10 Oct 2009

Dealing With Prejudice.

One of the hardest things I have to do as a teacher is to deal with prejudice and challenge preconceptions. It sounds like a fairly easy thing to do. Pupil says something untoward, you calmly explain why that isn't acceptable, pupil becomes well adjusted member of society and goes on to challenge predjudicial behaviour at home and within their peer group.


What actually happens is pupil says something unacceptable (in my place of work either mildly racist or homophobic), you are actually disgusted by the comment and erupt into a 45 minute lecture on the rights of man at great volume. You may or may not point out some of the pupil's obvious shortcomings such as lack of personal hygene, questionable parentage or, in extreme cases, their having the mental capcity of the common or garden snail. Once you have calmed down you will have to log the incident somehow and inform the parents.

The next day you will open up your emails and discover that the little scrote's parents have decided that the way you dealt with the incident was unacceptable and they have notified the headteacher of your actions. The first email you write in response is blocked by the school's filtering system as it contains 32 seperate examples of the word 'fuck'.

An hour later the headteacher calls you into their office for a 'chat'. They politely explain that we must remember to treat our pupils with 'diginity and respect' and, as such, refering to them as 'the bastard offspring of Hitler, Pol Pot and Gary the Racist Duck' isn't really acceptable. You want to explain that you didn't say 'duck' and this demonstrates the lack of attention the pupil pays in your lessons but realise that this will only make things worse.

You then come to the shocking self-revelation that the reason the pupil was being a racist twat was because the parents see nothing wrong in it. Indeed, the parents make those comments all the time. There may be some reason for it - perhaps they haven't got any work because Polish workers can do the same job cheaper, perhaps it is fear of the unknown or perhaps it is because they haven't left the village they were born in all their life and still think people with different coloured skin are somehow out to get them and their wife (who doubles up as sister and cousin) agrees.

I don't know the ultimate reason. What I do know is this conflict between my liberal ideals and the swathe of ignorance I see before me is very hard reconcile in a way which befits my supposed responsibilites as a rolemodel. What I find unaccptable they see no problem in. What makes my blood boil they see as funny. This is the point at which my professionalism falls down.

Perhaps I should be less prejudiced against rasicst, homophobic, stuttering idiots.

Perhaps not...


  1. Ah... the classic example of differing opinions...

    You think you're right. He thinks he's right.

    He has parents behind him, and you have your job to look after.

    More important to readjust the kid, or to make sure your job is safe.

    Better yet, who says your point of view is 'better' than his/his parents'?

    The joy of political correctness. In my world, I'd probably just have everyone say what they want, just make sure there's no maliciousness/overt realisation of the slurs.

    The sad thing is, the kid probably starts off just saying things because his parents do it -- I doubt the kid _actually_ hates blacks or Pakistanis -- but sure enough, we grow into our clothing, eh.

  2. I understand the fairly arbitrary nature of what is considered acceptable but part of the core standards that we have to meet is the requirement that we challenge preconceptions. Interesting enough it doesn't say what preconceptions we have to challenge and have been tempted - purely as a thought experiment - to do the reverse of the above and have a go at someone for being too liberal.

    It'd be a right larf!

    Or not.

  3. Well, you use the word 'too', which is important.

    It suggests there is such a thing as 'too liberal', and that you would consider it a bad thing...

    It's some kind of circle -- too liberal is very close to too conservative.

    (left) Communism -> One person takes control -> Dictatorship (right)

    But enough politics for a weekend :P

  4. what an interesting subject.. we are discussing racism in my english right now. i am more aware of racial slurs than i was before.

  5. I've never witnessed racism first hand, being egyptian n' all, but it's a subject we've discussed a lot in school. I don't look african at all, I have olive whitish skin and average facial features, so I don't think I can be discriminated based on my looks. But as far as religion is involved, I think I would be. My dad is muslim, and I guess I am too. I don't look like a muslim, nor do I act like one, but if someone were to ask me, I think that would change the way they think of me one war or another. Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves.

  6. God... why the hell did I ever want to be a teacher?

    And, P.S.: I hope you're not still wondering if you're really British or not...


  7. I'm a hot- headed American with little to no patience for the ignorant, no matter how young that offender might be. You were right to say something. And as difficult as it was to keep your emotions in check, if the kid went home to tell his parents that he got yelled at, you clearly struck a chord. From my experience, that's the first step.

    How is this little peach behaving now?