I recently had a conversation with someone who scoffed at the idea that safety has become the number one priority in schools. I think he was mainly thinking of safety in terms of school violence (knives, guns etc). Granted, real physical violence is important and probably a much greater problem than say 20 years ago. However, I think that safety takes on a much broader context within schools today and really is of primary importance.
Schools today focus much more on the student as a whole being. It isn’t just about whether you can memorize your timestables or name all the planets. Or even about whether you can read and add/subtract. Learning cannot take place in a meaningful way if your needs as a whole person are not being met. If you are starving. Or if you are uncomfortable and fear ridicule and scorn from your classmates (or teacher). If you are being bullied. If you have been made to believe that you are stupid.
In an ideal world, children come to school from stable loving homes. The schools they come to are welcoming. Everyone is friendly and courteous and helpful. Teachers are caring and inspirational. Everybody’s opinion is valued and they know it; there is no risk involved in voicing your opinion.
However, if a student feels ashamed, or not good enough. If he is scared to have an opinion in case he is laughed at or worse. If he feels alone, without any friends. If he is taunted. If he is…(the list goes on) Then, in all of these cases, I would say that the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel safe. And if he doesn’t feel safe, then he is not ready, or perhaps even able, to learn. At best, he is distracted and unfocused because of all these other worries that fill up most of his mind.
So yes, to me, safety is important. With students, it is especially true that “if you don’t care about them, they don’t care about your ideas”.