On the tenth anniversary of Columbine, former teacher and author Caitlin Flanagan reflects on “The High Cost of Coddling”
"He's going to end up in reform school," we would say of a bully or a fighter, some luckless child of a rotten drunk or a mean single mother. One way or another, it came to pass: Boys disappeared and were not missed.Flanagan details how classroom killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were cast as the misunderstood misfits instead of a threat and attempts to impose discipline were half-hearted and easily circumvented. In the conclusion, she calls for a return to the lost art of parenting:
Due process? Who knew, who cared? All we knew was that the funny-looking, heavy-set boy who used to smash kids' heads into the porcelain backsplash at the drinking fountain of Cragmont School was no more a menace in our lives.
In my teaching days, no single document shaped my thinking as much as Flannery O'Connor's 1963 essay called "Total Effect and the Eighth Grade." It concerned neither guns nor violence, neither cliques nor experimental approaches to the treatment of adolescent depression. It was about . . . books. In defending the teaching of the great works of the Western canon rather than those of the modern day (which kids far preferred), she said something wise, the sort of thing an adult might say. She said that the whims and preferences of children should always, always be sublimated to the sense and judgment of their elders.Hey, nobody wants to fight with the kids, but it’s part of the job.
"And what if the student finds this is not to his taste?" O'Connor asked. "Well that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed."