October 16th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: How Abbott could have won the Coalition the election

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor opportunism over Aborigines, environment

EDITORIAL: Japan's foot-and-mouth disease threat to Australia

EUTHANASIA I: Physician-assisted suicide defeated in WA

EUTHANASIA II: What the public deserves to be told about euthanasia

EUTHANASIA III: Palliative care the answer to euthanasia

CHINA I: Espionage a key tool in Chinese statecraft

CHINA II: Falling into the trap of an Asian Munich

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Questions about Venezuela's links with radical Muslims

SCHOOLS: Old-school discipline best for children's sake

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Post-abortion grief caused by brain's 'hard-wiring'

AS THE WORLD TURNS: American universities in decline / On getting boys to read again / West stuck in near depression / Euro may collapse

BOOK REVIEW: CLIMATE: The Counter-Consensus, by Robert M. Carter


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Old-school discipline best for children's sake

by Kevin Donnelly

News Weekly, October 16, 2010
Student misbehaviour is a significant problem for teachers, and schools must be given the freedom to implement more traditional forms of discipline and classroom management, pleads educationalist Dr Kevin Donnelly.

When it comes to our classrooms, it's clear that teachers have lost control and, as the saying goes, the inmates are in control of the asylum.

Figures quoted in Melbourne's Herald Sun show 50,000 Victorian children have been suspended from state schools in the past three years, violence and bullying are endemic, and many new teachers resign because of badly behaved students.

What's to be done? Years ago, discipline was strong, teachers were respected, children did what they were told and a good classroom was well-ordered and quiet.

Children faced the front of the room, and open classrooms, group work and child-centred learning had yet to be invented.

It's time to admit that new-age, progressive education does not work.

Forcing 40 to 60 primary schoolchildren into an open learning space, making them work in groups, calling them "knowledge navigators" and expecting teachers to be guides by the side is a recipe for disaster.

Instead of being facilitators, teachers need to teach. Children, especially boys, need structure and discipline.

And schools need to have strict policies about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and immediate consequences for breaking those rules.

Forget the time-out room and psychobabble about punishment being bad for a child's self-esteem.

Teachers need to realise education is not a popularity contest and they will get more respect from children if they act as authority figures instead of pretending to be every student's best mate.

One of the reasons non-government schools do not have the same discipline problems as government schools is because they have the power to suspend students.

Government school principals, on the other hand, can only act after consulting head office, filling in reams of paperwork and jumping through the hoops.

It's time to make government schools more like non-government schools by getting rid of bureaucratic interference and giving them the power to make decisions at the local level.

Schools should be free to design and enforce their discipline policies, ranging from suspension for the most serious offences to after-school detention, picking up rubbish and the old favourite of writing out lines.

Meanwhile, helicopter parents need to stop hovering over their children, spoiling them and giving in to their every wish. Education begins at home and young children need to be taught respect and how to behave.

I'll always remember teaching in Melbourne's western suburbs and being told by Greek and Italian parents that it was okay to give their boys a clip over the ear if they caused trouble.

Try that now and you would lose your job and the child would be entitled to stress counselling.

Parents should also turn off the computers, throw away the Game Boys and ban their children from Facebook and mobile phones.

Research shows new technologies scramble the brain and turn children into hyperactive, restless automatons.

The alternative is to return to the printed word. One of the benefits of making young children read on a regular basis is that it teaches them to concentrate and to sit still for long periods of time.

Activities such as reading, memorising poetry and mental arithmetic also help develop thinking skills and make it easier for children to succeed at school.

After being sacked for trying to discipline a student, a British teacher recently won $106,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

He said: "There are so many kids whose education is being massively disrupted by the bad behaviour of other children and the teachers can't do anything about it."

Victorian teachers face the same problems as their British counterparts and, unless action is taken very soon, thousands of innocent children will continue to suffer because of the disruptive few.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of the Education Standards Institute, at
URL: www.edstandards.com.au

This article first appeared in Melbourne's Sunday Herald Sun (September 5, 2010).

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