Violence in Schools - Have We Got What We Deserved?
behaviour and material consumption so highly prized in western culture has led
to increasing problems of violence and social exclusion in schools, says a
Professor of Education at the University of Leicester.
societies are reduced to collections of unrelated individuals, the law of the
jungle prevails: personal survival and personal advancement are the driving
the view of Professor Paul Cooper who is pulling no punches in his lecture at
the University of Leicester on Tuesday, May 28.
societies the world over get the problems they deserve," he says.
"Britain must address the values that underpin our society."
with Pride and Prejudice: Sense and Sensibility in the Education of Children
with Emotional, Social and Behavioural Difficulties is the title of the free
public lecture that is being delivered in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture
Theatre 1 starting at 5.30pm.
Cooper said: "This lecture addresses key questions relating to the nature
of, and remedies for, emotional, social and behavioural difficulties (ESBDs) in
schools. These problems are characterised by extreme unhappiness among school
pupils that sometimes manifests itself in severely withdrawn and/or disruptive
and even violent behaviour."
Cooper said that popular opinion, as reflected in the press, seeks to place the
blame for ESBDs on such factors as: poor parenting; poor teaching and discipline
in schools; the negative influence of some outputs of TV, film media, and
popular music; and the inherent 'badness' of some young people.
there is evidence which links some of these factors with emotional and
behavioural problems, years of research into these problems has failed to
establish any simple causal relationships between any of these factors and ESBDs,"
says Professor Cooper, the breakdown in community and the increase in
individualism that characterises the evolving state of western culture has had a
damaging effect on society.
a culture in which self actualisation through material consumption and
self-seeking behaviour is highly valued, it is not surprising that increasing
numbers of young people are disturbed and sometimes enraged by the gap they
perceive between what they learn to see as their rights and the reality of their
these circumstances it is extremely hard for parents and teachers to persuade
young people of the importance of selflessness and social conscience.
In a world that is obsessed with the self it is difficult to understand
the rights and needs of others."
Cooper said parents and teachers for the most part do their best in the face of
these difficulties. But it is an increasingly uphill struggle: "While in
some areas adults retreat from the streets, children face the choice of a life
of solitude or the precarious self-preservation of the gang. The commitment to
delayed gratification required by schools is difficult to sell in places where
there are no positive role models to show that it really can work.
the other side of this coin schools in such areas feel the negative brunt of
punitive government policies, which degrade pupils and communities through the
instrument of crude, unfair league tables, whilst at the same time imposing a
curriculum which constrains schools and teachers in ways which inhibit them in
their efforts to meet local community and pupil needs."
Cooper calls for social solutions to social problems: "If Britain is
serious about removing the causes of ESBDs
then it must address the values that underpin our society.
is massive pressure in our schools, for example, to exclude pupils who are
disruptive. Such pupils are seen as
an undeserving underclass whose presence in society is regretted.
The effect on schools of such pupils is to undermine the quality of life
for others, to depress the school's examination performance, and as a result
encourage consumers to choose other schools.
The assumption underpinning such punitive exclusionary action is that
such pupils choose to behave in disruptive ways.
approaches conflict with understandings of what might be necessary for pupils
who do choose disruption to choose alternative forms of behaviour. It is not
uncommon, of course, for such 'socialised deviants' to come from family and
neighbourhood backgrounds where anti-social behaviour is ingrained and is part
of the everyday world into which they are born. In these instances anti-social behaviour is not a choice, it
simply an accepted way of being. Children
are then sent to local schools, which are avoided by those who have cultural and
financial capital which enables them to go elsewhere.
a society dominated by concerns over levels and standards, efforts need to be
made to ensure that schools and communities are served in ways that ensure high
standards for all. Schools should
be judged not by how well they manage the most gifted and well-adjusted pupils,
but how they improve the lives of their most vulnerable and unattractive
For more information, please contact Professor Cooper on 0116 252 3751
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.