Another day, another ticking off for inappropriate and generally thuggish behaviour. Not, i hasten to add, my own. Though its not hard to end up feeling as though the dressing down is personal. Not so much him on the carpet as me back in the Headmaster’s study.
No. I arrive to pick the boy up from school (friday evening) to be informed that the previous day, whilst i was queuing up to speak to someone in reception or his class teacher (i forget which) he had hied himself off and inflicted serious physicality on another in his class. For this, he has now been generally spoken to, seen the Head, and lost various privileges.
In the evening, he appears abashed, and we have hopes that, even if a new leaf is not turned, some light is dawning.
And to contextualise, lest anyone think he is some sort of lone thug, terrorising the rest of his class: sadly – or happily? – not. His school year contains a number of boys who seem to have internalised values that would not be out of place in a medieval fight school. So if it is not our boy in trouble for flooring so-and-so, it is our boy complaining that such-and-such classmate has kicked him “in the peanuts”. (a horrid piece of current juvenile slang).
He’s not, as it is hard sometimes to remember, much worse – or better – than his peers. He is pretty average for his year. He is also kind to kittens and younger children – and was seen earlier this week hand in hand with a female class member, of whom he appears to be reasonably fond. Perhaps this will have a civilising influence.
No. On the whole, it seems that he is not that out of the ordinary: that his class teacher and other mums are aware of the general issue as it affects MOST in his class; and progress is being made – not least thru a strict regime of rewards for good behaviour, and rewards withdrawn for bad.
Sons vs. feminism
Almost. However, the episode is front of mind as two women, from slightly different perspectives, question whether we aren’t too harsh on boys. The first, raised in principles of fairly strict feminism, but now herself mum to a boy of similar age, bemoans the way in which girls (or “young madams”) now seem to think they own the world: how they dominate in school conversations; how boys are made to take a back seat next to them.
Olde worlde values
T’other, our very own boy’s mum goes a little further: she questions whether we aren’t over-interfering. Because, she suggests, left to their own devices, boys tend to use fighting not as a means to some fatal end, but as a simple tool for sorting out pecking order. Leave them to it and they will scrap and get over it seems to be the thesis. Whereas over-interfere, as with caged animals, and the result is long-term simmering resentments that never quite get fixed.
I have some sympathy. The world has moved on since my youth when accepted wisdom was that boys out-performed girls and the “gender gap” was about the problem of girls failing to do as well as boys. We’ve not just closed the gap – but reversed it, possibly by the simple expedient of switching from male-friendly modes of schooling to female-friendly.
Its an ongoing debate and one where maybe in time we need to admit that the styles of teaching and examining may need to be more closely adapted to gender than they are now.
On the violence thing, i am less sympathetic. Again, i would agree that the genders “use” violence differently: that violence is not a thing in itself, but a tool, with a function and a purpose and a perceived value – and boys (and later men) all tend to place different values on each of those categories compared to girls.
But…no. I am not persuaded. Violence, i fear, all too easily becomes habit. Sure, there may be circs where the participatns in violence are mutually consenting and therefore the action is that much less problematic. But once learned, it becomes far too easy to apply it in other circumstances: in all circumstances.
Boyish violence then does become precursor to adult violence: because it teaches a lesson that when in doubt or when in dispute, it is OK to resolve a disagreement by force. And that, it seems to me, is universally bad.
So much as small boys might like to fight, i think i for one will remain supportive of teachers’ efforts to persuade them not to.