Modern schools fail successfully

By Garth George


Last week's column on the sad and dangerous state of our education system brought a response from a school teacher who tells me that, after 40 years' service, the continuous ''stress and disillusionment'' had caused him to chuck it in.

He says he started in the classroom in the 1970s and describes it as ''magic, a time of creativity and success''.

But ''the unacceptable conduct back then of the very worstbehaved students would be regarded as acceptable behaviour today''.

He shall remain nameless, but some of the concerns that led to his resignation indicate that the system is indeed seriously deficient: they deserve a wider audience.

Here, then, are some of his concerns.

Tomorrow's Schools has effectively made schools competitive in their communities, so ''problems and serious issues are covered up to preserve a school's reputation''.

Boards of trustees' children are always well catered for, put in the best classrooms ''and over the years I have noted their children seem to get special treatment and recognition''.

Communities are virtually unaware of the real state of some schools, as are their boards of trustees.

''It is common, for instance, for teachers to be told to 'get f****d' or that 'this stuff [classwork] is boring I'm not doing it'.''

He says the new PBL (positive behaviour for learning) in schools looks and sounds great, with flags and signs all around schools proclaiming slogans.

''It's all too good to be true. Scratch the surface and you'll find teachers having to teach intermediate students how to line up, how to sit down to eat their lunches, how to use toilets properly, and a thousand other activities we once took for granted.''

Drug use has become common but ''it is very rarely reported to police. Usually the drugs are confiscated and a short stand-down imposed - all conveniently dealt with without fuss''.

He points out that billions of dollars have been invested in the education system to provide the latest computers, laptops and digital whiteboards.

''But our literacy and numeracy results are poor and the real reason for that is the expectation that students should be entertained because their attention spans are so short and they don't have the quiet discipline and focus that other generations had.''

There is, he says, a serious imbalance of males to females in the teaching profession and ''that has led to the feminising of the way schools are run and organised''.

''Gone is the good, stern telling off. 'No' doesn't means 'no' any more and teachers are often rebuked for their tone of voice or for not being 'respectful' of the students' feelings. It's more of a mothering approach.

''From a man's and boy's perspective, a more definite black and white approach is far more satisfactory, stripped of all the shades of grey painted to mitigate things.''

My informant says that in the classroom experience for boys over the years, ''the risks of experimenting and being adventurous have been eliminated. Practical activities such as pulling apart and investigating gadgets and machines, making constructions from wood or clay or papiermache are rarely seen in the modern open-plan classroom''.

On school camps, he says, students used to camp under tents, cook their own meals and be on the go from dawn to bedtime.

But nowadays most camps are residential, the programmes run by paid instructors, and much of the challenge and hardship gone.

''We have wrapped them in bubble wrap.''

''In most schools physical games have been banned, such as bullrush - activities against which boys could measure themselves physically have gone.''

This disenchanted schoolteacher concludes: ''The greatest problem in education today is that everything is successful; even failure is a learning experience.''

No wonder we're breeding another generation in which so many leave school illiterate and innumerate and unable to communicate.



- Bay of Plenty Times

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