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Discipline and the sanctity of the learning environment

The discipline question is one of the most difficult ones facing this campaign, and even as we compose the strategic platform plank we’re sobered by the tactical realities that must be faced.

Some schools are dangerous places. A lot more are significantly less effective than they should be because of disruptive students and the fact that we seem not to have the mechanisms to deal with them. A couple problem students can have a dramatic impact on the function of the classroom and the resulting learning by other students. This campaign does not believe anyone has a right to infringe upon the learning atmosphere.

Obviously, the details on this issue are sticky. We probably don’t want to return to the sorts of classes my generation endured, where teachers not only had unquestioned authority to administer corporal punishment (sometimes for “fun”), but it’s just about impossible to ignore the correlation between the elimination of corporal punishment and the rise of discipline problems. Even if we were to adopt corporal punishment measures, it’s hard to envision how they could even be implemented in environments where gangs are overtly present.

We must and we will develop “big carrot/big stick” measures to assure the sanctity of the teaching environment. Students who cannot be persuaded to learn will be removed from the environment and alternative programs for their habilitation will be developed and teachers will be armed with the tools they need to make sure their classrooms and hallways are safe, pro-learning spaces.

Schools are not warehouses and they’re not detention centers for juvenile delinquents. Teachers aren’t prison guards and when we ask them to be every student in the school suffers – with consequences that endure for the rest of their lives.

The unfortunate truth is that not all can be saved, and the only rational policy response to this fact is to assure that those who cannot and will not respect the sanctity of the educational environment will be excluded.

Comments»

1. Discipline plank posted « Dr. Slammy in 2008 - April 3, 2007

[…] the discipline plank here and let me know what you […]

2. angliss - April 3, 2007

When you get tactical on this one, I’ve got a conundrum for you to figure out. I realize that may be a concern that is better handled in a more general “foster a conducive, save environment for all students to learn” plank, but I figured I’d bring it up here since we’re talking discipline.

When I was in high school, a girl I knew got pregnant and, with the knowledge and approval of her parents, had an abortion. She swore one friend to secrecy and told her friend, who then promptly told the entire school. By the time I heard about it, the girl who had the abortion had been driven from the school by the combined abuse of all her (former) friends and classmates.

There may be individuals who are too far gone to save, but how will we handle it when its the rest of the student body that needs disciplining instead of the individual?

3. drslammy - April 3, 2007

We’ll never be able to solve these kinds of things, I don’t imagine. At least not in the short run. I guess I like to think that whole point of fixing our ed system is so that in a generation or two, probably after I’m dead, we have evolved into the kind of society where this sort of thing just doesn’t happen as often because people are generally smarter and more compassionate.

Call me a dreamer.

4. angliss - April 5, 2007

Something that the comments on the Janis Adams vs. LAUSD post pointed out something that needs to be addressed in discipline too. The extralegality of public schools isn’t just between student-to-student and student-to-teacher/administrator, but also between teachers and administrators.

In the case of Ms. Adams, she claimed that the administration enabled a hostile work environment. While her case is certainly terrible and extreme, from my discussions with current and former public school teachers, it is far from unique. Nearly every public school teacher I know has experienced or witnessed a situation that, had it happened in a business environment, would have had the administrator fired on the spot or would have opened the business to liability regarding discrimination and/or creation of a hostile work environment. The extralegality of public schools toward kids sometimes seems to extend to the administrator-teacher (manager-worker) relationship too. That needs to change as badly as it does for the student-teacher/administrator and student-student relationships.


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