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