I have remarked before of the delight evidently felt by some home educating parents every time a tragedy occurs in a school or nursery. Whether it is toddlers being sexually abused or a boy choking to death in the course of an asthma attack, there are invariably smug remarks on some of the lists about the perils of the state education system. The latest example of this is to be found on the HE-UK list, where a number of those posting are exhibiting signs of gloomy satisfaction that they have eschewed such a dangerous institution for their own children. This is of course apropos of the teacher who beat the kid round the head with a piece of metal.
Of course, some children will come to harm in schools. They will also be injured at Girl Guides' meetings, in the swimming pool, on holiday and even when they are at home in bed. That's how the world is; it can be a hazardous place to live in. The impression though that one gets is that some of these people regard school as a uniquely horrible place, where education is grotesque and distorted and children are constantly falling prey to sexual maniacs and mad teachers wielding metal dumb-bells.
I have never seen school in this light personally. I don't think it the most efficient way of educating a child; that is without doubt through one-to-one tuition. However, most of the schools with which I have had dealings seem to have made the best effort that they could. True, some of them are lousy, but that is as much due to the low quality of the pupils as it is the fault of the school and its teachers. Truth to tell, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the fellow who battered that fourteen year old kid around the head. Teenagers today are extremely awful and with the sanction of flogging removed, there is little that can be done to control them.
As I say, I am not opposed to schools by any means. I think that they need a good shaking up and that there is much wrong with them, but if we accept the need for the mass instruction of millions of children each year, they are probably the best way of going about the process. There is certainly a need though for some alternative provision for those children and young people who are determined not to learn at school. My own preference would be to set them picking oakum in a large silent room, or failing that the treadmill. Realistically, I accept that this is unlikely, so perhaps special, vocational centres would be a more practical proposition. One thing is for sure; there are quite a few pupils in secondary schools who are unlikely to learn and whose presence prevents others from learning. Clouting them round the head with metal weights may not be the answer, but something does need to be done about this.