I read a wonderful sign on a wall recently of a quote attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper that I think applies intimately to the current schools challenge in Australia.
And there are examples of the wreckage caused by this thinking all around us.
The concept returned to my attention when I read the blog “It’s time to stop smacking” by the amazing Justin Coulson recently. Coulson points out that a meta-analysis of parents smacking their children reveals that against 11 criteria: compliance, moral internalisation, aggression, anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behaviour, relationship quality, mental health, adult abuse of spouse, adult abuse of child, and becoming a victim of abuse – smacking makes each worse.
How on Earth are we not standing up against this? How is belting our kids still glorified on social media? Why would we be quietly condoning parents continuing to send students to us who are damaged unnecessarily? Is this really what we must accept as the norm for raising our kids – just because we always have?
I thought about these dangers of useless traditions again when I read about NSW dumping the Safe Schools Anti-Bullying Program. Now, I’m no prude and as such am not particularly offended by the content of this controversial approach to reducing bullying against LGBTI students.
What I’m offended about is the lunacy of replacing it with another program. With the global count at around 9000 anti-bullying programs for schools isn’t it time to admit that, despite our best intentions and our determination that ‘programs’ arewhat we’ve always done here, that we’ve failed. One of the 9000 should have worked!
Programs can work for some things – even new things. For instance, you CAN teach robotics on a Wednesday afternoon. But bullying doesn’t exist on only Wednesday afternoons. It’s everywhere. It’s cultural.
Until we make a realisation that bullying isn’t a behavioural problem that can be deprogrammed out of students, but is a cultural issue that is only resolved through addressing ethos, language and relationships, we’re doomed to spend a long time implementing failing programs.
The imperative of today’s Teachers and School Leaders is more than ever to ensure that we are doing things that have NEVER been done before – not that we’ve always done. The cost of not is far too high.