With all the bad news in education, it is good to see the Obama administration taking steps to address zero tolerance http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html. They are finally attempting to put to rest the outrageous arrests and suspensions involving innocent or misguided children—looking at all of them as criminals. This will help improve public schools. This should stop the “school to prison” pipeline. I hope so anyway.
Now school officials and teachers should examine the real issues and concerns students bring to school. It’s time to help troubled kids. It’s time to examine why children become so angry they will shoot others. What is it about the school environment that could be contributing to this kind of anti-social behavior? Why are so many students reaching a breaking point?
Students who commit school shootings may have deeper psychological issues. But putting the shootings aside, there are a lot of depressed and unhappy young people out there. What makes them break may not be easily understood. But schools aren’t helping.
Last night Modern Family, a program that usually makes me laugh, displayed daughter Alex, an always over-the-top brilliant girl, overcome by the pressures of school. While she takes herself to therapy, her rather dysfunctional mom attends open house and is shocked to learn students have 6 hours of homework and enough testing to make anyone crack. When Mom acknowledges she understands the pressure, Alex breaks down in tears.
Think about it. Adults set the stage for children. They create the schools. They set up the schedules. Adults are in charge. Children, and I’m talking teens here too, follow the adult’s lead.
Students want acceptance. They want to do well. They don’t want to screw up. They want to be liked like all the rest of us. They want to be like us! They will sit still for hours on end to take tests to prove to us they know something.
Children don’t go to school intending to do badly on tests. They don’t intentionally start out hating school. We know they start out liking school. And yet one of the biggest problems we have in public schools now is student behavior. Why is that?
I’d say it is in part because the adults in the room have messed up big time. Our schools are now a breeding ground for stress and competition. Schools don’t teach cooperation…they teach rankings. The messages. The higher you rank the more successful you will be! The harder the class the more accelerated you are…the more accelerated your classes…the faster you will learn and the better college you will attend!
This, no matter how much you want to deceive children, is not caring for them.
And it starts now in PRESCHOOL! Already adults use the words global and economy when discussing 3 and 4 year olds. Even preschoolers get tested. Already the pressure begins.
The Obama administration’s disbanding of zero tolerance is a good first step. But it is not enough. Our public schools need much more change to become the inviting institutions they should be for students.
If you want to address troubling behavior in kids, you need to first care about them.
In the meantime parents, give your kids a hug like Claire gave Alex. Tell them you get that all is not well. Tell them you believe in them anyway.
It was the first time we saw Alex cry.