Realised it’s a while since I’ve had a rant about Gove – so here we go! This one’s inspired by his response to the horrendous online bullying we all heard about recently.
I am never sure whether he’s deliberately expressing things in a way to get teachers’ backs up, or he really doesn’t realise. What he’s said is that “enough isn’t being done in the classroom to instil respect for other human beings”. If he’d said instead, for example, “I’d like all people involved with children to think how we can better promote respect for others” then there wouldn’t be a problem – I’m sure we would all buy into that. But no, he has to imply that it’s all our fault.
Of course our helping pupils develop the ability to relate to others in a humane, kind and civilised way is of vital importance. This article says it far better than I can, and expresses an absolute key truth, that modelling the behaviour we want to inspire is the best way to promote it, rather than taking a top down, discipline-heavy approach.
I am sure Mr Gove would like to reintroduce the regimented classroom where you were frightened of the teacher and did what you were told for that reason. That’s the same mentality as setting up a society where people only obey the law for fear of getting caught, or in the days when religious belief was close to universal, for fear of retribution in the afterlife. It is the polar opposite of developing genuine respect for others.
Of course we have to have rules in school, and take appropriate action if children behave badly, just as we must have laws in society. But if we go down the line of over-emphasising our authority and making “because I say so” a default position, then we are modelling a “might makes right” approach, and whilst that may lead to orderly classrooms, it will not lead to young people who respect those less powerful than themselves.
Gove himself certainly does not model respectful behaviour. His default is to blame, not to work cooperatively. He also prefers to blame the “easy” victim – criticising teachers, rather than talking about what parents and teachers can both do, and what might be wrong with societal values. Whilst as teachers of course we can and should put great importance on children’s moral development, we cannot manage it all on our own.