“No Touch” Policy is Insane for Music Teachers

Hi Readers — I touched (ha ha — so to speak!) upon this issue in my Golden Helicopter Awards: The fact that the British Musicians Union has told its members (ha ha again) not to lay (ha ha) a finger on any child they are giving music lessons. Most cheeringly, England’s Education Secretary, Michael Grove, has called these restrictions daffy. Here’s some of his wisdom, via The hfdnabfteh

It plays to a culture of fear among both adults and children, reinforcing the message that any adult who touches a child is somehow guilty of inappropriate contact,” he said.

“If we stigmatise and seek to restrict all physical contact between responsible adults and children, we will only undermine healthy relations between the generations.

“If we play to the assumption that any physical contact is somehow suspect then we will make children more suspicious of adults and adults more nervous and confused about their role in our society.

“We will drive good people away from teaching for fear of crossing some arbitrary line and our children will lose out as fewer and fewer adults feel comfortable working with young people.”

Well said! Let’s not make the non-skeevy skeevy! — L

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32 Responses to “No Touch” Policy is Insane for Music Teachers

  1. Tommy January 14, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    I’ve been an educator for over 25 years. The BEST teacher I ever had was hounded out of the profession because he put his hand on kids’ shoulders on occasion.

    Teachers afraid to touch children cannot do their jobs. A society which forbids intergenerational physical contact is deeply sick. Like Taliban sick.

  2. Mike January 14, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    I looked into this a couple of years ago when a gay teacher was jailed for committing fraud in order to be employed by a school.

    Apparently, it is against the law to discriminate against gays, but as the law states, “As the majority of pedophiles are gay, it is a criminal offense for homosexuals and lesbians (gays) to work in or be permitted to work in professions where children frequent”.

    Political correctness enters into the equation where they use the old army punishment of “one transgresses, all pay” as a pre-emptive strike.

    According to my friend at the Musician’s Union, it applys more so in the entertainment industry, because gays tend to “infiltrate” (her words, not mine) the Industry, so it’s “hands off kids” for everyone, so the gays don’t publically complain they’re being singled out.

  3. Marie January 14, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    It really saddens me that intergenerational physical contact of even the most casual and appropriate sort is being treated as a danger. It makes far more sense to me to teach kids about inappropriate touch and to speak up if something’s wrong.

    Appropriate touch is normal, natural and beneficial. Scaring adults away from such natural demonstrations of affection won’t stop molestation. It worries me that it will instead leave kids hungry for the physical affection once taken for granted.

    You can’t stop all the molesters even with these rules. You can teach kids how to report problems and concerns and make sure they get the help they need without assuming all adults who work with kids are potential molesters.

  4. Claire January 14, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    Mike, I don’t know what law you are referring to that states that most pedophiles are gay, but I think that is not true at all. My understanding is that the majority of pedophiles are heterosexual men ( or that’s how they identify!) please don’t blame pedophilia on gay people, we have more than enough stigma to deal with. Thank you!
    And as for this ridiculous no touching rule, it’s like using Universal Precautions instead of trusting one’s own intuition and having healthy boundaries. Treat everyone as contaminated because you NEVER KNOW!! You’ll be very lonely! And you will never learn to distinguish between healthy touch and unhealthy touch!

  5. Jenny Islander January 14, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    My daughters may be having guitar lessons when they’re older. If the local teacher (male) doesn’t touch them, i.e., physically adjust their hands on the instrument as needed, then I will be very annoyed. My older daughter already takes ballet and the teachers (female) are continually adjusting their bodies into the various positions, as well as helping them get lower–slowly and carefully!–in their splits. If they weren’t, I would also be annoyed.

    Zero tolerance stupidity strikes again.

  6. kimelah January 14, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    I wonder if there should be a re-release of Touching by Ashley Montagu. I read this years ago when my kids were young. For one thing it made me feel less awkward when someone sat beside me on the bus and their leg touched mine. Usually I would move away, put at least a few inches between they and I, but after reading it, I didn’t move. Just left my leg there. It felt… good. Or, um, “proper”, so to speak. As it was meant to be.
    Then again, I also had the family bed so touching was very much a part of my kids’ lives.

  7. Janette January 14, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    I agree with you. It is a bit ridiculous cause if your hands are positioned wrong then it might be difficult for a teacher to correct the student.

  8. kimelah January 14, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Also, I’m so glad to hear some sanity amongst the chaos!

  9. Mike January 14, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Regarding guitar lessons: where the teacher used to put your hands and fingers in their correct positions, now the teacher has to mirror the action to correct the student. The only good news is that it stops the student from introverting on their mistakes.

    Claire, In England, Canada and America, police must include the “orientation” of the sex offender and pass it on for mental health statistics. It is from these statistics that the exceptions are made to the discrimination law.

  10. Kristin January 14, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    Mike: The vary notion of categorizing any pedophile by sexual orientation is inherently flawed. To quote Dr. Gregory Herek:
    “For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women. ”

  11. Alex S. January 14, 2011 at 8:02 am #


    a thorough google search with multiple terms only leads me to a fundamentalist Christian website spouting about the same thing you say here.

    Can we have a link to this ‘law’. I know it isn’t this way in the US, nor are police allowed to collect such information. It would be a violation of civil rights.

  12. Maureen January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I teach 6th grade science. I don’t touch any of my students. Not a pat on the back, not a tap on the shoulder, or a shake when someone is asleep at their desk.

    Most of my students come from a culture where touching is almost always taken as an act of aggression. Simply bump into someone and they are ready for a fight. And there is a lot of slapping, hitting, punching that they almost always claim to be “playing” but all to often escalates to a full-blown fight. Most of my students also have no concept of personal space and get right up next to you when they’re talking to you. I’m constantly reminding them.

    That’s the main reason I have for being hands-off, but the whole, “OMG PERVE!” thing also contributes to my ban. Most teachers I know are the same way.

    I think it’s all stupid and ridiculous, but it is what it is. And by the way, I really don’t understand how you teach any stringed instrument to a kid without being hands on.

  13. Mike January 14, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Kristin & Alex, these laws come under the Federal Mental Health Act which is how children between the ages of 2 and 4 are given shock treatment “in case they have a mental illness later in life”, and throwing parents in jail for refusing psychatric drugging of their toddlers. Psychiatrists and psychologists think civil rights or human rights don’t apply to what they do, and think they are above these laws.

    Getting back to the topic, what we are dealing with here is stupidity foisted on the public by the APA (American Psychological Association) on how we should raise our children. Gone are the days of “children should be seen and not heard” and has become “Children should be neither seen nor heard”. To these loonys, a child at play is a crime. In the new tome of mental disorders, they have decided that creativity is a mental illness.

    Their solution is to invent ADD and ADHD and drug them into a stupor to keep them quiet and unseen. When the only play they have is watching TV or playing video games, then they invent another phony disorder to say the child should be given Uppers because they aren’t being sociable.

    Then we wonder where all these teenage drug addicts are coming from.

  14. Mike January 14, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Maureen, I sympathise with you, because what these kids really need is validation, and touch used to be the best form of communication. But it seems that communication has now become a crime.

    I’m supposing that the survival mechanism of fight is because you’re teaching in a very poor and high crime neighborhood, but chances are (these days) that I am completely wrong.

    You need to rehabilitate their ability to communicate and their ability to play. Consult their understanding and their imaginations. If you’re teaching about gravity, ask them for ideas on violating the laws of gravity and allow them to then give reasons, practicalities and laws why a chair stays on the floor instead of the ceiling or wall. This follows Einstein’s method of theory-imagination-practice.

  15. Library Diva January 14, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I’ve played viola for 25 years. Teaching a stringed instrument without touching just cannot be done effectively. “No, go like this…no, like this…see how my finger is bent…no, now you’re bending too much…no, now your’e stiffening up again…no, try it again, look at my finger…no bend it more…more…that’s not bending it that’s lying down…hey, I’ve got an idea, would you rather learn how to play drums?” Ugh, what a nightmare.

  16. Tommy January 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    “Their solution is to invent ADD and ADHD and drug them”
    Psychologists can’t prescribe drugs unless they are also certified pharmacologists, and then only in Louisiana & New Mexico.

    None of which has anything to do with adults being prohibited from touching children.

    You may have a beef with the APA (I’m not a fan, either), but spreading off-topic falsehoods won’t help.

  17. Tuppence January 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I checked out the video:

    Notice how the boy feels “uncomfortable” about the hand on his shoulder.

    I think it’s highly ironic that this whole “teach children good touch/bad touch” business has created exactly the monster they claim they’re trying to avoid — sexualized children. Would you as a child (for those of us of a certain age, of course) have thought twice about a situation like this? Have contrived something sexual out of it?

  18. Wayne January 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    It’s just hot air though. It’s lovely that the government come out and say things like this, but they need to stand behind it.

    Here’s a case where a teacher allowed two 15 year old boys to use a sled after testing it himself. Because he didn’t complete a WRITTEN risk assessment he was fired: http://nannyknowsbest.blogspot.com/2011/01/prats-of-week-cefn-hengoed-community.html

  19. Sean January 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    I am seeing a lot of this paranoia, but it does seem to be approaching a very weird area where any touching is…..sexual? Regardless of who, context or anything? Very strange…

  20. Heidi V January 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    I fear for the voice teachers of the world.

    Though the voice isn’t an instrument that uses fingers to make music, it does require good posture and proper breathing. I know that many kids don’t care about their posture and will slouch at any opportunity. A voice teacher must be able to physically straighten his or her young students because not all kids are good visual learners. Some have to learn by doing. That goes too for learning how to breathe properly for singing. It sometimes isn’t enough to watch a student breathe and determine that they are breathing out enough, breathing from all the proper areas, all while squeezing their diaphragm properly. In many cases (even for adults) the teacher must be able to feel their students’ abdominal area to gauge if they are doing it right. It is INCREDIBLY important that these factors are correct because improper breathing and techniques in singing can cause (sometimes permanent) voice and throat problems. I’m sorry if I sound like a fear-monger-er, but as a singer, it makes me shudder to think that an instructor wouldn’t be able to physically determine if their student (especially if they are really young) is breathing or standing correctly.

  21. Tracey Groombridge January 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I don’t know much but i know that most humans need a pat on the back now and then.

  22. chris January 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    The new music lesson uniform ?

  23. Gena January 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    When I was in middle school (at Lewiston-Porter the lock-down school from last week), we had a band teacher that gave pats on the back, and an occasional hug for great work. I was in a community band with him and he treated adults the same way there… touchy, but not in a weird way. I think you need some contact from teachers, especially in music… learning in a sterile no-touch environment would be difficult.

    The next year when I was in high school, I was called down to a private conference room and sat with the principal and a police officer. I was not given the opportunity to call my parents and my parents were unaware that the police were questioning me. They were asking leading questions about this music teacher. I finally told them that I know what they wanted me to say, but I would NOT because it wasn’t true, and none of his (1 arm) hugs, pats on the back or anything were done in a weird way. Since I was in the high school then, I did not know what happened to him in the middle school, and I no longer had time to play in the community band we had been in together. This was back in the late 80’s so this paranoia was starting back then.

  24. su N January 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    IF we are going to make teaching dangerous, then we should start paying teachers hazard pay.

    P.S. Hazard pay is extra money for working with hazardous materials or in hazardous conditons.

  25. Nicola January 15, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    I’d love to see the birth rates in these countries drop. Then I’d love to watch the government suddenly try to backpeddle over why it’s ok to touch other people and to even have children. I’d really love to watch these idiots policing every waking moment see their power dying because people stop making more people in the face of their draconian law making and hostage taking. If it’s that hard to have a child or be around them, why bother having a child or being around children at all?

  26. Mike January 15, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Nicola, you don’t have to go anywhere near decimation of the population. The answer is two words: taking responsibility.

    Unfortuanately, we’ll still have to deal with the 20% of the population that cannot exercise or even understand responsibility, but there are the 80% of us that can.

    Remember, 10% of the population cause 90% of car accidents, but there are 90% of us that are safe drivers. It’s hard to believe in this day and age, but Democracy actually means the majority have the say and the power if they would just exercise it.

    The reason it seems the minority (the nut cases) is more important is because we (the majority) refuse to take responsibility. Don’t allow special interest groups (the minority) to take over and demand rights by stripping the majority of theirs.

  27. Lafe January 15, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    Maureen, you are describing kids who have been starved of touch for so long that they don’t know how to use it or react to it appropriately. They need hugs and pats on the back. Deciding to remain 100% physically detached only adds to the problem.

    This growing phenomenon is every bit as detrimental to our kids and our society as starving them of food or sunlight would be. We are raising a generation of damaged kids, and we wonder why they can’t handle relationships, friendships, tough situations like bullying and fighting — and when one of them comes to school and starts shooting everyone, we are surprised?

  28. pentamom January 15, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Forget music teaching — what about DANCE? How are they gonna manage that?

  29. Heila January 15, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    I teach horseriding. Often the only way to correct posture or explain something is to touch my students, in the same way my instructor touches me. There is such a big difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch, what a pity that children and teachers are being deprived of such a basic thing.

  30. Christy Ford January 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    One of my favorite teachers was someone who once came up behind me and gave me a hug. I was bullied and mistreated by students and teachers alike, so knowing they cared meant a lot.

  31. walkamungus January 18, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    Mike, I’m still waiting for an actual citation for the “majority of pedophiles are gay” quote. A full citation, or a link.

  32. Geigerin January 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I’m a violinist and music teacher in the US. When I was in college, 10 years ago, my private lesson professor constantly alerted me before he was going to touch me. I found that so odd until I learned he had been accused of sexual harassment for adjusting someone’s posture during a lesson.

    I teach private lessons in my own studio. I’m a woman, and I think people tend to be less suspicious of female teachers (not fair, but that’s my experience). I’m constantly adjusting fingers, arms, posture, and I’m even :gasp: hugging. As a result, I have a very close relationship with my students and their families. And no one has ever complained.