March 11, 2007

Bet he wouldn't teach a day in Philly schools

'Ya gotta love education professors.

Check out this quote from a Philly Inquirer article about ways to stop the tide of violence in the city's schools:

At West Philadelphia High, where teachers were critical of the handling of assaults and threats, teachers' union representative Pat O'Hara said he was glad "there will be some consequences attached."

Others, however, said the move would further criminalize youths, many of them troubled and hurting.

"We're turning our schools in a lot of ways into pathways to jail," said Howard Stevenson, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.

Adults, who have "emotional power" over youth, sometimes provoke a child who already is troubled, he said.

"There are things that lead up to those aggressions. Very rarely do you have a kid who has no concern for human life or dignity that would act out," he said.

Stevenson called for a "tribunal" of adults to evaluate assault cases before punishment is meted out.

Here's why Stevenson teaches at the cushy confines of Penn: He wouldn't last a day in a Philly public school preaching his theories about dealing with student discipline. The classroom would pedagogically disintergrate around him. I mean, come on -- check out the "emotional power" bit. This is classic educationist talk. Sure, a teacher shouldn't raise his voice and attempt to discipline a kid who is harrassing the living s*** out of a fellow student or making verbal threats of violence because ... it may "provoke" a kid who's already troubled! Of course, the fact that the individual teacher may not have any idea that the kid is emotionally troubled doesn't enter the equation. Or the fate of the rest of the class the teacher has to teach. It should be something like, "Oh, please Johnny ... you need to be aware that threatening to cut off your classmate's fingers with an Exacto blade is not an appropriate thing to say. Please apologize to him."

And who would this "tribunal" be composed of? It's a safe bet that an educationist like Stevenson would desire a "child advocate" in the group to "speak for the chronically disruptive pupil." You know, to inform everyone else assembled that Johnny has a "right" to an education in the "least restrictive environment" yada yada yada.

This reminds me of a classic educationist class I took my first year of grad school inappropriately titled "Discipline and Classroom Management." Our textbook was a farce, but the kicker was when we viewed a film distributed by some educationist outfit whereby they said discipline incidents should result in a "meeting of equals" between the [offending] student and teacher (with administrators and/or counselors also attending). You could audibly hear the guffawing groans of the teachers watching this tripe. "Meeting of equals"?? Well, hell -- if that's the case, I shouldn't even have to teach at times! I can just ask one of my "equal" students to take over! In a class assignment where we had to evaluate the various sorts of "discipline" we were "taught," one of our instructors called my views "visceral" because I said in so many words that most of what we were "taught" hadn't a chance in a real world classroom situation. (I got an "A," however, because I backed up my assertions with copious amounts of sources and footnotes, natch.)

Thankfully, in Philly, schools CEO Paul Vallas doesn't agree with Stevenson:

"We shouldn't make excuses for violent behavior," he said. "We're always trying to find a reason to justify antisocial behavior. We're growing up in a blameless society. No one takes responsibility for their actions."

Amen. However, the paper goes on to offer an example of how not every violent incident merits an automatic mandatory suspension and arrest:

Richard Mantell, principal of Frankford High School for 11 years, said each student's circumstances must be taken into account. On Thursday, two days after the district's new assault policy was announced, a ninth grader pushed an assistant principal - which, by policy, could have resulted in suspension and arrest.

According to Mantell, his assistant principal chose not to call police after she learned that the new student had been released from a psychiatric hospital five days earlier. The administrator called the girl's parents, who said she had been kidnapped and raped, Mantell said.

Such a [rare] situation surely is an exception, but as Mantell rightly points out, "She gets pushed into a large, comprehensive high school. Is anyone really surprised that these issues present themselves in our schools?"

Yep. The fact that a girl in that situation has to attend a traditional educational environment is just plain ridiculous and only serves to exacerbate existing problems ... and acts as a potential catalyst for further violence and disruptions.

Posted by Hube at March 11, 2007 11:01 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Do you find it surprising that a high-priced school like Penn even has an education major? I know everyone is not in it for the money, but to spend $200K on an education degree suggests you ain't too bright to begin with.

Posted by: AJ LYnch at March 11, 2007 11:36 AM

Education should be merely depts. or even just individual classes. They should not be entire colleges (within colleges).

Posted by: Hube at March 11, 2007 11:49 AM

Over two decades ago, my supervising teacher during student teaching (Bob Williams, a WWII bomber pilot with three decades of teaching experience) made a recommendation to me that has served me well in the years that I have taught since graduating from I;;inois State university.

"The first thing you need to do, Greg, is forget every class you took in DeGarmo Hall and listen to the teachers in your school and department who actually succeed in teaching their students year in and year out."

I thought he was kidding, and tried all the "best practices" stuff I learned int he College of Education -- and after about three weeks tried it his way. Things got much better after that.

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