Authoritarian Schooling: A Catalogue of Damage compiled by David Gribble




Staff-student conflict



Adults who have jobs that they do not enjoy are paid to do the work. Children who do not enjoy school are obliged to attend by law.

Faced by a group of unwilling or hostile pupils, teachers resort to various techniques of domination, and the classroom becomes a battleground.

On the website for The Times Educational Supplement there are a number of forums. A particularly popular one which has been running for some years can be found at this address

The original posting was a request for advice as to how to cope with negative comments from pupils, such as 'This is boring.'

The suggested responses include 'Not as boring as detention,' 'So is listening to you whine,' 'Well you've still got to do it ... and it's now or in your playtime ... the choice is yours!' and 'This is school, you're not supposed to be enjoying yourself.'

These seem hostile enough, but not as savagely hostile as this anecdote:

'No. THIS is boring.' I then gave him the oldest, crappiest text book in size 8 or 9 Times New Roman font and made him copy out for the rest of the lesson while the rest of his class went on the drums! He was sick as a dog! Mwuhahahaha!

There is a small number of posts from teachers who find this kind of approach deplorable, but many describe open warfare. Here are a few exchanges which teachers quote with pride:

'Miss you have the fattest earlobes that I have ever seen.'
'And you have the lowest I.Q that I have ever read.'

'It smells in here!'
'It was fine until you walked in...'

'Sir, why do you always pick on me?'
'Because you're ugly.'

'You hate me.'
'I hate everyone, you're not special.'

 Some teachers consider it fair to tell children lies. One tells how she has managed to convince her class that the IWB projector, smoke detectors and alarm sensors in the school contain cameras, and now uses this a threat.

There are some postings from teachers who object to the general tone of the forum, but they are fiercely contradicted. One kindly comment produced this response:

Woolly liberalism is what's wrong with this world ... in my opinion only ... I'm glad teachers are standing up to the constant abuse they receive ... we'd get nowhere with these children if all we said was (in a hippy, left-wing way) 'hey ... let's talk about this and analyse it ... ' 
God NO! Let's not ... let's just get on with the business of teaching.

'Teachers are standing up to the constant abuse they receive.' Constant abuse. There seems to be constant abuse, in fact, from both sides. One teacher quotes himself as commenting to a student who was shouting out obscenities, 'Dear god, you retard.' If the student called him up for abuse, he would claim he had been misheard, and had actually said 'You must work hard.' 'But,' he adds, 'he will always know, deep down, that I consider him a retard.'

Facing an unruly class with the knowledge that you have to stay with them until the end of the lesson is an extremely unpleasant experience. Most of the contributors to this discussion seem to take it for granted that the only way to avoid this experience is to make sure you remain on top, using any means you can think of, from sarcasm and insult to lying. It is assumed that if the teacher does not remain on top, the class descends into chaos.

Teacher domination is probably preferable to chaos, but a cooperative atmosphere is vastly preferable to either. The damage done by some of the teachers who have contributed to the discussion must be enormous. As Jürg Jegge says, 'Stupidity is learnable.' If you are told you are a retard, you come to believe it.