Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Out-Of-Control Kids




I know it's wrong of me, but when I read the newspaper headline, Out-Of-Control Kids Driving Wichita Teachers Away, Union Says, I felt a little like cheering. Now don't get me wrong, I'm against anyone hitting, biting, or engaging in property damage, which are among the things this article alleges. I am fully supportive of teacher's unions that fight for both educators and students. And I have nothing but respect for public school teachers, whose already difficult jobs have been made even more difficult over the past couple decades as anti-child policies like No Child Left Behind (Bush), Race to the Top (Obama), and Common Core (Gates), are turning our schools into high-pressure, drill-and-kill, test-taking coal mines. Yet still, when I read that headline I could only think, "Damn straight, the kids are fighting back."

I mean, public schools have never exactly been a bastions of freedom, and kids, like all humans, love freedom. Children must attend whether they want to or not. In many cases they are told what to wear and how to cut their hair. Once there, they are told where to sit, to shut up unless called upon, and made to move from place to place according to a scheduled managed by bells. They are told what they are to learn, how they are to learn it, and by when. They have to ask permission to go to the toilet, are told when and where they may eat, what words they may or may not use, and are permitted precious little time outdoors, so little that when they do open the doors even those 15 minutes of running around feels like actual freedom. And I'm just describing my own years attending public schools during the 60's and 70's, what many call the "golden age of childhood."

It's shocking, frankly, that we didn't rebel more than we did: it's a testament to the capacity of children to thrive under any circumstances. But now consider that the pressure has been slowly increased over the past couple decades: high-stakes standardized testing and the millions of hours of test prep; the narrowing of the curriculum to focus almost exclusively on math and literacy at the expense of life-savers like the arts, wood shop, physical education, home economics; the slashing of budgets leaving schools poorly maintained and and supplied; and a drive toward longer school days and school years. 

I assure you that I, a generally well-mannered kid who was good at school, would have rebelled a long time ago.

It's impossible to really know what is going on in Wichita's schools from this article and I've not done any further digging. The administration seems to be claiming that the union is exaggerating and maybe they are. The union is demanding that the school district "do" something. The district admits that something needs to be done. The dark implication, I fear, is that they are coalescing around the idea of bringing the hammer down with more uniformed security in the school hallways, increasing the severity of punishments, and to generally give 'em a healthy dose of that infamous "tough love." In other words, make those schools even less free: even more like prisons. 

I don't know what, if anything, will be done, but I'm sadly confident that the "solution" will fall mostly on the backs of the kids because no one will think to consider that the children's behavior is a natural and predictable response to the cage in which they are forced to spend their days



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1 comment:

Kelly said...

"but I'm sadly confident that the "solution" will fall mostly on the backs of the kids because no one will think to consider that the children's behavior is a natural and predictable response to the cage in which they are forced to spend their days." This is the truth about so many situations concerning children.

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