Camila Batmanghelidjh again… *sighs*
In pursuit of greater discipline, the education secretary, Michael Gove, this week advocated tougher sanctions: the picking up of litter and the writing of lines as punishment.
His concerns are legitimate. Pupil violence is manifesting itself in younger students, and in some schools teachers are struggling to maintain control.
So you should be agreeing with him?
Even though we are reluctant to admit it, punishment is fundamentally the delivery of legitimate revenge. The violated regain power by violating. It makes them feel better because, in expressing power over the offender, they reassure themselves that they have regained control, a prerequisite for a sense of personal safety. Some element of humiliation is an added bonus, as the punisher is reminded of their supremacy by generating servitude in the offender.
Ah. OK. Well, that was a pile of psychobabble, but I guess spouting it in front of an audience keeps you in head scarves and canapés, eh, Camila?
But despite the emotional rebalancing, punishment actually doesn’t work. It’s effective if offenders are removed from the opportunity to commit a crime, that is imprisoned or permanently excluded, but it rarely leads to improved behaviour.
Wait, wait, I bet I know the answer…
With Kids Company’s therapeutic and social work programmes across 48 schools, I’ve noticed that children who can obey rules on the whole stick to them, and those who don’t defy punitive strategies and are excluded from schools, sometimes illegally, and in a way that exacerbates inequality between social classes and further reduces opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Ahhh, yes. Of course. The answer is to pour yet more resources your way.
Persistent bad behaviour involves pupils with complex psychosocial needs who exhibit antisocial behaviour for good reason. Society finds it hard to accept the rationality of bad behaviour and, consequently, ends up suppressing it as opposed to exercising curiosity to resolve it.
Good! I’m all for a bit of suppression of this sort of thing.
…a combination of maltreatment and neglect leads to structural and functional changes in children’s brains, rendering them more impulsive and less able to appraise situations calmly. They attribute to a neutral face the intention to attack; they can’t hold eye contact because they find the human glance unbearable; some of them have frontal lobes which no longer activate when exposed to violence. For children like this, punishment doesn’t work, because they have disorganised thinking.
And so do the sort of people who think huge amounts of money should be poured down the drain trying to civilise savages while even larger quantity are paid to the underclass to breed more of them…