for the children, episode 3
For the ChildrentmEpisode 3:
What are we doing to our children?
We are raising a future generation of wusses. Kids who are pandered to, coddled, kept from harm at all costs, wrapped in a soft, comfy blanket of political correctness and self-esteem issues. These are a whole generation of children who will never develop the coping skills necessary to get by in life without becoming a blubbering basket case of social deficiencies.
Concerns about infringements on free speech take a back seat when it comes to children's safety: That was the consensus among a sampling of parents interviewed about the new anti-bullying policy that was adopted by the School Committee Tuesday night.
The policy, which will go into effect at all of the city's public schools, defines bullying as not only "unwelcome physical contact with the intent to harm, embarrass or demean another student," but also "verbal abuse, including teasing, name-calling and harmful gossip; and emotional abuse, including humiliation, shunning and exclusion."
I'm not totally unfeeling; I can see where verbal abuse, emotional abuse and intentional humilation will not be tolerated. But how can you regulate shunning and exlusion, let alone name calling?
Unfortunately, there will always be the odd kid out. There will always be that one kid, or kids, who are relegated to the corner of the playground, the last in line, the dodge ball victim. I know. I was one.
You can't force children to play together. You cannot make a rule that says "everyone must play with Johnny or they will get detention." Not only is it unfair to the children who, for whatever reason, think Johnny is a pain in the ass to hang around with, but it is not fair to Johnny.
How will Johnny feel when he realizes that the other kids are being forced to include him? What's worse for Johnny's self-esteem - sitting alone on the playground digging dirt holes with his heel or standing in the middle of a baseball field while the other kids chuck dirt at him and let him know in no uncertain terms that they don't want him there?
If all Johnny's problems are solved for him through mediation and intervention and peer group facilitating, Johnny will never learn how to solve problems on his own. He will never learn how to take matters into his own hands and he will spend his life thinking that there will always be someone to come to his rescue, always someone to do the talking for him.
Our schools are concentrating more and more on social issues over academic issues. Administators are more concerned with making sure the children are all nice to each other than they are with passing test scores. Across the country, there are curriculums devoted to tolerance, multi culturalism, peace, environmental activism and self-esteem.
The Sudbury Valley School is a place where children are free.
Their natural curiosity is the starting point for everything that happens at the school.
Here, students initiate all their own activities. The staff, the plant, the equipment are there to answer their needs. Learning takes place in formal and informal settings, in large and small groups, or individually. All ages are free to mix at all times. The dynamics among students of different ages, helping each other learn about everything from human relations to math, is one of the greatest strengths of the school.
Students share responsibility for their own environment, and for the quality of life at school. The school is managed by the weekly School Meeting, where every student and staff member has a vote: an education at Sudbury Valley is also an education in hands-on democracy.
Where do the students learn about discipline, about respecting their elders and following rules, standards guidelines? How does this prepare them for the future when the world is not like this at all? Would you send your child to a school where the introduction to the institution mentions nothing about academics?
There's nothing wrong with being a free-thinker or raising your kids to be free thinking. I do it myself. But must we make schools evolve to the point where they are nothing but self-esteem factories? I do not send my children to school to learn social graces, peer mediation or making decisions regarding school policy.
Too many parents are willing to turn over the teaching of morals and social niceties to schools. They blame the school when their child is having social problems or esteem problems and expect the teachers to fix it up for them, and then they get angry that the teachers aren't spending enough time teaching the basics of academics.
Personally, I'd rather see my children graduatate from school having learned how to spell, read, write, and have basic math and science skills than have them graduate with a diploma in peace making skills, leaving them totally unemployable.
Teach your children well, yes. But teach them at home and let the schools get back to teaching how to follow rules and multiply fractions.
*do not take this post to mean that I think bullying should be tolerated; see this piece here for my take on bullying.