From ‘Teachers should stop saying shut up to pupils’, 4 Nov 2011 and ‘Shut up is only the tip of rude iceberg’, 11 Nov 2011, ST Forum. Cheers to quirkyhill.
(Alicia Hock): WHEN I was a pupil more than 30 years ago, it was common for teachers to tell their classes to ‘shut up’ when they wanted to quieten us. Because it was a routine admonishment, it took me many years before I realised it was impolite.
So when I started work as a polytechnic lecturer a few years ago, it was ‘please be quiet’ instead. To be sure, the phrase was less effective but far more sensible than the alternative.
(T. Arunachalam): LIKE Madam Alicia Hock (‘Teachers should stop saying ‘shut up’ to pupils’; Nov 4), my son’s teacher in Primary 1 admonishes the class with words like ‘rascal’, ‘stupid’, ‘sickening’, ‘nonsense’ and belittling phrases like ‘You’ve got the cheek to tell me this’.
Perhaps teachers should take the Professor Dumbledore approach to getting students’ attention: Yelling ‘SILENCE!’ and raising both hands with baritone authority. That would surely be more effective than ‘please be quiet’ or any form of meek librarian-speak that is as effective as telling Gordon Ramsey to ‘calm down’ after someone burnt the turkey in his kitchen on Thanksgiving special night.
It’s no surprise that our teachers, like their students, have gone soft over the years. With children getting overprotected by parents from cradle to NS and taking the slightest scolding so personally that they post their hatred on Facebook or beg their parents to sue their teachers, most eventually pass out school without ever tasting humiliation or defeat because our educators are no longer ‘disciplinarians’, but ‘partners’ in raising moral citizens together with parents. Without the ‘school of hard knocks’ primer or a chance to grow some balls, these spoilt brats enter the ‘real world’ like the first cows in line stumbling into an abattoir, destined for the mince section without knowing what hit them.
Rude teachers are indeed the tip of the ‘rude’ iceberg. Our kids will face worse characters and situations out there; staff sergeants, bosses, customers, or even difficult relatives and spouses who make caning on stage a stroll in the park by comparison. School is the only time kids experience ‘growing up’ without being financially or emotionally crippled by it (with some exception for the latter of course). And anxious parents with an emergency prescription for Ritalin in hand, seem to have forgotten what ‘growing up’ means anymore, because the slightest trauma that makes their baby cry is a worrying sign that ‘teachers are not imparting values’. But what they’re really worried about is their victimised kids not making it through the term paper because they hate their teacher’s guts. It would be easy for a non-parent like myself to say kids should be taught how to ‘deal with it’, but that’s what separates a good parent from one who just pays the the teacher to do everything on his/her behalf.
All of a sudden, people are overly concerned for our children’s ‘feelings’, fearful that any mental anguish or corporal punishment meted by teachers would turn kids into recluses, delinquents or psychopaths (The rate of mental disorders among schoolchildren is a shocking 1 in 10) The truth is we’re already subjecting them to a grinding machine, with PSLE rankings and awards turning our children not into unique moral beings, but statistics i.e objects. If it’s not the teachers doing it, it’s the stress in general, and in fact the teachers, for better or worse, add some humanity to it all. I, for one, remember certain teachers better than any character from ‘Sing to the Dawn’ which I was forced to read for Literature. Conducting a long term study to examine if ‘controlled humiliation and carefully instilled fear’ would steer a kid along the right path is impossible for ethical reasons, but if a teacher has a reputation for delivering results despite being a sniper chalk-thrower, wouldn’t the end (good grades) justify the (diabolical) means?
If there’s any consolation, our parents had it worse in their schooldays. Not only were kids in the 70s inflicted with insults like ‘damned stupid idiot’ (probably as far as profanities from teachers go), some were even physically manhandled, with their ‘heads pushed against the wall’. For complainants like those above wailing about verbal abuse, for every modern ‘rascal’ there was an ‘idiot’, ‘nincompoop’ or ‘careless monkey’ in classroom vocabulary of the past. For every kid insulted today there was one forced to stand in the rain or miss recess altogether. As a recipient of a couple of butt lashings, bruised knuckles and open humiliation to the point of tears myself, I would think these writers really ‘have got the cheek’ to complain about such ‘impolite’ remarks indeed.