Crime and Punishment

There was an excellent article in The Daily Telegraph today by Philip Johnston protesting against the attempts to keep more criminals out of prisons by getting them to say they were sorry and won’t do it again (!!) and/or would be given community sentences or would take up training for a worthwhile job. As Johnson points out, the idea of providing training would only work for the few who really wanted to put crime behind them and become responsible citizens.
B.F. Skinner, an American psychotherapist, worked from the premisses that the best way for people to change was for them to want to change and when people behave badly they should not be rewarded. If this happens they are merely encouraged to repeat the bad behaviour. So the answer must be to punish instead. This was always the way up to the advent of Freud and the growth of many different ways of practising psychotherapy.
Johnson points out the foolish methods now being used. Any idiot knows that ‘saying sorry’ never works.
He tells the story of a violent offender released from prison who was sent to be examined on an “Anger Management Course” which he did not finish. He was classified as “of medium risk” and released; after which he went straight on to murder two young men.
Psychotherapy has done some very good work and some that is not so good. The facts are that no-one understands crime. We still know so little about what characteristics are inherited and which are learned. Studies of non-human animals have shown that they very rarely kill another of their own kind just for the sake of it. The more civilisation and populations grow, the more crimes grow and the more difficult they are to deal with.
Although most of us, who have worked to help people to solve their problems, accept the idea of the conscious and unconscious minds – a subject that has always been recognised and reproduced in all the great literature – that our unconscious mind is hidden from us and carries the negative aspects we all have which counterbalance our conscious and more positive side. But crime is a different matter. The people who do it know that is what they want to do. What neither they nor anyone else knows is the nature of the reason why.
I cannot help being concerned that we still need to design some kind of punishment that will be a big enough deterrent to make criminal behaviour unattractive. Why does it cost £30,000 a year to keep someone in prison? Perhaps they are too comfortable there. No-one gives answers to such questions. The Victorians did.

Blog Education

Keep Your Hands Off Education

I’ve just read an interview of Nigel Fanshawe, an ex-headmaster of a grammar school who is nearly 100 years old. Like me, he came from a background that was very short of money, passed his 11 plus and worked his way through to university and then to teach in a grammar school. He took over an ill-disciplined school ravaged by wartime neglect and transformed it into one of the most successful schools in the country. Would he have been able to do this if he had government poking its nose into everything he did then? Of course not!

Like all heads in those days he took full responsibility for ensuring good discipline with punishment for bad behaviour. It is time that every adult needs to know just how much damage has been made by the government trying to get every child into a comprehensive school. You don’t have to be a genius to recognise that when children of all kinds are taught together, it is every child’s loss. It is nothing to do with money. When I was young everyone who passed the 11 plus from whatever kind of background had a good education and were not allowed to act badly. There were sanctions. No child should be permitted to destroy the sense of peace and order of those who want to learn. I know from personal experience that most children want to leave school at 16 and go out to work to earn money.

Trying to get everyone into a university, as the government wishes, can only result in a drastic lowering of standards, graduates who cannot find jobs and a dearth of good teachers because those who can teach well would not dream of teaching in a comprehensive school.

“Fanshawe regards the education system with a mixture of despair and anger. He believes the lack of good-quality graduates going into teaching is wrecking the system.”

“Governments have, for twenty years, been attacking the teaching profession, with the result that it is no longer attractive” he says. “Teachers do not want to spend their lives fighting 13-year-olds who couldn’t care less about education. It’s not fun to me. None of the brightest graduates want to go into teaching and that means comprehensives can never have the best staff at the top”.

I do strongly wish that the media would drop such words as “the rich and the poor”and “middle classes and working classes.” Society has immeasurably improved in our own country and many others since the end of World-War-2. “Working Class” ought to mean all those people, however much or how little they earn, who have done their best to find work that suits them. People, on the whole speak to each other in a friendly way and it is much more difficult for us to categorize people. Modern technology has, happily, ridden many of us of the exhaustions of the past.

We must all be quicker to complain when we see unnecessary injustices carried out by people who are supposed to serve us, i.e. bureaucrats of all types. Everyone should work harder at accepting responsibility and making good use of our freedom of speech.