Confronting student abuse

24th January 1997 at 00:00
Recently arrived from South America to my native Scotland for a postgraduate secondary education course, I of course expected talk of human rights and justice. But there is another side: patterns of oppression and abuse are widely reported by students of this and other colleges in their treatment by schools, as is a refusal to confront schools about this.

Specifically, students are patronised, information on their progress is withheld from them but communicated to others, grades agreed on are changed, we are told to ignore verbal child abuse (screaming inches from children's faces while questioning their sanity etc) or encouraged to join in, personality clashes are blamed on the student, despotic behaviour is to be suffered, pupils' aspirations to debateprotest against uniform or other aspects of ethos are to be put down . . . the list is unfortunately neither exhaustive nor the experience of a few.

Scottish education although undeniably smug and the inheritor of a legacy of fear and domination (which we attempted to spread through colonisation) is not a monolith. There are heretics even within the hierarchy. Although we are threatened with sanction if we speak out, this ill-treatment will continue if we do not, and in fact the fear is that many individuals at all levels feel the same. Abuse is a chain which can only be linked in silence: break the chain.

ALAN McMANUS St Andrew's College of Education Bearsden

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