We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Safely under supervision every minute of the day

“School almost ‘eliminates bullying’ with break-time ban on games”, the BBC reports.

A school claims to have almost eliminated bullying by banning games like football at break times.

Instead, students at Hackney New School participate in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals and other activities, including chess and choir clubs.

The school says there have been only five reports of bullying, including cyber bullying, in the last year.

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”

I do not doubt that it is achievable. Greater safety from ever having a bad experience is always achievable – at the cost of being cut off from experiencing anything much at all.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised.

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving,” Ms Whelan said.

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

At certain times when I was a schoolgirl I would have been glad to escape the cruelty and cold of the playground. It was nice when I got to the Lower Sixth and we were allowed to spend the lunch hour in a common room. Unprompted, we literally did have a phase when our favourite activity was to quiz each other on capital cities (Mongolia – Ulaan Bator, Botswana – Gaborone), and I would have welcomed a little more Shelley and Tennyson and a little less depressing modern poetry in my English lessons.

To give children the choice to engage in indoor and/or structured activities in their free time, whether because such activities are a safe harbour from bullies or just because these are the things they enjoy, is good. To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

It is not just unplanned social activities between groups of children that Ms Whelan wants to put a stop to; she also says she wants to be “doing more for pupils” in terms of preventing them from “aimlessly wandering the playground”. Heaven forbid that they have time to walk and think.

Edit: Several commenters have rightly said that to suffer bullying in childhood is a terrible thing that can have lifelong effects on the victims. But surely that is best answered by giving children as far as possible the chance to follow their own judgement as to where they are safest and happiest. The lunchtime club ceases to be a haven from bullies if the bullies are forced to be there too.

Back in 2003 Brian Micklethwait wrote about how well the children behaved in a voluntary karate class he observed.

What struck me, so to speak, about these “martial arts” classes was that although the children present may have supposed that all there were learning was how to be more violent, what they were really learning was no less than civilisation itself.

The children were all told to get changed into their Karate kit in an orderly fashion, and to put their regular clothes in sensible little heaps. They all lined up the way he said. They all turned up on time. They left the place impeccably clean when they’d finished, all helping to make sure that all was ship-shape and properly closed-up when they left.

Were these children being “coerced”? Certainly not. They didn’t have to be there, any more than The Man had to teach them Karate if he didn’t want to. If they wanted out, then out they could go, with no blots on their copybooks or markings-down on their CVs.

33 comments to Safely under supervision every minute of the day

  • staghounds

    The unique benefit of their product about which “Educators” go on and on is socialisation. It can be had nowhere else, they say. And a carefully monitored and guided society is exactly the one they want young people used to.

    Also, Shelley and Tennyson? Racist, sexist white males? Where are the poets of Colour, the voices of Gay pride and Feminist empowerment?

    For example, talk about stirring up racial hate and advocating white supremacy-

    “Men of England, heirs of glory,
    Heroes of unwritten story…
    Rise like lions after slumber
    In unconquerable number.
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you.
    Ye are many, they are few.”

    They should be investigated.

  • Lee Moore

    If you can’t establish your status of dominance over the nerds by being waaay better than them at football at break, you’re only left with beating the crap out of them on the way home from school.

  • Fred Z

    So when they encounter real serious bullying as adults they will have no idea at all how to handle it. Brilliant, just brilliant.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Fred Z, indeed. And your post would still be true if you replaced “real serious bullying” with “the frictions and minor conflicts inseparable from ordinary life”.

    Good comments all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some aimless wandering around, an activity I have enjoyed since childhood. I do some of my best thinking while aimlessly wandering around.

  • Cesare

    Reminds me of the serving officer who revealed at dinner one evening that the only functional means of keeping the men from screwing everything up was to have them not do anything at all.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I think you are being to hard on this head teacher. Bullying is a really serious problem that has deep, profound impacts on those most subject to it. And surely giving kids lots of things to do is often a good thing. Idle hands do the devil’s work, so they say. I’m not sure the poetry reading is something that would have gone down well at my school, but I think her goal and general plan is laudable. My kids go to a high school that has largely eliminated bullying too by keeping the kids busy, and using various tools to put the kids in relationships with each other (they have a program where upper class-persons take on responsibility of helping and guiding lower class-persons.) I was fortunate to never be the target of bullying in school, but I saw a few kids who were and the effect on their lives was very, very destructive, both short and long term.

    I don’t doubt that Natalie’s wandering around time was productive for her, and I too appreciate a little unstructured alone time. But if your wandering around time involves dodging a pack of wolves ready to tear you apart, the luxury of profound epiphanies we expect are rather hard to come by.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Bullying is no laughing matter (mental as well as physical), and it is particularly nasty when inflicted by someone much physically larger than you, or much older and more senior (such as a head prefect in a school, or a teacher). At one school I along with several pupils were bullied by games teacher, so much so that complaints were lodged. (Under today’s regime, that teacher would probably be in jail.)

    That said, it bothers me that one obvious way to deal with bullies (learn to knock the shit out of them if attacked) is not even up for discussion. My father was bullied at his grammar school and he learned how to box (he was so good at it eventually that he boxed for the RAF). Teach kids how to toughen up a bit, maybe. Martial arts, etc.

    Learning how to deal with bullies is, sadly, part of life. I also found that my loathing of bullies made me a libertarian, and put me off the idea of compulsory schooling.

  • Paul Marks

    At Kettering Boys School the “break” periods in the playground were rather violent – one of my residents, in the ward I serve till the end of the month, was almost kicked to death by a large number of boys, he found school far more stressful than the army. I was tortured at the school for many years (as Alan Rickman’s “Sheriff of Nottingham” says in a Robin Hood film “I had a very unhappy childhood – it is a wonder I am sane”) – but then I am told (it is always hard to judge one’s self) that I was not very nice to people either, especially if I caught a gang member on their own. But I must stress that nothing was ever proved against me.

    However, staying in the building was no better – people were often attacked in class rooms and in the library (I might have been a librarian today had KBS been a more peaceful place).

    On the hand the 6th form (the people who choose to stay at the school after 16 years of age – I was one of these) was quite peaceful – it was also pointless (which is why I had to end up doing my “A” levels at a local Technical Collage), but quite peaceful – at least for us 6th formers, we were prefects and had red stripes on our blazers. We never attacked each other.

    At the school I taught at in Northampton (St Peter’s Independent School) there was never any trouble during breaks – I was out in the play ground most breaks and the boys and girls did not torture each other at all. I knew many of the pupils well and I am sure they would have told me if there had been any trouble in the play ground that I had not seen.

    So it is not really a matter of whether the pupils are in the building or in the playground (I remind the readers that KBS was violent inside and out – and St Peter’s was peaceful inside and out) I think other factors are involved. Most importantly whether individual children choose to be good or evil – they do have Free Will.

  • Paul Marks

    We were not taught poetry at KBS (at least not in my day) – I am rather ignorant of literature to this day. Although I did find some books in the library that had not been burned – there were green ones that had Ancient Greek on one side and English on the facing pages and blue ones that had Latin on one side and English on the other.

    I read the English writing (Mrs Williams, a lady in a village near Kettering, had taught me to read – we were not really taught to read at school) and thought I was very smart – it did not occur to me that in civilised times boys at what had been Kettering Grammar School had read the facing Ancient Greek and Latin pages of the green and blue books.

    The school was eventually closed – too many fires and missing pupils and stuff.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Fraser Orr, I don’t dispute what you say about the seriousness of bullying – my reference to the cruelty of the playground came from personal experience. But as I also said surely that is best answered by giving children the choice to go to lunch clubs or whatever, not by making it compulsory.

    I shall slightly amend the wording of my post in the light of your input.

    Edit: it also occurs to me that making the lunchtime activities compulsory means that the bullies (resentfully) go to them too.

  • Fraser Orr

    @natalie, yes that seems reasonable. I’m all in favor of giving people choices. Having said that children are children and not fully competent to make up their minds about things, especially prior to high school. Moreover, bullies are often very broken children, often living in anarchy, and putting a sense of order, purpose and achievement in their lives is very often the best things that can be done for them.

    Don’t get me wrong, adults who behave in this way should be dealt with harshly, but some ten year old kid who beats up other kids because that is what he learned at home surely deserves our compassion and help (though protecting his victims would be the first priority.) And often the best way to help someone like that is to give him a place where he can be valued for his positive skills. Where his ability to kick a ball right, or do a backflip in the gym, or maybe even write creatively about his life, or solve some algebra, can give him a sense of self worth that he currently gets from brutish behavior.

    We are all looking to be valued and appreciated, even some of the worst of us. So surely, for those who are not yet beyond the pale, we can find some sort of social context in which they can be valued in a way that is positive to society rather than destructive. And that, it seems to me, is what this headmistress is trying to do. I might disagree with some of the specific things she is doing, but I certainly would give her plaudits for at least trying rather than giving up, or tossing the malefactors on the trash heap.

    I’m not, BTW, saying that there aren’t kids beyond the pale. There certainly are. Some people are just broken beyond repair, and sadly there are some kids in that category. For sure those kids need to be isolated and dealt with. But for the rest, I think at least trying to save them is a good thing. I have often said that if you want to fix America (or presumably Britain) the place to start is in the schools. Some schools are an absolute disgrace, and IMHO it is nothing short of child abuse to send them there. And it is also a topic on which we libertarians can have some wins. The most liberal, big state, gimmie-gimmie-gimmie people in the world well melt like butter when you talk to them about their kids. While on one hand advocating minimum wages, and UBIs and soak the rich, they will tell you about the terrible school their kid goes to, and beg you to allow them into a magnet school, or quickly understand the benefit of vouchers. These aren’t strong libertarian solutions but they are heading in the right direction. And it is a good place to start. Because better schools are better for everyone, except maybe the fat teachers unions and their government lackys.

  • B’arracoder

    It seems to me, as a long-time lurker and occasional commenter, that some of you seem to have allowed your own unhappy experiences with bullying to weaken your principles.

    Are some of you, and I’m pointing at you Johnathan and Fraser, offering mitigations for the incarceration of children?

    Teaching children that the response to bullying is to hide in the hall and read Greek legends is not the correct response. I know because I did that and it was a very unhappy solution to a solved problem.

    ‘Walls and Verse Are No Protection From Bullies’ could be engraved on the Bataclan.

  • The Jannie

    After twenty years working in schools – not, thankfully, as an indoctrinator – I know that any school which claims to have no bullying is just plain lying: to themselves, then expecting the rest of us to swallow it.
    Boys do it physically, girls do it psychologically.

  • Lee Moore

    Having never been a bullier or a bulliee I can’t say much from personal experience. But when has that ever stopped me ?

    It seems to me that bullying is constrained by better resistance by bulliees, but also (at least as far as male bullying is concerned) by the existence of people the bullies are afraid of – to wit, the members of the rugby teams in each age group. No one would dream of bullying a rugby player, and the rugby player would not feel any need to bully anyone else because any proclivity for violence is already well catered for. And, usefully, any potential bully is constantly at risk of a large shadow looming over them with the words “pick on someone your own size.”

    Such as it is, this accords with my own experience which straddled nerdery (I could do maths and so was acquainted with the bespectacled classes) and rugby (I could do rugby.)

    It seems to me that requiring life’s rugby players to stay inside mouthing soppy poems is likely to turn them into bullies. Less rugby (or football in the break) seems to me to be a double loser – you create more bullies and destroy large functional bully suppressors.

  • bobby b

    “It seems to me that requiring life’s rugby players to stay inside mouthing soppy poems is likely to turn them into bullies.”

    And the entire teaching profession seems hell-bent on keeping boys inside mouthing poetry and acting . . . well, like girls.

    I started sports at school at around 12 years of age, and was involved in them in every semester until I was 19. Without the physicality and release of contact sports and conditioning and competition, I have no doubt I’d have been a serial killer later in life.

    Boys need something different in life than the girl’s life that modern education prescribes. I’ve often wondered if the absence of physicality in girls’ lives is what drives their horrid emotional bullying. The corollary, of course, is that the removal of that physicality from boys’ lives is driving an increase in bullying behavior.

  • staghounds

    There are a lot of people on here who have forgotten some of the sharp edges of childhood.

  • Lee Moore

    I started sports at school at around 12 years of age

    I started rugby at 8. At age 10 I was irritated by a plainly wrong decision by the referee in an inter House match, and decided to tackle him. The ref, the geography teacher – 6 foot 5 and not remotely spindly – toppled slowly like a great tree being felled. As he collected himself, he asked in a voice of thunder “WHO DID THAT !” Since there were dozens of witnesses it seemed foolish to deny that it was me.
    I was awarded a detention (who cares ?) for tackling the referee; and the much coveted and hardly ever awarded “Tackling 3” badge for excellent technique.

    This infamous act of referee assault carried about four hundred times more kudos than coming top in the end of term Maths exam. Again.

    I also recall being awarded a prize for some scholastic achievement. A volume of Keats. What ?!!?? I never even opened it until I was forty. Any teacher who imagines a volume of Keats is a plausible substitute for a doughnut, never mind a Tackling 3 badge, should never be allowed near a school.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . and decided to tackle him.”

    I was giving a little internal cheer as I read that. So, I hereby denounce myself.

    “This infamous act of referee assault carried about four hundred times more kudos than coming top in the end of term Maths exam. Again.”

    From the boys.

    (And, secretly, from the girls! But they couldn’t admit it. Love of Bad Boys was a hidden shame.)

    If you did that today, you’d be in counseling for months, everyone would be horrified (“toxic maleness!”), and you’d be accused of insurrection. 😉

    We’re not progressing as a species.

  • Fraser Orr

    @B’arracoder
    Are some of you, and I’m pointing at you Johnathan and Fraser, offering mitigations for the incarceration of children?

    I’m happy to respond to your claim I am abandoning my principles, but honestly, I don’t really understand what this means. If you could clarify I would appreciate it.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Lee Moore
    I also recall being awarded a prize for some scholastic achievement. A volume of Keats. What ?!!?? I never even opened it until I was forty. Any teacher who imagines a volume of Keats is a plausible substitute for a doughnut, never mind a Tackling 3 badge, should never be allowed near a school.

    You’ll be glad to know, given what I am about to say, that I am not and have never been a teacher. But I’d like to suggest that you are projecting your own views onto everyone else. No doubt there are many people who were impressed by your tackling 3 badge or attack on a teacher. But I would imagine there are lots that were not. I was forced into sports at school and I really hated it because I wasn’t very good. All I remember from rugby is getting squashed into the mud by a giant tractor tyre, and in fact, thinking back, mud was the primary component from my memory of all sports. That and the teacher never giving us enough time to shower so having to go to maths class covered in mud, or if they did shower having to watch the humiliation of those less well developed in the communal shower. A rite of passage that the teacher seemed to think character building.

    And, much as I am sure they did not care about my opinion, I was not one tiny bit impressed by the sporting prowess of my fellows, and neither were most of the people I spent time with. I would much rather have been debating politics and philosophy, or programming the one computer that our school had. And I was fairly good at both, and got praise from my peer group for doing so.

    So my point stands, I think. Different kids have different needs, and it behooves a school to cater to that as much as possible.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

    Exactly correct.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Fraser Orr,

    Bullying is a really serious problem that has deep, profound impacts on those most subject to it.

    Bullying is a critical experience especially for boys. It’s part of growing up. Bullying is one way boys learn to stand up for themselves. Bullying is part of figuring out what hierarchy is and what it means. Without bullying boys become men without knowing what it means to be a civilized man – which, partly, is to be capable of inflicting physical or emotional pain on others and yet refraining from doing so.

    Bullying is being attacked blindly by the kinds of naive, close minded, unimaginative nanny-state statists who are on a constant SJW crusade to ban bad things and make good things mandatory. Culture is complex, childhood development is also complex, and bullying is an integral part of both. Bullying is a consequence – an inevitable consequence – of human nature. Letting kids wander about unsupervised on recess is how kids learn who they are, learn their personality compared to others, learn how to experiment, learn how to explore one’s imagination, learn how to interact with others, and learn what competition, leadership, and politics are.

    Want a society of mindless, extremely sensitive SJW NPC drones who hate freedom, are unable to take a joke, and are incapable of using their imagination? Taking unsupervised recess out of schools is a great step.

  • Lee Moore

    In a nod to Fraser’s opinion, I will concede that my mother thought the volume of Keats was a magnificent prize. But then she was very much a poety sort of gal. Even wrote the stuff herself.

    As for girls, bobby, there were none in that school to impress, except the headmaster’s wife, and she would have been more of Fraser’s mindset. She was probably responsible for the idea of a volume of Keats as a prize. She also once gave me zero out of thirty, and three minus points, for handing in a composition containing the line of dialogue “….and God knows what else.” Blasphemy you see. I dont think she was a Lee Moore fan.

  • And the entire teaching profession seems hell-bent on keeping boys inside mouthing poetry and acting . . . well, like girls.

    My granny used to read me Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and the like.

    “When Auntie May fell out the boat,
    Who couldn’t swim and couldn’t float,
    Mathilda just sat there and smiled,
    I really could have slapped the child”

    “Little Willie with a thirst for gore,
    Nailed his sister to the door
    His mother said with humour quaint
    Willie, dear, don’t scratch the paint.”

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    It’s ‘for the kids’, so that settles the issue. In fact, even chess could be too violent, teaching people that it is possible that they could lose! We need to develop a version of chess where everyone wins.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Are some of you, and I’m pointing at you Johnathan and Fraser, offering mitigations for the incarceration of children?

    Nope. I oppose compulsory schooling, and support reducing the compulsory age of schooling as an initial measure, although the chances of that happening in this country at the moment are zero.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Shlomo Maistre
    Bullying is a consequence – an inevitable consequence – of human nature.

    Whenever I hear an argument from “human nature” it always seems to characterize humans as a roving band of apes wandering in the Savanah. I think we are better than that.

    Another part of human nature is compassion for those unable to help themselves.

    If you think that letting some kids spend every day in terror of recess because they know there is a good chance that a roving band of wolves will steal from them and physically injure them is a character building experience then I respectfully disagree. I am fortunate enough to never have experienced this, but I have seen kids experience it. And what fascinates me is that many people here would indeed be horrified by the kind of adult bullying that has become prevalent today from such unpleasant individuals as the radical SJWs. We constantly hear ranting about that here, and rightly so. However, when some defenseless, innocent, powerless child is subjected to much worse we dismiss it as character building. I doubt if you were drummed out of your job and your reputation destroyed by a SJW that you would consider it a positive character building experience.

    We don’t need to wrap kids in cotton wool. Certainly the vicissitudes of life can build resilience. But if a kid is learning to ride a bike we might well let them fall over a few times riding down the driveway, but we don’t toss them out into a busy intersection and tell them “ride or die”. We allow them a certain amount of risk, a certain amount of pain of failure. But we adults limit the amount of risk and damage they are exposed to, or at least we should. That is almost the meaning of “parent”.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Fraser: And what fascinates me is that many people here would indeed be horrified by the kind of adult bullying that has become prevalent today from such unpleasant individuals as the radical SJWs. We constantly hear ranting about that here, and rightly so.

    That’s very true. The behaviour of so-called “social justice warriors” is often little more than bullying, when you strip away the ideological flim-flam.

  • Paul Marks

    staghounds – I at least have not forgotten the sharp edges of childhood, I still have some scars to remind me.

    Oddly enough I later got on well with some of the people who had been enemies at school – some of them.

  • Various reflections on the various comments above:

    1) After developing the nerve (which took time), I spent most of my years at school defending others from bullying – which I now see may have had the useful side-effect of making me a less-attractive prospect if considered as ‘next target’ – but occasionally involved me in follow-up fights from bullies seeking to get their reputations back.

    This now involves me in an interesting contradiction: I very much agree with Natalie, but spent my school years fighting what I’m saying children should not be prevented from encountering – at least, not in the OP quote’s way.

    2) I knew the bookshop from which my school bought its prizes. It had a most civilised return/exchange policy. The afternoon of various prize-giving days saw yours truly exchange many a volume of poetry for a volume of Biggles. I liked our poetry lessons, and did well enough in them to win prizes for English, but I saw no reason to take such schoolwork home with me.

    After a few years, the school decided to hand out book tokens ahead of time, for us to get the books we wanted and be handed them on prize-giving day, instead of their buying books we then exchanged. Except for a moment of confusion when the title of my prize-purchased copy of Asimov’s “The Naked Sun” was misread as “The Naked Sin”, the school was very tolerant of our less elevated taste in prizes, as it was thus revealed to them.

    3) I never won prizes for rugby-tackling technique because I had an instinctive feeling that correct tackling technique involved risk to self if one got it wrong, whereas halting someone by colliding with and falling on top of them was far more within the limits of my physical dexterity, and ensured being cushioned by them. My short career as a back was soon terminated by assignment to the scrum.

    4) Recently, an able head teacher I know spent time managing a girls school with a high proportion of muslim pupils. She described it as a strange mix of academic achievement and physical bullying. The girls were disciplined in class, keen to get good grades and (by girl standards) very violent to one another. She wondered if their typically somewhat constrained lives (home, varied only by being dropped off at, and picked up, from school) caused this. The school worked to contain this violence – but I’m not at all sure that an OP-style no-unsupervised-time would have been a true benefit to them.

  • Bloke in the UK

    Fred Z,

    “So when they encounter real serious bullying as adults they will have no idea at all how to handle it. Brilliant, just brilliant.”

    How many people encounter “real serious bullying” as adults? How many times have you seen a colleague at work physically assault someone else at work? You don’t because there are serious disincentives to doing it, like prison and losing your job. And even if it does happen, many people will just quit the job, because it’s that simple. You don’t have to talk to someone else to explain what’s wrong, or go through a long-winded process.

    Schools are a decrepit, statist institution. Based on 19th century military academies in terms of structure and subjects, with the establishment feeding in their fashionable propaganda. We artificially put kids together by age rather than ability or interest. Then we force them to sit and listen to subjects they have no interest or ability in, and don’t even just get paid to do. Beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, how much do kids come away with, from an investment of over 15,000 hours of their time? How many kids reading Chaucer would be happier doing 7 hours of metalwork every day instead? And by the time they reach 16 are masters at metalwork, proud of their achievements? Quite a few, because when they leave school, they go and do a C&G in welding and become responsible citizens rather than bored, doodling troublemakers.

  • bobby b

    This conversation suffers a bit because, while “bullying” used to definitionally involve a physical component, it now can mean someone saying something with which you disagree.

  • Lee Moore

    This conversation suffers a bit because, while “bullying” used to definitionally involve a physical component, it now can mean someone saying something with which you disagree.

    While it has got a bit silly recently, I don’t think the idea of psychological bullying is a particularly new one. I recommend “Gaslight.”

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