Nov 2, 2015
One of the pieces of forming a Citizen Scholar is teaching our future Citizen Scholars how to function in an ordered society. Schools are microcosms for the 'real' world; training grounds for the society and culture that the Citizen Scholar will join upon formation (often, even during it). How, then, do we want our Citizen Scholars of future generations to act, then? Do we want them to be cultured, law-abiding model individuals looking out for the well-being of others? Or would we rather wake up one day and discover ourselves in the Alternate 1985 of 'Back to the Future II?'
I'm guessing few of us want to see Biff Tannen's Pleasure Paradise and Casino rise up from the ground, but everyday I worry that's where we're headed. Given the experiences I've had, and those of other teachers across the country, I grow more and more worried that I'm going to live to become Alternate Principal Strickland (hopefully with much more hair).
I was wholly unprepared for much of the behaviour I encountered last year, and the methods for which Administration had for responding to it. The behaviours ranged from male students pulling their pants down in front of female teachers to students barging into a classroom while class is in session in order to scream and run around before running back out the door. In one case, a female student would continually slap another female student while licking the hand that was not currently slapping. Five times in the course of the year, students pulled the fire alarm, and after the second incident, student involvement was covered up by Administration. Even pregnant female teachers were assaulted with no repercussions. Within the last four weeks of the school year, I had to write the same two girls up a combined total of twelve times for offenses ranging from cussing me out to assault. I was shocked that this was the same school that, at the first faculty meeting of the year, loudly applauded that they (supposedly) had far less discipline issues than in years past.
It turned out that, as with Potemkin Front farces like data-driven assessments, this was just smoke and mirrors to make the school shine. Any formal punishment (such as an in-school suspension for assault or lewdness) would need to be reported to the District. We couldn't have that now, could we? As a result, teachers were 'encouraged' to pass students on to other, neighbouring teachers, and let the 'disruptive' students cause a ruckus in their class. Nice scam, eh?
It was really disheartening to see all this happening. How could we as teachers be expected to teach effectively with the potential for unimpeded chaos raining upon our class behind every corner? Little did I know that my school wasn't the only school suffering from this breakdown. . .
That was until I read about the St. Paul School District in Minnesota and their run-in with the Pacific Educational Group. PEG has the belief that students, 'will only achieve if school curricula is changed to meet cultural specifications.' The St. Paul School District began replacing suspensions with 'time-outs' (exactly what my previous school use to call moving children to other classrooms). Further, violence and other unacceptable behaviours became ignored and tolerated. In an article on CityPages, teachers relate how their students spend the day in the hallways running & hiding from authority figures as though it's a game. Male students burst into classrooms, assault female students, and run out with no consequences.
Organizations such as PEG feel that by disciplining students with actual consequences, we are preventing students from reaching their fullest academic, emotional, mental, and physical potential. Schools and districts such as that from my initial example, feel that if they bury their heads in the sand, then there really isn't a problem at all.
What we're actually doing is building a pipeline to prison and vagrancy. Heck, we're not even building it anymore so much as reinforcing it! The pipeline is already here, and in much the same way as civilizations such as Rome and the various Chinese dynasties rotted from the inside, so will Western civilization. Just in this past week, CBSDFW reported on gangs of Elementary & Middle School children roaming Fort Worth neighbourhoods setting garbage cans on fire and stealing everything from packages to bikes.
At Florin High School in Sacramento, CA, a principal was thrown to the floor when he tried to break up a fight between students. He was then thrown into the lockers after he got up and tried again to break it up.
In Allentown, PA, a 'wild brawl' broke out amongst a horde of over 200 students at William Allen High School. Four police officers were injured in the fray.
The tactics and methodologies used by schools and districts today are forming the polar opposites, the antithesis, of the Citizen Scholars. I don't yet have a name for these 'Bizzaro' or 'Reverse Citizen Scholars,' but we're fast creating generations of amoral layabouts who operate by instinct and basic emotion. Generations that prove Hobbes the Master of Locke. I dread the day when I start seeing graffiti telling me 'Hobbes Was Right.'
I'm not going to conclude this thought or offer a solution just yet. I'm still philosophizing this over in my head. As always, I invite thoughts and comments on the matter.
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