The Death of Discipline – Children out of Control?

Events in British schools during the past year have started a national debate about discipline, because children have become almost uncontrollable. The level of violence is increasing and the classroom is no longer a safe place. A headmaster was murdered when he tried to stop one of his pupils from being bullied. Teachers are afraid to go to work and schools have been closed because some pupils are too disruptive or violent to teach. Parents are shocked.
In 1995/96 13,419 children were expelled permanently from schools in Britain. But is expulsion the answer, or is it simply an economic problem? The government pays an estimated £48 million a year to provide private teaching for these children, which is twice as much as it would cost to educate them at school. However, if teachers refuse to teach the troublemakers it seems expulsion is the only solution.
Britain finally accepted that the education system was in serious trouble when a school almost lost control earlier this year.
Teachers at The Ridings School in Halifax, near Bradford, threatened to strike unless up to 60 violent or disruptive pupils were expelled. Their decision to take action was made after three serious attacks on teachers in a week. The British government organized an emergency inspection of the school, which lasted 48 hours. During this time the inspectors saw enough to be concerned, especially about the lack of order and discipline. They decided that the school was "in danger of getting out of control". The school was closed for a few days. It reopened with a new head teacher, who promised that his first priority was to restore discipline. He was given 40 days to improve the situation or the school would close. Twelve pupils were expelled and 23 suspended.
The collapse of authority at The Ridings School is only one example of the breakdown of discipline and the increase in violent behaviour among young people. The question that everyone is asking is: how can order be restored?
Children at the school say the teachers did not exercise their authority. Certain politicians believe this could be helped by introducing a dress-code for teachers, to win more respect, while experts in education think teachers should have more training.
Other politicians believe that corporal punishment is the way to bring back order to the classroom. Bad behaviour can usually be controlled by giving extra work and detention, but for very difficult, possibly violent children something more is needed. According to a Gallup poll for a national British newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) 68 % of people questioned think that the cane should be available in all schools (it became illegal in state schools in 1986, but is still legal in independent schools). They also said they would allow their own children to be caned. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps this old-fashioned form of punishment is the way to restore authority and discipline. It is certainly a better solution than an empty school.
Nadia Jefferson-Brown  (501 words)


 (to) bully – tyrannisieren, schikanieren
cane – Rohrstock
corporal punishment – Prügelstrafe
detention – Nachsitzen, Arrest
disruption – Störung
disruptive – störend
emergency inspection – Notinspektion
(to) expel – (von der Schule) verweisen
expulsion – Verweisung
Gallup poll – Meinungsumfrage
inspector – (hier) Schulrat
(to) suspend – vom Unterricht ausschließen

The Death of Discipline: Follow-up work

Task 1  Global questions

1. Do you think there is too much discipline in German schools?
2. Have there been many stories in the newspapers about problems in schools?
3. Can you imagine why a school might close?
4. What would you do if your school closed?
5. If a pupil is very disruptive in your class, what does the teacher do/say?
6. Would you prefer to be taught in your home alone, rather than in a classroom with other people? Why?

Task 2  Collocations

Form sentences by matching up the left and right columns.
1. The cane is a form of    of losing control.
2. Some schools are in danger   are becoming violent.
3. Children say teachers    of the lack of discipline.
4. Parents      corporal punishment.
5. An increasing number of children in Britain lack authority.
6. A national debate has started because  are shocked.

Task 3

Fill in the missing verbs or nouns in the table.
Verb Noun
to expel
to answer
to inspect

Task 4  Synonyms

Find synonyms from the text for the following words/phrases:
uniform   [dress-code]    [ ] = Lösung
solution   [answer]
dismiss from school [expel]
people who cause trouble [troublemakers]
breakdown  [collapse]
discipline  [order]
a child at school  [pupil]
teach   [educate]

Task 5 Vocabulary

The letters of the words are jumbled. Work out what the word is, and then write a sentence using it.
e.g. tevo = vote   In Britain you can vote at the age of 18.

Task 6 New words and grammar structures

Write a sentence for each of the following – use a dictionary if you are unsure of the meaning.
in danger of (verb + ing)
bully = the person who bullies someone
to be bullied by someone
twice as much as
threaten to do something

Task 7 Detailed questions

Answer the following questions about the text, using your own words.
1. Why is the text called "The death of discipline"?
2. Why did The Ridings School almost lose control?
3. What action did the teachers at the school take? Why?
4. What did the government do?
5. What was said about the school?
6. What is the first thing the new head teacher wants to do?
7. What would happen to the school if the situation did not get better?
8. How could order possibly be restored? (Give 3 examples).

Task 8 Transfer questions

Choose one of the following questions and write approximately 100 words about it.
a) What are your ideas about a ”uniform” for teachers? Would it help establish their authority?
b) What measures of discipline do you think are necessary in schools?
c) Do you agree that teachers should have more authority than parents?
d) Describe the ideal relationship between a pupil and his/her teacher.
e) The cane is old-fashioned but necessary. Write your response to this sentence.
f) It is better to expel disruptive children from schools so that other pupils can learn.
Do you agree?
g) Are children disruptive because the teachers do not assert their authority?
h) Are teachers trained enough (or should they also learn how to help pupils with personal problems)?