2005 July 05 Tuesday
Many British Schools Have Sunk Into Mayhem

British TV reporter Alex Dolan went undercover as a substitute (in Britain "supply") teacher and taught in several lower class schools. She found widespread disruption by unruly students and little teaching getting done. (Daily Telegraph free registration req'd)

The girl was ignoring me and playing music on her mobile phone, so loudly that the rest of the class could hear. I kept telling her to stop. Then suddenly she lost control. Standing up, she put her face inches from mine and shrieked: "Don't make me hurt you. I swear to God I will do it."

I was two days into my undercover investigation for a Channel 4 Dispatches programme when this incident happened. It was the first time I had felt physically threatened in school and the feeling stayed with me for a long time. Although extreme, this was the type of behaviour I encountered again and again in the 16 secondary schools I went in to, eventually filming those that seemed to be representative of the problems I saw.

What struck me very early on was that poor, even outrageous indiscipline - children leaping across tables or wandering around brandishing fire extinguishers - had become acceptable. At one school, I was calmly advised by a female colleague to lock the classroom door while I was teaching, to "protect" myself and my class from the marauding groups in the corridors. The look of surprise on my face did not seem to register with her.

But the chaos is hidden from government inspectors.

When Ofsted inspectors arrived the week after for a two-day visit, however, the school was suddenly transformed. I got through a whole lesson without incident, the corridors were mayhem-free, the atmosphere calmer. The mystery was solved by a classroom assistant who told me in a hushed exchange in the lavatory that more than 20 of the most difficult pupils had been sent on a "day trip".

As inspectors monitored lessons, senior managers popped up taking classes that they did not normally teach. Experienced teachers from neighbouring schools were parachuted in. One teacher, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, said: "I've been drafted in basically to give support to this department while HMI are in. It's a bit of a con-job really." Staff at three other schools told me that "hiding" problem pupils from inspectors was common practice.

Are these Ofsted inspectors too dense to figure out that they ough to drop in unannounced? Or do their political masters want them to get the Potemkin Village tour so that a good front can be made of it publically?

A small number of unruly children ruin the educations of other children. The school administrators obviously know who they are. Imagine how different these schools would be if the teachers and administrators had the authority to maintain order and to remove the worst students from the regular schools. But the ruling left-liberal ideology of the day is that everyone is equal in ability and children can't be judged or punished.

Britain has standardized tests called the GCSEs. Dolan mentions that results of those are manipulated. The same happens in the United States with teachers in lower performing schools by helping the students cheat and modifying test answers. Random assignment of outsiders to administer the tests would reveal a lot of that fraud.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 July 05 09:39 AM  Education

John S Bolton said at July 5, 2005 10:02 AM:

The real curriculum of such schools is freedom for aggression, and no freedom from it, as inescapable basic reality. The egalitarianism helps to make ad hominem smears against those who complain, or seem to be about to. The disruptors will be of some disadvantaged race or class, which is given impunity. Government schools are founded upon, and have their growth from, mere aggression. Thus, their founding and nurturing tendency is aggression, and this has to lead to more and more aggression. We do it for the children they say, but what they are doing is evil, and cannot be justified by the minor status of the beneficiaries, or maleficiaries, as would be more accurate to say. The goal is power; the more inured to aggression the population can be made, the better the chances for dictatorship, and especially in those countries which have so far resisted the socialist summons to tyranny.

Matra said at July 5, 2005 12:02 PM:

There was none of that behaviour at the British state school in Northern Ireland (more conservative than the mainland) I attended in the 1970s. Students who misbehaved were thrashed with a cane and I can't recall a single occasion when a student spoke back to a teacher. Getting good marks was fashionable and most of us did our homework as we were afraid of failing a test. I recall the sense of shame I felt the one occasion I got a "C" on our weekly test and I had to sit in the "C" row for a week right beside the "D" for dunces row. (Ensuring student self-esteem was not a priority back then)

When I moved to Canada it was the opposite. Students seemed to be in charge and the teachers were too weak to control behaviour - no corporal punishment allowed in Canada's state schools. There was no shame in not doing the work and getting bad marks. Indeed it was cool to be a dunce! Like most students I stopped doing the homework as we faced no consequences for slacking off. Unlike in 1970s Northern Ireland we didn't respect the Canadian teachers enough to try to impress them. If anything we looked down on them. Sadly, the British state schools now appear to be just like those in Canada with no adult heirarchy in existence. I'm surprised the students there are still wearing uniforms. Isn't that some kind of human rights violation?

A Berman said at July 5, 2005 4:18 PM:

I'm currently reading Our Culture, What's Left of It, by Theodore Dalrymple. He spent 14 years as a psychiatrist in British Prisons and got a first-hand look at the decline of British life. He places the blame on the upper class-- they were too interested in breaking down convention for their own selfish pleasures and not interested enough in understanding how convention supported the poor. An amazing read.


seelow heights said at July 5, 2005 5:00 PM:

So what else is new? We all know by now that these are the conditions created by the PC Multicult regime that emerged in the late sixties and still dominates the thinking(?) of the "elites" in North America and Western Europe(and probably a few other places as well).Things might be different today if conservative "superheroes" like Reagan and Thatcher had not shied way from the culture war.

John S Bolton said at July 6, 2005 11:32 AM:

The culture war against the enemies of civilization has to be fought with a complete nuclear first strike, that is to say; the privatization of all the government schools. The hand to hand approach produces a result like Iraq; the occupation remains in place. The government schools are today an occupation, but a hostile one, by the left of almost the entire culture. Notice that the exceptions are not state supported, and it is inconceivable that they could be, and still remain exceptions in this exact way.

Stephen said at July 6, 2005 5:59 PM:

It seems to me that a case can be made that universal education (ie predominantly via schools run by government) has generated the greatest sustained economic and technological boom in the history of mankind.

Also, there's no law stopping private operated schools, but the plain fact is that historically the market hasn't been big enough to support the number of private operated schools needed to educate all of the children. And because of that market failure, government stepped in to fill the gap.

Traditionally, the biggest private operator (in terms of numbers of children 'processed') has been the church, but there's the suspicion that the primary purpose of church schools is indoctrination rather than education. Also, how many parents today feel comfortable with leaving their child in the loving hands (indeed, rather too loving) of the local priest?

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