Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Soft Bigotry of School Discipline Reform

This is an amazing piece, at the Fordham Institute:

I am here today because I am very worried about the direction some of our urban and suburban schools are taking.

Over the past four to five years, there have been strong expectations to discipline students differently depending on their race. We were told that too many students of color were being suspended and this looked bad, especially in the case of African American boys. This was definitely the case in Minneapolis.

However well-intended, this policy actually disrespects a whole class of students by lowering the expectations for their behavior, their work ethic, and inevitably their academic progress. When students walk though my classroom door, I have high expectations for them—no matter what they look like.

Another great area of concern is that students are now increasingly emboldened to get together and collaborate to “get teachers in trouble.” Those teachers can lose their jobs and their entire careers. The teachers who tend to be targets are those who have a more traditional way of teaching. By this I mean holding all students to high expectations—such as punctuality, respectful behavior, teamwork, good work ethic, following school rules, politeness, meeting deadlines—and providing consequences for not reaching those high standards.

This has led, in my opinion, to a generation of teachers who are “walking on eggshells,” trying very hard to not say anything or do anything that might remotely get them reported. I believe that many teachers now turn a blind eye to school policies not popular with students: they inflate grades, ignore dress codes violations, don’t give deadlines for handing work in, and put up with bad behavior that would previously had prompted disciplinary action. It is a culmination of these “little expectations” that has led to an erosion of the overall school climate of academic rigor, as well as an erosion of student and staff safety. In addition, if there’s a student exhibiting significantly bad behavior, many teachers feel helpless because they know that a behavior referral will be fruitless; assistant principals will return that student to the same classroom that day or the next day. Order in the classroom deteriorates, and learning suffers.

When you have given twenty-five years to teaching city kids, it hurts to be called a racist, as I have been many times. It’s upsetting to be verbally abused on a daily or even hourly basis, and in some cases even physically abused.

What other profession has to tolerate this?

This is a key reason why we are losing great teachers.

I like to think I ran a pretty tight ship. I like to think that we got a lot of learning done in fifty minutes. I would teach up to two hundred students a day. I was the head varsity coach of two sports in my school. I was in the hallways every day, passing time, keeping order and greeting students. But under the current conditions, I cannot and will not teach any longer in Minneapolis.

African American students will never reach their full potential when they are getting conflicting messages from radical activists who tell them they are, and will be, victims of discrimination, who promote the ideology of white privilege (code for “you have no chance”), and who get them all riled up and angry in school so that they’re protesting at every opportunity. It is tough to learn when you are angry.

These students need to hear the same strong, uplifting, and positive message from teachers, parents, counselors, principals, and district administrators that they can achieve success with hard work, dedication, and determination...
He's right. This is the main problem with our schools. I deal with these things all the time. I'm lucky I'm not white. Seriously. I hate to do it, but I can turn the race card around on anyone who makes any issue about race. It's too easy for progressives to scream "racism." But I'll throw it back in their faces. Ideology has taken over public education. I'm fighting a tough battle, and sometimes I find myself going too easy on my students, because I get tired of playing campus cop all the time, 24/7. But unless you keep up a unified front, things happen, and it takes a cascade of disruptive behavior to remind you you've got to maintain high standards. You have no idea sometimes. (I'd like to retire, in fact, but it's just not happening any time soon, and it's for precisely these reasons).

More at the link.