Militarism and morality fight mischief

31st July 1998 at 01:00
All schools need to be brought to order with strict discipline for pupils and staff, argues the author of a new pamphlet, Mischief or Nonsense: the Current Choice in Moral Education.

Optional military service should be reintroduced for all 16 to 18-year-old pupils as part of a national community service programme, claims sociologist and teacher-trainer Professor David Marsland.

Professor Marsland, the first winner of the Thatcher Award, presented by Lady Thatcher for his work on the analysis of freedom, also demands the sacking of "incompetents, malcontents and mischief-makers" from teaching.

He blames the use of "rubbishy pop music and mass media 'literary' material in the curriculum" for falling standards and wants "high quality music, literature and art" made central to the syllabus.

Professor Marsland's pamphlet, published by the Campaign for Real Education, expounds his view that "one of the best education systems the world has ever known has been almost completely destroyed" since the Sixties.

Prior to that, he argues, schools made good citizens of their pupils by instilling "decent manners, high moral standards, and sensible social values".

He condemns three phases in the recent development of social education in schools: "a period of vacuous concepts" in the Sixties and Seventies; "an era of futile skills" in the Eighties and early Nineties; and "a time of confusion" in recent years, when social education is again being fundamentally reappraised.

Professor Marsland, director of Brunel University's epidemiological research centre, argues that social education needs to be properly understood before schools can hope to improve pupils' behaviour.

"No amount of chaos and mischief outside the school's walls need prevent its successful accomplishment unless teachers and schools become themselves a part of the chaos and mischief," he said.

He calls for the whole curriculum for five to 18-year-olds to be permeated with "clear, unapologetic moral instruction", and condemns the Government for doing too little to tackle the problem.

"The new Government has talked at length but done very little about education. Of coherent attention to social education there is little sign."

"Mischief or Nonsense: Current Choices in Moral Education" costs Pounds 4 including postage from the Campaign for Real Education, 18 Westlands Grove, York YO3 0EF.

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