20120923

Schools or Prisons?


I read this article about where the public education system is headed:

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/21/10950/perps-or-pupils-safety-policy-creates-friction-new-york-city-schools

If you live in New York, or a city where this type of system exists or is being considered, I strongly encourage you to contact your city council and school board members to speak out against it, and encourage your neighbors to do so, as well. 

Firstly, schools should be educational institutions, not preparation centers for creating inmates. Police officers (or agents, in this case) are not trained to help kids learn and grow, they are trained to pursue, subdue and incarcerate criminals. In addition, constant police presence and overarching authority over school officials tells students that they are viewed primarily as criminals, and treating kids like criminals doesn't make them better students. 

When kids act up, as they often do, the knee-jerk reaction of someone trained to be an officer is different from a professional trained as an educator. If that officer, who does not understand the ramifications of his or her actions on the long-term development of the child, has authority to override the decision of the educational professional, we lose the kid. We already suffer from brain drain. Americans used to take pride in "thinking outside the box" and innovating, but we now have to import inventors from Asia, the area of the world we once scoffed at for being stringent and constricting. 


Secondly, the schools are not as bad as those who would wish to maintain control would make it seem. The officer interviewed in the article states:

"we have students who don’t want to abide by the rules and regulations"

What he fails to comprehend is that kids test boundaries, it's part of growing up. Sure, you have to dole out punishment on occasion, but you also need to recognize and acknowledge the good and make corrections as necessary, and for eff's sake, you don't punish an honest mistake! No matter how bad things are made out to be, the majority of kids, even at the worst schools, are NOT counterfeiters, smugglers and explosives fabricators. I have been on inner city school campuses and they are not the war zones he makes them out to be. The vast majority, even some that other adults have labeled as "bad", have just been regular kids.


Thirdly, we have become too quick to allow, and even welcome, institutional invasiveness and authoritarianism into our lives in the name of security in this post-911 world. As mentioned in the article, part of the reason this system passed so easily is because some bad incidents allowed feelings of fear to have a disproportionate amount of weight in the decision making process. While those incidents were horrifying, it's necessary to step back and take a wider view. Rather than openly accept such stringent protocols, it will be better in the long run to develop ones that are more appropriate to the situation at-hand.

We need to think first about our students' long-term development and whether we want to raise automatons and fodder for our jails, or productive members of society who will be proactive in keeping this world a healthy, viable place to live. Again, if you live in a city that has these types of protocols in place, or is considering implementing them, please do take a little time to voice concern to your council and school board members.