We Need Troublemakers

stower_titanic_colourizedIt’s never been easy to point out the problems when you’re surrounded by those who want to believe that everything is fine. Pointing out that the number of lifeboats on the Titanic was inadequate would not have met with a positive response, no doubt. Anyone who did so would have been dismissed as a negative, divisive naysayer who refused to believe in the ship’s wonderful unsinkable qualities, and wanted to bring doom and gloom upon its triumphant maiden voyage.

But pointing out the lifeboat shortage could have saved many lives. It would be the duty of someone who was aware of this and its potential consequences to do so, regardless of how much derision and scorn was poured upon them.

The passengers on the Titanic were blissfully unaware of the poor provision of emergency equipment. Doubtless they enjoyed their voyage far more in this blissful ignorance, and the atmosphere would have been altered significantly if someone had marched into the first class lounge wearing a sandwich board proclaiming the danger that was at hand. Such a protester would have been swiftly removed and banned from entering the lounge again.

Imagine if Twitter had existed in the days of the Titanic. Some troublemaker among the general public might have got hold of the information about the lifeboats. They might have raised awareness of it and gained a large following. The company would have been very annoyed, no doubt, but it would probably have had to do something about it before setting off on the voyage. The false sense of calm would have been disrupted. The troublemaker would have made his point, and doubtless the passengers would have been grateful to this person when they realised he had saved their lives.

It’s uncomfortable for those who want to believe that everything is fine, but Twitter and blogging gives a voice to ordinary teachers. They can point out that there is something wrong with behaviour in many schools. They can point out the fundamental flaws in the progressive methods that have been promoted for decades by PGCE courses and mandated by management in many schools, such as the comprehensive which I attended, which proudly proclaims on its website:

Students are no longer passive receivers of chalk and talk from the front of the classroom. Visitors will find young people investigating, exploring, discussing, debating, recording, filming, planning, drafting and presenting. Teachers use the good behaviour at the school as a basis for challenging all students to learn for themselves and from each other.

When they raise concerns about the attacks on explicit instruction (‘chalk and talk’) or the determination to believe that there is nothing but ‘good behaviour’, teachers are labelled ‘divisive’, they are accused of seeking attention, of undermining morale. But it is the pupils who suffer most when we live in the fantasy land of middle class niceness, the first class lounge of ‘the kids are fine, and they can discover things for themselves’. They need the lifeboat of knowledge and discipline, or many will sink into the icy waters of ignorance and compulsive behaviour.

[Engraving by Willy Stöwer: Der Untergang der Titanic]


5 thoughts on “We Need Troublemakers

  1. When I spoke out against the silliness of the ‘no zeros’ policy, the elimination of work-habit marks and no penalties for late assignments I was branded a negative teacher and new teachers were advised to stay away from me. I would have preferred a more mature approach to dissent but it wasn’t to be. Still, I soldier on and fight the good fight.


  2. Pingback: Is Poor Behaviour Widespread? | The Traditional Teacher

  3. Interesting. What if it was a child who pointed out the shortage of lifeboats? Would you advocate listening to them? Of course in reality, the shortage of lifeboats was pointed out and ignored. In the end it was perhaps more significant that the fire in the bunkers (which compromised the integrity of the inner wall designed to keep water out) was ignored even though it was identified before the ship set sail. The fire meant the safety features in the design were compromised. It meant that the ship was travelling at full speed in case they ran out of fuel (the fire was consuming much of their coal supply). The lifeboats would have saved some lives. Putting the fire out and delaying departure would have saved many more. I know this because my nine year old told me having “discovered it for himself” by watched a documentary on the subject last week. “Do you think the story of the Titanic is important?” I asked him. He said it was. “Do you mean important or just interesting?” “I mean important,” he said “because it teaches us to take care and not to be arrogant.” Maybe we’re just too middle class.


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