Public anxiety about child sexual abuse has led to a shift in the relationship between children and their teachers. Although the incidence of teachers abusing children in their care is rare, one or two highly publicised cases have had far-reaching consequences for teachers, and generated much confusion and worry amongst teachers, parents and children.
Have we gone overboard with the 'hands off' approach? Has teaching lost some of its caring dimension? Will surveillance cameras become the norm? Are men being put off teaching? A new book published by University of Otago Press addresses these and other questions.
Touchy Subject: Teachers Touching Children brings together perspectives from educationists and researchers from New Zealand, Samoa, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Most of the chapters arose from a symposium at the University of Auckland, and the book is edited by Alison Jones, associate professor at the University's School of Education.
The book aims to contribute to a more critical, complex and careful debate about the significance of child safety policies and practices in schools and early childhood education centres, and elsewhere.
What are 'proper practices' for teachers? In a chapter titled 'Learning proper masculine pleasure', Alison Jones focuses on the training of teachers, making parallels with the training of men as Santas. Australian academic Erica McWilliam reminds us that 'good' teachers once hit children, and what counts as 'proper caring' for children changes dramatically over time.
Two contributors, Sarah-Eve Farquhar and Richard Johnson, see the current concern about child sexual abuse in schools as a moral panic. They point out that men are avoiding working in early childhood education partly out of fear, and that both male and female teachers suffer ongoing frustration and anxiety at being seen as potentially dangerous to children. Sarah-Eve Farquhar offers predictions for what will happen if current policies and attitudes continue, and offers recommendations for positive change.
Margie Hohepa and Arapera Royal Tangaere discuss touch in Maori educational settings, writing of the importance to Maori of attempts to reconnect with positive 'traditional' child-rearing practices and whanau relationships. A chapter by Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, a Samoan researcher, focuses on the education of parents in Samoa in relation to hitting their children.
One of the chapters is by Lynley Hood, who looks at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre case. She suggests that three social movements - radical feminism, religious conservatism, and the child protection movement - converged in the 1980s to produce a social and political environment that inevitably produced the child sexual abuse case.
Touchy Subject is a useful resource for teachers and boards of trustees. It will stimulate debate about educational policies and practices in the context of changing social attitudes.
Contents: 1 Introduction 2 Swings and roundabouts: Risk anxiety and the everyday worlds of children 3 Pleasures proper and improper: A genealogy of teacher/student intimacy 4 'No Touch' policies and the government of risk 5 Maori educational settings and touch 6 Tetee Atu: To hit or not to hit? 7 The Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre abuse case 8 Moral panic in New Zealand: Teachers touching children 9 Rethinking risk and the child body in the era of 'no touch' 10 Learning proper masculine pleasure: Santa Clauses and teachers
About the Editor Alison Jones teaches courses on feminist theory and gender in the School of Education at the University of Auckland. She is also Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (EO) and Director of the Institute for Research on Gender at the university.