Schools allow children to call teachers by first names  04/12/2009

Tradition has gone out the classroom window as an increasing number of primary schools allow children to address teachers by their first names. The move away from honorifics – reflected across other aspects of society too – has sparked debate among education experts. Teachers say it removes an unnecessary level of authority and encourages more curious and questioning students. Critics say it gives children more freedom than they are prepared for.

Wellington’s Mt Cook School principal Sandra McCallum said using Christian names changed the learning dynamic. Instead of passively accepting what they are told, children are not overawed by authority and are more questioning. “The old adage that children are there to be seen and not heard – that has changed,” she said. But Victoria University anthropologist James Urry argues that removing the age-based hierarchy is empowering kids before they are ready. “The consequences of this usage in schools is a collapse of authority and a lack of respect which also extends beyond school. Children are empowered often without the social skills to handle their empowerment,” he said.