British schoolchildren are “rude, bone-idle and cossetted by the welfare state“. So say a group of Chinese teachers who, as part of a BBC TV experiment (Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School – first episode on tonight), spent four weeks in a Hampshire state school trying to see whether their traditional oriental teaching methods would cut any ice with the feckless yoof of Nu Britain.
Needless to say, they didn’t.
And I think – as Rod Liddle has also noted – that the response of the school’s headmaster offers a big clue as to why they didn’t.
“If you go into a class and do not treat the students with respect then you are going to get problems,” said the comprehensive school’s head teacher, Neil Strowger, adding that he considered the techniques used by the Chinese teachers to be “mind-numbingly boring.”
Problem number one: referring to school kids as “students”. Yes, it may be the non-gender-specific PC term of choice right now but it instantly confers on them a respectability and seniority that they haven’t earned. “Students” used to refer solely to people in further education, often accompanied by the adjective “revolting.” Kids at school are quite often revolting. “Students” they most definitely ain’t – almost by definition in a lot of cases because “studying” is something of which they are constitutionally incapable.
Problem number two: “respect”. “Respect” – or “respec'” as Strowger was probably itching to pronounce it to show just how down with his kids he is – is something that needs to be earned rather than automatically conferred. The girl in one class, for example, who ran out of her lesson in tears because she was so traumatised by the fact that Zayn Malik had left One Direction. Was it her maturity, do we think, that so deserved the respect her headmaster believes she should be given? Or her compassion? Or her band loyalty? Wotevs, as Strowger would no doubt argue.
Problem number three: “mind-numbingly boring.” All teachers who have been through Cultural Marxist Re-education Centre Number One – aka their local teacher training college – know that actually teaching kids stuff not only stifles their vital creativity but that it doesn’t actually work because it just doesn’t, it’s like this thing called “Chalk ‘n’ Talk” which is really bad, m’kaay? I suspect Strowger is probably quite right: Chinese teaching methods are relentlessly boring. But they do have one definite advantage over mainstream Western teaching methods. Kids actually learn stuff and can either get jobs afterwards or move onto further education and become actual “students.”
Judging by the backlash in the UK media – “You can do anything with 15-year-olds if you treat them like baby Communists. This isn’t about education, it’s about scoring,” says columnist Simon Jenkins, dismissively – there is little appetite in Britain to build our education system on more rigorous Chinese lines.
Personally, I think this is a shame. A decade or so hence, when the only remaining use of the decadent, educationally-spavined Western nations is to serve as China’s slave colonies, I do think that our new insect overlords might be inclined to treat us slightly less harshly if they think we are vaguely sentient beings capable of calculating how to divide one bowl of rice equitably between two dozen starving prisoners rather than brainless lumpen proles who are just too ignorant to care.