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Wednesday 15 January 2003

These Kids Today Redux

Yesterday, I wrote with skepticism about an epidemic of “violence” in elementary schools. My general skepticism about the problem is undimmed, but an article in City Journal shows another facet of the problem. The author, Joshua Kaplowitz, tells of his experiences as a Teach For America teacher at an elementary school in Washington, D.C.

To start with, from all that I could see, [the principal] seemed mostly to stay in her office, instead of mingling with students and observing classes, most of which were up at least one flight of stairs, perhaps a disincentive for so heavy a woman. Furthermore, I saw from the first month that she generally gave delinquents no more than a stern talking-to, followed by a pat on the back, rather than suspensions, detentions, or any other meaningful punishment. The threat of sending a student to the office was thus rendered toothless.

Worse, Ms. Savoy [the principal] effectively undermined my classroom-management efforts. She forbade me from sending students to other teachers—the one tactic that had any noticeable effect. Exiling my four worst students had produced a vast improvement in the conduct of the remainder of my class. But Ms. Savoy was adamant, insisting that the school district required me to teach all my children, all the time, in the “least restrictive” environment. This was just the first instance of Ms. Savoy blocking me with a litany of D.C. Public Schools regulations, as she regularly frustrated my colleagues on disciplinary issues.

It seems like there might be absurdly high expectations for middle-class kids, and absurdly low ones for lower-class kids. Most of the educational policies you hear about in the suburbs involve building the most restrictive environment possible.

Posted by tino at 18:54 15.01.03
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