John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
I think that we need to acknowledge the custodial nature of public schools. When I assert that certain so-called students need to be removed from the regular classroom environment (and perhaps even be expelled from the public schools), some educrats go into fits of apoplexy: “Well, who’s going to take care of the children? Are you just going let them walk the streets?” My response: “That’s not my problem. Schools are supposed to be learning institutions, not baby-sitting institutions. Do you think that the U. S. Army worries about this when a recalcitrant enlistee is dishonorably discharged? No. The U. S. Army knows its mission, and it is not going to allow one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. Likewise, we cannot allow the defiant and disruptive behavior of one or more students to materially and substantially disrupt the learning processes of those students who actually want to learn. But this is what we do when we insist on teachers babysitting — or, guard-watching — those miscreant thugs in their charge.”
This is what has happened in public education. Teachers are made to act like prison guards. Not baby sitters, but prison guards. These defiant and disruptive so-called students are more akin to thugs than babies, mind you. This is why teachers are so disenchanted, discouraged, and disheartened. They want to teach. This is their mission. This is what they value. They don’t want to be prison guards. They didn’t major in Criminal Justice. They get excited when a kid’s eyes light up when he or she learns something. They love the teacher-student relationship, not the guard-prisoner relationship. The miscreants are not “babies,” as so many superintendents (especially the female superintendents) like to intone. No, we’re talking about real thugs.
Another by the way: I advocate the school systems establishing Non-learning Centers (NLCs). The NLC is purely custodial in nature, and the teachers don’t go through the charade of sending over lessons to the students. In fact, there are no teachers or instructors at the NLC. Horrors, you may think! No lessons? You can’t be serious? Yep, and you heard it heard it here first. Just like we would been completely shocked just 30 years ago to see police officers roaming the halls of our schools, in the future we will not be shocked at non-learning centers (whatever they are called). Now some of our large high schools have three to five (or more) real police officers or other security personnel roaming the halls. This no longer shocks us. Well, in the future, the NLCs will not shock us. The juveniles (can’t really call them students) are sent there and are watched by police officers or deputized school security forces. It is important that these officers have arrest powers. Now, if a juvenile demonstrates that he or she has learned his or her lesson and realizes that schools are about orderly learning and not playing cops and robbers with teachers, then the juvenile is allowed to re-matriculate to the regular school environment – but on probationary status. It is important that the juveniles can have NO FUN AT ALL at the Non-learning Centers and no social interaction. You have to make the NLCs so boring that the students will shudder at being sent there, not to mention the extreme stigma of being sent to a “non-learning” anything. Yes, embarrassment is an effective tool for keeping thuggish students in line.
When I acknowledge the custodial nature of today’s schools, I am not saying that this is how it should be, but just acknowledging a reality of how it is today. This is the problem. This is the big rub. Society has decided that it wants to keep the thugs off the street. Therefore, Society has decided that the public schools are the ideal place to keep these non-learners. We first have to acknowledge that this is the status of public education today. Now if these same non-learning thugs were sent to Westminster, Marist, or Lovett, I can assure you that the test scores will go down precipitously, the disciplinary problems will skyrocket, and the teachers at these private schools will be clamoring for a return to the earlier status. So, what do we do with the thugs? Treat them like thugs. Put them in a very controlled and guarded environment (the Non-learning Centers). When they realize (and many are truly brilliant) that this is no fun, then gradually they will return to the regular school environment ready to participate in the learning processes.
If we could just straighten out our public schools, it would be great. Our undergraduate, graduate, and professional educational programs are the envy of the world. Our private elementary and secondary schools have it together. But, our policy wonks and educrats will not acknowledge that you cannot combine custodial duties with teaching duties. They think that you can put both of these responsibilities onto the backs of public school teachers, and everything will work out just fine. They just won’t learn or acknowledge their bad theories. You cannot combine the two. Teaching and being a babysitter or a prison guard do not go hand-in-hand. They are like oil and water. They do not mix. If you have to be a prison guard, then you cannot be nurturing. You have to be stoic and tough…or be intimidated by the thugs/prisoners. © JRAT, February 23, 2011.