Thursday, May 12, 2011

I don't see the problem here

An art teacher in Florida has been arrested and suspended for giving a fat lip to a student who was giving her lip.

I've had teachers who squirted me with water for not paying attention, and more than one beaned me with erasers or pieces of chalk for talking in class.  Once, in the first grade, I was sent to the principles office for a paddling because I took a swing at one of my cousins during recess.  He gave me a stern talking to about fighting and exactly one swat with the Board of Education, and then called my mother.  The chain of information in our little prairie town was in high gear, because I caught it on the way home from my grandmother, two adult cousins, and an aunt before I even made it home for a real punishment.  Needless to say, I wasn't a discipline problem, even when I had the normal excuses from home for being a hellion at school.

Irish Woman loves to regale friends about the day five nuns laid a beating on her cousin/brother after he decided he didn't like the taste of the Eucharist and put it in his pocket after receiving it at morning Communion.  There's a reason they were called Sisters of Mercy, because they let him live.

Now, I'm not advocating brutal beatings for minor infractions in our nations public schools.  There is a point where physical punishment becomes abuse.  But not all physical punishment should be actionable.  If a student disrespects a teacher, that teacher ought to be able to knock some sense into the little miscreant.

Fast forward to Junior Bear's junior year of high school.  During the parent's night, his very small, very energetic Spanish teacher mentioned that his size was a little intimidating when she first met him. I half jokingly told her that if he gave her a hard time, I had no problem with her giving him a dope slap or two to straighten him out.  She blanched, and immediately gave me the correct legal language to tell me that she would never consider hitting a student.

Somewhere between the 1970's and the 2000's, our teachers lost the right and responsibility to enforce discipline in their classrooms using whatever tactics fit the situation.

Maybe that's one of the things that is wrong with our schools.  The students have no fear of reprisal for acting up.  The worst thing that can happen to a student today is to be sent to sit in a room during an in-school suspension.  Wow, what a harsh way to treat someone.  Make them sit in a comfortable room and read for a day or two.  Even that is rare.  Most of the time, they send the kid home for a few days of out-of-school suspension.  Since most families have two working parents, that means that a kid with a discipline problem gets to spend all day alone, doing whatever he or she feels is necessary to entertain themselves.

If students aren't going to respect their teachers, they should fear the consequences of disrespect.  A dope slap, a piece of chalk thumping you in the chest, or a trip to the principals office for remedial action might go a long way towards changing our schools from warehouses to educational institutions again.

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