25 SES 07, Promoting Students’ Self Expression and Development: Some Problematics
This paper takes its starting point in the discourse of child protection and the growing anxiety around intergenerational touch in educational settings. In the paper we question the rationality of ‘no-touch policies’ and offer an alternative approach. We do this by employing a children’s rights perspective on physical contact between teachers and students in the school subject of physical education (PE). Several scholars have explored how the production of a ‘safe child’ and ‘safe teacher’ has become a dominant feature of the everyday work in school (e.g. Piper & Smith 2003; Jones 2004; Johnson 2012; Piper, Garratt & Taylor 2013a; Piper, Garratt & Taylor 2013b; Fletcher 2013; Piper 2015).
A restrictive approach to physical touch is a recurring theme in the intensified production of child protection policy documents and codes of practice by organisations dealing with children and young people. These documents, which aim to create safe environments for children, often include guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate interactions. Some policy documents and codes of practice make connections to the human rights framework. With reference to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN 1989), protection from violence and abuse is (rightly) pointed out as a right of the child (WOSM 2007). When arguments against touching are linked to children’s right to be protected from abuse, their legitimacy and credibility are strengthened. A right to be protected from sexual and other abuse is indeed a human right of children, but if ‘no-touching’ is emphasised as an important way of fulfilling children’s right to be protected from abuse, where does that lead us?
In the paper we argue that the discourse of child protection and safeguarding draws on a narrow understanding of children’s rights, where protection and safety are allowed to dominate the interpretation. Following Piper (2015:175), we therefore find it important to challenge “the rationality of what has been presented as child protection and safeguarding in institutions dealing with children and young people”.
The purpose of this paper is to shed new light on the question of physical contact and touch between teachers and students in a physical education context. We explore a viewpoint that supports the use of and need for physical contact in PE teaching by developing theoretical and practice based arguments. An alternative children’s rights perspective is first used to form the theoretical argument. Two human rights are addressed and connected to physical contact in teaching: the right to life and the right to education (Bobbio, 1996, Quennerstedt & Quennerstedt, 2014). These children’s rights informed theoretical argument is then used in the reading of 16 Swedish PE teachers’ experiences of physical contact in their pedagogical work to form the practice based arguments. While we do not wish to diminish the importance of dealing with problems of abuse, harm and sexual harassment, we do want to emphasise the need for alternative perspectives on physical contact in order to achieve a more multifaceted discussion and understanding of ‘touch’, ‘safety’ and ‘rights’ in PE.
Bobbio, Norberto (1990) The Age of Rights. Cambridge/Malden: Polity Press. Fletcher, S. (2013) Touching practice and physical education: deconstruction of a contemporary moral panic. Sport, Education and Society. 18, 5: 694-709. Jones, Alison. (2004). Social anxiety, sex, surveillance, and the ‘safe’teacher. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(1), 53-66. Johnson, R.T. (2012) Training ’safe’ bodies in an era of child panic: New Technologies for Disciplining Bodies. Paper Presented at the Annual American Education Research Association Meeting, Vancouver, Canada, April 2012. Ohman, Marie & Grundberg Sandell, Carin (2014) :The pedagogical consequences of ‘no touching’ in Physical Education – the case of Sweden. In: Heather Piper (Ed.): Touch in Sports Coaching and Physical Education: Fear, Risk and Moral Panic, p. 70-84. Routledge: London. Piper, Heather. & Smith, H. (2003) ‘Touch’ in Educational and Child Care Settings: dilemmas and responses. British Educational Research Journal, 29, 6: 879-894. Piper, Heather., Garratt, Dean., & Taylor, Bill. (2013a). Hands off! The practice and politics of touch in physical education and sports coaching. Sport, Education and Society, 18(5), 575-582. Piper, Heather., Garratt, Dean. & Taylor, Bill. (2013b) Child abuse, child protection, and defensive ‘touch’ in PE teaching and sports coaching. Sport, Education and Society, 18,5: 583-598. Piper, Heather (2015): Touch in Sports Coaching and Physical Education: Fear, Risk and Moral Panic. Routledge: London. Quennerstedt, Ann & Quennerstedt, Mikael (2014) Researching children’s rights in education: sociology of childhood encountering educational theory. British Journal of Sociology of Education 35(1), 115-132. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). UN Document E/CN:4/1989/29/Rev.1 WOSM (2007): Child Protection Tool Kit. The Europe Region World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the European Scout Region., The World Organization of the Scout Movement European Region, Geneva. http://www.scout.org/en/information_events/library/child_protection/child_protection_tool_kit
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