Friday, November 30, 2007

From parent-teacher night to parent (teacher) rule

The Sudanese are barbarians. Not because of their émigré youth gangs (much in the news in Melbourne recently), but because in down home Sudan, one or more parents of young (6 y.o.) primary-school aged children has taken up a weapon only recently developed in the West, and found that – perhaps to their own great surprise – this weapon works just as well in their war and famine-ravaged land. The weapon? Parental rage against their children’s teachers.

Not too long ago in the West (i.e. when I was at school), this weapon was rare, if it existed at all. If a parent was dissatisfied with something a teacher had done or not done, there were appropriate channels of complaint, starting with the teacher’s boss, the school headmaster. These appropriate channels don’t seem to have actually changed over the last two or three decades, with one exception. A recalcitrant teacher’s boss is now apparently the parent with the loudest complaint.

I would speculate that, two or three decades ago, a parent would have been reluctant to go outside the usual channels of complaint. This may have been because the teacher concerned was (and still is) a qualified, educated professional. Alternatively, the parent may have paused to consider that, by making a direct complaint, they would probably come across as a screaming redneck, an impression which would not ordinarily attest to their fitness to (i) be a parent, and (ii) be taking the moral high ground. Last but not least, the parent may have stopped to think of the effect of their rage on the child caught in the middle of it.

All this, including their own child’s long and short-term welfare, is of no concern to the Sudanese parent/s in teddy-bear gate, of course. They know best, and won’t be denied. It turns out that globalisation’s seeming remotest, problem pupils have easily mastered the West’s post-1979 cardinal lesson in educational and institutional undermining.

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