Bruce Deitrick Price
Senior citizens will tell you, when they were in school, classes were orderly, students well-behaved. That was the norm. Nobody thought much about it; but nobody accepted anything less.
Then in a fascinating duet: decorum disappeared at the same pace that intellectual content collapsed.
The Education Establishment, pursuing its collectivist vision, saw that each decline was a catalyst for the other. Subvert behavior, you subvert learning. This was a winning combo.
The surprising thing for many people would be to find out how low the schools have sunk. I'm used to bad news in education but last week I saw an answer on Quora that shocked me.
A woman recalled: “We had a teacher named Ms. Moran. See, moran sounds a lot like moron … so, being the little sh-ts that we were, we took it and ran with it…. From the first day, we teased her about her name and were, in general, a horribly misbehaved class.… It was impossible to keep the class under control. Ms. Moran would scream at us forever to quiet down and, after five minutes of silence, the class would erupt again – standing on desks, throwing things across the room, making a complete mess."
Here we reach the pièce de résistance. This woman is talking about first grade. These kids are seven years old. The whole class is in rebellion against societal norms; and the society lets it happen. Standing on desks? Throwing things across the room? These kids are little monsters. They're bullies and what is the one thing that all Progressive educators claim to hate? Bullies. How come they create millions of them?
Arguably, this is a scheme on the part of the far-left professors. They prefer leveling and mediocrity across the board. Chaos in the classroom helps their plots. They don't mind ruining your kids, turning them into the opposite of gentlemen and scholars, if this will help the ideological goals.
If we want to have better schools and serious reform, we have to give shrewd attention to the value of manners and politeness in the classroom.
Let this happen from the first day. Every principal should explain to the student body that school is serious business. Certain things will be expected of students, even as other things are expected from teachers and parents. Let's work together to make this a great school we can be proud of.
Then in the classroom—and this is most important— on the first day the students might line up as soldiers do, or as the Japanese do on so many occasions. It is good to bring in a certain ceremonial air, as fighters bow to each other in the martial arts. Teachers should talk about how much fun school can be, especially if everyone is polite and helpful.
As for punishment, there should be a carefully calibrated sequence from the tiniest reprimand to that unpleasant day when the police are called in. There should be many steps in this sequence so no one can claim to be surprised
What we've lost is the communal will to agree that some manners are better than no manners. Polite children are better than rude children. (Disorderly children are one of the main reasons so many teachers burn out early.)
The answer is obvious. Think of the many places where, by common agreement, we have special rules. There are appropriate ways to act in a restaurant. Libraries expect you to be quiet and respectful. Churches and other places where you go to worship want a serene atmosphere that encourages communion and reflection. Every movie theater runs announcements requesting silence and telling people to turn off their cell phones. Isn't all this well-known and obvious? But our Education Establishment likes to pretend that schools are some weird world where nobody can quite figure out how everybody should act. I believe this is just a lie.
I blame the education officials because they participate in the undermining of their own schools. Bad tendencies escalate, predictably enough. If kids stand on a desk, these officials probably frown in a puzzled way: Gee, how do we handle this? What could possibly be the right answer?
My sense is that education professors could find (i.e., concoct) a deep reason for covering classroom floors with horse manure. Oh, what an excellent catalyst for kids! They'll learn more quickly! Seriously, professors can usually find a sophistical pretext for excusing disorder in the classroom. They, of course, are never to blame for anything.
But isn't safety and security the primal requirement? Probably most children learn more when they think of the school as a fun place where they want to be.
The problem we are having over the decades is that the Education Establishment tends to undermine any solutions that sensible parents, teachers, and community leaders come up with. We see too many times when public address systems disrupt the classroom, where students wander in and out, where unruly students are mainstreamed in classes where they don't belong. Students throw things, they are rude and disorderly, they attack or hurt teachers. Tolerating undesirable behavior is how you end up with children standing on desks.
The pattern is obvious. The experts nominally in charge are the enablers of decline. Even as they talk about Standards with a capital S, they aid and abet the lowering of standards. This is actually the primal sin, and suggests their guilt in all subsequent outcomes, especially less literacy, less numeracy, less knowledge in general.
It's exciting to think about what our schools might accomplish if they could attend to their business, i.e., teaching. Put aside social engineering, political correctness, and using schools to solve larger sociological problems. Educating children is quite a feat. Take care of that.
—-Bruce Deitrick Price’s new novel is Art and Beauty. Crime fiction. Manhattan. When art galleries and model agencies were the most glamorous businesses on the planet. (Read Chapter 1 here.)© Bruce Deitrick Price
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