Compulsory Smiling

Lorna Finlayson

Katharine Birbalsingh, the head of the Michaela Community School in Wembley, is said to have been shortlisted for the role of chair of the government’s Social Mobility Commission (or ‘Social Mobility Tsar’). The job pays £350 a day for up to six days’ work a month.

Birbalsingh delighted the Conservative Party Conference in 2010 with a speech that emphasised ‘discipline’ and ‘personal responsibility’ and included some snide remarks about grade inflation and political correctness, interspersed with clips of her students playing the steelpans. Music to the Tories’ ears. Michaela, the ‘free school’ Birbalsingh co-founded with Suella Braverman (now a Conservative MP) in 2014, made headlines in 2016 for putting children in ‘lunch isolation’ because their parents owed money for school meals. ‘Britain’s strictest school’ is run with military precision. Pupils walk in silent single file between classes. In 2019, Michaela celebrated its first GCSE results: among the best in the country for non-selective state schools, with more than half of all grades 7 or above (the equivalent of an old A or A*).

Schools like Michaela represent the opposite of everything I believe in. But it isn’t difficult to understand their attraction. The desire for order and control lies at the root of some of the worst things that human beings do to one another, but it also expresses an important human need for a degree of safety and predictability. In conditions which leave us little control over how we spend our time, where we live, what happens to our health or the health of those we care about, even the planet we live on, it’s unsurprising that people try to ‘take back control’ in whatever ways are available: some relatively benign (mildly obsessive cleanliness), many not so (eating disorders, racist nationalism). Order, or the idea of it, is comforting.

There are also concrete horrors from which schools like Michaela promise salvation. Not only the threat of physical violence (from the police as well as those the police claim to protect us from), a constant presence in some areas and communities, and not only violence of the economic kind, but also the smaller, subtler things that sediment as misery. Deprivations of space and time, of privacy. You can see the appeal of a place where the noise stops, where phones are banished, where it is possible to give something, for once, your full concentration. I’ve longed for something like this when I’m teaching: not the fierce authoritarianism of Michaela, but for everyone involved to be really present, with space to breathe, not to be constantly tugged at by technological and bureaucratic intrusions.

It’s easy to see how a parent living in a poor area of London might want their child to go to a school like Michaela (which is heavily oversubscribed) that promises both safety and success. Qualms about the stifling of individuality or creativity – which Michaela in any case insists it does not do – seem like an indulgence. It isn’t as if ‘normal’ schools are utopias of freedom and self-expression. As one parent observed when the new head of a school in Leicestershire announced a Michaela-style regime, including compulsory smiling and a ban on looking out the window during class, ‘Most of those rules apply in schools anyway, just look worse when they are put in writing.’

The appeal of schools like Michaela is less a vindication of their methods than an indictment of the society in which they can appear as a solution. Birbalsingh wasn’t wrong when she said, in her Tory conference speech, that ‘the system is broken because it keeps poor children poor.’ Schools reproduce social inequalities rather than overcoming them. In 2016, the Social Mobility Commission identified ‘an unfair education system’ as one of the main factors trapping people in poverty. Poor black children, in particular, are failed by the system as it is (the latest outbreak of faux concern for the ‘white working class’ relies, as usual, on cherry-picked statistics to pin the consequences of poverty and austerity on anti-racism).

Birbalsingh offers simple solutions in tune with the government’s preferred narrative: it is not poverty or racism but a liberal ‘woke’ agenda that is to blame. ‘Black underachievement,’ she said in her 2010 speech, ‘is due in part to the chaos in our classrooms and in part to the accusation of racism.’ This is reminiscent of the oft-repeated line about the Rochdale paedophile ring, that police failed to act against the perpetrators because they were afraid of being perceived as racist (an explanation that ignores evidence of discriminatory and victim-blaming attitudes towards the working-class girls who were abused). If the police are so inhibited by racial sensitivities, why do they stop and search black people at nine times the rate of whites? If teachers are so scared of disciplining black children, why are Afro-Caribbean students up to six times as likely to be excluded?

The relationship between schools and policing is not merely analogous. Following the practice of some US ‘charter schools’, there are more than 650 police officers working in British schools, mainly in areas of high deprivation. This is of a piece with the government’s ongoing effort to imprint its brand of aggressive authoritarian nationalism on the school system, from Kemi Badenoch’s invectives against ‘critical race theory’ to Tom Hunt’s demand that all schools fly the Union Jack. It’s also a response to growing resistance from pupils to that project. In March, the police were called to Pimlico Academy in London because students were protesting against discriminatory uniform policies (prohibiting hairstyles that ‘block the views of others’) and the hoisting of a Union Jack outside the school. In May, officers were called to a school in Leicester after pupils staged a walkout in solidarity with Palestine. Sixteen students were suspended (the school cited a breach of Covid regulations, the new version of the traditional ‘fire safety’ excuse). The Ofsted chair and former banker Amanda Spielman denounced ‘militant’ and ‘confrontational’ activism in schools.

Birbalsingh has a good chance of netting the social mobility gig (despite her muddling of Lord of the Rings with Lord of the Flies): final interviews are tomorrow. But whether it’s her or someone like her is of little importance: the ‘direction of travel’ on schooling – as on everything else – is clear. The courage of growing numbers of young people to resist it is inspiring.


  • 13 July 2021 at 6:39pm
    Katherine Hibbert says:
    "In May, officers were called to a school in Leicester after pupils staged a walkout in solidarity with Palestine. Sixteen students were suspended "
    Quite right too. They are in school to learn, not to play politics. If they worked harder at their school work instead of bleating about a non-country that has nothing to do with them, perhaps they would be more successful. But the Left, who nearly always send their own children to private schools, prefer the plebs to wallow in victimhood and identity politcs.

    • 13 July 2021 at 7:08pm
      Stephen Baker says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      How do you know the kids in Leicester aren't successful?

    • 13 July 2021 at 7:33pm
      Stephen Baker says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      To add to my other comment, I read that in May this year more than 70 children, the overwhelming majority Palestinian, lost their lives in Gaza. Save the Children reported in the same month that 50 schools had been damaged in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. Children, many of school age, are the victims of conflict across the world, often in territorial disputes (over what you might regard as non-countries). Were I live in the north of Ireland, or Northern Ireland (perhaps another ‘non-country’ in some eyes), children were frequent victims of the ‘troubles’. There is a campaign today for integrated education to build good community relations, something we might regard as a welcome political initiative. Schools and the children that attend them are not ‘playing politics’: politics often ‘plays’ them. Maybe school children showing solidarity with others is an important act of political and democratic agency in a world were too many children have none.

    • 13 July 2021 at 7:44pm
      Russell Child says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      You seem nice

    • 13 July 2021 at 8:31pm
      MLS says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      "the Left, who nearly always send their own children to private schools"


    • 14 July 2021 at 9:51am
      steve kay says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      Good heavens, reading Ms Hibbert I thought for a dreadful moment that I had strayed from
      LRB to the Spectator. Not too worried about seeing Union Flags fluttering above the playground here in South Wales. There was quite a lot of noisy singing and fireworks being let off on a Sunday night.

    • 14 July 2021 at 10:07am
      ianbrowne says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      I would normally write my own reply rather than copy and pasting from a news site, but it seems easier in this case to do the latter. The news article states that two school GCSE textbooks, Conflict in the Middle East and The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change, both by author Hilary Brash, covering the history of Palestine and Israel were amended after lawyers representing the the Board of Deputies of British Jews objected to the content of the two books. Subsequently a group of adacemics who specialise in the history of the Middle East expressed serious concerns about the changes, and distribution of the amended book, the one containing the changes has now been paused.

      Is it possible that the school children in Leicester were aware of this and were concerned about the quality of the education they receive? Don't we want people to be reflective and to consider their own education. I'm not writing propaganda and would genuinely appreciate a reply.

      "The international publisher Pearson has paused further distribution of two textbooks used by UK high schools after a group of academics said in a report that they distorted the historical record and failed to offer pupils a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      The report found that alterations had been made to text, timelines, maps and photographs, as well as to sample student essays and questions.

      It concluded that "school children should not be supplied with propaganda under the guise of education" and called for their immediate withdrawal.
      The textbook alterations were made last year after an intervention by the Board of Deputies of British Jews working together with UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).

      The books, titled Conflict in the Middle East and The Middle East: Conflict, Crisis and Change, both by author Hilary Brash, are read by thousands of GCSE and International GCSE students annually. "

      The article continues and offers more details.

      It can be found here:

    • 14 July 2021 at 12:40pm
      Colin Buttimer says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      The most striking aspect of Katherine Hibbert's response is not her argument, it's the bullying tone and refusal to recognise any value in a perspective other than her own. This is in marked contrast to Lorna Finlayson who takes time to recognise the attraction and understand the reasons for the subject she criticises.

    • 14 July 2021 at 12:55pm
      Tom MacColl says: @ Katherine Hibbert
      There are lots of nice, measured responses to this comment above. My response is not constructive and I don't mind if the blog editors decide to remove it, but I could not quite resist the overwhelming urge to pop in here to say to Katherine Hibberrt - oh, shut up.

    • 14 July 2021 at 3:23pm
      neddy says: @ ianbrowne
      Palestinians are suffering, and Jewish persons are committing crimes against them, because Christians have committed horrendous atrocities against Jews. And I mean horrendous atrocities. The Holocaust, the latest and worst example, was a celebration of Christian values, for which Europeans have not accepted responsibility. Christians have long forgotten that their faith is based in Judaism, and that the founder was a Jewish person, raised in a Jewish family. Criticism is easy. Why not try to help.

    • 15 July 2021 at 5:00am
      Joe Morison says: @ neddy
      To suggest that the Holocaust was a celebration of Christian values must be the most stupid, ignorant, and offensive thing you have ever written on this blog (which is saying something). It shows a complete lack of understanding of both Nazi ideology, which to the extent it had any religion amongst its leaders, it was probably some sort of esoteric occultism; and Christianity which, for all the perverted versions of it that have appeared over the years, is a religion of peace and loving one’s enemies. It’s true that the Nazis had a plan to purge Christianity of all things Jewish, and turn it into something sympathetic to Nazism - but had they done that the only similarity to real Christianity their new religion would have been its name.

    • 15 July 2021 at 6:31am
      ianbrowne says: @ Joe Morison
      I certainly wouldn't use the word 'celebration' to describe the relation between Christianity, anti-Semitism and the holocaust, but I think there is some connection.

      There are two things to bear in mind about the holocaust - it wasn't a purely Nazi affair, and not all christianity is Western christianity. Where I live, Romania, there was in the 1930s a particularly close relationship between Eastern Orthodox Christianity, christian values and the strange mystical form that fascism took here. In terms of politics, the first anti-Semitic legislation was passed in 1938, when Miron Cristea, the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, was Prime Minister. Eastern Europe is a different world. It is hard to imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury as PM in 1938, but in Romania things were and are different.
      Romania was profoundly anti-Semitic at that time and the fascist movement was led by a deeply Christian quasi-mystic, Codreanu, and attracted a lot of support from seminarians and local village priests.
      Between 1941-4, Romania was responsible for the deaths of at least a quarer of a million Jews and at least 25 000 gypsies - mainly through disease and starvation in camps established in Bessarabia and Transnistria. After the massacres of Jews in Odessa, the Patriarch was given a large house there, with a view of the sea. It was, if I have got this right, almost next door to the house given to Marshall Antonescu, the military dictator of Romania, who was responsible for the deaths of the Jews and gypsies mentioned earlier.
      I think our understanding of what happened during the war would be greatly enhanced if we stopped thinking of the holocaust as a purely Nazi affair, and we realised that Romania, along with a lot of other countries, such as Serbia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine are deeply Christian and part of Europe.

    • 15 July 2021 at 6:40am
      neddy says: @ Joe Morison
      Tell that to the Jews who were burned alive in a church by practicing Polish Catholics. I'm not interested in Christian pieties. I'm commenting on revealed Christian values. The Holocaust was committed by Christians - not Muslims - but European Christians. Russian pogroms, the Crusades, burning witches and heretics alive are all revealed Christian values. Christian societies, and apparent deniers such as yourself, may continue with their attempt to corral blame to Nazism, and label that an "occult sect", not a political program rooted in European religion, history and values; but every Jew knows the truth.

    • 15 July 2021 at 6:58am
      ianbrowne says: @ Joe Morison
      Just to give you a sense of 'difference' - Nichifor Crainic, a devout Christian and anti-Semite, and a very well regarded intellectual and writer in the 1930s argued that Jesus was not Jewish! Crainic was sent to prison by the communist regime, and after he came out of prison he worked as an apologist for the communist regime.
      In Radu Jude's wonderful film Bad Luck Banging, the teacher whose sex film surfaces on the internet teaches as 'Nichifor Crainic High School' - the sort of reference that Radu Jude likes to put in his films - references unintelligible to a lot of Romanians, and completely lost on non-Romanians.

    • 15 July 2021 at 7:11am
      Joe Morison says: @ neddy
      I don't for a second deny the long, deeply shameful, and utterly repulsive persecution, torture, and murder of Jews by the Christian church and its followers in the name of Christian values. However, all such actions are utterly contrary to real Christian values.

      It was this distinction that allowed Nietzsche to be about the most vitriolically effective critic of the Church there has ever been while at the same time describing Jesus as 'the noblest man who ever lived'.

    • 15 July 2021 at 7:26am
      Joe Morison says: @ ianbrowne
      I was raised an atheist and I'm not religious, but if I was a Christian I'd be quoting C.S. Lewis who said that any hateful act done in the name of Christ was in fact being done in the name of Satan.

      There has never been anything more hateful than the Holocaust, and there has never been anything more loving than Christian values.

    • 15 July 2021 at 8:42pm
      Martin Davis says: @ Joe Morison
      If I was Ms Finlayson I would congratulate myself on a good job done. Instant and coruscating controversy, worthy of a lifetime subscription. JM evidently thinks there is a form of Christian values are somehow essential and opposed to actual historical practice. Alas, it, and all other successful religions, have become thoroughly embedded in the civilisations which have embraced them. Success through adaptation, to be sure. I doubt if there is anything truely distinctive in Christianity's utilisation by ruling classes in their pursuit of power. Who, after all, now talks of the annihilation of the Armenians?

    • 16 July 2021 at 5:36am
      Joe Morison says: @ Martin Davis
      If you want to define Christian values as the values espoused by those identifying as Christians, you have made the word literally meaningless. Things are no better, but even sillier, if you want to define them as the values of the civilizations that have adopted the religion as their own because now you have to choose which of those many civilizations to choose. Is it to be Rome under Constantine the Great or the British empire under Victoria? Perhaps you’d prefer England under Oliver Cromwell or maybe Russia under Ivan the Terrible? How do you choose? Or are Christian values simply the values common to all the civilizations that call themselves Christian? That would reduce them to little more than ‘power is good’ and ‘the end justifies the means’.

      So, we can either follow your lead and drain the word of all meaning, or we can listen to the OED and accept that Christian values are those showing ‘a character consistent with Christ’s teaching’.

    • 16 July 2021 at 8:06am
      Martin Davis says: @ Joe Morison
      Less about the values and more about the practice. 'Christ's teaching' is a heavily mediated ensemble, as is Mohammed's. And extremely variable when viewed across their history since inception. The distinctions between the Abrahamic religions in terms of theology are less interesting to me than identifying their consequences for social, political and economic practice both in the past and today. Your point of view appears to one of a believer in the transcendental nature of religion. I do not share this point of view.

    • 16 July 2021 at 10:13am
      Joe Morison says: @ Martin Davis
      It’s nothing to do with the nature of religion, and everything to do with the meaning of words.

    • 16 July 2021 at 4:29pm
      Rowena Hiscox says: @ neddy
      From UK education policy to Christianity causing the Holocaust in ten comments. That's not bad even for the Internet.

    • 17 July 2021 at 4:55pm
      Michael Taylor says: @ Rowena Hiscox
      Good point. Holocaust = Christianity; Christianity = Judaism, so a valid syllogism concludes that Holocaust = Judaism. But I'm sure the poor man didn't mean that. Also, killing people isn't a "value".

    • 18 July 2021 at 1:39am
      neddy says: @ Michael Taylor
      Judaism isn't Christianity. Judaism precedes Christianity by millennia. Jews are not responsible for the evolution of Christianity, but Christianity is responsible for the Holocaust. Are you suggesting, in that smirking, smug, gee I'm clever, I'm so logical, I know what a syllogism is, manner of your post that Jews are responsible for their own murder? The corollary to that is they they deserve it.

    • 19 July 2021 at 9:01am
      neddy says: @ Michael Taylor
      What, no response Mr Taylor? Has the LRB cancelled you perchance?

  • 13 July 2021 at 6:56pm
    Hugh Weldon says:
    There seems to be a contradiction in Ms Finlayson's 'longing' for an ordered environment in schools and the 'authoritarianism' she identifies as the way it has been achieved by Birbalsingh. Unfortunately I don't see any alternative suggestion here as to how this circle can be squared. Also a rather bizarre notion that violence is something outside the school gates, rather than very much within it, as I learnt through many years of teaching in inner city London schools.

  • 13 July 2021 at 7:37pm
    Byron Black says:
    The title of this insightful piece reminded me of the fact that during the Pacific War the Government of Imperial Japan instituted a National Smile Week.

    Smile, if you know what's good for you.

  • 13 July 2021 at 8:21pm
    David Gordon says:
    My eye was caught by the phrase "... ‘free school’ Birbalsingh co-founded with Suella Braverman (now a Conservative MP)" Now a Conservative MP? She is the Attorney-General for goodness sake. In what way she is qualified for that position is a mystery.

  • 13 July 2021 at 8:31pm
    J c Quicke says:
    Has anyone asked the students what they think? What exactly goes on in the classrooms? A lengthy and detailed research study is required, in particular one with an emphasis on participant observation. I'd be surprised if there weren't some surprises. But would Birbalsingh allow it? John Quicke

    • 20 July 2021 at 2:08pm
      OldScrounger says: @ J c Quicke
      I would give more credence to what relatively recent ex-students have to say. Parents of present students might not be pleased to see their children expelled for biting the hand that feeds them.

  • 13 July 2021 at 9:35pm
    Keith Carter says:
    What a muddled piece! In a rush to advance her partisan views, the author gets properly confused. Police victim-blaming of white working class girls in Rochdale no way disproves the hypothesis that fear of being accused of racism hobbled the police investigation. Muddling Lords of the Flies and of the Rings is wholly irrelevant to the social mobility gig. The choice of a small number of radicalised semi-educated (by definition) young people to further damage their education in protest about Kemi Badenoch's views on Critical Race Theory certainly does not make those views wrong.

  • 14 July 2021 at 1:58am
    neddy says:
    "Prohibiting hairstyles that 'block the views of others'" caught my eye. Are beehives and massive oily quiffs back? Or are there some new headdress fashions about. Arrrgh! gimme a head with hair! Long beautiful hair... Can't remember the rest - gettin' old. Now where did I leave my car. Last time I saw it, it was right here on the end of my keys!

  • 14 July 2021 at 3:35pm
    Frederick Bosanquet says:
    I wonder if this author has experience of a school, or would send her children to one, where poor behaviour is rife and results are appalling.

  • 14 July 2021 at 10:39pm
    Andrew Graham says:
    1. Lorna Finlayson is kind of a great writer, concise, clear, funny, makes her points and moves on
    2. From a link in the blog, those children in Pimlico had previously taken down a Union Flag and burnt it. If only my schooldays had been like that!
    3. In the channel 4 report about the school in Leicester (which there is a link to) there is evidence shown that they too called the Police, in this case because they couldn't get the pupils to go back to the classrooms after the lunch break. How did this become an even remotely conceivable option for teachers? This seems to reinforce, more than almost anything I could reasonably imagine, on of the the main points of the article regarding heavy handed disciplinary approaches in schools

  • 15 July 2021 at 8:56am
    Stephen Baker says:
    I suspect that Katherine Hibbert is an attention seeking troll. She certainly got plenty of attention here. (I myself replied twice.) Perhaps the lesson to be taken from this is that there is no point engaging with stupid or disingenuous comment. It's a distraction - and deliberately so.

  • 15 July 2021 at 2:29pm
    Simon Denison says:
    It is hard to understand Lorna Finlayson’s profound aversion to Michaela (‘Schools like Michaela represent the opposite of everything I believe in’). She admits that she herself has longed for a similar kind of ordered environment when she teaches. The evidence in favour of Michaela is given here as: outstanding exam results; strong support from the local community; and – in the article from Time hyperlinked within the text – enthusiastic support from children at the school.

    The evidence against seems oddly thin. Birbalsingh was well received at a Conservative Party conference, and her co-founder is now a Conservative MP. Some pupils are said to have been placed in ‘lunch isolation’ because parents owed money for school meals – a highly charged but ambiguous claim that sounds like it has been taken out of context and demands a rounder explanation. The school is said to be ‘fiercely’ authoritarian but no support is given for such a loaded adverb. The school’s approach to orderliness is linked by implication, but without justification, to Brexit (‘take back control’) and to ‘some of the worst things that human beings do to one another’. Birbalsingh herself is dismissed with a slightly unpleasant kind of knowing sneer (‘has a good chance of netting the social mobility gig, despite her muddling The Lord of the Rings with Lord of the Flies’).

    I have no personal experience of Michaela (and no axe to grind); but for the time being I am prepared to trust what I read of the largely consistent verdicts of those who do – pupils, parents, teachers and inspectors – namely that Michaela seems to have implemented a set of highly effective and well-received educational practices that demand to be taken seriously, not treated with suspicion merely for being unorthodox and to some extent traditional.

    • 15 July 2021 at 6:36pm
      Andrew Graham says: @ Simon Denison
      From the Time article you refer to:
      Michaela’s Deputy Head Jonathan Porter sees things differently. “I think it’s Britain’s most loving school,” he says. Porter believes the school’s strict rules allow “pupils to be free, to be truly free” to learn.
      It seems fairly clear to me how that sort of 'leadership' thinking might lead to an aversion. One might want to believe that strict discipline leads to freedom and that the best way to express love is to discipline people for not finding the right page in a text book within 10 seconds but you'll not find many to support such abuses of the language and decent human standards of behaviour outside of the far right. As to local support, the school might suggest or even provide a better future for their children (within a very limited frame of what 'better future' might mean) than a lot of alternatives on offer but that does not make it right.
      The article also compares the pupils behaviour to ones at Eton, little needs to be said I think about what an Etonian education might lead to

  • 16 July 2021 at 12:44pm
    Simon Wood says:
    The thing is kids are not stupid. The left and right think they are. The kids would read this thread and laugh. Or yawn. Or not read it.

  • 16 July 2021 at 2:57pm
    XopherO says:
    What goes around, comes around. All this reminds me of the disputes over education of the 1960s and 70s, and particularly the Black Papers, an offshoot of Critical Quarterly - Cox, Dyson and Rhodes Boyson et al, becoming more reactionary and authoritarian as they tried to defend their views on discipline, grammar schools (which always essentially failed all those not in the top stream, who probably would have done better in a comprehensive or art school etc) and the 'intelligent working class' which inevitably led to defending intelligence tests and the real nonsense from Burt (who probably faked his research on identical twins separated at birth) Eysenck et al. I came across a useful survey of the development of the Black paper debate.

    Upward mobility, betrayal and the Black Papers on education, by James Robert Wood. He concludes by saying -
    "One lesson to be taken from reading the Black Papers is the way the sorting of people into gradations of intelligence and dullness can work against commitments to social justice, a salutary lesson for those working in an academic culture that still drives its professionals to desire to be, and to be seen to be, intelligent. Delving into the Black Papers and the Black Papers’ archive has made me think the profession could use an explicit reckoning with the idea of innate intelligence and how it both shapes and deforms our scholarship and our teaching."

  • 18 July 2021 at 3:32pm
    Isobel Urquhart says:
    So sorry to see a different (and worthy) debate distracting from Lorna Finlayson's reflective piece about what is desirable about whatever order is taken to represent for us all- and how we long for education to not only impose it on the behaviour and expression of opinion on the young through education, and the hope that this will inculcate an adult society that embodies whatever we hope order might bring that reassures and solaces us.
    As Finlayson asserts, despite the hope and belief that one of the structuring institutions of society - schools - can be an instrument of societal change, they are much more characteristically instruments of reproducing societal values and conformities.
    The requirements at Michaela - e.g. strict adherence to behaviours intended to express positivity - smiling - mistake the symptoms for the causes as Finlayson argues. For a further examination of this, I refer the reader to the excellent analysis of the requirement to smile by Barbara Ehrenreich: Smile or Die. Where who is required to smile, in what circumstances and with what sanctions against failure to do so exposes the power relations in such a requirement to.. Ehrenreich examines what being a pleasant smiling worker involves for precarious, underpaid workers in coffee outlets, for example, that any feminist, for example, would have also learned as Lesson One about having to smile to please men and 'get on' in a patriarchal society.. be that as it may, the requirement to smile is said to stimulate 'positivity' in the student that means she works hard and gets good results. An idea of order that is profoundly longed for by parents who actually agree and know how unfair and ruthless our society is and where the only tolerable solutions are those that do not challenge its fundamental structures.
    To take direct action by extending the liberal value of caring for others by aligning themselves with the suffering of others outside the permitted bounds of school leaders or their immediate society - to weep and cry out rather than smile- creates quite a dilemma for our sense if order and what we want it to achieve..

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