Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ordnung uber alles

Lately I've heard from a number of people that military-style order in schools would be a good thing: it would make sure that everyone learns, give children the limits they so clearly crave, give them a safe environment, etc., etc.

Well, I've seen 5 of the actual implementations (6 if you count the daycare) from close by, and all I can say is that if I had a sprog of my own, I certainly would not put him/her in a school like that.

(Yeah, you may say that those were just bad implementations, and if you were setting up the school order according to your genius plan, everything would be peachy. I'd believe this about as much as I believe the modern Communists' claim that if they ran the Soviet Union it would have become the workers' paradise.)

We had uniforms, endless standing in rows, moving our heads straight and to the right according to military commands, standing in lines where we were arranged by height, constant yelling and actual weapons. We also had a lot more violence than the schools that my Finnish friends went to.

Uniforms sucked. Both the actual implementations, and the idea. People said things like "that's so kids would think about school and not about clothes", and a lot of vague things about uniforms instilling respect in the wearer (for school, and for oneself). Kids thought about clothes more than ever, of course. As to respect, I realize that some people have problem distinguishing between respect, fear and hatred, but I am not one of them. Being forced to wear some particular clothes by somebody else has never given me any respect for myself, or for the person doing the forcing. I don't see how it would.

Endless standing in rows sucked too, much for the same reasons, and so did dozens more arbitrary rules and rituals. But enough about that. I know I am a somewhat more ritual-wary person than average.

The thing is, it didn't work for maintaining any useful order. By useful order I mean preventing unprovoked violence and class disturbance. Bullying and violence were rampant, and keeping the classes free of disturbances depended, just like pretty much everywhere else, on the authority of the teacher of the class in question.

Kids were left to fend for themselves in fights, and the only way to get rid of bullies was by punching and kicking them. If you were too small for that, you were screwed. Afterwards the teachers would just yell at you for your uniform not being quite in order.

(I suppose in a Finnish implementation, if there were one, they would instead deal with the fights by punishing all the participants, totally disregarding any idea of self-defense and saying "it takes two to fight, you are both equally guilty").

One of the worst things about such a system was that it attracted bullies to the teaching profession. If you think that having bullies as classmates was bad, just wait until an adult bully with a teaching degree becomes your teacher. The weird thing about it was that all their bullying did not help to maintain any useful order: for example, a teacher who would gladly yell at a student for wearing large breasts to school (yes, that really happened) still didn't manage to calm down the noisy students in her class.

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