Notebook

Published: July 10, 2008 at 9:00am

What’s happened to teachers and headmasters, that they no longer seem to have an aura of forbidding authority about them? I’m sure I am not the only one to remember the teachers and headmistresses of my school years as being a pretty offputting bunch on the whole, rather than approachable and friendly, still less the sort you could hit a ball at without fear of giant retribution. Now it appears that even parents are attacking teachers and heads of schools and their solution, instead of filing a police report and instilling discipline, is to cower at home and make a fuss.

Whatever training teachers are getting nowadays, and I know this through 17 years’ worth of parents’ evenings and more besides, it does not seem to involve controlling a class full of children and instruction in how to command respect. Those of my sons’ teachers who had authority and were able to command respect from even the most rebellious children had natural authority. They were born leaders; nobody taught them. The rest ranged from can-get-along to hopeless to disastrous.

One wet teacher was so far into outer space that she didn’t even realise she was an object of contempt for her pupils. Another spoke extremely poor English and when she corrected the children’s essays, she put mistakes into them, in bright red, instead of pointing out their mistakes. Yet for some odd reason – teacher shortage? – she had been hired to teach children who spoke English as a first language. The result was that she immediately lost every last shred of authority over them (“Miss, you can’t even spell”). The last straw for me was when I turned up at school on parents’ day – which in my parents’ time was parents’ evening, but now the teachers’ union is much stronger, so thousands of parents have to take a day off work so that a few teachers don’t have to give up an evening – only to be told by one of the teachers: “You must make sure your son behaves in class. He walks around having conversations with his classmates as though he’s at a party, and he won’t sit down.”

I was rather taken aback, just as the teacher was at my suggestion that it was his job to maintain order in the classroom, not the job of a parent who was miles away at home or at work. Maintain order in the classroom? Gosh, now that’s a new concept. So I had to tell him what to do. Tell the boy to sit down at once, I said, and sound really scary and as though you mean it. If he senses the slightest weakness and suspects he can get away with it, he’ll carry on ignoring you and chatting to his friends. Is this so hard to understand? Well, apparently it is. Yet children are quite forensic in identifying the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of grown-ups in positions of authority. All but the most naturally obedient children are going to try and get away with whatever they can. I know I did, and I had a line-up of dragons to teach me, not softies.

Now we have the news that a headmaster, no less, has spent a full three months recovering at home from “the trauma he suffered in violent assaults committed on him and other teachers”, or so the newspaper report of the court proceedings tells us. He is not recovering from the physical damage, you understand, but is suffering from what an older generation used to call ‘his nerves’. When I hear of these things, I wonder what men like this would have done if they had been born a hundred years earlier and sent off to fight in the trenches aged 17. I mean, really. If we all ran away from our jobs because we had the chance to stay at home while receiving a pay cheque and pleading a nervous disposition (or as in the case of that judge, staying at home with a crisis of conscience and full pay for several years), how would things end up? This man would not be paid to stay at home for three months in the private sector. He can do so only because he works at a state school, and meanwhile, his school has been left without a headmaster.

This news came out during the proceedings against a man who assaulted and scarred a teacher at that same school. The teacher had threatened to snap his girlfriend’s son’s neck when the boy kicked a ball at him in the school playground and hurt his leg. The man who assaulted the teacher was very much in the wrong, it should go without saying. But so was the teacher. A teacher threatening to snap a pupil’s neck is a disciplinary offence, and with good reason. Teachers are there to lead by example, and should not use the same vain and violent threats that one hears from gutter-parents in Valletta’s Republic Street. The man was right to take up the matter with the teacher (he couldn’t go to the head because the head was at home, resting his nerves), but he went about it in completely the wrong way. He should simply have registered a formal complaint about the teacher’s use of violent language towards a child.

Some people who commented about the story said that the teacher was justified in speaking as he did, because violent language is the only kind that “these people” understand. Ah, but children don’t only go to school to be academically educated, but to learn different ways of behaving and of being. If their parents threaten to snap their necks, then their teachers should show them that there is a different way of exercising discipline.

Teachers also commented, complaining that their job is now very tough because all the changes in society have led to the presence of ill-behaved brats in the classroom. It is not a coincidence that none of them belongs to the older generation of teachers, who would tell them that nasty, naughty, disturbed and difficult children have always existed. It’s just that today’s teachers don’t know how to handle them. The school I went to was chockful of troublesome girls, several of whom came from other schools from which they had been expelled, and others were forever being suspended, kept in detention, and occasionally, sent home never to return. But there was never any question of either the teachers or the headmistress being scared of them or intimidated by them. There was never any doubt as to who was in authority and who was not. I think back to that procession of dragons, and I have no doubt that even now they would have no trouble at all putting a recalcitrant child in its place with a single cold glare. Even the nice teachers – the young and pretty ones we liked – had considerable authority and could quell us by rapping very loudly on the table. I think they could have quelled a pub full of drunken people with that rapping.

One never hears of sergeant-majors running home for three months suffering from their nerves because their soldiers are playing up and won’t obey, or because the parents of new recruits come along to physically assault them. And there’s the clue. Schools, state schools and private schools, used to be run with regimental discipline, and the system worked. Now, being a teacher is just another job, and headmasters stay at home suffering from nerves, and the system doesn’t work.

Too many schools and too many teachers (and also, too many parents) don’t understand this simple fact about the psychology of children: they need to respect the adults who are in positions of authority over them. If they do not respect them, they will not obey them, unless it is because of fear. Instilling fear is not an option in today’s world, so it must be respect.


51 Comments Comment

  1. Carmel Said says:

    Unfortunately nowadays kids are being brought up with no discipline at all. In my days, we were all scared of being hit with a ruler, or whipped by a belt. Cruel, some people might say, but we grew up as a generation of kids who respected those above them, be they parent, teachers, etc and it still shows now that we are adults. Today’s kids have no respect at all for parents and teachers, and these people are not helped by the namby-pamby laws being introduced as they risk investigations, arrest and all the lot just for smacking a child. Now wonder kids seems to be running their parent’s lives, they know they can get away with anything now.

  2. Mark M says:

    Disciplining children is a very big headache for teachers as it is for parents too. Times have really changed. Children have it all these days and can’t accept being denied anything let alone punished. In my young days, I was sort of used to sharing and respect came naturally, to the point almost of being frightened of elders. At college, most of the daily discipline was entrusted to monitors and prefects, chosen by the Headmaster himself, with privilages in return. Punishment by the ‘privilaged’ consisted in repeating hundreds of lengthy written lines and memorising poems by a certain time. The Headmaster had the right to cane and lash. Few parents, if any objected. This system worked somehow but I am not at all suggesting it is re-introduced. The crux of the matter is that subjects are to be taught with an element of love and genuine interest, which the students would immediately pick up, as we did Literature and Geography. We never misbehaved in certain classes but always did in a certain history lesson by a boring teacher. I agree with Daphne that Parents’ Day is a farce and very inconvenient, to say the least, for parents.

  3. Peter Muscat says:

    I read the above while I as having my morning cappuccino.
    I give Daphne 100% and might add that the present educational system must be reviewed. I might add further comments about this very interesting subject.

    @ Daphne .. Still waiting for a clarifaction from you and an apology for mistaken me the jerk you mentioned.I know very well to err is human but to persist it never is.It never belittles anyone who confesses he/she made a mistake. On the contrary it proves ones strong integrity and strong character.

  4. David Buttigieg says:

    @Carmel Said,

    Really? In my case I am constantly disciplining my Parents and in-laws who would spoil my children rotten if given half a chance:)

  5. Peter Muscat says:

    @ David Buttigieg …. I am sorry you are wrong, Don’t you know the Maltese saying: Tat-tfal isbah mit-tfal’.

    Maybe you did not explain yourself well in saying ” constantly disciplining’ my parents! Normally, parents discipline their children and not vice versa. I bet you as we all have been ‘spoiled’ by grandparents too.that is most normal in the upbrining of a children. Do not take away that from your own kids. Please …

  6. David Buttigieg says:

    “I bet you as we all have been ’spoiled’ by grandparents too.that is most normal in the upbrining of a children”

    There is a difference between ‘grandparents ordinary spoiling’ so to speak and undermining the parents auhority! That is were I draw the line!

  7. Peter Muscat says:

    I always believed that Daphne’s negative writings do not give her any sort of credit. I also believe Daphne chooses such behaviour to create such negative situations to enhance her ego.

    On the other hand, I strongly believed that the Lady can certainly behave differently and be much more positive in her writings. I know that she has the right capabilities to deliver positive messages. I have been witnessing a ‘soft U turn’ in her writings lately and is trying hard in not being so negative in her writings.

    Today’s article proves that she can send positive messages to deal with a very difficult situation we are now facing. She hit the nail on the head when she pointed at the ‘training of future teachers’ as the crux of this difficult situation we are living.

    Teaching is not simply a job or just a profession. It is more then a vocation. As Daphne pointed out so well, ‘the present training of future teachers’ is not adequate to say the least.

    Well done Daphne!

  8. Carmel Said says:

    @ David Buttigieg

    In our times, the grandparents were the kind of “good guys” compared to the “bad” parents. Which worked then as you cannot only discipline children, they need the good things too. I do agree with you though, spoiling is one thing and kind of acceptable, but underminings the parents authority should not be allowed in any way. Nobody should tell you how to bring up or discipline your child. I have myself clashed with friends who, when scolding my son about something, have told me to go easy on him. That should never be allowed

  9. Peter Muscat says:

    Quo Vadis Where’s Everybody?

    I agree with Chris that Lou Bondi has started to admire Joseph Muscat as if they were great chums and as if he sees something special in him. Lou was wrong when he admired Lawrence Gonzi more than an animator of a national programme should. However he has now gone the opposite way and is treating Joseph Muscat as a very nice guy. In both cases, it is wrong to do this – so let televiewers judge for themselves. I know that Lou has the right to a personal opinion but all those smiles of joy when near Joseph may be a bit too much.

    Unfortunately I have noticed the same phenomenon with Peppi Azzopardi who is impressed by JM’s language and manners. OK Pepp, you think have found a brother. But let time pass before you judge positively too quickly.

    This sense admiration running wild has to stop as I fear that it will also affect our Daph.

    Please Daph, don’t let this happen to you too. Don’t abandon us and let us feel like orphans. We need you.

  10. David Buttigieg says:

    @Carmel Said

    Exactly!

  11. Amanda Mallia says:

    Well said, Daphne. What struck me most on The Times comment blog of the news article in question was the fact that NOBODY seemed to be bothered about the teacher’s violent verbal outburst ….

    http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080708/local/traumatised-headmaster-stays-home-after-attacks-on-teachers

  12. tony pace says:

    I’ve decided there are some people on this site who need urgent therapy. One condition ”someone” appears to have, (actually, make that it’s glaringly obvious), is N O D.
    What does thou think Daphne ?

  13. janine says:

    Yes Daph, there was a great distance between the pupils and teachers in those days, except of course the teachers pets who tagged behind them sneaking on the others. Today, we have P.S.D teachers who are guiding the kids a little too far with regards their rights. I mean honestly, I don’t wish to generalize but I know a few of these teachers and believe me their lives are one big mess after another with a string of failed relationships. How can they expect to teach our kids certain values and respect?
    We had no P.S.D in our days, but serious teachers who really taught us respect.

  14. Joe says:

    Daphne this commentary is one true gem – to the point and factual.

    You also crossed a generation gap otherwise some negative comments to your commentary would not have been made.It is obvious that today’s problems are not today’s at all. Some of the writers above may be younger parents whose teachers were just about as soft as today’s therefore more inclined to side with their children.

    In my days we were disciplined if we deserved it and we carry no scars. On the contrary reading what takes place today in our schools, makes me feel that my former teachers were smart enough to be able to control the class with authority.

  15. Jean-Pierre Aquilina says:

    Your article does make interesting reading.

    Daphne, you say that “Schools, state schools and private schools, used to be run with regimental discipline, and the system worked.” It may have worked, but from my experience, it did not work too well at all. First of all there was physical abuse – boys “disciplined” by being lifted off the ground either by the hair or by the two ears (I was one of the poor boys). Then there was the military style of discipline which simply eroded our freedom and limited the development of our personality. One couldn’t express oneself, nor reason with teachers; one simply was forced to accept the teachers’ point of view. For example, on several occasions I was punished when I was not at fault. The prefects of discipline would not believe me when I insisted that I was not at fault, even though they knew perfectly well that I always owned up for my own actions and never blamed them on others. The result: a school of rebels. Of course there were some good teachers – but unfortunately they were in the minority.

    Fast forward 20 years…and what I know for sure is that my daughter loves and adores her pre-grade teacher. I did not know exactly why until I had the opportunity to go on an outing with my daughter and experience it for myself. I observed how her teacher interacts with her pupils. In a nutshell, she commanded authority and respect by respecting the children. The children loved and respected her in return, and obeyed all instructions (save for a few of course). This is what I call leading by example. I am really glad to know that there are some very good teachers out there who really take their job – vocation rather – seriously.

  16. Am I mistaken in saying that teachers are not allowed to punish children any more. They can`t keep them in during break or deprive them of some treat.
    A good proportion of children I`m sure used to work hard because they were afraid of retribution if they didn`t toe the line.
    Parents used to be grateful to teachers because they honestly felt the teachers were dedicated to their work. Nowadays, many teachers are more interested in the holidays and the part time work they can easily find working half days as most of them do.

  17. Chris Borg says:

    @ janine. What does have to do? So now we should start screening teachers on the basis of their relationships? Well yes before there was no PSD…and kids who were victims of pedophiles believed that they were to blame and that they would burn in hell…what students need is to have respect for others (and for themselves) instilled in them. discipline is quite useless, it just makes them rebel + do whatever they want when bigbrother is not watching.

  18. cikki says:

    Daphne like you, I liked but respected some teachers and was terrified of others.There always was the odd nerd but we
    never dared make fun of him/her, what we said behind their
    backs was a different matter. Our Mistress of Disipline
    used to walk through the Refectory and point one or two
    girls she wanted to see in her study after supper. One never knew if it was better to look at her as she went by or
    look the other way.

    My daughter teaches 7 year olds in an ethnic inner-city
    school in the U.K. A third of her class are special needs
    children.The first term of the school year she is fair
    but very firm with them till they know who’s boss, then
    she can relax after Christmas, and it seems to work.
    Though the political correctness and amount of
    beaurocracy in the U.K. has reached ridiculous levels now.
    I don’t know if that’s the same here.

  19. Leonard Ellul Bonici says:

    @Peter Muscat

    Many times in forums or real life I see people who demand respect when they talk or write, but yet refuse to give it when others do. Many times they do not realise that they look dim-witted.
    Peter!!!
    I can t explain why I keep reading Peter’s posts, whatever he writes, all what comes to my mind is to grab this compulsive liar’s neck and Bitch slap him :)

    Peter Muscat or Joe Said or whatever your real name is, why don’t you go and find a chat room. Madonna! If one goes on any other forum even Chinese ones, you will find Peter Muscat haunting you. Unbelievable!!

    Peter it is interesting to hear other people’s opinions on a topic, I think you do agree, yes? So give this forum some space.

  20. Albert Farrugia says:

    The problem is really simple. Lack of discipline in schools is a part of the price we have to pay for the progress we have seen in our society in the last 40 years or so. Our generation was moulded in such a way as to respect those who hold authority. For today’s generation that notion is alien. Discipline is old-fashioned. Not only in schools. Notice how parents have lost all authority on their kids.
    The situation wherein schoolkids “feared” their teachers will not come again unless we revert to the 60s way of life, where what the priest said was law, where you do as you are told, where your life is the property of the community, including what you do in the bedroom. No talk of gay marriage, then!

  21. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Ah, you touch a delicate subject there Daphne, when you talk about sergeants and recruits, and regimental discipline. My view is that if we flood our schools with joined-up non-history lessons, PSE icebreaking games, and Harry Potter poofery, there’s no way we can ever turn the kids into little recruits. Bring back proper literature, and proper subjects, and you’ll have proper schools. Anyway, there’s no way it’ll ever happen since Maltese Schooling consists at best in trying to pretend we’re a British public school in the Gaza Strip. Even St Edwards’ has gone to the dogs, and that says it all.

  22. Becky d'Ugo says:

    @ Janine

    I fail to see how one’s success or otherwise in one’s private life/relationships can have any bearing on how good a teacher one is. We all know that relationships fail for a multitude of reasons which may have little or nothing to do with one’s values and respect! Even if your comment was aimed specifically at PSD teachers, I still think that you are being somewhat unfair. Even if a PSD teacher did have a string of failed relationships, does that automatically make him or her a disrespectful immoral person incapable of teaching personal skills development? How would a classroom of children even know about a teacher’s personal life, unless they overheard their parents gossiping? And in that case, whose morals are at fault? A teacher’s personal life is just that. It should only be taken into consideration when it is considered a valid threat to the pupils’ well-being, as in the case of known child abusers, etc.

  23. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Tony Pace, NOD? I’m half asleep this morning, so please explain.

  24. eyesonlymalta says:

    This is a bit off topic, daphne perhaps you could look into this please.

    National Statistics Office is currently sending letters to people to force them to answer their business surveys threatening fines – even when such people are not involved in business and are just employees!

    How come our country’s NSO wastes so much effort in bothering its citizens rather than bothering the big companies?

  25. Jane says:

    A teacher will keep discipline in class by always being on time for the lesson; is well prepared knowing exactly what s/he’s going to teach and how to achieve the result s/he is after for each lesson; hands back homework corrected at least within a week that it is given in; corrects homework and does not leave everything to class correction; dresses in such a way as to command respect – clean, smart, decent; while respecting pupils/students, knows the distance to keep; respects pupils/students always by her words, manners, attitude.Finally it’s good to remember that respect is earned, it cannot be forced.

  26. Chris I (formerly known as Chris) says:

    @eyesonlymalta

    as far as i know because its an EU requirement.
    small and medium size businesses make up the majority of businesses in Europe and so economists, politicians, advisers and and a myriad others need the info to have a job analysing them. :)

  27. John Schembri says:

    “Paul trid tibda tidra’ twiegeb il-mistoqsijiet fuq il-programm tieghi” (or something to that effect) : angry Lou (larry king) Bondi (without a tie) to Dr Paul Borg Olivier (with a tie).

    1) Lou assumed he will run another season of Bondi +

    2) He also assumes he will have Dr Borg Olivier and others at his beg and call.

    3)Disrespect to authority and position is shown in these chat shows :Lou has no title so he should be addressed as Mr Bondi , and if there is the PN secretary general invited (on whom Mr Bondi took an ego trip ) he should address him as Dr Borg Olivier .
    I have seen Lou addressing a Doctor in Psychology by his first name , as if he was asking an ordinary person an opinion about the weather.

    At this rate he will soon start addressing the prime minister as “Lor”.

    This brings me to the subject of respecting authority , when on TV our children see interrogations instead of interviews. Some Maltese TV presenters address anyone who is in authority on his subject with his first name , this shows lack of respect and bad manners , They sometimes give weight more to the opinion of the common people in the audience rather than to the experts invited ,,,,,,,”Mhux opinjoni bhal ta’ kullhadd?”.

    I recall the bishop of Gozo on Xarabank being shown lack of respect by 12 year old children , just after he was made bishop of Gozo.
    Another one was when Archbishop Mercieca refused an invitation to go on Xarabank , we saw Peppi fuming that Friday night.

    We in Malta lack good manners, sometimes my work mates look surprised when I say “thank you” or “please”.

    On Italian Tv shows , the presenter always asks the invited guest “posso darti del tu” (instead of “lei” or Signor Brambilla).The Italians expect cordiality.
    Lately Sarkozy was hot under the collar because a journalist showed lack of respect towards him prior to a press conference .
    The broadcasting Authority should see to these things ,and others , like dress code and body language.People are subtly influenced with these negative messages.

    If I were Dr Borg Olivier on that Monday evening I would have threatened to leave the studio and told Lou “Isma hej , jien qatt ma’ kilt kirxa mieghek , indirizzani kif suppost u ilbes bhan-nies meta tisteddinni “.
    This also applies to “Joseph” , if he looks at Dr Sant he will see that he was not the good chum with journalists , he played it hard to get , which , I have to say worked in his favour.

  28. El Karkariz says:

    ‘Much ado about nothing’ or ‘As you like it’? Are teaching and educational leadership ‘Gone with the wind’ or what? Undoubtedly class management is a skill learned by many and a natural gift for the lucky some. Whatever the reasons to describe or justify teachers’ challenging task to educate children, youngsters and adults, a key issue remains the updating of teaching and leadership skills together with a proper understanding of what good education in our days is about.

    Unfortunately many youngsters who have joined and are still joining the teaching profession and start their studies witht the Faculty of Education do so without really reaslising what teaching/education entails. Apart from solid studies of subject knowledge, skills and pedagogy, teachers still require a strong personality, good communication and a smart attitude, which qualities I would sum up as ‘being firm and fair.’ Kids and youngsters can immediately tell the difference between a boring teacher and a pleasant one.

    Parents need to help out…they cannot behave aggresively to share their opinions woth their child’s teachers. They cannot never appear in school functions and throw all child education at their son’s school staff. Parents are their child’s first educators, responsible for making him or her an autonomous, reflective and critical learner along the years. These words are not a fairytale. They are doable plans shared among the educators, the educators and all stakeholders interested in education, which is finally very reflective of a nation’s future.

    Teachers need to become once more – at least a good number of them in state, church and independent schools – the ‘masters of the house’ at schools. They need to start hitting children and parents with bright ideas, good projects which elicit the students’ delightful responses, and with their eneregtic lessons full of interactivity and proper sharing of ideas, questions, doubts and expectations.

    The list of teaching and leadership requirements is long, very ambitious and most challenging. If heads of school and teachers want to know their future in the educational sector, they have to write it with their own hands now!

  29. chris I says:

    @John Schembri
    Are you quite serious??? We chopped off the heads of kings to get away from this.

    Respect for a politician, and a lawyer to boot?

    excuse me but, if Paul can’t take the heat he should get out of the kitchen. he’s not even a minister for god sake he is the general factotum of apolitical party.
    Incidentally the word minister comes from Latin meaning to serve. Sometime i wish our ministers were reminded of that .

    In the meantime Mr Schembri a bit less of the tugging the forelock please and let Lou do his job of being a PIA in authority’s side.

  30. claude says:

    Totally agree with Jane…As a teacher though, even those norms are followed, you find parents that oppose you in every little thing that you do. Kids come to school without homework, kids come to school with pink socks and bridesmaid hairbands instead of uniforms, kids coming to school without tools….mums sending their kids to school with coke and croissants instead of the school policy ‘healthy bread/pasta/rice/pitas and fruit + water’ … Parents who come to stick up for their kid when he/she bashes another with a chair, or when they yell ‘f-ommok’ in class because their neighbour didn’t have a pencil to lend them.
    When I was a kid myself, I never, ever dissed my teachers. Answering back was taboo, let alone using expletives in class. Then again, my mother was mega supportive of my teacher. I can’t say the same of some parents nowadays.

  31. tony pace says:

    @Daphne
    I could have got it wrong. could be OND not NOD.
    I was thinking Narcistic Obsessive Disorder, maybe its Obsessive Narcistic Disorder ??.
    Anyway I think PM fits the bill. What do you think?

  32. H.P. Baxxter says:

    It is extremely difficult to use proper (European) manners when using Maltese. After unbelievable linguistic contorsions, the result still looks artificial and contrived. That’s just the way it is.

  33. NGT says:

    “They were born leaders; nobody taught them” – this line of thinking is anathema in the Edu field. ‘Methodology’ is the buzz-word which supposedly maketh the teacher. In reality what it does do is help make a teacher (much)better.
    With regards to discipline, the sad fact of the matter is that many parents applaud it – as long as it involves other children and not their own!

  34. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    NGT: yes, you can teach some leadership skills, but not the innate and quiet self-confidence that draws respect. Also, I think you will find that what most parents object to is spiteful cruelty and not discipline.

  35. Carmen says:

    Mr. Schembri,

    An informal way of addressing a person does not necessarily mean disrespect – respecting a person goes much further than putting Dr., Mr., Mrs. infront of a name.

    However, I understand that this is quite a delicate issue in Malta. I remember reading letters on the papers when HSBC first came to Malta and the heads wanted their staff to call them on first name basis. This created quite a culture shock for a number of people who could not deal with calling their boss by his first name OR have their subordinates call them by their first names. What is more common in Malta is for your boss, colleagues etc. to call you by your first name but then at times all of a sudden you become Mr., Mrs., Dr. etc. This is done to show that now our conversation, correspondence etc. is official! To me this is so hypocritical.

    I think that this issue is also rather cultural. You gave the example of Italian – although I think that when one asks “posso darti del tu” the person has already assumed the answer in the question (darti!)!. So in a way the person asking this question is showing either his/her superiority, or his/ her equality with the person. Have you ever heard anybody on these shows asking anybody if they can use the ‘voi’? Normally one knows exactly when to use the ‘voi’ and there is hardly ever the need to ask!!

    Some other continental Europeans like the French, normally call each other on first name basis and when it comes to ‘tu’ or ‘vous’ they is no need to ask the person how you can address him or her – when someone is considered as senior (in age, position, etc.) even if the person is called by the first name, he/she is normally addressed as ‘vous’. So some languages make it easier to be informal yet still show respect to one’s authority, age, experience in life and so on.

    Mr. Schembri says:

    “If I were Dr Borg Olivier on that Monday evening I would have threatened to leave the studio and told Lou – Isma hej , jien qatt ma’ kilt kirxa mieghek , indirizzani kif suppost u ilbes bhan-nies meta tisteddinni”

    ISMA HEJ ??? ISMA HEJ ??????

    Should one use bad manners to point out the bad manners of the other? Good manners start with the tolerance of bad manners (if indeed a specific behavior is perceived as such)!!!

  36. janine says:

    Becky D’Ugo and Chris ,

    Maybe I didn’t make my point clear. I don’t think that one’s values has anything to do with one’s private life, surely not and the last thing I want to do is condemn anybody. But I do tend to feel quite strongly when it comes to a vocation such as teaching. This job entails setting a very good example and a tremendous amount of patience.These people are second parents to our kids. Again I do not want to generelize, but come on if a teacher especially a P.S.D teacher has a messed up life can’t be expected to go to work with a clear fresh mind. Besides I don’t think much of this subject anyway,
    they just hammer on about rights, rights and more rights and their obligations and respect just flies away. There are some kids who even threaten to call the police when being diciplined.

    In my days this subject was non existent and yes there was child abuse, but nowadays we have P.S.D and child abuse is as rampant as ever. A very samall percentage of abused kids speak do speak up.

  37. John Schembri says:

    “Isma hej “, would have been correct off air ,there is a hint of anger but I do not consider it as bad manners in the circumstance . Would the journalist expect anything better? We should not glorify rudeness .
    Even in one of Christ’s parables we find that the wedding guest who did not show up dressed for the occasion was kicked out of the wedding party.
    If we do not show respect to the position of our highest authorities how can our children show respect towards their teachers?
    I am not stating that journalists should not ask pertinent or embarrassing questions to people in high positions , that is part of their duty. They should be assertive but not crude. For example , Lou could have stated with half a smile ‘jiddispjacini Dr Borg Olivier imma nhoss li hrabtli minn din il-mistoqsija” ….. that is assertiveness combined with cordiality.
    When Tv presenters ask “posso darti” most probably it would have been agreed beforehand.Just watch Porta a porta and you will see respectable persons being formally addressed : dottor , la signora , lei etc.
    I am not stating that I am in favor of forelock-tucking , but we should not go to the other extreme.If one does not like the person he should at least respect the position that that person holds.
    At work I am at first name bases with my superiors , but when we have a meeting with a client I switch to formality and refer to my superior as Mr Mallia , this is not boot licking but civility and respect.
    I did not say that Dr Borg Olivier felt hot in the kitchen , it was I who was angry at the way we tele-viewers were being treated on our National TV station .
    As a paying customer I feel we should be treated better.If I and many others feel hot in the kitchen , we call in another cook.The journalists at PBS are making miracles with the limited budget they have for their program DISSETT which projected Reno Bugeja as smart , witty, assertive and polite on his program.
    I hope my criticism is not taken as being distractive against Lou or Peppi , they have it from me because I want more quality and finesse from their production house. Customers give feedback to have better quality.
    I do not want them to end up like Mr Charlon Gouder.

  38. Amanda Mallia says:

    I suppose the next thing Norman Lowell would suggest is not donating blood lest it ends up being given to “LC”, as he likes to call certain people. What a sicko!

  39. chris I says:

    @John Schembri
    When i see Porta a porta i see a level of boot licking only slightly inferior to Emilio Fede.
    I’m sorry but give me Newsnight any day.
    And for those who haven’t heard the paxman at his best, here’s the one when he grilled George Galloway after the latter WON the election:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD5tunBGmDQ&feature=related
    And here is an anthology of his best moments:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCo7qbzEX3c
    Now that’s what i call interviewing!

  40. John Schembri says:

    Errata Corrige : “I hope my criticism is not taken as being destructive against Lou or Peppi”

  41. chris I says:

    @John Schembri
    Criticise them all you want. I don’t particularly care for either programme. I think peppi is teh better presenter. Lou thinks the programme is about himself.
    but i would get very worried if we treat our politicians with even more respect. its bad enough the Times and the PBS newsroom both think that they should jump every time one of them sneezes.

    Its good to remind them they have feet of clay

  42. John Schembri says:

    @ Chris I : want our politicians to be grilled , but I don’t like loaded questions like George Galloway did on the first clip.I don’t like interrogators who first ask you a question and in the middle of the answer they ask another question.
    BTW I liked it when the politician threatened that he would leave if Galloway asks the same (loaded) question again.
    I do not want our politicians for whom we voted to start toeing the line of this breed of journalists, I want the journalist to investigate and then point their finger to the politician.
    Personally I don’t like the attitude of Galloway.

  43. Chris Borg says:

    @ janine. Schools shouldn’t be boot camps…..

  44. chris I says:

    @John Schembri
    It is not a question of toeing the line. Paxman was asking (and it was Paxman doing the question not Galloway)very pertinent questions about Galloway’s hypocritical stand.
    And if you areon the side of the Galloway’s of this world, then I think we shall have to agree to disagree.
    Paxman WAS being investigative and pointing a finger at Galloway plus quite a few others. It is what Paxman does best, which is why there are quite a number of politicians who have run a mile and more to get away from him.
    The alternative are the sycophants such as Emilio Fede and Bruno Vespe,and then people ask why Italy is in the state its in.
    A journalists job is to make politicians accountable.
    Paxman comes from a long line of acerbic, forensic journalists including, on BBC tv, Robin Day
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/870169.stm
    And on radio, John Humphrys, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Today_programme) Brian Redhead and James Naughtie all of which made BBC Radio 4′s flagship ‘Today’ programme required listening ( Margaret Thatcher was reputed to be a regular listener in her time as PM, and it was not the first time she made an unscheduled intervention on the programme if she felt she had something to say.)
    Good journalists help set the agenda not simply follow the diktats of politicians, whether we vote for them or not.

  45. tony pace says:

    http://www.mental-health-matters.com/disorders/dis_details.php?disID=62
    Got it daphne. I meant NPD not NOD, as per link.
    and yes I do think one of your bloggers should read the above link.

  46. John Schembri says:

    @ Chris I :I am not au courant like you are on this subject , I only had a taste on those two video clips .
    I think we agree that ” journalists job is to make politicians accountable”, probably we do not agree HOW .
    I don’t like agressive showmen posing as journalists, I look more for substance and want my time to think about the subject being discussed.
    In my opinion the people should be the ones who should set the agenda.
    Even journalists think that they are sacred cows sometimes.

  47. Ganni Borg says:

    Paxman was wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Galloway (whom I don’t particularly like) exercised his democratic right to contest an election – and he won.

    What does Paxman want – MPs to be selected rather than elected? And by whom? Him?

  48. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Thank you, Tony

  49. pam says:

    @ claude

    totally agree with you

  50. chris I says:

    @Ganni
    The galloway story is a complex one (he previously belonged to the Labour Party. he ousted a black labour candidate. He curried favours and boot licked Saddam Hussein like he was Father Christmas) Paxman’s take was quite frankly to make him squirm. If you ask me what it was he wanted, i think he wanted the electorate to realise who they had just voted for. Far from being wrong he was ensuring that democracy remained healthy by allowing the electorate to get as clear an idea about the person they had representing them. This is the crux of political journalism: to get beyond the cliches and the soundbites and top dig deeper. thiis is becoming increasingly important in a world were media-savvy politicians are simply being allowed to stage events and make statements willy-nilly with ne’er an eyebrow raised.

    @John Schembri
    How can people set an agenda. They have neither the voice nor the time to research the facts behind the political statements. Paxman’s line of question is considered aggressive (it is also very, very funny) but it is also known to bring out the true facts of the matter. Watching a politician squirm as he tries to avoid answering the question, tells the public a lot about what is really happening. They can then truly start setting the agenda.
    Yes Paxman is a showman.he plays by the rules of the game. but do not be fooled . he has a razor-sharp brain which is why politicians dare to come near him. If a minister gets out of a Paxman interview unscathed, you can be sure he will receive plaudits from one and all.
    One of the jobs of a journalist is to keep a politician’s feet firmly on the ground. In Roman times when a victor was allowed a victory procession, the man holding the crown of laurels above his head would constantly whisper in his ear ‘remember you are mortal’
    Then again British politicians are used to teh rough and tumble of politics. Indeed the system is based on this concept. A curious fact is that when Winston Churchill designed the current House of Commons,he not only insisted that the government and opposition face each other as in a boxing ring,but he also insisted that there should be less seats then politicians. it was important to him to remind politicians that they had to constantly fight for their seat, not just once every five years. Perhaps if we had the same attitude inM alta we would see less complacent mps and a more dynamic democratic party system, which evolves at a faster more pro-active rate rather than its current slow reactive rate of evolution.
    The alternative is what we are currently seeing in Italy. A print and broadcast media totally controlled by the parties and a parliament which is totally discredited. Come to think of it we are already there in some respects.
    Apologies for being so long winded, but i honestly believe that a strong press is the heart of a strong democracy and the opposite is also true. And part of astrong press is the ability to bit eteh hand that feeds you.

    cheers

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