To the Head Teacher of my son’s school.
from a parent exasperated with the appalling quality of State education in the UK.
Dear Head Teacher,
With regard to the detention my son received for writing a ’cheeky’ comment when the IT ‘technician ’ logged him off the internet yesterday.
I spoke further at length to my son about this incident and I am unhappy about the issue as follows.
I understand that he is being punished for being cheeky and I have absolutely no argument with that, but I am unhappy about him being logged off the internet because it appears to have been ill considered, inappropriate and, perhaps, downright silly & bureaucratic if his explanations are correct – and they seem to be.
My son tells me that in the IT lesson he was required by the IT teacher to produce a powerpoint presentation, to include illustrations. This involved legitimately accessing the internet to acquire relevant images to illustrate the presentation.
He wrote the two words in the Google search box ‘Troll Comic’ to specifically access an image he had previously seen which he wished to use for this presentation, the subject of which was racism. I questioned him closely about this and he showed me this image when I googled it and it is clearly exactly the right image that would be appropriate in my son’s mind to illustrate the presentation as he explained to me. He told me it was a suitable cartoon image which clearly appeared to be a ‘black’ person and my son intended obtaining a similar type of image but illustrating a ‘white caucasian’.
It was therefore quite wrong for my son to have been arbitrarily logged off the internet and the ‘technician’ should have had the common sense to enquire of him why he appeared to be just googling comics to apparently – in the mind of the technician – read them in a lesson which would have then constituted an inappropriate use of the internet. But the technician failed to do their job properly in this respect.
It is therefore quite understandable why my son thought this was stupid and was consequentially irritated. This triggered my son’s response of ‘cheekiness’ in writing a silly comment – ‘stop watching me you pervert’ – as his natural response.
I have pointed out to him that he should have written a non-cheeky, more intelligent reply and perhaps bothered to explain why he had googled that search term. But he didn’t because children are immature and behave accordingly. He now agrees with me he was wrong and that it was immature and he should have written a more mature comment which would have resolved the issue more intelligently.
My son also told me he thought it was always pointless trying to defend himself against ‘wrong’ disciplinary accusations from the school and he never did this because it had always been his experience that it just got him into even more trouble in the end – even if he had been blameless in the first place.
This is something he has often repeated over many years and different schools and I know of some past incidents whereby my son has been absolutely blameless about something, but ‘has accepted the rap’ rather than try and defend himself. I think this is wrong and demonstrates an inadequacy of disciplinary procedures and it was not the generally the experience I remember as a child.
This demonstrates the law of unintended consequences which is probably the single most defining evil of bureaucracy and the stupidity of the bureaucratic mind.
When my son explained how the school has a system of ‘policing’ the internet by means of having a full time ‘technician’ sitting hunched up over a computer all day randomly monitoring any IT lessons or other computer access by pupils, I was, frankly, astonished at the waste of money this represents and the nightmare overtones of Orwellian surveillance and thinking and apparent need to battle with the pupils perceived remorseless disobedience in inappropriately accessing the internet.
It seemed to me inconceivable that the average private school would waste the cost of a full time salary in this manner, or that it would accept that pupils were so uncontrollable that this was the only suitable option.
I just found it offensive to see what I perceive as the sort of State type control freak bureaucracy being used to deal with an issue, as opposed to the more sane solutions used by the more sensible world of the non-governmental, non-State world which tends to do things more sensibly and effectively.
I would make the point that simply making efforts to physically prevent pupils from accessing the internet inappropriately is probably utterly pointless because while you can do this in one environment such as either school or home, this will merely encourage pupils to be even more determined to inappropriately access it elsewhere, such as friends houses, mobile devices etc.
It is quite obviously physically impossible to completely prevent pupils inappropriately accessing the internet for this reason and therefore it is simply pointlessly bureaucratic and actually more harmful in the longer term to waste time and money to effectively actually encourage pupils to do the very thing you don’t want them to do in the first place.
Like drugs, it can’t be stopped in this blunderbuss, mindlessly coercive & bureaucratic kind of way; only by properly educating people can appropriate behaviour be achieved.
The only way to prevent any form of ‘crime’ or inappropriate behaviour is to train people’s minds to be moral and law abiding etc and not to seek to achieve this effect by force, fear or the violent and repressive coercion of authority, because this will almost certainly achieve exactly the opposite effect.
It has always been the responsibility of the teacher taking a class to ensure any pupil is not doing anything ‘inappropriate’ and to employ a third party ‘policeman’ sounds horribly Orwellian and 1984’ish – with these unintended consequences I mention which have been wasting money on a salary, wasting your time, the time of the class teacher, my time, and alienating the pupil and the parent, and generally leaving a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. All the typical consequences of bad management and bureaucracy.
Which is why I am writing this.
From a parent exasperated by the futile and bad management of State schools providing a lousy standard of education to UK children by the mindless pursuit of bureaucracy instead of getting on with the real business of genuinely trying to provide a decent education.
The State education system is idiotic, bad and utterly sub-standard in just about every respect and, like many parents I am completely appalled at it.