Given that there is a sizeable stratum in most schools of thugs, chavs, oiks and orcs, schoolteachers keen to enforce decent standards of behaviour face a tough challenge. One teacher seems to have found an effective solution – he straps sits the pimply perps down and makes them listen to some of his poetry Mozart. Verdi, Elgar and Bach also feature in his arsenal.
“It helps them see they are part of something bigger that will enhance their life chances if they become a net contributor, rather than detracting from it,” says Head Teacher Brian Walker of West Park School in Derby, “When it’s finished, there’s no anger or resentment, because it’s not a punishment, but pointing out the consequences of their behaviour.”
I am not sure about this strategy. Associating classical music with punishment is hardly a way to get people to appreciate it, unless the Head Teacher subscribes to the Stockholm Syndrome. On the other hand, I can think of many pieces of classical music which would constitute serious punishment, were people forced to listen to them. Most things by Bartok or Wagner or Stockhausen would fall into this category. Being forced to endure even a small part of any opera by Britten would constitute a breach of the Geneva Convention, whereas forced audition of anything by Harrison Birtwhistle would be a serious offence under the UN Convention of Human Rights. Against such threats, the kinds of things schoolchildren favour – the vilest rat rap music, the most insipid contemporary R&B, or the most self-absorbed drones of student indie bands – would be a walk in the park.