The Megaphone - A disciplined approach
Jun 21, 2016 | The Megaphone | by reader Greg Cudmore
“Instead of teachers being afraid to discipline students lest they be savaged by over-possessive parents who invariably blame the school for misbehaviour which usually emanates from poor parenting at home, they need to be empowered to do the job they were trained for.”
Reader Greg Cudmore is back - this time attacking assumptions around private v. public education.
A disciplined approach
With election fever in the air, it is tedious that the hoary old chestnut of public versus private school debate is still being revisited. Funding for independent schools had its genesis with the Menzies government’s grants to build science labs and libraries in the 1960s.
Menzies cozied up to the DLP which strongly supported state aid to private schools and split the ALP vote. Ever since, it has been a political football even though the debate is now meaningless. The DOGS High Court challenge in 1980 was the last hurrah for opponents of funding for private schools which is now accepted by all governments in Australia.
The real debate needs to be not about whether a school is private of public, but whether students actually learn anything in our classrooms. I have observed many private schools, both in the Catholic and independent sectors, which are very under-resourced, overcrowded and operate on a much smaller per-head budget than their state school counterparts. I have seen mediocre teachers and uninspiring curricula in the so-called most prestigious private schools. There are some excellent state schools with outstanding student results and with teachers more switched-on than their private school counterparts.
It is nonsense to categorize all private schools as one entity, just as it is meaningless to regard all state schools as under-resourced, under-performing poor cousins. Because a private school has a swimming pool and sports stadium, does not imply that school will provide a superior education. What is critical is that any school, whether it be public or private, has sufficient resources to teach the children they enrol. And more telling than the amount in their budgets is the school’s learning environment.
In its simplest form this equates to classroom discipline. If classrooms are disciplined learning environments there is a good chance that students will achieve their potential as learners. That has nothing to do with public versus private schools. Fundamentally, it is whether a school can effectively deal with those students who continually disrupt the learning of others.
The most capable teachers will be ineffective if they spend their lessons trying to control unruly, uncooperative and undisciplined children. This transcends school sectors, although most would assume that the attraction of private schools is that they are likely to be more disciplined learning environments. Although this is not always the case and despite the hype of private school propaganda, parents presume that their child will be better able to reach their potential if classrooms are busy disciplined environments.
So in terms of government funding it’s really about disciplined versus undisciplined rather than private versus public schools. Resources need to be spent on restoring discipline in all our schools. Let’s put an end to the misguided laissez-faire, ‘all rights and no responsibilities for students’ regime.
The spotlight needs to be fairly and squarely on what is happening in our classrooms and the need for zero tolerance of behaviours which destroy the learning of others. Instead of teachers being afraid to discipline students lest they be savaged by over-possessive parents who invariably blame the school for misbehaviour which usually emanates from poor parenting at home, they need to be empowered to do the job they were trained for.
It’s not about a return to the days of canes and straps and petrified students in oppressive classrooms. It’s about recognising that in all our schools, discipline is the cornerstone of effective education. Spending millions of dollars on IT, facilities, curriculum innovation, comprehensive testing and improved teacher training will achieve very little if schools have failed to create disciplined learning environments. That’s the least our students deserve in whatever school they find themselves in.
by Greg Cudmore
The writer has recently retired after 45 years teaching in Independent schools in Victoria and Queensland.
For more by Greg click here