The author is a teacher. Joe Baron is a pseudonym.
Several years ago, a Guardian columnist – whose name escapes me – argued that, as a consequence of an evolutionary anomaly, whereby the peculiarities of male instincts, immanent skills and inherited abilities have yet to evolve to suit our altered socioeconomic and environmental circumstances, it is not surprising that some boys behave badly. Far from being equipped for the modern world of sedentary indolence, where tapping a keyboard is the closest thing you’ll get to the kind of intense activity existent on the steppes of central Asia some twenty thousand years ago, they remain, at heart, ferocious hunter-gatherers, genetically predisposed to sporadic bouts of aggression and gifted with the spatial awareness to successfully pursue, kill, gather and ultimately survive to live another day. No wonder, then, given this reality, they find it difficult to sit still and learn Pythagoras’ Theorem and quadratic equations.
It is indeed a convincing argument that, unfortunately, lets itself down by proffering a pessimistic non-remedy. Apparently we’ve just got to lump it; we’ve got to accept the fact that boys will naturally be aggressive and, by implication, violent and abusive at school; we’ve got to accept that, literally speaking, “boys will be boys”. Well I don’t buy it.
If boys are genetically inclined to evince such behaviours, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and wait for evolution to work its magic – a phenomenon that could, no doubt, take tens of thousands, if not millions, of years to bear fruit. Instead we should accommodate them, as they do in many excellent schools around the country. Why not direct their natural aggression, competitiveness and hone their spacial awareness through sport, for example? Would that be too masculine for our fluffy Guardian columnist, perhaps?
I was lucky enough to go to an excellent school that encouraged competitive sports, music, drama and, of course, both academic and artistic excellence. In the winter we played rugby every Saturday afternoon; in the summer it was athletics and cricket; in music, we had various bands according to instrumental competency and our lessons were equally competitive and strictly stratified according to one’s ability.
The point is here that the educational philosophy espoused by my alma mater accepted our inherent masculinity. Aggression was controlled through sports; our competitive spirit was accommodated through academic, sporting and artistic selection, inter-house cross-country, debating and chess tournaments not to mention regular competitive fixtures against other schools. As a result, abuse of our teachers was unheard of. Away from the rugby pitch, acts of aggression were indeed non-existent, and, let me make this clear, this was a comprehensive school that included ordinary kids, including me, from the local area, some relatively wealthy, some living in abject penury.
In contrast, in my view, today’s education system has been feminised and, as a sad consequence, aggression, abuse and violence are rife, particularly among boys. There are mixed ability classes, little to no competitive sports, an overweening, suffocating “all must have prizes” culture and interminable classroom discussions about feelings – four features that contrive to inhibit and frustrate a boy’s natural instincts. No wonder they misbehave, especially when Left-wing, moral relativist, non-judgementalist, misguided senior leaders refuse to discipline them, too.
If we want our boys to behave and get the best out of school, we must accept reality, accommodate and control their natural instincts, and reverse the dangerous feminisation of our education system. It’s no good, Mr Guardian Columnist, irresponsibly asserting, “We’ve just got to put up with it!”