A TV interview Paul McCartney gave to Russell Harty in the early 80s contains an anecdote from Macca that underlines how the parent/teacher relationship has often been a strained one. In it, he recalled how the young George Harrison had been caned at school in a manner that appeared extreme to his father once he saw the wound, even in an era wherein most dads regarded corporal punishment as not only a necessity but a good thing. Apparently, Mr Harrison turned up at school the following day, entered the classroom, asked the teacher if he was the man who’d scarred his son, requested the teacher step outside for a quiet word, and then laid him out with a single punch. As McCartney remembered, little George’s old man was unsurprisingly an instant hero to the kids who were witness to this incident, and I’ve a feeling no police or lawyers were dragged onto the scene thereafter; this was simply how men resolved disagreements back then. Mr Harrison had made his point and that was the end of the matter. In theory, parents and teachers work in consort to ensure a child receives the best education and is eased back onto the right path should they stray; in practice, the two parties can sometimes vary in their beliefs as to how much influence the other should exert over the child, and as Paul McCartney’s colourful recollection proves, this is no new development.
Having been lumbered with home schooling during lockdown and simultaneously observed the lingering negative effects on their child’s education due to the unnecessarily lengthy disruption of it, I do wonder how sympathetic parents really are to teachers adding their names to the endless round of strike action. Of late, the balance of power over the child has been gradually tilting in favour of the teacher, with some parents consciously feeling their natural and traditional rights slipping out of their hands. The negative perception of the family unit widely held within what one might call ‘Woke’ circles preys upon their paranoia when they suspect many of their child’s teachers subscribe to this ideology, and could well be enthusiastic salesmen for it. Under-fire parents are increasingly mistrusted as guardians and protectors, liable to steer their child away from the current consensus promoted by the teaching profession, as it is by all other institutions in thrall to it; the parent is coming to be viewed as an obstacle to indoctrination.
The gender zealots represent a serious assault on parenting, when parents are criticised for denying their kids the right to opt for new pronouns at best and surgery at worst if they suddenly decide they’ve been born in the wrong body; the so-called ‘transgender child’ is a sinister fabrication that appears to be one more concerted effort to wrestle authority away from the parent, and the fact some schools and/or individual teachers seemingly endorse this pernicious development gives cause for further concern on the part of parents. Numerous reports have claimed some schools have allowed pupils to change gender in the school environment without their parents even being notified; in several cases, parents have been prevented from finding out what lessons their children have been taught on ‘gender identity’ in sex education classes. There is the understandable worry of involuntary indoctrination when it comes to this particular issue, with the teacher acting as substitute parent and filling the child’s head with the fantasy reality of the Trans activist.
Were I a parent myself, I’d no doubt be concerned if confronted by this scenario, and I sympathise with every parent who is. At the same time, however, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of parents out there who see nothing wrong with this dubious trend and are more than happy that the curriculum now mirrors their own belief system – and any parent who disagrees with it is naturally a right-wing, transphobic bigot. It certainly sounds like a manipulative exploitation of the pliable infant mind with a specific dogma that such an undeveloped mind really shouldn’t be exposed to, and one that simply didn’t exist when the majority of us were enduring ‘the happiest days of our lives’. On the other hand, hasn’t involuntary indoctrination always been crucial to the school experience? Haven’t those who attend, say, Catholic schools always had the Good Book drilled into them against their will? And whilst the Bible admittedly contains many a memorable story, there’s no more proof any of those tales are rooted in truth than the most fanciful Trans twisting of biological fact is. One could almost argue nothing has really changed in the classroom bar the nature of the ideology.
The different dogma drilled into me as a school-kid was enforced with the same degree of inflexible, authoritarian vigour as is employed for today’s dogma. For all the talk of indoctrination children are now being exposed to, I’d argue indoctrination was just as pivotal to education back then; what are schools anyway but training camps to breed obedient little citizens? Back then, it was obey and submit to any adult in a suit or uniform; don’t answer them back, bow down before their authority – whether teacher or parent or policeman or priest – and never, under any circumstances, question their right to issue commands; they don’t need to earn your respect, for they engender it in you through fear and intimidation. That’s the same sadistic educational model that stirred enough long-term resentment in someone like Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters to eventually come out in a damning indictment of the schooling system such as ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. The fact the song sat atop the UK singles chart for five weeks over the Christmas period of 1979 suggests its observations still rang true with school-kids 20 years on from Waters’ own school-days – and, as one of them at the time, I can confirm they most definitely did.
The enforcement of the ideology that parent and teacher largely shared in my own childhood was done so with absolute conviction on their part; there was never a doubt in their minds that they were right and anyone who opposed their philosophy was wrong. In this sense, their unswerving conviction was identical to the immovable righteousness that runs through the upside down, opposite ideology of today, the one that reverses the players and replaces the parent at the pinnacle of the moral pyramid with the child – aided and abetted by the teacher. Even when the products of campus rebellion against the old order eventually entered the teaching profession in the shape of the bearded ‘hippie generation’ of teachers that began to appear as the 1970s progressed, once absorbed into the system they were just as quick to wield the cane as their older colleagues, which suggested the power invested in the teacher corrupted even those who professed to detest it.
Despite the shared beliefs of that era, there were still differences between parent and teacher that divided them. My own old man always mistrusted well-spoken, well-educated types he encountered on parent evenings, dismissing them as ‘clever’ and perhaps reacting in a manner that reflected his self-confessed grudge against his social ‘betters’ as well as his longstanding difficulty with authority, something that had hampered his own schooldays. He never punched a teacher on my behalf like George Harrison’s dad, but his opinion of some teachers he met at my school was often no better than mine. Still, I had to accept their authority and abide by it – and the use of corporal punishment was deemed a more effective deterrent than the naughty step. Of course, some kids emerged from this system scarred but unscathed in their opposition to it, whereas others who had never questioned it fulfilled the contract and did indeed become obedient little citizens. I should imagine there are a fair few being schooled right now who are resistant and will be released no more convinced or converted than they were when in the thick of it. For the majority, however, we won’t know for another few years yet just how damaging the current model will prove to be.
© The Editor
5 thoughts on “WHO’S THE DADDY NOW?”
As always, thought provoking and insightful. I’d never considered that there is no change in the methodology, just the ideology, of education. My education was at the absolute fag end of the corporal punishment era, where I think it was illegal in the last years of secondary school, no-one complained if a teacher forgot themselves and gave you a smack or a crack with a ruler (Mr. Tebbett from our school had about a third of a roll of wallpaper “I don’t have to swing it too hard”) as you knew if it was reported home you’d get far, far worse in the majority of cases. Fast forward to my son’s teenage years, and my wife had always insisted on no corporal punishment so I had this absolute ungovernable, not so little s**t, who had no respect for, and was not scared of, anything. I’d be facing off with him one night, then begging his school not to expel him the next day. It didn’t seem right, but six years later, he’s in a steady job, steady relationship and we have a great relationship, we can talk to, and trust each other so was my wife right? Love my dad to bits, but at 91 I’m still petrified of him. My daughter faced far worse, the witchy psychological bullying (that alongside other factors) landed her in hospital, absolutely psychologically broken (I’m not just blaming the school. I bear an awful lot of responsibility for this myself, by way of shutting myself off from things I don’t understand). The schools response to that was “girls will be girls”, until she ended up in hospital. Scared of a lawsuit I couldn’t afford, probably. Anyway, remove her from that environment and now she’s thriving and on for medical school next year. (Me and the Mrs are looking for more jobs!) In my local there’s a couple of teachers who both drink in there, the secondary teacher says it is just about manageable at the moment, and the primary school teacher that says the whirlwind is coming, with parents from both ideological extremes saying that their little “them” couldn’t possibly misbehave, whilst others saying that you cannot punish them for the purposefully hateful filth that comes out of their mouth as it curtails their free speech. Sorry for the length of post, and I don’t know what I am trying to say, other than it seems a genuine common sense and tolerance has gone out of the window, in this as in so many aspects of life nowadays.
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I recall a very early post on here (which still seems to receive regular views) covered the subject of corporal punishment in schools, which coincidentally (?) officially ended the year after I left, so I guess I also experienced the fag-end of it. As I say in this post, the new wave of teachers that came into the profession in the second half of my schooling blended with the old guard (who’d fought in the war and so on) and seamlessly adopted the same approach once engrained in the system – so much for their ‘progressive’ attitude. I suppose my education took place on a cusp between two different eras and once I was out of it the gradual slide to where we are now began.
My schooldays were certainly no holiday, though I still wouldn’t swap them for what passes for schooldays today. I guess the apparent freedoms from fear and intimidation that 21st century boys and girls experience in the classroom is both a source of envy on one hand and simultaneous regret on the other. To be honest, as a non-parent, I just feel a sense of relief I don’t have to worry about it.
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It’s very difficult to comment on the world of education when (a) you are childless and (b) you can only view it through the prism of your own schooling at some distant point in time, in my case a point in time now 55 years ago.
Every school seems to be a society in its own right, it has principles, norms and behaviours which have developed, or been developed, within. No-one outside that closed world can ever participate fully in that experience, all we can do is observe and evaluate the product of the process.
My own schooling was perhaps influenced by it being an all-male establishment, not only the pupils but also every member of the teaching staff was male, so the life-experience garnered was at least limited by gender. To compensate, the quality of teaching, the dedication of the staff and the camaraderie developed amongst the pupils was exceptional.
In a past life 30+ years ago when recruiting staff for my own operation, the quality of the output was already demonstrating compromises in what I considered to be the main objectives of education as I had experienced them 20 years before, replaced by emphasis on softer facets of development, so much harder to measure or objectively evaluate.
Whether it is better overall is hard to say, I know that my education shaped me and produced the person that I am, what we’ll never know is whether I’d have been better or worse having passed through a different process, however that was influenced.
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My own education was mixed until high-school, which began at 13. From that point on, it was single-sex, which (as far as I’m led to believe) is now quite rare in the state sector. I remember telling a friend of mine many years ago that I’d attended an all-boys school and she assumed I’d been to Eton or somewhere of that ilk. From what I can recall, the main drawback to this unnatural separation from the opposite sex meant I went into it having had no problems with girls and then came out the other end four years later viewing them as an alien species. It took several years before I learnt how to talk to them again.
I know what you mean about considering girls as an alien species, I was the same. However, I suspect that status caused me to be more respectful in my earlier dealings with them, as I’d never been exposed to the more negative aspects of teen-girl behaviours, as those in mixed schools would have been, so I held them on some sort of pedestal. I later discovered that they have all the same faults and foibles as boys, plus a few more, so balance was finally achieved.
Mrs M of course, whom I met when she was a teen-girl, remains entirely perfect, as she seeks to remind me daily.
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