April 13, 2009

BROKEN WINDOWS SCHOOLING:

Sébastien Clerc's common sense crusade to improve French education (adam Sage, 4/13/09, Times of London)

Sébastien Clerc left teacher training college with a good knowledge of 18th-century literature and 19th-century history, but he had almost no idea how to cope with the violent, rebellious teenagers he met in his first job.

He was posted to a secondary school near Paris teetering on the edge of anarchy amid gangland battles and classroom insurrection. “I was on my knees” within a few weeks, he said.

Now the frail-looking 33-year-old is fighting back with a campaign to restore authority in the suburban lycées that are in the front line of social and economic breakdown in France.

His recipe — be firm but fair, keep troublemakers apart, never let misdemeanours go unpunished — draws heavily on common sense. But it represents an historic U-turn for a nation that has traditionally taken a high-flown attitude to education.

“In France, we like the theoretical approach because it seems more noble,” Mr Clerc told The Times. “But when it comes to getting a class to obey you, there is no one theory which holds sway — just a series of pragmatic steps you can take. As a result, it has been ignored altogether here.”


Perhaps even for France, two hundred years of noble theory is enough?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2009 7:26 AM
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