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Charlie and the Inclusive Chocolate Factory

June 11, 2009

Even after four decades Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”remains incredibly popular. However, its moral universe is drastically at odds with those of our schools. this has now been rectified, and below, I present a new, updated end for the book:

 

“Which room shall it be next?” said Mr Wonka as he turned away and darted into the lift. “Come on! Hurry up! We must get going! And how many children are there left now?”

Little Charlie looked at Grandpa Joe, and Grandpa Joe looked back at little Charlie.

“But Mr Wonka,” Grandpa Joe called after him, “there’s only Charlie left now.”

Mr Wonka swung round and stared at Charlie.

There was a silence. Charlie stood there holding tightly on to Grandpa Joe’s hand.

“You mean you’re the only one left?” Mr Wonka said, pretending to be surprised.

“Why, yes,” whispered Charlie. “Yes.”

Mr Wonka suddenly exploded with excitement “But my dear boy,” he cried out, “that means you’ve lost!

“I don’t understand.” said Charlie.

“Of course you don’t!” said Mr Wonka, excitedly. “Listen. I’m an old man. I’m much older than you think. I wanted my legacy to be that I’d give away my factory to badly behaved children in order to help them with their special needs. However, unlike the other four children you don’t seem to have any problems at all, so you’re not getting anything.”

“B-b-but…” stammered Grandpa Joe, “what problems did those awful children have?”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Mr Wonka, “we won’t have any of that labelling here. Listen and I will explain. Mike Teavee may have seemed disinterested in other human beings and to have an unhealthy interest in guns and violence. However, this really only indicates a short attention span and hyperactivity. The poor boy is ill with ADHD and unrestricted access to a chocolate factory can only help him with his affliction.”

“I don’t believe I’m hearing this”, said Grandpa Joe.

“As for Violet Beauregarde, her continual chewing of gum was clearly a form of obsessive behaviour. That, and her lack of social awareness about what to do with discarded gum, strikes me as clear evidence that she is somewhere on the autistic spectrum.”

“For pity’s sake” whispered Charlie.

“I suppose you’ll be telling us that Veruca Salt has a special need next.” said Grandpa Joe. “All that spoilt girl needed was a good slap.”

“How dare you?” cried Mr Wonka. “Anybody who slaps a child is worse than Hitler! You should have noticed that poor Veruca was suffering from a terrible anger management problem.”

“What about Augustus Gloop?” asked Charlie. “He was greedy and fat. How does that make him deserve a chocolate factory?”

“Ah-ha!” cried Mr Wonka, “That dear child was clearly suffering from poor self-esteem. I hate to think what torment he was going through.”

“This is ridiculous” said Grandpa Joe. “None of those children had real problems. Charlie, on the other hand, has been sleeping on the floor his entire life, and has been eating nothing but bread and cabbage for six months. He’s starving. Isn’t that a real hardship you could help with?”

“Don’t be silly” said Mr Wonka. “Charlie may look like a skeleton but he has been polite and well-behaved throughout this trip. He clearly can’t have any real problems. Now, off you go! I have to take the other, more troubled children to the Great Glass Student Support Department where a thousand Oompa-Loompas will help them with their needs by catering to their every whim.”

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23 comments

  1. Brilliant.

    Large chunks of this site should be mandatory for teacher training.


  2. You know, if it wasn’t so bloody accurate, I’d be laughing my head off. :-)

    But this –

    Charlie, on the other hand, has been sleeping on the floor his entire life, and has been eating nothing but bread and cabbage for six months. He’s starving.

    – reminded me of the fact that there are kids in school who are dealing with really awful things in their lives, but don’t feel the need to disrupt lessons and be rude. I have one girl in a class at the moment who has serious problems at home, yet she’s never late, always has a pen and whatever else she needs, is polite, helpful and tries her very best.

    At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, kids these days really don’t know how lucky they are…


    • The grimmest part of the book is the Chapter “The Family Begins to Starve”. It describes Charlie’s behaviour at school while starving:

      “And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in times of hardship, he began to make little changes here and there in some of the things that he did, so as to save his strength. In the mornings, he left the house ten minutes earlier so that he could walk slowly to school, without ever having to run. He sat quietly in the classroom during break, resting himself, while the others rushed outdoors and threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow. Everything he did now, he did slowly and carefully, to prevent exhaustion.”

      I mention this because I have encountered people, including teachers, convinced that hunger causes disruptive behaviour. Now I know this isn’t the case (I have friends who have taught in the developing world) but I can’t help noticing that what is basically a fairy story is actually more accurate than some of those who seek to advise teachers.


  3. So true. Sad but true! Why don’t policy makers read this?
    Or if they DO read it, why aren’t they paying attention?


  4. [...] Oldandrew from Scenes from the Battleground shares Charlie and the Inclusive Chocolate Factory. [...]


  5. You’ll be in favour of the SEAL objectives, then.

    Is it your contention that things like ADHD don’t exist, or that they are over-diagnosed, or that our response to them is inappropriate?


    • No, no, no and kind of.


  6. in a school with good discpline and effective systems, a limited amount of inclusion is effective and desirable.

    in a poorly run school, inclusion, almost on any level is fiendishly unkind on these most vunerable of students.

    EBD schools should be set up immediately. 6 expulsions in a students entire career should mean expulsion.

    2 expulsions shouild mean EBD/borstal or similar

    Studnrts with significant SEN or medical conditions should have seperate provision regardles of how angry their parents are.

    LEAs should not be able to overide the opinion of SENCO’s or headteachers who are best placed to decide if their school can accomodate individual students.


  7. This caught my eye after enjoying the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder over the holidays; amazingly accurate – thanks for making the first day back at school rather less tedious than it could have been.


  8. I am a teacher.

    So that was a good laugh – now what do you really think about inclusion?


  9. I’d forgotten how funny this entry was….
    tony


  10. Reblogged this on christof74.


  11. In my experience, rarely do happy kids misbehave at school (and those that do are easily spotted and very easily dealt with). Those kids with persistent behavioural problems and with often unpleasant and hard-to-deal-with characteristics are acting out on problems that are complex, often serious and definitely there. Those kids who ‘act in’ (so behave well but are often quiet and withdrawn) should also be noticed and supported.
    You obviously believe in the universe created by Roald Dahl in his book – a black and white moral universe in which some people are ‘bad’ and others ‘good’ and the bad ones should be punished. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s created for 8 year olds! Is it possible you haven’t realised that real life is more complicated, messy and difficult? I’m very sorry that things aren’t as simple as this – it makes (I know well) a teacher’s life (particularly in London) very hard. But if this post is a representation of the new wave of teachers coming into the profession, I am utterly in despair. The kids who you find so easy to judge and dismiss are actual human beings who’ve, on the whole, received *nowhere near* the advantages (love, stability, secure attachment…. food) that most teachers have. If you can’t extend empathy to these kids, go and work in the private sector, please.


    • Happy kids often misbehave at school. The only way to miss this is if you have convinced yourself, before looking at the evidence, that any misbehaving child is suffering from some unidentified problem. In cases where there is obviously no problem at all, low self-esteem or “anger management” is usually diagnosed. I love Roald Dahl’s book because it is more honest about human nature than those who believe children are naturally living saints. We all do wrong at times. It doesn’t mean we are troubled, only that we are imperfect.


  12. Em,
    I think the point by OA has been lost on you to an extent.

    As it happens OA has more empathy with students than most, of all types.

    He echoes the concerns of views of 1000s of dedicated caring state teachers.

    I currently teach many students that are happy, privileged, loved. They can sometimes be very nice. They tend to be very nice to me and their peers and their parents.

    However I am also aware they are very unkind to certain selected peers, and very unkind indeed to certain other teachers in particular cover teachers.

    I am aware of kids with very difficult things in their lives that are decent and caring to all but are often bullied or disadvantaged due by the subset above I have just mentioned.

    OA is not asking for a binary universe of good v bad. That just lazy thinking and an empty insult on your behalf.

    Many of us deplore the moral inversion often found in schools and simply observe with sadness that indulging or excusing appalling behaviour is NOT the solution.

    I have seen kids turned around in my time but alas all too many who are not.

    I think you need carrot and stick and when that does not work you need permanent exclusion for the sake of the kids, parents and staff at school

    Rarely does carrot only work.
    Rarely does stick only work
    You need both in a framework where absolutely certain sanctions will be applied for certain things.
    This can be in parallel with counselling and support but at ALL times holding children, sentient human beings, responsible for their actions.


  13. Thanks for your reply, Rob. Could I ask what you mean by ‘moral inversion’ in schools? You mention loved and privileged pupils who are unkind to anyone ‘vulnerable’ (cover teachers, less advantaged kids): is this part of the moral inversion?


  14. And, sorry, PS: are these the kids that you think should be held accountable for their behaviour as ‘sentient human beings, responsible for their actions’?


  15. Moral inversions as in:

    Rewarding students for poor conduct
    Sending the worst behaved students on little treats and extra trips
    Badly behaved students having lessons tailored to their preferences over and above their peers
    Badly behaved students allowed extra latitude before certain sanctions applied
    Badly behaved students having their conduct ‘judiciously ignored’ by staff to avoid confrontation, paperwork and aggravation
    Badly behaved students having staff being ingratiating towards them to try and ‘build a relationship’.
    Other students ‘paying homage/respect’ to the leader of the disruptive sub group.
    A senior teacher abandoning the discipline policy and ‘giving a chance’ to the repeat offender in the spirit of good will and human warmth.
    A good student being (rightly sanctioned) for a single transgression when another student might do 150 transgressions without a single sanction as he/she is ‘untouchable”.
    There are other/better examples I’m sure others could provide.
    They annoy teachers, parents and other students in varying degrees.

    Some of these inversions are deliberate, some accidental, some by staff, some by peers.

    ps All kids, unless in some sort of straight jacket, must be held responsible for their actions. Same for adults too. :)


  16. Thanks Rob, that’s interesting. Do you have a sense, yourself, of why these ‘badly behaved students’ are behaving in the way they do? What do you assign it to?


  17. the answer to that is as old as the hills…
    guess what… it’s often fun to misbehave….
    doing something which is taboo gives you a kick.
    even a good kid can get a buzz from annoying a figure of authority when they know there are unlikely to be consequences.
    Kids like to show off to their peers, to show independence, to break free of years of rules and regs.
    testosterone plays a part, role models play a part, media plays a part, poor parenting plays a part.
    I would love to rip up a parking ticket in front of a wardens face or even to tell them to ‘f off”.
    Its human nature to an extent.
    Some kids bad conduct is rooted in very poor self esteem- sometimes.
    Some kids are arrogant and vindictive when there isn’t a shred of low esteem- quite the reverse.
    Some kids harbour a mixture of self esteem ‘states’, like most humans. And they can misbehave at times, and behave badly at times.
    The idea that happy, privileged kids dont or cannot misbehave is a very damaging myth.
    Its as bad as saying kids from poor backgrounds or with low self esteem will always misbehave.
    They are both erroneous generalisations- and detract from the important principle of personal responsibility.


  18. It’s funny, this idea of personal responsibility. It’s so seductive, particularly to the likes of us – you and me – who are undoubtedly highly responsible people. Of course we expect the same of others: everyone should have to work as hard as we do to be responsible, upstanding, accountable etc.

    The trouble with this, however, is that the expectation that everyone demonstrates ‘personal responsibility’ assumes a level playing field – that everyone has the same ability to do so without taking into account the impact of social structures (structures that – to those who exist within them – are difficult to spot, never mind evaluate in terms of their impact).

    I recently watched The Hunger Games (for work purposes!). If you don’t know it, it’s a dystopian novel set in a world in which there’s huge disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The ‘have-nots’ – workers who live in designated ‘districts’ according to their use (ie coal-miners in District 12) are forced every year to put forward two young people to take part in the ‘Hunger Games’ in which all but one of them will be killed. This serves as an enduring punishment for a past rebellion… and is also huge entertainment for the ‘haves’ who eagerly watch the whole thing on TV.

    In one scene, a key character approaches the president of this society to argue to save the life of one of the ‘Hunger Games’ participants. The president is contemptuous of his sympathy for the ‘underdog’ participant. He says something like “Have you ever been to the Districts? No? Well, I have and there are lots of underdogs there and if you could see them you would not root for the underdog”.

    It struck a chord with me because it reminded me of a time when I was in Australia and was explaining to a Oz bloke in Sydney why I wouldn’t climb Uluru, because it’s a sacred spot for the Aboriginal people. He scoffed, angrily, and said something like “You think they’re sacred, do you? They’re alkies who piss in the street” etc etc.

    Now, the two comments are obviously related because both people – one fictional, one not – spectacularly fail to take into account any circumstances beyond the presenting behaviour. It points at the fact that this is what human beings do – they set up structures in which some people are destined to fail and then blame the individuals – not the structure – for their failure. Personal responsibility.

    Now, of course, I am not suggesting that our world is as unjust as that depicted in The Hunger Games. The structure of our society is certainly more nuanced and flexible. However, the structures that exist still – perhaps necessarily – advantage those who are already advantaged in life; those who have stability, money and hope. Those who have, apart from anything, formed secure attachments to their parents (this – in fact – more than money/class etc, in my opinion, is the key to success in life… look into Attachment Theory for more info). Those who can take personal responsibility at an early age because they’ve been encouraged to, taught to, because they understand what’s in it for them.

    I’m sorry that you thought I was arguing that happy, privileged kids don’t misbehave – I wasn’t at all. My argument was that those happy, privileged kids who misbehave can, in my experience, be fairly easily dealt with through standard procedures and practices – calling home, being on report etc. It might take time and effort but they can be won around (and, by the way, if I saw anyone being unkind – as you described – to a more vulnerable pupil or teacher I would not hesitate to unleash the most severe penalties on them that the school policy would allow). What offended me about the original post was the flippant dismissal of very real SEN that kids have to live with, deal with – SEN that disadvantage them daily and reduces any sense of hope or joy in life. SEN that, quite often, can be traced back to inherited disadvantages that are really not the kids’ fault (think foetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorder – often resulting from the ill mental health of a parent, ADHD etc). The system, as it currently stands, is *not* designed to support these kids and neither is the society that they will grow up into (employment chances are hugely reduced etc). Considering this, the very least I think these kids and their parents can expect is that the professionals who work with them in their formative years offer them some thought and empathy and *don’t* fall into the trap of considering only the presenting behaviour.


    • - on the contrary I, nor my colleagues, would ever dream of holding a child to the same standards of decency or responsibility as an experienced adult.
      – no, not a level playing field- just an expectation of the basics – like not hitting others- or bullying- or shouting out in a silent class- or ridiculing a peer or a teacher…. simple things
      – I think your Hunger Game analogy fails on many front. For a start, 99% of wrong doers know precisely what they are doing.
      They are able to stop when they realise they are being watched by a senior authority figure and can articulate, when pressed, why their actions are unethical.
      The very fact that they are aware their actions are wrong gives them a buzz. Its a primary reason behind their actions.
      – I would disagree bright, privileged kids are ‘easy’ to turn around. They are often manipulative, understand there are limits to what the school can do them, and sometimes have the tacit support of their parents and peers. For them a report card is a badge of honour and a parental call home a nice opportunity for the teacher to get an earful off an indulgent parent.
      – I have known the most severe SEN students be kind, caring and decent. I have also known the reverse to be true.
      What I do know is that continually excusing conduct of an individual always leads to worsening behaviour and a long line of victims and an erosion of the schools ethos.
      Of course one takes onto account SEN or ill treatment of an individuals early life, give them time and space to improve, offer counselling, empathy and other forms of support.
      But you can do these things WHILST AT THE SAME TIME holding them accountable to what they do, which includes reprimands, sanctions and ultimately permanent exclusion if they are hurting others.
      ps and if you are saying you personally would ‘unleash’ severe punitive sanctions against kids (with or without SEN/bad home lives) who victimise pupils or teachers then you should be 100% behind Old Andrew



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