I have history! I can look back on decades of my personal life, but apart from that, I’ve lived long enough to have seen changes in society.
When I was a school boy, physical punishment was commonly used. Many teachers were ex-military personnel looking for a post war career in the civilian world. They instructed rather than taught; it was control by fear.
This was considered normal in a community that was twice as religious as it is today. After all, the UK was broadly Christian and the Bible recommends beating children doesn’t it…
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
King James Bible
Caning continued into the early years of my own teaching experience, I remember being offered the use of his cane by a colleague in my first post. He advised, “Go into the classroom, pick on a boy whose tie is not straight and cane him, then you won’t have any trouble.”
I didn’t follow his advice, and I did have trouble!
But change was underway; my generation of career teachers wanted to deliver education by generating respect and co-operation, not fear. It wasn’t easy negotiating the shift in style…
It was particularly difficult for the older teachers. I used to co-teach with one senior master who, deprived of his cane by the new headmaster, used to resort to saying, “Ask your elder brothers, they will tell you what a strict teacher I am”! Of course, that didn’t work, the culture had changed, and he took early retirement.
During my lifetime, the mainstream population of Britain has been moving away from religion and the associated expectation of being able to impose authority by force, but that still exists in some of the, rather behind the times, ex-colonies where children are expected to be seen and not heard, to be second class citizens jumping to do the bidding of adults.
At the same time, immigration has occurred from those countries and we can see the old, Victorian ways being brought back to clash with the more modern attitude of treating children like little adults having the same rights.
As the late lamented Christopher Hitchens memorably parodied, “No child’s behind left”!
Click on the image to watch 6 minutes of his fabulous unscripted oration.