Recently I have been trying to stop teachers from illegally hitting and beating kids in my school. I looked online for support from foreign teachers working in the country and this is what came back: “Quit”, “Leave”, “I have no problem with it”, “Don’t do it”, “Go back to your country”….So I sent my complaint to the police and the Board of Education….and then guess what came back from these people (the foreign teachers)?: “Now you’re going to be physically attacked”, “You’ll probably end up in prison”, “Stupid move”, “These people like to do things different from you”, “Thinking with the heart and not the head”, “Leave the city and province – run for your life”, “This is not San Francisco”, “The stupidest thing you could do.” And on and on. Not a single teacher, admin or anyone else said do it, offered support or said ‘protect the kids’ or ‘go for it’ – not one. Zero. None.
And yeah, I went for it. So now this is going to play out. Cheers.
The only question now is “won’t end well” for who? Probably not me. I’ll be fine.
I’m in Thailand….these foreign teachers in Thailand are crazy. I saw the school start to cane the kids when they were coming to school late…even if their parents were caught in traffic or other non-related home issues. I saw one teacher smacking kids randomly with a ruler – even kids sitting there not doing anything. I saw my supervisor hitting kids in her class and the assistant supervisor making a joke about hitting kids in a meeting. Saw one of my co-teachers beating two boys lying prone on the ground while their class looked on in fear and horror. I asked for help on the foreign teacher’s board and got none. Nothing. Only insults and threats.
I saw kids jumping over the wall and running away from the school. I started recording this on my camera and after I recorded one teacher caning a boy in the groin and another caning all the kids in a class for some idiotic reason – it was a decent competent well-behaved class I taught last year – I went straight to the cops.
Corporal punishment is illegal in Thailand. 100% under all circumstances. I asked for help from other foreign teachers again at the online board and I got next to nothing. Only insults and threats.
I started telling all the kids in all my classes about the corporal punishment law. Writing it out in Thai and English and talking about it, handing out printed copies of the law to the kids and making them say it out loud in both Thai and English. Loud enough so that anyone outside the classroom could hear it. I know that probably pissed off a lot of people, but I could care less.
I am under no illusions, I think that a certain minority of the parents are pathological and like the fact that their kids are beaten in school despite the fact it is illegal. Last week a school administrator in Bangkok assaulted, kicked and punched a 16 year old for wearing the wrong shoes to class. There is definitely a culture of corruption at work, but I believe it is on its last legs, so I am going to push against it as hard as I can.
Friday, there was a cop posted at my school’s front gate and no kids were caned, but some of the teachers are still walking around with big sticks and waving them at the students. If students continue to be hit by teachers, I will have to be prepared to bring legal suits paid for entirely by myself against the individuals who do it. The law says that school directors cannot be held accountable, only the individual teachers.
And I will only do this on behalf of my students who are showing visible signs of trauma and inability to study, but living under the impression that you have to respect your teachers and all of this is supposed to be normal. They are 12-16 years old and really in no position or frame of mind to stand up against the teachers, their parents or the school.
I have been on the street in the States and I have lived in Thailand for 5 years. I know the physical terrain, the field, the culture and the players and their psyches well enough to protect myself and have confidence that what I am doing will make some significant impact. It is certainly maddening and discouraging that right now I have to walk this road completely alone, but none of that will prevent me from doing it.
It is the Thai teachers that hit the kids. The foreigners don’t hit the kids, but they don’t seem to be bothered or concerned at all by it or the fact that it is illegal. The foreigners seem not to want to make waves and enjoy their cushy life.
And the Thais have a culture of hierarchy where violence is supposed to go down from the top to the bottom but never back up from those lower on the hierarchy towards those on the top. This works through all levels of society. It is an unwritten rule no matter what the legal code states that a superior can bring violence and pain in unlimited measures on an inferior without accountability. This is how 100 protesters could be killed in the street in 2010 for complaining about a military overthrow of their elected government.
The law on the books in Thailand regarding corporal punishment will probably only be enforced if it is made to be enforced and that is what I am trying to do.
I also have to say that many of the kids are much smarter than the adults in that they have not yet been broken, and have not internalized or fully “learned” the rules regarding the double standards of hierarchy mentioned above.
Hiroyuki Hamada Wes I’m with you in spirit on this. There should be no place on the planet where the hierarchical rule of violence is tolerated. We’ve got to move away from that mode as a species. It creates all sorts of problems from military dictatorship, corporate domination, to school bullying, assortment of discriminations, and etc. Sharing, caring and love in harmony should do far better in letting us appreciate the universe.
I keep hearing some people claiming that foreigners should refrain from interfering cultural or social matters of other nations but certain things are matter of “the people” of the planet. If anything gets in the way of “humanity”, one should be willing to point it out to be corrected.
Wishing you the best for you and for the people of the Thailand and please keep us updated.