Parents need to stop being ruled by their kids
UNRULY classrooms are not the fault of teachers, but of mums and dads who couldn't pass Parenting 101 if they tried.
Bad behaviour - kicking, screaming, punching and worse - begins somewhere and it's not at school.
As a new report shows, a disruptive classroom hinders "academic resilience" - the ability to overcome adversity and achieve well in reading, maths and science. Why should it fall solely to schools to fix what starts in the home?
The OECD report casts a damning light on the state of education among disadvantaged Australians in particular. By world standards, we are going backwards fast.
In 2006, 36 per cent of 15-year-old students could claw their way out of poverty to attain the levels of literacy and numeracy required to succeed in the workplace and contribute to their communities.
Today that figure has slipped to 28 per cent, only slightly higher than the global average among 50 countries of 25 per cent. The top performer is Hong Kong, where more than half of students are academically resilient.
What has gone so wrong and how can we recover?
The answers lies in parenting, and forging a cooperative culture between home and school that recognises - as opposed to pay lip service to - the value of education.
A positive classroom climate is critical to academic excellence, the OECD report says, but when kids are turning up to school drastically unprepared for learning, how can teachers be expected to work magic?
Disruptive learning environments are not the preserve of low socio-economic areas.
They exist in both state and private schools, and Australia has one of the worst records in the world.
Another OECD report, in 2017, found one-third of students in advantaged schools and about half in disadvantage schools said that in most or every class there was noise and disorder, students didn't listen to what the teacher said, and students found it difficult to learn.
Philip Riley, from the Australian Catholic University, runs the Principal Health and Wellbeing survey. He says anti-social behaviour is "ubiquitous", getting worse every year and cultural change is urgently needed.
Change begins at home, literally.
Before kids even reach school age, many of them are programmed for problems.
They have low attention spans and high expectations of being able to do whatever they like.
Many have never heard the word "no". They have not been taught to sit still, eat what's on their plate, listen without interrupting.
Limits on bedtimes, screen use and junk food are either non-existent or not enforced.
And as for learning respect - of self, others and property - forget it.
Parents are flat out obeying rules or being courteous themselves - look at road rage, drunken brawling, and littering - let alone helping little people do so.
So when kids, who are sleep-deprived, hyped up on sugar and shamefully free from discipline, turn up for school, is it any wonder they are primed to give teachers - and their peers - a hard time?
Queensland educators are bitten, punched and spat on, according to school workplace injury claims obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws.
In extreme cases teachers have been hit with iron bars and sprayed in the face with classroom fire extinguishers. Charming!
In Western Australia, teachers are threatening to strike if the Government doesn't mandate policies to tackle violence from increasingly younger perpetrators.
Aggression that once might have been seen in Year 7 pupils is now occurring in Year 1s, according to the teachers' union.
It wants existing guidelines on how to prevent and respond to violence to be made formal policy and include the mandatory reporting of incidents against educators.
However, it is not the Government's responsibility to correct problem behaviour.
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says lax parents are breeding disconnected, bitter and resentful kids who feel they can treat authority figures, including police officers, like dirt.
By refusing to set limits and enforce consequences, parents are raising uncivilised, ill-mannered children who think the rules and social mores don't apply to them.
He says instead of being disciplined for misbehaving in restaurants or shops, for instance, kids are pacified with iPads.
Others, in my experience, are left to run amok while mum or dad focuses on something more important, like checking their phone, drinking with friends or "me time", one of several curious additions to the Oxford Dictionary for 2018.
Until parents tune in to their responsibilities, teachers are always going to be thwarted in their efforts, and children will be denied the education they deserve.