Friday, April 17, 2009

Kids need discipline and adults need to be adults

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.
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.
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:

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.
"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."
Hey, nobody wants to fight with the kids, but it’s part of the job.


Vermont Woodchuck said...

We were brought up with "Don't start a fight; don't lose a fight."

Starting a fight carried swift retribution. That was not tolerated. Losing a fight meant that some bully was going to feel free to pick on some one else.

So back out you went and found the miscreant and gave him what for by whatever means necessary. Fair fights are in a ring with a referee.

And yes, all of us has guns for hunting and no we didn't have shootings in or out of school.

Today's kids are not taught respect for themselves or others. Actually, the boys are not civilized, they're sissified.

URF said...

Maybe they can begin to regain their lost manhood and self-respect by wearing a hat festooned with teabags.

Eric said...

A friend of mine was called to the principal's office because his kid got into a fight and beat some other kid up.

Turns out the other kid started the fight and my friend's son ended it. My buddy was utterly unapologetic about his son's response.


Troubled Teen Teacher said...

Yes, the high cost of coddling. It seems in our society that teens can't wait to be adults - and adults can't just be adults. Instead they try to be their teen's best friend, often contributing as much to their child's "delinquency" as his/her peers.

F.O.E. said...

That buddy of yours sounds like the type of guy whose idea of a good time is sipping dry martinis and listening to lounge music.

I was told a long time ago that if you have kids and you care you'll end up fighting with school administrators at some point. At the time I didn't understand, but now I do.

Misguided post-Columbine concerns with bullying have mushroomed into an unhealthy obsession. Schools are trying too hard to micro-manage the kids with speech codes, sensitivity training, etc., rather than having basic standards of acceptable behavior. What used to be handled per the discretion of an experienced and caring staff is now subject to rigid rules designed primarily to CYA.

Eric said...

FOE (enemy?) - Couldn't agree more. I have a story of my own to share, but it's better suited to an offline setting, perhaps relaxing around an inground pool.

F.O.E. said...

Please..."Friend Of Eric"!

L-shaped inground pools surrounded with Tiki torches are especially nice.

Throw in a little Martin Denny over the portable speaker, a couple of Mai Tais, and the critical insights into current events flow like rum.

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