steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

Assorted School Rants

First a piece of humble pie. I complained a while ago about my daughter's school imposing a rule against physical contact between boys and girls. When I wrote to them about it, I received a letter explaining that the rule actually forbade contact between any pupils at all, regardless of sex. But also, that this rule would be applied using common sense. Personally, I'd have thought one could simply apply common sense without the need for a special rule to say that inappropriate contact is inappropriate, which is what this amounts to - but at least it's not quite as gross as I'd thought, and I give them some credit for bothering to reply.

Also, a slightly longer while ago I complained about the same school posing boys and girls differently for their school photos. I was reminded of that this week, when I got an alumni magazine which showed the editorial team, again composed of oblique women and four-square men.

Alumni Mag

I don't think this is worth analyzing at great length - you do the semiotics. But I'd love to know what thoughts (if any) went through the mind of the photographer as s/he posed these people.

Which leads me to today's complaint. One of the classes my daughter takes is called APEX. This is, I think, a replacement for what used to be called Subjection - I mean, Citizenship - and stands for Achieving Personal Excellence, a name change reflecting the less communitarian times we live in, perhaps. (Unless they're just angling for a sponsorhip from L'Oréal?)

Anyway, this week they had a supply teacher - a man, as it happened. When a couple of the boys in the class misbehaved he told them that as a punishment they would have to put the chairs on the desks at the end of the lesson (which was the last of the day). In the event, though, that took too long, so instead he said that all the boys had to do it.

Now, this kind of thing is trivial in itelf, but it made me really angry in the 1970s and still does. Would it ever have occurred to him to say - "Well, the two miscreants are black, so let's punish all the black pupils?" Of course not! Yet somehow, even in a class that no doubt devotes some of its time to condemning the evils of sexism, discrimination is still used as a standard tool of discipline. Actually, it's worse than the 1970s. When I was at school my history teacher, Mr Ohri, always allowed the girls out of class first, and that was kind of irritating, but I knew he was doing it out of a rather old-fashioned, if misguided, belief in chivalry: at least I knew where he was coming from. What excuse have today's teachers for this kind of crap?

Double standards rankle a long time with me. This example brought to mind a lesson I'd had in primary school, in which we were taught about how evil the Gestapo were for punishing an entire French village that refused to give up a resistance fighter. The next day, someone took something from the teacher's desk and refused to own up. Result? The whole class was given detention. What were we meant to think about that? Did they really imagine we wouldn't notice the hypocrisy? Thirty-seven years later I'm still fuming. Oh, and lest you think that I'm sailing awful close to the Sea of Godwin, let me remind you of Charles Dickens' wise words: "It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter."

While I'm at it, this reminds me how much I hate it when I read (as I already have this morning, more than once) students' essays that tell me that children only begin to have personalities, or a sense of right and wrong, or an idea of who they really are, once they hit adolescence. Do they really believe this bullshit? They're barely out of childhood themselves, most of them. Don't they remember?

I'm off to make an angry sandwich.
Tags: gender, maunderings
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