Thursday, 1 September 2011

Tories OK child-abuse

Ministers are scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to "restore adult authority" in the wake of the riots in England.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, said that he wanted greater numbers of men teaching, particularly in primary schools, so as to provide children with male authority figures who could display "both strength and sensitivity".

In a speech delivered at Durand academy, in Stockwell, south London, Gove said the regulations on the use of force inhibited teachers' judgment.

He said: "So let me be crystal clear, if any parent now hears a school say, 'sorry, we can't physically touch the students', then that school is wrong. Plain wrong. The rules of the game have changed."


Sure, they'd never say they are giving the OK to child abuse, but they make it more likely. And how are male teachers supposed to display "strength" (or sensitivity) in a fashion female teachers can't? Teaching is hardly the most machismo or physically demanding role, so what do they mean? Sounds like a lot of cock and bull to justify physical abuse, the rough manhandling of schoolchildren, an urge to return to the cane.....a short sharp shock. etc.

I think people make a big mistake when thinking about the past and how obedient and respectful people were. If they even were all that 'respectful'. I don't think that's a given. But even assuming they were, there are cultural changes which fashion the minds of youth in ways their antecedents never experience. People weren't more deferential (if they were) in medieval times simply because of the cat-o-nine-tails, or whatever. Rather, they lived in that culture, and they lacked a philosophical position like individualism from which to resist, and on which to rest their dissent. Likewise up until post-war some degree or another.....but since then popular culture has embraced ideas of liberation, individualism, even anarchism. To imagine that reintroducing the cane, for example, because it was used at a time of (supposed) greater deference for authority, and will therefore bring about the same deference once again, is to surely mistake the power of the cane, and underestimate the importance of wider culture and philosophy (even at level of popular culture).

The cane (and ANY punishment imo) are evil. And much of popular culture holds the same view, despite capital punishment also being popular (even, maybe especially, where it is outlawed). An interesting paradox, I think.

I like the sound of Bertrand Russell's school. Go to lessons if you want. If you don't, it's your loss.....

In Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the teacher (Phaedrus) stopped scoring homework, with interesting results.


I was interested what was on the web about the Russell school, and I came across Spartacus' telling of Russell's wife, Dora Black, Dora Russell. What an incredible life story.

Seems Russell's school is perhaps better described as Dora Black's school.

Anyway, Spartacus says:
Dora Black, the daughter of Frederick Black, a senior Civil servant, was born in London in 1894. Black held strong progressive views and believed that girls had the right to as good an education as boys. Dora responded well to her father's encouragement and won scholarships to Sutton High School and Girton College, Cambridge. At university she gained a first-class honours degree in modern languages.

Dora met Bertrand Russell in 1916 and soon afterwards he asked her to marry him. Dora's feminism involved a belief in sexual freedom and although she was willing to live with Bertrand, she rejected his proposal of marriage. Dora saw marriage as a restriction on women's liberty, and although Bertrand accepted her philosophical argument on the subject, he wanted a son and legitimate heir to the family title.

In the First World War Dora joined Russell's campaign against military conscription. After Russell was released from Brixton Prison in 1918 for his role in the struggle against the Military Service Act. Dora and Bertrand visited Russia and China together.

When they returned to England in 1921 Dora agreed to marry Bertrand Russell. After giving birth to her first child Dora became involved in the birth control movement. The 1923 Dora along with Maynard Keynes, paid for the legal costs to obtain the freedom of Guy Aldred and Rose Witcop after they had been found guilty of selling pamphlets on contraception. The following year, Dora, with the support of Katharine Glasier, Susan Lawrence, Margaret Bonfield, Dorothy Jewson and H. G. Wells founded the Workers' Birth Control Group. Dora also campaigned within the Labour Party for birth-control clinics but this was rejected as they feared losing the Roman Catholic vote.

Dora did a considerable amount of writing during this period. With Bertrand she wrote The Prospects of Industrial Civilization (1923) and two years later she published her book, Hypatia: Women and Knowledge. The book was severely attacked by people who disapproved of Dora's theories on sexual freedom for women.

In 1927 Dora and Bertrand Russell opened their own progressive boarding school, Beacon Hill, near Harting, West Sussex. The school reflected Bertrand's view that children should not be forced to follow a strictly academic curriculum. Other aspects of the school illustrated Dora's ideas on education. The school was run on the principle that freedom, if understood early enough, would result in maturity and self-discipline. Dora also emphasized co-operation rather than competition and believed that the best way to teach the benefits of democracy was to run the school on democratic lines. Dora's educational philosophy was expressed in her book In Defence of Children (1932).

Both Bertrand and Dora continued to have sexual relationships with other partners. This resulted in Dora having two children with the journalist, Griffin Barry. In 1935 Bertrand Russell left Dora for one of his students, Patricia Spence. When Barry returned to the United States, Dora continued to run Beacon Hill School on her own until the Second World War when she went to work for the Ministry of Information.

Dora was active in the peace movement after the war and in 1958 joined with Bertrand Russell, J. B. Priestley, Vera Brittain, Fenner Brockway, Victor Gollancz, Canon John Collins and Michael Foot to form the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Later that year Dora organised the Women's Caravan of Peace and toured with it through much of Europe.

After retiring to Cornwall in 1962, Dora wrote Religion and the Machine Age (1982) and three volumes of autobiography, The Tamarisk Tree (1977, 1981, 1985).

Dora Russell died in 1986.

Bertrand Russell is often cited as one of the arch evils of the New World Order. That seems a vicious and poisonous accusation considering the brief biography of Dora alone. I've seen so many 'patriot' and conspiracist attacks on Russell. I'm a big fan of Bertrand Russell, and I know something of him - the attacks on him are crazily vicious and.....ignorant. I've seen Russell described as the most evil man on the planet (because he was called the cleverest man in England, presumably).

Russell is useful to the conspiracists because he links old British (English) aristocracy to modern liberalism and socialism.

Nevermind that Russell wrote an essay "Why I am not a communist". How much more clear need he make it? He didn't believe in Marx's historical materialism at all, and one thing Russell was good at was history, it seems to me.

Russell got Einstein onboard for CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) IIRC. He was jailed for pacifism in WW1, but a supporter of war against Nazism.

Wiki says "In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.""

Well, that's where my interest in Russell came from, I think. His humanitarianism and freedom of thought. And his great liberalism. Strange then to see him so maligned amongst the American patriot/libertarian movement.

The school? This gives a little flavour. I didn't know it was W Sussex. Shame.

Beacon Hill School
Having children of their own and being dissatisfied with the existing educational methods Dora and Bertrand Russell became increasingly interested in the problems of the education of children. They became convinced that a fundamentally new approach to education, especially primary education was required.

With this in view they founded in 1927 Beacon Hill School at Telegraph House, Harting, Petersfield, Sussex, where they educated on progressive principles a small group of young children together with their own children. They hoped their school would lay the foundation for modern education by combining all that was best in available academic knowledge ( 75).

Religious education was excluded and science, history and politics were all treated on progressive lines. In addition to classes there were many activities, such as arts and crafts, plays and puppet shows and the care of the children's personal gardens and pets.

Discipline was minimal and free expression was encouraged. There was self-government by a council of adults and children, in which everyone had one vote.

The children were divided into three groups, called: 'bigs', 'middles' and 'smalls'.

Special attention was given to teaching methods, psychological theory and practice, nutrition and health.

After Bertrand Russell left the school in 1932, Dora Russell ran the school by herself. In 1934 Bertrand Russell wanted the school to vacate Telegraph House, which belonged to him after the death of his brother. The school was then moved to Boyles Court, South Weald, near Brentwood, Essex, and later in 1937 to Kingwell Hall, near Bath, Somerset, since the outbreak of war was thought likely. In 1940, when invasion threatened, the War Office requisitioned Kingwell Hall. No compensation was forthcoming and the school faced ruin. Dora Russell managed to carry on with a small group at her private home in Porthcurno, Cornwall, near Land's End until 1943, when she was forced to close down.

While Bertrand Russell was connected with the school he wrote popular books to keep the school going. After he had left, the school had recurring financial difficulties.
Her closest colleague in the later years of the school was Gordon (Pat) Grace, whom she married in 1940. He died in 1949. Along with A.S. Neill 'Summerhill' Beacon Hill School was the best known model reform school before the Second World War.

What an incredible woman.

1 comment:

the_last_name_left said...

"Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each."
— Plato

Absolutely. The simplest way to a better society with better people. And the most Just thing to do.