Sunday, August 27, 2006

Public School Teachers

Dennis from From the Trenches of Public Ed. has come up with a solution to solve the American education system. He wants to kick out the "apathetic" from the nations classrooms. Of course we all know course we know which sort of students he means when he says that. No wonder there is an achievement gap with teachers like this. Pathetic.

Note: Read his reply to KDeRosa in the comments for the details.

5 comments:

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, I did a number of posts on this topic in June. If you check my archives, my first post that month was called "Dialogue on Disruptive Students," and it includes a lot of back and forth on this subject. I am copy-pasting another post I did on this subject here, and I hope you'll have the patience to read it. You might disagree with it, but I'll be surprised if you think it's totally unreasonable. Here it is:

How can anyone argue against education being a right? I know how bad it sounds. It’s like arguing against Mom and apple pie. The idea of education being the right of every child sounds so good, but there’s one problem. It doesn’t work very well. It’s bad for schools, it’s bad for teachers, it’s bad for students who get stuck in classes with disruptive and apathetic students who ruin their education, and it’s even bad for most of the disruptive and apathetic students.

The way education is now treated as a right began with court rulings in the 1960s. First, the Supreme Court said that students don’t leave their rights at the schoolhouse door. Later, they declared education to be a student’s property right that can’t be taken away without due process of law. Then, they ruled that students could sue school officials who knew or should have known that they were denying students their due process rights. Congress and state legislatures couldn’t wait to jump on the students’ rights bandwagon, so they have passed legislation reinforcing this concept.

Philip K. Howard, in his book THE DEATH OF COMMON SENSE, argues that nothing has done more harm to public education than declaring education to be the student’s right. I agree. This has made it impossible for schools to deal effectively with most disruptive and apathetic students. It has led to horror stories like those described by Elizabeth in her post, THE DISASTER WE CALL PUBLIC EDUCATION. If a student brings a weapon to school, then that student might get expelled. But for anything else, it is either impossible or prohibitively expensive to do so.

Let me make myself clear. I have no problem with students having the right to enroll in our school, and I have no problem with them having the right to be treated fairly while they are here. But they should not have the right to just be here. That should be contingent on whether or not they are willing to make a reasonable effort to succeed, and whether or not they are willing to follow reasonable rules. If some kids are determined not to do those things, there is nothing good that can happen from their presence in school, and it should not cost thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees and court costs to get rid of them.

The rights of disruptive and apathetic students to remain in school has effectively taken away the right to an education for millions of students who actually wanted one since the Supreme Court made their rulings. But as I said earlier, this does no good for the disruptive and apathetic kids who are supposedly being protected, either.

Most students behave, in part, because they don’t want to get in trouble. They don’t want teachers to get angry with them, they don’t want to serve detention, and they definitely don’t want to be suspended. Disruptive kids aren’t deterred by any of these things, but many of them do want to remain in school. Most students want to earn good grades, and they want to avoid bad ones. Obviously, apathetic kids aren’t terribly motivated by grades, but again, many of them do want to remain in school.

I am convinced that many disruptive kids would improve their behavior, and many apathetic kids would actually start to make an effort if they thought there was a real possibility that they could get kicked out if they didn’t. Wouldn’t this be the best possible thing we could do for these kids? And if they are totally unwilling to change, what good does it do them to be in school?
I am all for offering incentives to troubled students to do well, and sometimes those incentives work. I am all for those few teachers who are so full of love and empathy that they can reach kids that nobody else can. Nevertheless, I think these "carrots" would be effective a lot more often if we also had a stick. As it is now, when it comes to dealing with disruptive and apathetic students, public education doesn’t have a stick.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

By the way, you have me baffled. Which "sort of students" do I mean?

rory said...

Dennis, I live in the south and race and racism is definately an issue. Any policy that allowed teachers to get rid of students they deemed disruptive or apathetic would disproportinately affect minority students. Though I conceed by high school it might be to late to save some students, I believe that the system should do everything it can to prevent kicking out anyone that had the slightest hope of being "saved."

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, there are a lot of teachers who agree with me about the disruptive students, but agree with you when it comes to the apathetic ones. I want to emphasize my belief that if we had the authority to remove kids, we wouldn't have to use it very often. I've seen so many kids come to class without assignments done, and they tell themselves they will start doing them tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Then they find themselves so deep in the hole, that there is no way they can pass the quarter, so they tell themselves they will start trying next quarter. This goes on all year, and they end up failing the entire year. I just don't feel like we're doing those kids a service by tolerating that.

You have a very legitimate concern about African-American students. And you are also right when you say that we should do everything we can to save kids who are headed in the wrong direction. But there comes a time to say, "Enough!" I want to make it clear that when I talk about disruptive students, I am not talking about kids who talk out of turn once in awhile. I'm talking about kids who come to class determined not to behave unless you have your eye on them one-hundred percent of the time, and even then they will do things to outright defy you. I haven't had a truly disruptive kid for the last two years, but it's hard to describe just what a nightmare it has been when I've had them in my classes, and how signficantly they cut the learning of the other kids. You seem to be a person who cares very much about your kids' education, and my guess is that is reflected by their attitudes. If I have your kids in my classroom, I don't want them to be cheated by one or two kids who couldn't care less about learning anything.

You seem to be very unhappy with some of the teachers at your kids' school. I hope you'll let them know that, but I hope you'll also listen to what they have to say. And if you're not satisfied, I hope you'll stay on their case. I can be as critical of parents as anyone, but I know that I'll listen to them if they'll listen to me. Their opinion of me and what I'm doing definitely matters to me. People like you really can make a difference.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Rory, there are a number of teachers who agree with me about disruptive students, but agree with you about the apathetic ones. I want to emphasize my belief that if we had the authority to remove kids from our classes, we wouldn't have to use it very often. I see too many kids who come to class without having done their assignments, but they tell themselves they will start doing them tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes next week, and next week becomes next month, and pretty soon they are so far behind that they can't possibly pass. Then they tell themselves they'll start trying next semester, and we go through the whole process all over again. I think these kids would be better served if it became clear to them that this wouldn't be tolerated.

You have a very legitimate concern about African-American students. You are also right when you say that everything should be done to save kids who might be able to be saved. But I think there comes a time to say, "Enough!" I want to make it clear that when I talk about truly disruptive students, I'm not talking about kids who talk out of turn once in a while. I'm talking about kids who come to class day after day determined not to behave unless you have your eye on them 100% of the time, and even then they will do things to outright defy you. I haven't had one in any of my classes for the last two years, but when I've had one or two in a class, it can be a nightmare, and it significantly affect the learning that takes place there. I get the impression that you care very much about your kids' education, and I'll bet that's reflected in their attitudes toward school. If I've got them in my class, I don't want to them cheated because I'm forced to tolerate ridiculous behavior by a couple of kids who couldn't care less.

You seem to have a pretty low opinion of some teachers at your kids' school. I probably don't have to say this, but I hope you'll let them know what you don't like. But I also hope you listen to what they have to say. If you're still not happy, I hope you'll stay on their case. I can be as critical of parents as anyone, but I will definitely listen to parents who are willing to hear my side of the story. I value their opinion of me and what I do. Parents like you really can make a difference.