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Lurid tales of teddy boys with flick knives dominated the media in the 1950s mods and rockers and the complete breakdown of law and order at Box Hill in the 1960s, the country was going to the dogs. That line "the kids got no respect for the law today...and blah blah blah" comes from a Simon and Garfunkle song of that era.

It think the problem with the "golden age" theory is that often enough in the UK it is a pretext for reintroducing the cane with all the sadomasochistic baggage that goes with it. By denying the "golden age" I am not suggesting we should not deal with disruptive pupils. It is just that a lot of the support for disruptive behaviour comes from the alienation of a lot of pupils.

I am bound to say that one factor is constant testing. The SATS actually do nothing for the individual child, they only affect the status in league tables of the school. Yet the curriculum is far too dominated by the extrinsic motivation of testing rather than the intrinsic motivation of finding out about the world.

The trouble is that abolishing SATS is not a "quick fix" for behaviour, it will take time to make a difference. There are no quick fixes and a diktat from Downing Street "behave you little bastards" is the least likely way to improve things. Trusting the professionalism of teachers and backing them up would be sensible but the politicians have been denouncing "failing teachers" and "agents of conservatism" for too long to find that attractive.

Incidentally despite the media barrage of criticism, one opinion poll after another rates doctors, nurses and teachers near the top and the politicians and journos who make the criticisms near the bottom when it comes to public trust.

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I still disagree with you. The behaviour you quote was then outside school, not in it, and was still small numbers compared with today. We have never had SATs here but that has made no difference to the fact that behaviour has deteriorated.

BTW, Just to see the reaction, I cut and pasted the Greek quotations to the TES website and asked teachers there for their response.

In the 60s and 70s I taught in what was considered the toughest school in my state, but in 9 years, no student ever threw chairs at me, threatened me with a pair of scissors, constantly told me to "f... off" in class, constantly told me "you can't make me do anything" or "if you touch me, I''ll get you for sexual harassment", or spat at me, or exposed themselves in class, or vandalised my room. All of which actually happened to me in the last two years I taught in what was considered to be a normal rural high school. This sort of behaviour is the "norm" for many teachers now. Then add to that the included students, such as the one his teacher told me about last week - 7 yrs old in prep, severely autistic, mother refuses to have him in a special school because "she knows her rights". He has caused 2 TAs to resign, one sdent to hospital with a bleeding cut inflicteed by him, he kicks, bites, throws anything he can get hold of, moans and screams incessantly. Yes, after a long drawn out legal battle, we might get him forcibly removed, but who suffers through the months/years that will take?

And yes, we had kids in special schools before who shouldn't have been, but is this any improvement?

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In the 60s and 70s I taught in what was considered the toughest school in my state, but in 9 years, no student ever threw chairs at me, threatened me with a pair of scissors, constantly told me to "f... off" in class, constantly told me "you can't make me do anything" or "if you touch me, I''ll get you for sexual harassment", or spat at me, or exposed themselves in class, or vandalised my room. All of which actually happened to me in the last two years I taught in what was considered to be a normal rural high school.

I'm going off the idea of emigrating to Tasmania B)

I think I'll stick to London where the majority of kids are polite and conscientious.

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I’ve just been lurking in this discussion so far. Here’s my two pennyworth.

I began teaching in London comprehensives in the mid-60s. It was a culture shock of immense proportions for me. My previous experience of secondary education was limited to my own: a highly selective boys’ grammar school at which most of the boys were expected to go on to university.

Behaviour in London comprehensives was appalling by comparison with my own experience at school. Children answered back at teachers, swore like troopers and regularly played truant. There were one or two appalling cases of disgusting behaviour, e.g. one boy cut off the feet of a guinea pig kept as a school pet, and another poured acid into the fish tank. A boy of 14 in one of the schools in which I was taught was convicted of raping a 13-year old.

I moved to rural Devon in the late-60s, having got a job in a grammar school as Head of German. My experience there was more like my own experience at the grammar school that I attended. It was a pleasure to teach the children, who were mostly polite and well behaved. I moved into higher education in the 1970s, taking early retirement in 1993. Bad behaviour was never a major problem for me in higher education.

Having begun by presenting the view that bad behaviour is not a new phenomenon, I am nevertheless of the opinion that behaviour among young people is generally deteriorating and becoming more widespread. I live on a middle-class estate in Berkshire. In the 1970s, when I moved into the area, I cannot recall any serious incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area where I live. Now they are commonplace. A group of young people congregate every evening at our local shopping precinct. There may be as few as 10 on some evenings, but up to 20 on warm spring and summer evenings. Most of them are harmless, but a few – out of their minds on lethal mixtures of vodka and cider – break away from the main group every evening and damage local property, breaking down fences, scrawling “tags” on walls, scratching parked cars and ripping off car aerials. The police do little, as they have to catch someone in the act of vandalism or find a reliable witness. Witnesses are loath to come forward, and local people refrain from confronting the youngsters for fear of being attacked – as happened on one occasion recently when a middle-aged adult who reprimanded a youngster for throwing down litter in the street was badly beaten up and ended up in hospital. No witnesses came forward.

OK, I am beginning to sound like a grumpy old man… I have to say, however, that the teacher who shot an air rifle at a group of youngsters (recently in the headlines in the UK) is regarded by most of my neighbours as a hero.

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