioned’ reward and prize systems in school is that the always clever got the academic prizes and the obviously talented in sport, dance, music, drama got the others. So we introduced prizes for ‘most improved’ and other categories recognising effort as well as straight results. In the end, academic results, edible cooking, tuneful music, goals scored and other objective, external measures are what count. These are not kindy kids rattling rice in bottles for early music. Near adults should be showing what they can do and where they are best suited to begin adult life. And the ‘most improved’ certificate still represents reward for effort in sport clubs.

    Making an effort to sit still and not poke others in the ribs or the eye is a skill to be learned and m a s t e r e d in Junior primary, rewards are appropriate while 6 to 8 year olds are learning this. Thereafter, failure to meet minimum standards should result in penalties or consequences which escalate with age. Suspensions and exclusions for the defiant, or referrals to more suitable services for those genuinely unable to learn or display basic social skills.

    This leads on to my underlying feelings about infantilisation. The ‘you’re a big kid now’ for potty training, and ‘you were quiet in church so you can have an icecream now’ forms of praise and bribery we blithely use for littlies have no place in dealing with adolescents. Let’s face it, standing in the corner is not a suitable penalty for a teenager, stickers and treats are not usually suitable classroom rewards either.

    I must point out here that we use lots of praise and recognition for teenagers and all students. But it’s specific, very specific. 3 weeks ago you couldn’t do this … task. Look how well you did this ….(particular page of work). Let’s see if you can do as well on your own for homework. Ah, the joys of individual tuition.


  6. There is nothing wrong with rewards, where they recognise merit, but everything wrong with them when they are part of a transaction or a negotiation.

    Are you paid for doing your job? Or do you not like money?

    Am I performing something immoral when I reward myself for the pain of hanging out the washing by hanging the largest items last? (The only thing I like about hanging out the washing is finishing it, if I hang out the items from small to large, the empty space in the laundry basket increases faster as the hanging out proceeds, giving me a nice warm fuzzy feeling).


  7. Are you saying I don’t deserve to be paid for doing my job? Or that you don’t deserve the satisfactions of doing your laundry?

    My point is entirely about undeserved “rewards”.


  8. The reward that they receive is a qualification that they are studying. The grade will determine the effort/ability ratio that they put into it. They are also welcome to ask for a reference if there is an imbalance between the two. When was the last time you recieved a letter from the police giving you a reward for not speeding over the last month or a reward for turning up to work every day; I guess never. If we debase our rewards (the qualification itself) then the reward for perseverance and sharpness of mind is also reduced.

    Most students come to lessons to learn and are keen to progress. They do not ask for or wish for any greater reward than knowing something extra when they leave.


  9. Chris, I agree with what you’ve written. However when you write:

    “Most students come to lessons to learn and are keen to progress. They do not ask for or wish for any greater reward than knowing something extra when they leave.”

    I guess you teach in a smiilar school to the one I work in, and not some of the schools i’ve worked in in the past, where only a minority are “keen to progress”. My current school is in a minority.


  10. My daughter worked out the system after just one term in primary school (In tears: “Johnny got the class award this week again, and he was only good once. I’m good all the time and I never get it.”)
    What could I say?

    My Sixth Form college is introducing a rewards system to improve the retention of the less motivated students, while those who get on with it will be told in a few years that they are no longer volunteers with a warm feeling, but that they have to be there now the school leaving age has risen to 18 (to coerce those who should have been allowed out at 14).

    No justice, and certainly no encouragement. I always thought that the certificates you get leaving college was a sort of a justified reward.

    Oldandrew said “What do you want, a cookie?”

    I have always been surrounded by teachers hefting bags of chocolate to bribe naught classes with – those behaving well (or just ok) don’t get a look in.


  11. As a moral problem of “who deserves rewards”, the tendency to reward those who are simply not acting badly does indeed harm those who should get those reward for actually doign well.

    But the reasoning behind giving rewards to naughty kids who are now not being naughty is not a moral one. It is a practical one – for some students, such rewards make them manageable students who can learn in class.

    Which is the worse moral problem – not rewarding the good students because you are attempting to maintain reinforcements for students who would not be teachable in class otherwise, or denying these students an equal education?


  12. OldAndrew – I don’t know of any inarguable moral theory for determing what you, or I, or anyone else, deserve rewards for (by inarguable, I mean something like a mathematical proof, an argument that any rational person must accept). You probably know the old quote:
    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. So by this moral standard, you don’t deserve to be paid for teaching. But whatever theories about moral desert say, societies in which people are paid as part of a transaction or negotiation tend to do better in practice than societies that do so on a different basis.
    Why under your theory, do I deserve a reward for doing the laundry? I’m not particularly good at hanging out the washing so it’s not for merit. The only reason I reward myself for hanging out the washing is to get myself to do what I should be doing anyway.


  13. But the reasoning behind giving rewards to naughty kids who are now not being naughty is not a moral one. It is a practical one – for some students, such rewards make them manageable students who can learn in class.

    As I have repeatedly argued, this strategy – appeasement – does not work on more than a short term basis, and then only when it is not obvious to others that they too can demand rewards.

    This discussion of ethics is not about expressing moral qualms about the means to a shared end. It is to point out that we are losing sight of the ends due to our loss of basic ethical concepts. If we send out the wrong message to students about what they deserve, we send out the wrong message about what is worthwhile in education, and that is inevitably going to damage their education. Student who have been trained to expect a reward for doing what they are supposed to do, are never going see the point of doing something that truly deserves a reward.

    See R.S.Peters’ “Ethics and Education” (1966) for discussion of education as an ethical activity in its own right.


  14. OldAndrew – I don’t know of any inarguable moral theory for determing what you, or I, or anyone else, deserve rewards for

    I don’t know how people measure the depth of the ocean. That doesn’t lead me to conclude that therefore the seabed doesn’t exist.

    I am not claiming to have an infallible theory of how to apportion desert in all aspects of life. I am just saying that if we abandon the concept of desert then we are lost, even in those areas of life where we can easily make such judgements. We can all spot injustice, even where there my be debate about what exactly would be most just.


  15. I don’t know how people measure the depth of the ocean. That doesn’t lead me to conclude that therefore the seabed doesn’t exist.

    It should however lead you to be reluctant to make definite conclusions about how long anchors should be, in the absence of better information.

    When we are uncertain about what the moral facts are, for example, do we deserve to get paid for our work, or is this just rewarding us as part of a negotiation or a transaction, then it makes sense to me to look to the practical effects of different rules.

    We can all spot injustice, even where there my be debate about what exactly would be most just.

    And there is extensive debate not merely about exactness but about broad sweeping categories – have you ever heard the term “wage-slavery”?


  16. To clarify my previous comment – it is one thing to say that rewards should only be given for merit, not for doing what you are supposed to. But calling an activity “something we are just supposed to do” isn’t automatically enough to make people do it (this being one of the problems with communes), so rewards are useful even if they don’t accord with a particular moral theory about what activities are deserving of merit and what activities are just doing what we are supposed to do.


  17. Tracey W.,

    I am lost as to what point you are making.

    Are you claiming that unless I put forward a comprehensive theory of justice, covering everything up to and including the distribution of of income, I can’t hope to discuss what is, or is not, fair in the classroom?

    Or are you suggesting that if I did have such a theory, I would doubtlessly have to temper it with pragmatism and, therefore, I should have to accept a pragmatic compromise in the classroom situation as well?


  18. No. I am saying that as long as we don’t have a comprehensive theory of justice that everyone can agree on, we should temper our decisions by pragmatism. (And incidentally, given that philosophers have been trying and failing to come up with an inarguable moral theory since the Ancient Greeks, I’m not holding my breath in hope of a sudden breakthrough).

    It’s all very well to say that people should not be rewarded for doing only what they are supposed to do. But when there is no consensus about what people are supposed to do, I can see the merits of rewarding people for things I think they are supposed to do, if there is evidence that this approach works in practice – as it does for me hanging out the washing.


  19. It really does sound as if you are saying that unless I put forward a comprehensive theory of justice, covering everything, I can’t hope to discuss what is, or is not, fair in the classroom.

    I’m also somewhat baffled as to how you can be pragmatic in a situation where you don’t know what people are supposed to do. If you have no idea about the ends, then it is pretty hard to be pragmatic about the means.


  20. I certainly did not mean to say that you can’t hope to discuss what is, or is not fair, in the classroom. Despite the lack of a comprehensive theory of justice that we all agree on, people have been discussing what is fair and what isn’t fair for centuries and in every culture I can think of, and I can think of no reason why you should be unable of even hoping to do so yourself (plus, you appear to me to have been discussing fairness in your past posts on this topic, even if you have not used that word directly). If I said anything that implied I thought otherwise it was entirely by mistake, as saying such a thing would fly as much in the face of reality as saying that people can’t ride bicycles.

    I am not sure what you mean about me having no idea about the ends. I am reasonably confident that I need to do my laundry from time to time. I admit it is possible that I am only a brain in a vat and I am just hallucinating that I need to do the laundry, but then is it not equally possible that you are just a brain in a vat hallucinating that you are a school teacher in a school that is a battleground?

    I also have the idea that the ends of an education system should include children who are literate, numerate, and prepared to be informed citizens. And this is merely a very small subset of my ideas about ends.

    Anyway, you still haven’t said if it is a bad or a good thing for me to reward myself for doing the laundry.


  21. Tracy.

    Your method of hanging washing gives you a warm fuzzy feeling because you’ve worked out the way that best suits you. You’re an adult doing something private which has no impact on anyone else, let alone 20 or 2000 else.

    Educational discipline needs a system of rewards and punishments that work publicly in a social setting. They work only if they establish and maintain the values and the environment needed for successful education – education, not therapy or any other side issue.

    The notion that the class or staff or whole school or a victim of bullying should just accept bad behaviour which happens to be not just anti-social but anti-education is totally misguided. Teachers and schools are to the education system what GPs and High St solicitors are to the health and legal systems.

    GPs refer patients to specialists for brain surgery, local solicitors don’t usually take on multi-nationals in trademark disputes. Teachers are not security guards or prison officers or psychotherapists, they are teachers.

    Students who need non-educational control or direction before they can participate in normal classrooms should be referred to non-normal classes, schools or other programs. Teachers should deal with straightforward educational matters and refer other matters on to those who can d e a l with them, not just bounce them back.


  22. Tracey W,

    I am now completely at a loss as to what you are saying. One moment you say I don’t need a comprehensive theory of justice, that I can consider what happens in my classroom in its own terms, the next you want to argue about your laundry.

    What does your laundry have to do with fairness in my classroom?


  23. OldAndrew wrote: “What does your laundry have to do with fairness in my classroom?”

    What you should ask is “What does your laundry have to do with rewards and desert?” Because that’s what this post is about.
    And, in fact, Tracy’s laundry example is all about the rewards she deserves (the calculation of which you are talking about as ‘desert’).

    So, what does talking about rewards and desert have to do with fairness in your classroom? According to your treatment of Tracy, I am tempted to say ‘nothing’, because you don’t seem to want to talk about it any more in the comments section to the post about rewards and desert.


  24. What you should ask is “What does your laundry have to do with rewards and desert?” Because that’s what this post is about.

    Which part of the words “in education” didn’t you understand? If the only critique of the idea of desert in education that people can come up with is that, in life (particularly in laundry), some “rewards” aren’t deserved then where are you going to take the argument? Are you going to suggest that if life (and laundry) isn’t fair, then teachers shouldn’t be either?

    It is not as if the categories of “gifts”, “prizes”, “bribes” and “inducements” (one of which probably covers the laundry example) weren’t also mentioned in the post.


  25. “Which is the worse moral problem – not rewarding the good students because you are attempting to maintain reinforcements for students who would not be teachable in class otherwise, or denying these students an equal education?” asks Diogenes

    Whilst not, to my chagrin, able to match Old Andrew in his discussion of the theory of rewards, refutation of the canard above is simplicity itself.

    The “denial” (sic) of teaching to those non infant children who refuse to conform to simple child appropriate norms of behaviour is a self-inflicted wound for which no teacher need feel any guilt.

    I have no problem however in endorsing Old Andrew´s premise that teachers who indulge in appeasement should feel enormous guilt.


  26. “The “denial” (sic) of teaching to those non infant children who refuse to conform to simple child appropriate norms of behaviour is a self-inflicted wound for which no teacher need feel any guilt.”

    I counter that “simple” and “appropriate” norms of behaviour are seen as “simple” and “appropriate” to those who endorse them and are most equipped to live by them, such as yourself.
    Perhaps you can see no justifiable reason for a particular individual to find it harder to live by such norms in comparison to yourself, who finds it so “simple” and “appropriate”. Then I ask you to consider this quote:

    “To drop a man in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and tell him he is at liberty to walk ashore, would not be more bitter irony than to place a man where all the land is appropriated as the property of other people and to tell him that he is a free man, at liberty to work for himself and to enjoy his own earnings.”
    – Henry George, Social Problems


  27. I counter that “simple” and “appropriate” norms of behaviour are seen as “simple” and “appropriate” to those who endorse them and are most equipped to live by them, such as yourself.

    Do you actually need any particular equipment to avoid telling your teachers to f off?


  28. “Do you actually need any particular equipment to avoid telling your teachers to f off?”

    Not having Tourette syndrome is a good start. As well as this, there might be many neurological factors behind impulse control.

    Also, coming from a family or social group that endorses the norm of not swearing when frustrated will help you in following the same norm at school. I’m sure you agree that coming from a background where swearing is so common that it’s almost a reflex action will make it harder to control yourself in all situations?


  29. Not having Tourette syndrome is a good start.

    Really? What proportion of people who tell their teachers to f off do you think have Tourette’s?

    Also, coming from a family or social group that endorses the norm of not swearing when frustrated will help you in following the same norm at school.

    People need “help” to do this?


  30. DoS

    Anyone who comes from a background that differs from the norm – usually keeps their mouth shut until they’ve worked out how to get along.

    Group behaviour anywhere is like line dancing or Greek dancing. A newbie watches and listens until they think they’ve got the idea. Once they join in they’ll make a few mistakes but most people will help out a novice if they are willing to learn. Unfortunately, this applies equally to criminal and other bad behaviour as it does to dancing, workplaces, religion, table manners and other respectable endeavours.

    So a teacher and the school generally needs to set good standards and enforce them. Otherwise if bad stuff gets a hold, it can be self perpetuating. Why? because the next batch of newbies will get into step with what they see as the norm around them.


  31. “Anyone who comes from a background that differs from the norm – usually keeps their mouth shut until they’ve worked out how to get along.”

    Usually.

    oldandrew wrote “people need help with this?”. Answer: yes, demonstrably.

    Most of us of a certain age were brought up to view a group as something larger and more important than ourselves, something we need to fit into. In that, we were conforming to the instinct of generations. A very few of us, by contrast, were taught from an early age to view a group as something to be dominated, something to step into and take control of, within limits. But even then, the integrity of the group was something that was taken as a given.

    By contrast, it seems a relatively common attitude nowadays that if the group and the individual are in conflict, it is the GROUP that is out of step and disregarding (or “disrespecting”) the “rights” of the individual. And if the individual has that disregard, even IGNORANCE of the very concept of the group, there is likely nothing that can be done to get them back, especially if their rejection of the concept is backed up by their every experience outside the school.


  32. SonofRB

    “…..there is likely nothing that can be done to get them back,”

    It’s not the school’s or classmates’ job to “get them back”, that job is for a therapist or a special behaviour unit if they’re incapable of moving beyond the 4yr old’s concept of the world as mine and mine alone.

    In terms of rewards, deserts or even bribes, the most important thing in a school is to maintain, reinforce or create the idea of communal activity which requires communal norms of behaviour. Ignorance is an excuse for violating these norms once, twice, maybe more. But not after weeks, terms or years of observation, information and participation in school life.

    Really. If people can learn that it’s unacceptable to go to the loo in public, then they’re capable of learning that other things are unacceptable or preferable or desirable when dealing with other people. And we know that they are capable. Bullies become targets of ridicule themselves when they get it wrong. They read social signals well enough to identify victims, they can read them well enough for other purposes.


  33. “If people can learn that it’s unacceptable to go to the loo in public”

    What an unfortunate example.

    Go to http://coppersblog.blogspot.com/

    Scroll down to the posting from Monday, January 12 2009, title “Talking Bout Our Degeneration (Part 3)”. Watch the video.


  34. Yeah

    The only reason people do such things is that they D O know it’s unacceptable. They h a v e learnt the social lesson and they c h o o s e to be anti – social.

    BTW Does anybody know a social, antisocial, …?social word that would be equivalent to the moral, immoral, amoral distinction? I don’t think that applies here anyway. People doing things like this fully understand social, moral & behavioural norms. They choose to violate them to annoy, shock, horrify and disgust others.

    I think the desire to disgust others, especially in public, is in and of itself a sign of immaturity. Think of 11 yr olds competitive belching and farting as a silent movie, these actions are just widescreen, Dolby sound, technicolour versions of the same impulse.

    We are not talking about incapacity, disability or eccentric family life when we talk about students who refuse to accept civilised rules of behaviour in a school. So what if a family is peculiar, criminal, foolish or nasty? School is one of the places where young people learn about the world outside their homes. Home-schoolers know this very well.

    Growing up, I learnt that civilised behaviour did not necessarily require the neat table settings, daily dusting, fresh flower arrangements weekly along with Sunday School in hat and gloves that prevailed in my working class neighbourhood. Some of my classmates learnt at school about hygiene involving brooms, washing machines and scrubbing brushes as well as how to cook, clean up and serve nourishing meals rather than fishnchips out of newspaper. (What makes people think that fast, greasy food eaten in the fingers is a new phenomenon? The only reason it’s become more prevalent is that we no longer teach each new generation the habits forgotten or unknown by their parents.)

    I know we babyboomers had it easy in some ways, especially full employment and good housing. But, we had male relatives and neighbours groaning or screaming with their WW2 souvenir nightmares, we lived in constant fear of nuclear obliteration and our parents lived knowing that polio, TB and other epidemics could take us from them at any time. By and large most of us got by with good behaviour in public even if homes were unhappy or violent. (I never realised some friends’ problems until after we’d all left school.)

    The misery and chaos of a student’s life is a reason to educate them that we can live better, not to say this is all there is. We do them a great disservice when we say, implicitly, we allow this school to be as unbearable a place to spend time as it would be in the filthiest, most violent home around here – get used to it.


  35. BTW I chose not to look at the clip.

    I choose to abstain from all sorts of things – including gratuitous violence, pornography generally, and this kind of nastiness also. I allow nobody to override my preference for a decent life.



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