Parents need to accept responsibility for children's actions

Peter Richardson.
Peter Richardson.

COMPARED with the Newman government's plans to repair the state's financial train wreck, education minister John-Paul Langbroek's raft of options for school principals trying to cope with classroom misbehavior could be wrongly seen as a minor issue.

It did, however, trigger a predictable mix of strong reactions, especially to the proposed Saturday detentions.

These ranged from "He cant be serious" to "About bloody time!" but the minister himself should perhaps be given a detention for not doing his homework.

Before flagging such a contentious measure, he should have had ready a reassuring reply to doubts on its workability.

That said, I do endorse his aim to give teachers more authority in the control of bad behaviour, but that does not go to the heart of the problem.

Far too many parents expect far too much of teachers.

Thanks to the social engineering of the past few decades, they are either afraid or unwilling to teach their children the basics of good behaviour.

The result is that respect, courtesy and plain good manners go out the window, and teachers are expected to pick up the pieces ... with their hands tied behind their backs by a string of restrictions.

For me, this issue has raised some memories about school discipline in years gone by. Relax, readers, I don't call them the good old days or the bad old days, as they had elements of both.

At South Toowoomba Boys State Primary School, the standard punishment for minor offences was to be kept in after school, under instructions to correctly complete a card of sums before being set free.

In class, misbehavior risked the cuts, with the cane brought out of the cupboard, theatrically flexed and swished and then applied in one or two strokes to a held-out hand.

It was not until I was a "squirt" (a first-year student) at Toowoomba Grammar School that I experienced that dreaded penalty known as a Saturday.

After repeated warnings, misdemeanours such as poor effort, homework not done, inattention or what we called "mucking up" meant spending a Saturday morning with a handful of other offenders in an otherwise empty classroom, ostensibly doing school work.

This was harder on us despised day boys, as we had to get ourselves to the school and then back home, so much of our precious Saturday was lost to us, whereas the boarders simply had to cross from the classroom to their house, where they seemed to have some sort of exclusive club for recidivists. 

All the teachers had the power to hand out Saturdays, and racking up four successive ones automatically meant a visit to the headmaster's office for six of the best.

I never qualified for this dubious honour, but in the student body culture, the recipients were held in awe for their defiance of authority and their phlegmatic acceptance of the consequences.

Fast forward to today. No corporal punishment - fair enough, but parental acceptance of responsibility for their children's classroom behaviour? Nowhere near enough.

Topics:  education john-paul langbroek opinion peter richardson

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