Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Schools Create This Situation in The First Place

The bullying story is heart-wrenching and tragic. The blame part is where things get messy. While I certainly believe in personal responsibility and that the kids who tormented the girl were horrible, what absolutely no one is considering is the environment. The only other place where you see this kind of behavior take place is in prison and that is because in both situations you have a captive population who are powerless and bullied by warden/principal and correction officers/administrators-teachers (and to a large degree parents as well). The power dynamics that unfolds among the student population is due to their powerless nature and their need to create some kind of environment where they can have power. While I have no love for bullies, the school created the monsters it now seeks to punish and thereby deny culpability. While people are also upset with people at the school for turning a blind eye, they miss the point since schools create this situation in the first place.

A 'watershed' case in school bullying?
By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. — At first, it seemed like a morality play: school officials stand by as an innocent high school freshman, new in town, is harassed into suicide by a pack of older teens.
A week after criminal charges were filed, the case of Phoebe Prince seems more cloudy and complicated, much like the insidious national problem that may have helped kill her: school bullying.

Read the entire article

Schools Create a Culture Where Bullies Can Thrive

I applaud this article even though it does not address the root cause of bully behavior. The problem is that school is essentially a prison-like environment where students have no power. We see this kind of power dynamic in very similar manifestations in prison as well. Schools, by their nature, create this culture that breeds this kind of behavior. The criticism here rightly sees the response by the community as yet another power grab to control students to even more disturbing degrees.

Should we be criminalizing bullies?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My heart aches for the parents of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old Massachusetts high school student who committed suicide in January after being relentlessly bullied at school and online.

My heart aches for her younger sister, who found Phoebe hanging in the stairwell of the family's home. A scarf the sister had bought her as a Christmas gift was knotted around Phoebe's neck.

My heart aches for Phoebe, who arrived from Ireland last fall only to endure months of abuse from classmates at South Hadley High School, the apparent result of Phoebe's brief fling with a popular football player.

My heart aches, but I also question the wisdom of filing criminal charges against nine of Phoebe's former classmates, as happened last week. Bullying should be taken seriously -- by teachers, administrators, parents and, yes, fellow students. I'm doubtful, though, that criminal prosecution is the best way to punish or prevent it.

Read the entire article

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funny and true

Increasing Number Of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home.

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Bullied to Death

The attention “bullying” is getting due to the recent suicide of Phoebe Prince has created a long overdue discussion on the issue, but one that completely misses its mark. No one wants to know the real root causes because the solution isn’t one anyone is prepared to respond to. The behavior witnessed occurs in arenas where people are powerless and have to carve out some situation where they can exert some degree of control. The most dramatic displays of that kind of abusive behavior are in prison followed by schools. These oppressive environments are wholly responsible for creating breeding grounds for aggressive behavior. The article below is very well written and presents some heartbreaking cases, but is endemic of the misguided response. In this instance the proposal, unsurprisingly, is therapy. The underlying theory is that schools will function the way we desire when every student has been psychologically conditioned to accept the nature of their incarceration. Obviously, the biggest bullies in school are the administrators and teachers who exert virtual absolute power over students and use that power capriciously.

Bullied to Death

As a group of teens in Massachusetts face landmark charges for harassing 15-year-old Phoebe Prince so brutally she committed suicide, Lucinda Franks speaks to teen bullies and a pioneering teacher about why kids torment peers.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Budget, Quality, Population Issues Lead Cities to Close Schools: Is Yours Next?

Kansas City, Mo., to Cut Nearly Half of Its Public Schools, Officials Cite Drop in Enrollment, Funding

The statement below is one of the dumbest things I have read in a while. Leave it to an economist to treat people like objects and neglect psychological factors associated with being an outsider in a foreign neighborhood and the inevitable dramatic increase in class size, both of which profoundly diminish the quality of education for all concerned.

Edward L. Glaeser, an economist at Harvard University, wrote in the New York Times Tuesday. "If a district closes particularly poorly performing schools, children may end up getting a better education as a result, albeit at the cost of a longer bus trip."
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Monday, March 22, 2010

History Revised, Teachers Sacked: The Book Wars in Texas and Beyond

History Revised, Teachers Sacked: The Book Wars in Texas and Beyond

“All in all, it has been a turbulent few weeks for public education in America.”

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Jeffersonville middle school student suspended for touching pill

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these stories. While I think it is an inappropriate use of energy to try and reform public schools rather than developing more effective socially conscious means of educating, there are ways to combat zero tolerance. If petitioning the school board to end this practice does not work (which it typically will not), parents and students should petition the school board such that the zero tolerance policies cover everyone who works at the school or is on school property. Presented in a reasonable and persuasive way that appeals to the need to keep children safe, this could potentially be adopted. Once administrators and teachers are subjected to the same capricious punishments as students, zero tolerance would inevitably be repealed in that district.

Jefferson middle school student suspended for touching pill

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - The parents of a Kentuckiana seventh grade student say their young daughter was suspended from school for doing exactly what she's been taught to do for years - to just say no to drugs.
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Texas education board vote reflects far-right influences

The problem with the analysis of the Texas School Board decision is that it neglects the fact that all text books are politicized in some profound manner. Most notably, text books are typically devoid of statements which might be construed as being critical of the U.S. government. The situation in Texas actually does a service by bringing to light the problematic nature of text books and the impossibility of ever generating a consensus. Reading materials in public schools will always be profoundly lacking. Hopefully, this incident will bring that reality to light.

Texas ed board vote reflects far-right influences

AUSTIN, Texas —
A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

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Obama Promise: Brighter Education futures for Kids

The new principles introduced by the Obama administration with regards to renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act can be summed up essentially as harm reduction. The plans to ameliorate NCLB and provide additional funding for schools demonstrate an earnest desire to improve schools, but also reveal an utter lack of imagination through the continued support of an institution that does much more harm than good.

A number of fallacious beliefs are at the heart of education reform movements. One in particular, which enabled the enactment of NCLB and which persists today, is that teacher performance can be objectively determined through testing. Even after one ignores the basic fact that quality teaching is dependent on there being a conducive environment which schools by design can never provide; the process of trying to gauge accountability is one of many recipes for failure. Among the problems with this approach is that curriculum becomes solely about the test and teachers who may have been engaging are effectively undermined. Obama seeks to minimize this, but even in his plan, testing remains the arbiter of determining a teacher’s competence. An easier and more accurate way to find out who the poor teachers are would be to ask a student. You would only need to ask one because every single student in any given school can tell you exactly who the ineffectual teachers are. Of course that will never happen because the group best able to determine aptitude, and who are most affected by reforms – students – play no part in any discussion about education. They remain solely as subjects of mercurial social experiments.

Obama did provide an ideal, albeit a vague one, that "all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.” Exactly what it means to be prepared is absent from his speech. If being prepared for college means having the capacity to think critically and produce original work in a coherent manner, public schools will not provide such skills. Schools are institutions where scores of children are herded together such that they must be governed by social efficiency. Real creativity must be squelched when it emerges because schools would not be able to function if they had to treat each child as an individual whose intellectual interests had to be respected.

Career preparation is possible if one is profoundly cynical. Since virtually all public schools are removed from society and keep students confined in classrooms, jobs that students are prepared for would be restricted to work that takes place indoors, isolated from communities, and which involve doing tedious boring tasks. Few practical skills are learned in school. Information is presented in an abstract manner and students are taught dependency. This is inherent to the structure of all public schools. Where schools do succeed in preparation is teaching children to become good prisoners.

The sad fact is that public schools can never provide the functions Obama calls for because it violates their essence. Trying to make schools into places where children can become freethinking self-actualized individuals is like trying to turn lead into gold.

Alchemy persisted for over 6,000 years while public schooling has only been around for 150 years. Until a new paradigm is sought, schools will continue to fail. Let’s hope we learn the futility of reforms in shorter time.

Obama Promise: Brighter Education futures for Kids

ATLANTA — President Barack Obama is promising parents and their kids that with his administration's help they will have better teachers in improved schools so U.S. students can make up for academic ground lost against youngsters in other countries.
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