Tony Blair tells a story in his book A Journey of when he lived in Islington
I had to go out to dinner. I walked down to the station. As I passed the end of our street, a bloke was urinating against a wall. I stopped. ‘what are you looking at?’ he said. I said, ‘You, you shouldn’t be doing it.’. He took out a large knife from his coat. I walked on.
I hated it. I hated the fact that he did it. I hated even more that fact that I didn’t stop him. I hated the choice I was made to make: stop him and risk ending your life because someone urinated in the street – hardly the stuff of martyrdom – or walk on.
Two items on the news today reminded me of this. Firstly, the complaint by Wayne Rooney that he feels hard done by the FA two match ban for swearing. The Independent reports:
Wayne Rooney bears a clear sense of injustice after being told he must serve a two-match suspension for his four-letter outburst at West Ham on Saturday.
This for a player who earns millions of pounds a year to do what he does.
Then the Daily Mail (who else) complains like mad of a school in Ely who has decided that bad behaviour is no longer acceptable. In the words of the Daily Mail
City of Ely Community College in Cambridgeshire launched a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on Monday after sending a list of 14 draconian rules to parents.
So what are these draconian rules? No doubt they are beyond what any reasonable person would think unacceptable?
The list of banned behaviour includes wearing outdoor clothing indoors, smoking, eating in class, chewing gum, eating in undesignated areas, dropping litter and being late.
Other measures include having a mobile phone or iPod visible, wearing earphones outside the collar, refusing to obey orders, rudeness, running and misbehaving on the school bus.
On the first day that this policy was introduced 236 children were put into detention. The second day it was half that (according to the head who was on Radio 5 this evening). according to the Mail this had dropped to 30 by lunchtime today.
Why is the head doing this? To ensure that the teachers spend time teaching rather than spending all their time controlling bad behaviour. At another school in Lancashire teachers have gone on strike because of the strain of coping with bad behaviour.
One child I know was beaten up by a pupil at their school and the child who did it was given one day internal exclusion and the school didn’t even notify the parents! The child then saw one teacher say to the bully when he refused to take a particular seat – “well I’ve tried. Sit wherever you want”.
If we want a civilised society then we need to start with the small things and we as a society need to back people standing up to the bullies and the bad behaviour.
I am pleased that the head of Ely Community College is prepared to make a stand. I am pleased that Wayne Rooney has been given a two match ban. I hope other players and role models will be given equally short shrift and that more schools will make sure that pupils are both safe and well behaved.
Of course, it also means that we accept that if our little angel isn’t quite a little angel at school we back the school and don’t give them so much grief that they might back off.
It might even mean that your favourite footballer can’t play for a few matches. But take rugby. In rugby they introduced “draconian” rules to ensure that behaviour was better that only the captain could talk to the referee etc and behaviour has been much better.
Maybe we should be less tolerant of bad and rude behaviour.
What do you think?