In the wake of another shooting at a school in the USA, education systems everywhere are under scrutiny. The problem of violence in schools may be more acute in the USA but it is by no means an exception. With classroom discipline spiralling downwards, absenteeism among teachers rising, violence and insults against teachers becoming the norm, Portugal’s President Sampaio takes measures. “Authority is absolutely essential for the creation of a working environment”, he stated this week at the National Congress of Teachers. The problem of violence in schools in all countries in western Europe is virtually the same : many of the children are born in dysfunctional families and are not socialised for the classroom. Feeling that society has given them nothing, they have no problems in adopting an attitude of taking as much as they can from the society they feel aggrieved by and this means being as difficult as possible to “punish” or call the attention of non-existent parents. This also means that school colleagues who wish to study suffer, as do the teachers. Portugal is a country whose people describe themselves as having “gentle manners” and to a large extent this is still true. All the more shocking when one reads the statistics every Friday and Saturday night, with a dramatic increase in shootings and racial and gangland attacks. The problem is that this wave of violence among young people is reflected also in the school population. Rather than being a normal youth movement among weekend drunkards, which is normal, it seems that Portuguese society is beset with worrying statistics for the future, given the level of violence and indiscipline in the classroom. The Portuguese have always been a people who knew how to achieve their goals and it is for this that they maintained their independence from Spain, the only one of the Iberian “nations” so to do. However, to highlight the problem, the OCDE produced a report in 1997 which predicted that in 2015, under 40% of the active population in Portugal will have finished the minimum school qualifications (ninth year of school). “It is not acceptable that the students decide for themselves whether or not they attend a class”, continued President Sampaio. A new sense of discipline in which the State dictates the rules and enforces them for the benefit of all is what the younger generation in Portugal needs right now. That teachers are attacked and insulted with the most disgusting language imaginable, in the classroom, is totally unacceptable and although it is a trend in most of western Europe, something has to be done. In this Portugal is a pioneer and good luck to them!
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON
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