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The article ‘Bad parents? Expel kids’ has three underlying psychological assumptions or issues. The first is that teachers are applying for new rules to allow them to expel pupils who have badly behaved parents; ‘Head teachers…demanded new laws to allow them to expel pupils whose parents are violent or abusive towards staff’ The teachers are wanting to do this as they believe that if the parents show abusive behaviour, their children will show similar behaviour as parents are seen as role models. This links with Bandura et al’s ‘Bashing Bobo’ study, where they showed how children’s behaviour changes to how they see adults conduct themselves.
Also in the article is the view that teaching boards should be able to do everything in their powers to parents who neglect their children; ‘Education authorities are failing to use their power…to tackle “feckless” parents’ Feckless parents refer to those who let their children do whatever they want to. If the parents do not make their children go to school then this will be seen as the right thing to do. This links to Skinner, a behaviourist, and his study of operant conditioning.
The third psychological issue is when the general secretary of the national association of head teachers, David Hart, states; that he believes that if a parent and school has a bad relationship, then the schools should have no obligation to teach their children. ‘If relations between a school and a particular parent…has broken down I really don’t think we should …educate their children’ He believes that poor relationships between schools and parents will have bad effects on the pupil’s education. These poor relationships link to Tajfel’s study on insiders and outsiders.
Bandura et al’s experiment on Bashing bobo provides the psychological evidence behind the first issue. They created a number of situations using groups of small children, different toys a large doll (bobo) and a role model (an adult who demonstrated different behaviours). Bandura et al found that the children who were shown no violent behaviour by the model, towards bobo, showed none or little violent behaviour.
However, a large proportion of the children who were shown violent behaviour towards bobo acted in a violent way also. This links to the article where teachers believe they should have the power to expel pupils whose parents are abusive towards teaching staff. This is because all parents are role models for their children. Therefore the children will see the behaviour of their parents and believe this to be the way to act.
In 1938 a behaviourist called Skinner carried out a study on rats where he showed how the rat’s behaviour could be shaped until it learned what was required. This study supplies the psychological evidence behind the second assumption in the newspaper article. Skinner created a habitat for rats which included a lever in its cage. To start with if the rat got close to the lever food would come out of a hatch.
This process progressed until the rats actually had to push the lever to receive the food. When this was learnt, the rat did not actually think consciously what it was doing, it just did it when it wanted food. This relates to the article as if these ‘feckless parents’ persist in not making their children go to school then their behaviour will be shaped as they will view this behaviour to be correct. They will do this without even thinking about what they are doing or the consequences.
The psychological evidence that lies behind the third issue raised is that of Tajfel’s study of insiders and outsiders. Tajfel carried out a study, in which there were 64 schoolboy subjects, into intergroup discrimination. He placed the boys into different groups, although the children did not know who else was in the group. He then asked them to assign money in certain ways. He found that the boys discriminated against the groups other than his own. This shows ethnocentrism, where we believe that the group we belong to is the ‘norm’ and all other groups are not as good. This links to the article and the poor relations between teachers and parents. This could show that the parents believe they are better than the teachers as they are not part of their group.
Therefore the teachers are discriminated against. This could go onto show that as the parents believe this so will their children, so they to will discriminate against the teachers. In relation to the first psychological assumption I would suggest that head teachers are given the right to expel pupils whose parents are abusive towards teachers. If these changes were made then the abusive parents may think more about the consequences of their behaviour. If their attitude did change then their children would perceive this as how to act, as parents are role models. Therefore the children’s attitude would also change. This change in rules for head teachers may act as operant conditioning, which links to the study on this by Skinner.
A suggestion base on the second psychological issue would be to arrange behaviour modification sessions with the ‘feckless parents’. These sessions will tell them that they need to make their children go to school as they will be rewarded in the long run. This would be because their children may get better jobs and therefore the parents will be proud and may benefit financially. The shaping of the parents’ behaviour will then be seen by the children and their views towards school will also change. Also the parents may encourage their children to go to school, they will do this as they will both ultimately benefit.
Based on the third issue within the article I would suggest that the parents whose relationships with schools have broken down should be sent a very formal letter inviting them in for a talk. During this talk they should be shown how difficult it is to teach pupils whose parents have no respect for them. They should be told that the pupils also believe that teachers deserve no respect. If a normal relationship can be made then the students may look at this and also change their relationship with their teachers.
Oliver, K (2000) Psychology and Everyday Life. Hodder and Stoughton.