0157: Guns, Violence, and Zero Tolerance…Oh, and exile for kids
#education #prison #SOSchat
The past few days have been a bit turbulent. There have been quite a few fights, some threats made by students, and a gun. All violent things. All falling under zero tolerance policies, of which I am not a fan. I must state, up front, that I understand the concept of punishing/treating the “crimes” that are the most dangerous or the ones that have the most danger of being repeated in such a way that would discourage them from being repeated (visit Foucault for on this). Guns are not a good idea at school, clearly. Fighting is not the best outlet for conflict resolution. Threats should not be made. But, should students be exiled from education completely for the acts? Put another way, does simply removing the “perpetrator” from the academic environment help more than it hurts?
First, I’ll address guns. My first week as a teacher ended with a student bringing in a sawed-off shotgun. To my knowledge he had no intention of using in class, even though he and I had a heated exchange. He claimed that he was being beaten up on the way home from school. The gun was an extreme measure, but he deemed it necessary. He was expelled without any services from the district. So no school, and no help. He was exiled. I’ve not heard from him, but nothing was done to help his situation or help him deal with it. Potentially he became a violent offender, followed through with the his original intention, etc. He certainly did not return to school. Expulsion may be the best option. Certainly, we should do what we can to prevent students from bringing guns to school, but we should equally do what we could/can to treat the symptom. Shouldn’t we try to help students deal with problems before they get to the point of bringing a gun? If they bring one should we try to help them so the problem won’t worsen? I don’t think completely severing all ties is the best course of action for the student or for society. The student who brought the gun last week was also expelled, but with no psychological services and will be returning next year. Perhaps time will help?
Students who fight are arrested, carried away in a police car, and suspended for ten days— no questions asked. They return after ten days, or not, and receive no services, no conflict resolution, no anger management, nothing. Additionally, they’re behind in coursework, and possibly were behind to begin with. Many students get in more trouble while there are home for suspension. The alternative to suspension of course would be an alternative setting or some sort of psychological/conflict resolution service which of course would have a cost. And then, there’s the reinforcement, for some, of being hauled away in a police car. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Is it necessary to send children away in a police car simply because they got into a fight? Should there not be some sort of teaching that extends beyond the tested curriculum? Teachers try, but often aren’t equipped or allotted the time. Further, fights are born out various stresses and conflicts some stem from the neighborhood others from school. The test certainly adds to stress, and when it’s over it seems supervision becomes lax.
Some fights that would usually have been prevented happen. Yet, another factor. So if some responsibility lies with the school should the school just ship students away? Certainly not.
The same goes with threats, violent language, etc. We punish the language without offering a reasonable or better alternative. We punish and do not replace as as a system. There should be some teaching dialogue that accompanies infractions; that is, if we don’t want them repeated.
The system is broken. Sometimes it seems schools are prison-preparation programs. What can be done?
0110: I have a proposal. Teacher-Researcher-Policy Maker Hybrid?
#SOSchat #education #edreform
The course of education is charted in a strange way. Teachers teach and implement decisions made my some distant policy maker or maybe a demigod. The policy makers make decisions based on research someone did somewhere other than a classroom. The researchers are likely to be professors of maybe education, or maybe a part of some miraculously funded think-tank, or, and I had a chance to do this, by some meagerly paid ghost writer who probably needs a little money and will accept a couple of grand to do some hurried research, turn it in for review, and then have to alter the research to “better fit the needs of the organization” (won’t be doing that again— I have debt what can I say). And the cycle continues. Either way, the process is diluted, dishonest, and disconnected.
So, my proposal:
First, we alter the roles of all parties involved— researcher, policy maker, and teacher. We create a hybrid profession. Teachers will act as researchers, using their own research based practice to further develop solutions to the problem that is education. Then, they work on policy. Teachers who are researcher could go an write the policies that affect them and their students. But, what about the researchers and policy makers. They get to do the same thing. Each party works on all of it.
But, how could we do this? Teachers are underpaid, and many researchers and policy makers aren’t teachers. Exactly. We’ll deal with the pay later. Teachers become empowered when they control their own destiny. People are no different. Teachers need to be a part of making the decisions that affect them and their students. By participating in research they will undoubtedly become more reflective and analytical. The goal is to end the passivity and victimhood that often accompanies the profession. Policy makers and researchers would benefit from working in the field they are affecting. “Having worked in a field” and “working in a field” are different things. It’s easy to throw daggers if you know you’ll never be hit. And yes, I understand that there are experts. “Experts” and third parties can be helpful. It helps to have a critical eye, but the idea here is that we turn every eye critical, equally active, reflective, and productive. No longer would we have teachers, researchers, and policy makers (or reformers); rather, we would have Teacher-Researcher-Policy Makers, a brilliant hybrid of empowered and powerful educator-reformers. It would be true democracy. Now there would be many details to iron out, and much more chaff, but it’s a start. It’s a step toward democratic function.
0045: Fights, Recidivism, and Criminalizing Miseducation
#school #education #prison
A fight between junior high children should not result in a trip in a cop car and a criminal record.
I happened upon a rather brutal fight involving a group of boys yesterday. Strangely, there were no teachers to be seen, but that is another story. When I walked up the crowd scattered. Remaining was a pile of angry entangled boys who knew they would soon be whisked away in handcuffs. The boys were clearly angry and in no place to be reasonable. Some staff and the principal showed up to help with the ruckus, and take them to the office to wait for our friends in blue.
This has been the case in every school I’ve taught. Kids fight. Cops are called. Kids are arrested. I’ve seen police in the elementary schools before. True, fighting is not appropriate in a school setting. It’s not ideal anywhere. But, it’s not the problem. Fighting is a symptom of a problem that is usually never uncovered because our fighters disappear with the police or into suspension or alternative schools and the problems that are beneath the violence are never uncovered. These kids never learn to process their emotions effectively and become an early candidate for adult imprisonment. These kids act out and are punished over and over. They return angry and start the cycle again. For these kids the pipeline from school to prison is a reality.
What could be done differently? I don’t have an answer to this. I’d like one. I know it starts with building relationships with students and communities. It requires some early intervention. It requires not turning children into criminals. Kids need a chance to become adults. They need room to grow, and support while they’re growing. Calling a 7th grader a hardened and lost criminal is not the way. Schools have their hands full, but with the wrong things. We are about the wrong business with standardization and the like. Humans and humanity are our real business. I gather that’s ultimately a policy issue, but that’s no excuse. We have to care for what is before us. Send me some answers if you have any. firstname.lastname@example.org