Earlier this week I had one of those frustrating conversations on Twitter where I wasn't expressing myself clearly but I also came to realise that I was maybe holding on to some lazy assumptions.
The discussion revolved around whether it was necessary to beat children at school or not. I grew up in an environment where getting beaten by a teacher was nothing exceptional. Daniel felt that this was going to teach children that violence was a valid way of life.
My gut reaction was "for fuck's sake, it's not violence", but actually, of course, it is.
The whole situation in which I was educated was completely different: parents were much stricter and there was a general consensus that parents expected teachers to maintain strict discipline and that if you got punished, you deserved it. In fact, if you got punished at school, you'd almost certainly wind up getting punished again at home.
But there's more than one aspect to this violence. Firstly, it was not dished out casually. You had to explicitly transgress a fundamental rule. Teachers would always give ample warning. I never once got a beating or saw anyone else get a beating where I thought "that was patently unfair."*
Female teachers were obviously not going to administer corporal punishment, so you got sent to the headmaster, which was another level of scary.
It all took place in a spirit of respect and fairness. The teachers knew that the school was populated by testosterone-charged teenagers and that sometimes things would happen. Discipline was appallingly strict compared to what my daughter sees today, but I never felt like it got in the way of my education or my development as a person. (Maybe it did, but I didn't feel like it did, and that's what mattered to me.)
And the teachers respected us as much as we respected them. I don't for a moment imagine that beating someone inspires respect, but I respected my teachers as teachers, not because of their ability to beat me. I still remember them fondly, and regard them as inspirational, amazing people and I wish that all children could experience teachers like that.
But they don't, as we now have an environment where teachers feel it's appropriate to be "down wiv da yoof" and banter with the kids as equals.
You may well argue that we are all equal, and that's a valid perspective, but why the hell would you pay the blindest bit of attention to your "mate" when he tries to chastise you for your inappropriate behaviour?
So, as much as it's discriminatory, I can definitely see the logic in teachers being aloof, rather than trying to be all matey-matey. But aloofness, a strict (if commonsense) code of conduct and respect from teachers can only do so much to maintain discipline.
If a student is being disruptive, there is a need to restore order. If you reason with them, or point out that they are disruptive and they still carry on, the teacher has to have an effective sanction.
And here I get a bit lost as a libertarian. Currently, it seems like a student can be sent out of the class. That's great, but it means that the student misses the lesson.
@danoprey would rather see the disruptive student excluded from the lesson, and it being upgraded to excluded from the school if necessary. This will mean the student being sent to the office (which they may or may not do, unless accompanied, which means more disruption). Then there has to be some sort of appeals process to ensure that teachers are being reasonable. Then there has to be some sort of reasonable escalation process before someone is completely excluded to make sure that someone is given sufficient chance. And somebody has to keep completely accurate track of this.
This is all possible, I suppose, but I can see it becoming a lot more disruptive and time consuming overall.
I would rather see a swift punishment administered that means that focus can be regained and the class can continue with a minimum of disruption and that the offender is not prevented from learning.
And assuming all the other things are in place, like the code of conduct and mutual respect and all the rest, I can't really see what, other than a couple of smacks with a cane, will fulfil that role.
*I did once get a beating that was completely undeserved. But even at the time, as the "crime" was happening, I could see why the teachers thought I had transgressed, plus, I'd have had to snitch on a classmate to protect my arse. And that was beyond the pale.