'Brought Up by Hand': A Secondary Education in Tile 'Fifties'
Wade, Stephen, Contemporary Review
MOST Dickens enthusiasts will immediately think of Mrs. Joe Gargery in Great Expectations, who brought up Pip 'by hand': that is, administered the occasional slap to keep him in line. As I write this, a storyline in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street concerns a teacher who, goaded beyond endurance, struck a pupil and has appeared in court, his career ruined. Put these two references side by side and you have the modem dilemma about discipline.
Not so in 1958. Things were much clearer then. At my Leeds secondary modem school we were destined to be apprentices to help grind the wheels of industry, and being ordered and silent, compliant and deferential sums up the ideology. At times the rule of physical violence went too far, and was in the realms of stage farce, like the time a petty crime had been committed and the culprit would not own up. All thirty of us were slippered, lining up along the middle aisle of the classroom to await our fate.
Monday morning assemblies had the usual climax, after the hymns and the sports reports, the farewells and welcomes for staff: the list of victims who would be caned by the mortar-boarded and black-gowned Headmaster. With relish he would read out the names and then describe the nature of the offences and how hurt he was that vandalism of railway lines still persisted and that Teddy Boy habits were creeping into general school behaviour. A line of silent masters stood behind him, quietly affirming the rule of law.
By nine-thirty there would be a gaggle of wrong-doers rubbing red-striped palms and whining; or some would be playing at being Lawrence of Arabia and showing no pain. To return to class after a caning and appear to show …
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Publication information: Article title: 'Brought Up by Hand': A Secondary Education in Tile 'Fifties'. Contributors: Wade, Stephen - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 282. Issue: 1647 Publication date: April 2003. Page number: 232+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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