Thursday, December 12, 2013

School Rules are Important but Rigidity Destroys Education

What is it that people simply don't get about being parents? What is it that people simply don't get about the fact that schools' have rules, and regulations? What is it about school personnel that general common sense can fly straight out that proverbial window?

One of the more important aspect of raising children, other than being supportive, feeding, clothing and educating them of course, is the ability to parent in a positive and effective manner. Understanding who your child is, what their specific needs happen to be, coupled with figuring out  how to go about being effective in the best manner possible, is essential to doing your job. Parenting is not for the faint of heart or weak of spine. It is not for the poor of spirit, nor easily distracted.

The problem that we face in today's society is that some people have decided to forget about their responsibilities when it comes to parenting. They don't set limits or boundaries for their children. They think its all the schools' responsibility. But then when that invariable call from the guidance counselor or teacher comes in, they rant, rail and threaten to sue those who are responsible for their child's well being for 8 hours every day.

In truth, schools need to sent standards. They need to set limits, boundaries affixed with consequences. They need to do it from the moment the child enters the classroom...heck they have to set rules from the moment the child enters the front doors of the school. There are rights, wrongs, acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. But when does the school in its rush to facilitate behavior go overboard, as compared to when do the parents refuse to acknowledge that they need to help with the problem, or that there is in fact a problem?

It is a very delicate balancing act. School is there to foster community and understanding. To teach a child to take into consideration the person sitting next to them. They are required to work in groups. Infact many students are even made to interact on a interpersonal level that many find uncomfortable. It is not easy to moderate behavior and understand how to compromise on issues. (Just look at Washington DC). But it is an essential part of learning how to function in our society. The problem is when there are requirements but no instruction. Or when the instructions given are really just not enough. More is needed, but the school or the teacher/instructor has decided that they have done all that they are going to do.

Schools cannot rightly ask something of students that they do not teach. Not all students (and you don't need a special education designation for this one) find limits, boundaries and requirements easy to digest. They don't necessarily understand them and do not get their import or how to practically apply the requirements. This is when teaching comes in. This is when everything should be made clear and concise for students.

But parents too are at fault. If you do not set limits for your child, how can you expect them to understand the limits in school? If you do not hold your child to any standard of care and expectation of behavior how can they be expected to understand and assimilate what is required of them in school? Additionally, parents who refuse to abide by the rules of the school are setting their children up for failure.

Do we think all the rules are correct? No, of course we don't. Do we think that the school can go overboard? Of course we do and yes they do. Zero tolerance policies are the bain to any school's existence. (It is especially harmful to special needs students.) When these inane sophomoric policies do not allow administrators to use their own educated judgements to handle situations that arise, then a school becomes oppressive. When dealing with students there has to be an understanding of the elements surrounding any miscreant behavior. Not ever child who kisses or hugs is a harasser and not every boy that plays cops and robbers is a psychotic killer. Administrators need to use their respective brains and access each situation according to what actually happened.

The elements of the "crime" are important to understand. In society not every killing is a murder, there can be extenuating circumstances. A property taking is not always stealing and, entering another's dwelling is not always trespassing. There are important exceptions to every rule and law. Human society has acknowledged that there are times when reasonable people need to look beyond the end result and figure out the who, what  where, when, why and how of a story. So too, do these school districts need to figure out what is really going on, was anyone threatened, berated, harmed, insulted or even frightened before a punishment is handed down.

In truth, there have been some of the most evil acts perpetrated upon society in schools recently. It can make any administrator leery. Watching out for bad actors is a full time job. But there is a difference between bad actors and kids just being kids too. We have to get back to allowing children to play, grow and develop. We have to give children the benefit of the doubt when they shoot an imaginary bow and arrow, play cops and robbers, eat a poptart into the shape of a gun, hug a friend or kiss a girl. Fear unfortunately drives so much of education today that it is stifling our children's normal creativity. Something has to be done about that before we end up destroying the souls of the next generation.

Perhaps it is time for parents and schools to work together to come up with acceptable realities that everyone can live with. After all, while the administrators run the school, it is the parents through the school board that directs the district and it is their property taxes that pays for the education of their children. Parents need to be involved with their child's school and administrators have to let the parents in. It is a symbiosis of reality. They need each other to be wholly effective and in the end produce happy, educated enlightened and well-rounded children.

Also read: 6-Year-Old Suspended for Kissing a Girl: Too Much, Yet Not Enough