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Education: society doesn’t affirm adult authority

Last week I posted about the Obama administration's support for closing schools, and Diane Ravitch's response. Elizabeth Green's feature in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, "Building a better teacher," certainly provided a helpful corrective to the Bush and Obama top-down approaches, as it highlighted how much depends on the skills of the individual teacher.

But as education professor Alex Standish (author of Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum) pointed out to me via email, the article "makes good points about training, classroom management and content. But quality education is also about social expectations, both at the institutional level and society, not just the individual teacher." I agree. 

The article showcases Doug Lemov's teacher-training methods, which indicate that a big part of the problem is teachers' lack of authority in the classroom. But the answer to this is not simply to be found within training; it's a wider social issue. According to sociologist Frank Furedi, in his excellent new book Wasted: Why Edcation Isn't Educating, there is a crisis of adult authority in society today, which has implications for the classroom:

The confusions surrounding the exercise of adult authority have undermined authoritative forms of discipline. Since there is little cultural affirmation for the exercise of adult authority, schools and teachers are overwhelmed by a sense of disorientation when it comes to the maintenance of classroom discipline.   

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