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Bringing back the “Board of Education?”

May 8, 2010

I saw a piece this morning on CNN in which features an initiative by a Dallas Independent School District teacher to reinstitute that district’s abandoned policy to allow corporal punishment in schools.

I found this video interesting on many levels. First, the teacher himself comments on camera citing the statistics I’ve consistently used to describe the amount of time lost to discipline.  As he puts it, “70% teaching, 30% on discipline.”  Good to have another confirmation that we are losing 60 instructional days, on average, of our school year to classroom management and discipline.

But there were other things in the piece that showed me again that we are playing “whack a mole” with the issue.  In the video, a point is made that in the five years since the district abolished spanking, suspensions have increased.  So, does the logic say “if we go back to spanking, suspensions will automatically go down because we have another way to deal with disruptive students?”

Why do we go from “very little” discpline to physical discipline? Is there no intermediate step?

And, what about this unintended consequence? We are fighting, literally, a war against school-based violence.  What message does it send to kids if we bring back a policy of spanking?  “Uh, kids, no one is allowed to hit each other…unless, we the teachers are the ones doing the hitting?” Whether you agree with the recent study or not about the tie between kids being paddled and increases in bullying behavior, you have to wonder if this teacher or the Dallas ISD is even taking that into account?

What about the potential for abuse?  Not just actual abuse of the children but abuse of the policy?  If teachers and school districts are worried about the potential for lawsuits from “ordinary” disciplinary actions, how much more potential is there when you “approve” physical discipline? If, as this Dallas teacher says, the improved discipline will come, not necessarily from actually paddling the kids, but merely from the threat of having it as a possibility, what does that say about our education system as a whole? Heck, if merely threatening the kids is a useful tool, why not allow teachers to just have guns in their desks?  They don’t actually have to shoot any misbehaving kids — merely wave it around in the air when they feel the need to restore order!  (obviously, I’m NOT serious here…just making a point).

Has anyone considered cost to implement? Yes, we’ll need at least one “tool” in every school; we’ll need to spend money drafting, reviewing, approving policies, and the attorneys will need to get involved to make sure everything is legal and tidy.  What about training?  We can’t do something this involved without educating our teachers, administrators and staff on how, when, and why to properly wield this new-found discpline policy. And, parents must be informed, so there’s paper, ink, content…and you’ll have to let the kids know…more education time, revisions to student discipline policies, etc.

There is a COST involved, and you have to ask: what “return” do we get on this investment? Will it truly decrease discipline, increase productive classroom time, improve test scores?  How about absenteeism? Will kids be more or less likely to want to come to school if there’s a possibility they may get whacked that day?  How many parents will continue to keep their kids at Dallas ISD if they know their kids may be spanked? Many might be supportive of the idea, but I’m sure there will be many who aren’t.

I think we have a tendency to go overboard in looking for “solutions” to problems.  Those of you who have been readers of this blog for any time know that my standard question is “What problem are we trying to solve?” and then I tend to look at it from all angles.

There are solutions to the problem of poor discipline in schools, but we really need to THINK about what we are doing before we just randomly decide, “hey, this’ll fix it.”  We’ve had 40 years of bandaid fixes in schools, yet we’ve made not significant progress on any front. That alone should tell us that different approaches are necessary.  I don’t think spanking is going to be the answer.

One Comment leave one →
  1. rick permalink
    May 23, 2010 7:31 pm

    As far as I am concerned, Texas is Texas. Creation science, secede from the Union, teen chastity, the death penalty. God, guns, and oil, and not necessarily in that order.
    What critics of spanking do not realize is that proponents of corporal punishment see the issue as part of an overall strategy to undermine the modern world. To a Baptist preacher in Dallas who dutifully administers the belt to his errant sons’ backsides, anti- spanking is just of bunch of Harvard psychobabble and palaver. To him, it is all of a piece: evolution, Dr. Spock,
    gay marriage, adult movies, gambling on TV, booze everywhere, stores open on Sunday,
    President Obama. Recently, fundamentalists on the Texas school board have once again shocked the nation by requiring textbooks to have conservative values and ideas. Phyllis Sclafley on a par with MLK? As arah Palin says- you betcha. Bring back the Ten Commandments and the paddle to the classroom, Bubba.

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