Let’s compare education professionals with Nazis!
The Nazis demanded total compliance without question. Strict teachers demand total compliance without question. Do the math!
The Nazis wanted order. Strict teachers want order. Do the math!
The Nazis wanted to create a “better” society. Strict teachers want to create a better society. Do the math!
The Nazis killed and tortured people who challenged their authority. Strict teachers ask students who challenge their authority to stay behind after school for half an hour…
The Nazis wanted the extermination of the Jews. Strict teachers want students to know true things about their world and understand how it works…
The Nazis wanted acceptance of and dedication to their world view. Good teachers want students to think for themselves and develop their own considered and balanced opinions…
I could go on. Obviously this is about the Michaela advert for a sergeant-major style Director of Detentions that has been winding people up this week. It included this question:
Do you believe in children being obedient every time?
As as strict a teacher as I can reasonably be in my current school (see here), I answer yes. I like to think my every instruction is made with the intention of improving a child’s education or well-being, or in the creation of a positive, calm and kind atmosphere, and so of course I do.
But I don’t believe in teaching children to be obedient full stop. I believe they should question orders (in their minds, initially) and seek to understand the other person’s motive. They should judge the reasonableness of requests. Children should not obey adults just because they are adults. Lots of adults have harmful intentions. And sometimes those with good intentions make errors of judgement. It is incumbent on us to explain our values and our reasons behind our instructions. From what I’ve read of Michaela (I’ve never been), this is something they do extremely well. Children obey because the values of mutual respect, concentration, hard work and kindness are heavily sold and accepted. They are the same reasons I obeyed my parents and teachers as a child – because these values were taught at home. Where I was given instructions that came from a different place, this was easy to spot, and where I rebelled, it was against bullying and manipulation.
Children should be obedient in school because school is a force for good. However, if it is not clear to them that their school is a force for good, perhaps it’s best that they don’t conform. I’d rather they rebelled intelligently than conformed blindly. Believe it or not, it is far from obvious to many kids that school is there for their benefit. We have an argument to win before we can demand obedience. Michaela seem to have won that argument already and if so, their advert is valid. What about your school?