Sunday 1 April 2007

Police, Sir

No sooner have I started this blog, than I notice a rather pernicious plan by the government, to give new powers to teachers to discipline "unruly" pupils (BBC News article).

These include: "Teachers will be able to discipline pupils outside school too - if they see children behaving badly on public transport, for instance."

Even within school hours, it is highly debatable whether giving teachers the power to be judge, jury and executioner is rather debatable. Outside of school hours, allowing punishments to be dished out kangaroo-court style is even more unfair.

Other measures include: "the new law explicitly states that teachers have the right to ... impose detention, including sessions outside school hours and on Saturdays". What about in areas where public transport does not allow for kids getting into school on Saturdays, or travelling home late?

Don't get me wrong, there are some "teachers' rights" I would be in favour of. Like the right to decent wages, and the right to teach the kids to learn creatively rather than to pass endless exams (like the SATs).

But these new powers are simply about controlling the kids more heavy handedly, which is a move backwards not forwards. Calling them "teachers' rights" suggests at best a very partisan definition of "rights", and is at worst a good example of Newspeak.

And what about the rights of the students? I know, it takes a brave person to support the rights of young people nowadays, when anyone who is not a child hater (or at least a hardline adult-chauvanist) risks being labelled a "paedophile". But when we consider the already announced measures to keep kids in school up to the age of 18, it seems young people are having their rights and freedom hammered by the government. Before you think it doesn't affect you, I'll leave you with the words of Pastor Niemoeller.

"First they came for the jews ..."

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