Monday, February 09, 2009

Good manners were not the preserve of the Victorians

A school in Hampshire is claiming to have improved attendance and results by introducing "Victorian-style rules".

Pupils at Neville Lovett Community School are encouraged to answer staff with a polite 'yes, Mrs Jones' rather than 'yeah' and stand respectfully behind their desks until the class teacher tells them to sit.

I'm not denying that these measures have brought the improvements they claim - I just don't understand why they think that the simple concepts of good manners and politeness are "Victorian". Everything they mention was par for the course in schools in my day - from infants through to secondary and I'm sure they still remain the norm for many schools today.

What they actually are doing is not introducing "Victorian-style" rules, but reversing the progressive liberal idea that decreed that teachers should be more like the kids rather than the kids more like the teachers. So teachers stopped being figures of authority and tried to be the kids "mates" instead - which is the last thing the kids wanted - and instead of expecting respect and enforcing codes of conduct, good manners and politeness they left it up to the kids to decide.

I think the idea was that they'd gain the respect of the children if the children thought their teachers were "in tune" with them. Of course, as any parent knows, children are highly manipulative and will run rings around an adult who tries to play them at their own game.

Good manners, politeness and a general level of morality should be a given at all our schools. Even if they won't admit it, the reality is that children actually like, as well as need, rules and discipline.

Still, it's a step in the right direction for that school. I doubt that we'll see the idea being replicated the length and breadth of Britain, though - far too many lefty teachers still in the profession for that to happen.

2 comments:

Chalcedon said...

When I was at school you stood up when a master entered the classroom. He was always "sir". You always knew exactly where you stood in this relationship.

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