Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 No. 3. 15th March 1972
Right On Billy Bunter!
Right On Billy Bunter!
Well, we've got another great money spinner from Alister Taylor, publisher of profitable radical tracts. Following close on the heels of the very popular Bullshit and Jellybeans (S2.9S soft cover but glossy pages - at your friendly neighbourhood bookseller now) in which Tim Shad-bolt attempted to "justify the ways of God to men," we now have The Little Red School book by two Danes, Soren Hansen and Jasper Jensen, which sets out to show "why adults are paper tigers" who can never control children completely. Most of the book however tries to suggest ways of improving the environment imposed on children by adults, be they real or only paper tigers. Despite the obvious literary/political allusions in the title, the course suggested for students to follow is not particularly militant, except as a last resort, and much good could come from the great interest which the book has raised. At a price of $1. 5O however, one wonders if kiddies should really have to pay so much for their liberation, and if Mr Taylor and associates are really more interested in the market which is worried what the kids are going to do next, and will pay to have it all laid before them.
The School book is a series of statements divided into sections on the various elements of the educational system e.g. Learning, Teachers, Students, The System, not forgetting the notorious sections on Drugs and Sex which can at least assure enough claims Of scandal to encourage further sales. Both however are quite straightforward discussions of topics which are frequently ignored in schools by a system which is scared of ever putting anyone in embarrassing situations. Which brings us to the problem of the language which is no real problem at all when it is realised that the majority of people who are "so offended" by the use of fuck are just as offended to hear about "sexual intercourse" in public. It is the subject not the terms used in the discuss ion which upsets them. It is necessary for such subjects to be discussed and the language of the people seems to be clearest for this.
The Drug section is well balanced and gives a lot of weight to arguments against starting or continuing to smoke nicotine and continues through alcohol and all the other drugs with foreseeable comments. The main advantage is in placing nicotine and alcohol in a truer prospective.
Both these sections are useful to students. However they are just two of the innovations that are needed in schools, and their position in the middle of an explanation of how these innovations can be best achieved is slightly diverting. It seems quite possible that these sections may cause the book to be banned or censored which would be a shame, but we've got to have freedom of speech, haven't we? (Anyway it makes for a few more sales.)
Much of the information and advice given in the school-book is quite sane and useful, however many of the attitudes are often simplistic. The writers/adaptors make generalisations about teachers and then attempt to tone these down by prefixing them with the word "many" however not enough weight is given to praising the efforts of the many teachers who really are trying to do good things. Students need to be given examples of good teachers so they can recognise good qualities when they are present.
It is often forgotten that a teacher is prevented from making improvements because of the system and the lack of reasonable finance. Given that all students are individuals, it is extremely difficult to keep 30 of them interested from 9.00am to 3.30 every day, and the teacher should not be condemned out of hand if he sometimes fails to attract everybody's attention.
"to have influence it's important to remember...
That's it's easier to influence someone if you like them
and they like you.
That the most influential thing you can do is to be honest (and tactful)
That you need to know the person you want to influence - and to understand why he does what he does. That a person who's frightened is hard to influence: he often gets angry so as to hide his fear. That it's best to bring out disagreements into the open if everybody knows they exist.
That discussing and sorting out disagreements is a good way of learning more about each other. It also helps clear the air.
That if words fail, you can try positive action.
This is good advice for budding student activists etc at university also.
Secondary students are questioning their education with much greater urgency today, and are seriously considering the priorities which are given by an elder generation for their education. If this book causes a few more minds to start wondering it will do some good. It might even be an excuse for a bit more "communication", that golden word. Basically, The Little Red School book seems to be following, if not even taking advantage of, the trend for much greater awareness and more questioning attitudes in schools, but if it is used well there could be many advantages.
To try and keep the book from the kids would be very dangerous and would just polarize everybody. Accepting the fact that kids already know most of what is in the book, and talking with them about it, may open the way to improved schools, both for the students and the teachers. It is important that the kids are presented with the teacher's viewpoint so that they can have another point of view to compare with that given in the school-book. It is by comparing different attitudes that the kids can work out the best answers to their questions.
The School book is obviously well worth looking at for all students, even at university, but I still feel that an effort could have been made to provide the same information in a cheaper way. It would be very interesting to know what royalties Hansen and Jensen (or is it Jensen and Hansen) asked for the copyright. Until we know, I'd suggest that everyone take a hint from Abi Hoffman and Steal this Book!