30 years ago

20th August 2004 at 01:00
For whom the bell tolls. Thirty years ago, at the start of the school session, Robert Reid, head of Newbattle High in Midlothian, was arguing for the abolition of the period bell (TESS, August 23, 1974): Let us seek to restore man to his rightful place, only a little lower than the angels. For too long teacher, man and woman, has been relegated to a mechanical existence, trained to respond to bells. Forty minutes of peace and a bell rings. The school goes into convulsions.

It is time we restored some peace to the academic groves. It is time that teachers and pupils were encouraged to live and work in the school in a spirit of co-operation rather than acceptance of authoritarianism.

The removal of bells would contribute to an alteration of attitude among pupils. Coming into the secondary school, the pupil is facing many new experiences. Among these is the period bell . . . something imposed on him - an unsettling distraction which he uses eventually to his own end. If he listens to lessons with one ear on the bell and an eye on his watch, then doing away with bells removes part of the distraction. If there is no noisy bell, he will have that much less encouragement to make a noise himself.

As an exponent of peacefulness and tranquillity as basic requirements for education, I have no hesitation in advancing a plea for abandoning the period bell in the secondary school. As a believer in the dignity of man, I firmly believe that man is falling from his place if he needs to be ordered about by bells. As an altruist, perhaps I could humbly nominate myself for a "no bell" peace prize.

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