“But They Have To Go Somewhere”September 8, 2007
As somebody who advocates an increase in permanent exclusions to the level where it might actually do some good, I often here the classic counter-argument: “But they have to go somewhere”.
Often it’s difficult to avoid answering with flippant suggestions as to where excluded children should go, for instance into a big hole in the ground, preferably with their parents (who are usually ninety-nine percent of the problem) thrown in on top.
But a more considered response would be to say that in the first instance they should simply move schools, and if they keep getting excluded then special establishments will need to be set up which are able to deal with them without sacrificing the education of the innocent. Although this would cost money, it can’t even come close to the expense involved in dealing with them in mainstream schools. Staff spend the vast majority of their time dealing with the worst offenders, if we could get them out we might actually be free to concentrate on our job: educating those who can be educated.
What irritates me about this is the fact that people see fit to ask teachers to come up with an explanation of what they want done with the unteachable students in the first place. Are people in other jobs asked similar questions? Do people ask doctors and nurses what provision should be made for patients who are too violent or awkward to be treated? Do people ask bus drivers what should be done about people who strongly object to travelling by bus? When violent or inebriated drinkers are asked to leave a pub or club does a do-gooder come up to the bouncers or bar staff and ask them about alternative drinking provision for piss-heads, sorry, drinkers with emotional and behavioural difficulties?
The fact that teachers are asked about provision for students who aren’t learning and are preventing others from learning is revealing in itself. If schools were seen as being for the purpose of learning then it would be ridiculous to have somebody who wasn’t learning attending school. Nobody would need to ask about the alternatives to having such a child in school because, as their presence is obviously pointless, all the alternatives would be no worse.
But clearly learning isn’t the purpose of sending kids to school. The powers that be, and I fear the public too, would prefer to see a child at school learning nothing than at home, or in the streets, learning nothing. Somewhere along the line schools ceased to be where children should be in order to learn and became where children should just be. Somewhere along the line teachers ceased to be people who taught and started to be people who supervise hordes of youth for no particular purpose other than to keep them off the streets and out from under their parents’ feet.
We need to rededicate our schools to learning. We should be permanently excluding more students, not just for violenct or abusive behaviour, but for being non-learners. If that does create too many problems in creating new provision, then can I be the first to start digging that big hole I mentioned earlier?