When teaching becomes impossible ... - Politicsweb

3 March 2022 - I read with great sadness the article How to ruin a school, Politicsweb 01 March 2020.

Sara Gon
I read with great sadness the article How to ruin a school, Politicsweb 01 March 2020.

There have been increasing instances – previously in private schools, but now also in government schools – of claims of racism being made by pupils against fellow pupils and teachers in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), or what we term the acceptance of Critical Race Theory (CRT).

This is a phenomenon that was imported from the United States into academia over decades and which really came to public attention in South Africa as a result of the RhodesMustFall/FeesMustFall protests from 2015.

The praxis of CRT started to find its way into the private sector through the adoption of policies by the Independent Schools Association of South Africa.

It is largely a pernicious ideology which is fundamentally based on the concept that blacks (and minorities in general) are victims, whites are oppressors, and to solve the problem means upending the political system and seeking communism as a means of reordering society.

What you find to a greater or lesser extent in schools where diversity programmes become a feature is that they are preceded by accusations of racism by groups of pupils, often online, and against both fellow pupils and teachers.

The author of How to ruin a school, Prof. John van den Berg, points out the cowardice and pandering to the parents of the accusing pupils. One has some level of sympathy with management because one wrong step and the accusations are then levelled at management and their jobs come under threat. So there become two “mobs” – pupils and their parents.

However, there is no alternative to it; management and the school governing bodies must have the knowledge of what they’re facing and the courage to deal with it in terms of appropriate disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The sort of behaviour by the pupils in accusing others of racism is common and intensely destructive. Such pupils act individually and as a mob. And their weapon of choice is social media. It is well known that the behaviour that teenage girls are most likely to have recourse to cause havoc is bullying. Boys tend to use physical violence. Social media turns a recourse to bullying into a process akin to the Inquisition.

The St. Mary’s example highlights these egregious tactics and the weak response to them: social media accusations; the suspension of teachers without their knowing the charge (an unfair labour practice in itself); nothing to prove against the teachers but they have already had their authority undermined to the extent that they can’t teach effectively ,and resign; pupils who have falsely been accused or who just hate the new “social justice” atmosphere leave the school; and the school loses its reputation.

Probably the most disastrous action the school did not take was to charge and discipline the girls identified as having spread the libels or made accusations. Their behaviour runs the gamut from racism to bullying to undermining authority. Experience shows that the only way to overcome this destructive behaviour is through the exercise of the legitimate power of management to implement the disciplinary rules that underpin the effective running of a school.

It was for this reason that the Institute of Race Relations set up a resource website on CRT in schools to help equip parents and teachers to deal with these phenomena.

The major problem for the accused teachers and pupils, their parents, management and SGB is that the accusers are black as are their parents. This is not a racist allegation; it is a fact and a fact borne out by this case. The very aim of CRT and DEI is to empower black children to disempower white children (and teachers). This generally leads to opposing white and black parents feeling helpless.

There is no avoiding the fact that, unless the adults support CRT, they must be prepared to act together to take this on; they must put pressure on school management; they must insist that discipline is fairly and uniformly applied.

The final and most destructive consequence is the undermining of the authority of teachers. Once teachers lose their authority, teaching becomes impossible. Schools only succeed in their aims if the teachers, the adults, have authority over the pupils.

We all know that teenagers are still children; their hormonal development makes them irrational and condescending of “ignorant” adults while they still have a huge amount to learn and little practical experience to call upon. Of course teachers are not entitled to be racist or breach codes of conduct themselves, but schools have ways to appropriately deal with misconduct.

Sara Gon is head of strategic engagement at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR)