I'm not really an alarmist, just a pragmatic observer of what occurs -- such as the recurring incidents of student violence in several Buffalo high schools. Since I started substitute teaching about 15 years ago, I've become concerned about the future of our society because the future is our children and their education -- an education that includes the self-discipline required in life and what it takes to achieve it.
I used to take any class assignment until I noticed that too many kids in grades six through eight were disrespectful and "know it all" types. Not a whole lot, but maybe one or two out of 10. After a year, I took only jobs at area high schools. That was after a 12-year-old seventh-grader, 12 inches and 100 pounds shy of me, threatened to punch me in the nose.
Yes, I managed not to plant him in the front lawn, but I figured the older high school kids were more mature and more open to learning. Well, yes and no. Those one or two out of 10 were still there, but they were smarter now. Not smarter subject-wise, but smarter in knowing what they could get away with and how far they could push the envelope. And we're to blame for letting them do it.
In a class of 25, one to three disruptive kids can waste 10 minutes (25 percent) of precious class time with their behavior. The teacher, who shouldn't have to be a cop, is kept from teaching while trying to restore order. The other students, there to learn, suffer the loss.
The success of a school system can be measured accurately not by how much money it can throw at a problem but by how it can create and control the factor, "class order." Its maintenance is the key to more efficient teaching and a sound education. When disorderly student behavior is eliminated, the 90 percent of the students who want to learn and progress (I call them eagles, that soar!) have the learning environment good teachers can build on.
The students who corrupt the system (I call them turkeys, that scratch!) create ripple effects damaging class order and need to be dealt with separately as students in need of progressive disciplinary action in a fair, firm and consistent manner.
So who's to blame for the turkeys? Who's to praise for the eagles? The parents.
Schools are simply a tool parents created to more efficiently and thoroughly teach their children. As the world became more complicated, parents delegated teaching responsibility to schools, along with parental authority in setting discipline parameters the kids recognized and adhered to.
What resulted was dedicated teachers working in a structured, inclusive, disciplined environment that was in fact an extension of parental control. Woe to the student who disrupted class order. Any penalty meted out by the teacher or principal paled in comparison with what the parent inflicted when informed of the child's misbehavior.
Does anyone see a connection between deteriorating family structure, missing parental guidance, the disappearance of family self-discipline and values and the continuing rise of class disorder by that 10 percent of students?
The parents of that 90 percent of school kids are doing a pretty good job. It's the parents of that 10 percent who have to understand their child's future lies with both (preferably) of them cooperating with the teacher and helping the kids understand the reasons they have to contribute to "class order."