Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Idiot politicians!

I'm piggybacking off of the Daily Grind again, so I hope Mr. McNamar doesn't mind. Some of his stuff is just too good to pass up.

Last week Mr. McNamar did a post on the Connecticut state legislature, which is in the process of passing a law that would make it illegal for schools to give out-of-school suspension to students in most situations. As those guys in the Guinness Beer commercials say, "Brilliant!"

This is a classic example of the ignorance and arrogance of politicians in dealing with public schools. Does anyone really believe that we need any of the few discipline tools we have left taken away from us? But the Connecticut House of Representatives voted for it unanimously despite the opposition of "a broad cross section of school officials." Great job, Mr. and Ms. Representative! Don't listen to the people who actually have to deal with the problem. After all you know best.

Before I go on, I should say that I recognize the problems with out-of-school suspensions. The most important one is that it's a poor deterrent because many of the kids who get suspended simply view it as a vacation. But you know what? Sometimes it's nice for the rest of the class--and, yes, the teacher--to have a vacation from students like that. A couple of my prize students were suspended from school a couple of weeks ago for trouble they had gotten into in another class, and my classes went smoother than they had in weeks. And because they went smoother, the other students in that class learned more.

I will admit that the numbers being suspended in some of those Connecticut schools looked awfully high to me. And if the Connecticut state legislature wanted to look into the reasons for so many suspensions, that would be reasonable. But I am certainly not going to jump to the conclusion that those schools are doing something wrong, because I'm not working in those schools. And neither are those idiot politicians.

To top off their work of genius, the Connecticut House of Representatives couched their bill in vague language:

The pending legislation would allow schools to issue out-of-school suspensions only to students who pose a significant danger to people or property or a "disruption of the educational process."

As one superintendent said, "It will be interpreted 166 different ways, and there'll be 14 lawsuits. Students will be placed at risk, and attorneys will make a lot of money."

Who knows? Maybe that's exactly what some of them want.


Blogger Law and Order Teacher said...

I think anytime that attorneys are in charge of things, we should beware. Look at most of the legislation that is passed and check the occupations of the legislators. This is a prime example. When legislation is written loosely it is done with a purpose. Interpretation allows for a legal donneybrook. These lead to money for those conducting the donneybrook.

5/08/2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

This must really eat at you, Dennis -- instead of implementing what you suggest, they're doing the exact opposite.

What I will grant you is that removal is at least actual punishment -- they're no longer disrupting the class if they're not there (of course, ISS does the same thing). And, obviously, there are situations when there's simply no other way to deal with a student.

I don't agree with Mr. McNamar's placement of the "ultimate responsibility" on parents. Kids' behavior often degrades on attending school, which is a significantly different environment from home. Parents can correct their children all they want for misbehavior while they're at home, but that doesn't mean the behavior will transfer over to school.

Also, he really (and you really) should do a little more research before claiming a politician has no involvement. Fleischmann's bio indicates he's the Chairman of the Education Committee and highlights his achievements with respect to schools and education quite prominently. You say you're unwilling to assume the schools are doing something wrong (which is correct, you shouldn't assume it), but then you assume Fleischmann did not investigate thoroughly. As much as I dislike politicians and am willing to assume their stupidity and manipulability, that's not quite fair, and his role is to pass legislation, after all. You don't expect him to both be a public school teacher and sit in Congressional sessions, do you?

I'll agree, though, that the bill is unfortunately a ambiguous. A lot of legislation suffers from this, and it's sort of what happens whenever you get a committee to decide on policy. I think it's meant to pacify people outraged for their kids getting suspended for tardiness or "teenage angst" (Mr. McNamar's words, I'm not sure what they refer to exactly) while still allowing schools to do what they need to do. As for increasing lawsuits, you could sue the school before this as well. This legislation just gives one more line item to add to a complaint.

I'm torn between responding to Mr. Rawlings and ignoring him for being completely off-topic to this post (while being very on-point for your blog as a whole, so it's not really spam). Your call, Dennis.

5/09/2007 2:35 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

L & A Teacher, you are probably right!

Crypticlife, I think you slightly misunderstood me. I said I thought an investigation would be appropriate, but I didn't comment on whether or not they had done that. I have no idea what kind of investigation might have occurred. What I object to is making a rule for others who are there and will actually have to live with that rule when those people are saying, "No! Please don't do this!"

One book that impacted my thinking (or maybe clarified it) more than any other was THE DEATH OF COMMON SENSE by Philip K. Howard. The book was about much more than just education, but one point Howard made that I completely agree with is that we need to hire good people and give them the power to make decisions rather than putting them in a box with all kinds of legislation because we don't trust them to do the right thing. If the people that we hire are making poor decisions, we need to find someone else who makes better ones. Almost anytime a law is passed, there are unintended consequences, and often those unintended consequences are bad. Public education has been the victim of such legislation over and over again for the last 40 years.

And Steven, if you read this, quit smiling!

5/09/2007 3:58 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

One more thought Crypticlife: I think you have a point about parents, especially at the high school level. Although in many cases, students who don't care and don't behave have parents who don't care, that isn't always the case. Every year at conferences I will see a number of parents, who seem to be very concerned, yet their kids are underperformers.

I think this is in large part due to the fact that peer relationships are more important to adolescents than their relationships with adults. And this is another reason why I think it's so important that we be given some control over who is allowed in our schools.

You are right. Parents have very limited control over their kids when they're at school. I have always felt that I had a great advantage as a parent because I'm a teacher. I could see my own kids in school every day. I knew who they hung around with, and if they ever screwed up, I would know about it very quickly. They all played in the sport I coached, so basically, their life was my life. Most parents don't have that advantage, and I have to wonder how my kids would have done if I hadn't had it.

There are some parents, however, who will have three or four kids come through our school, and all of them are wonderful. I have to take my hat off to parents like that, and our whole society should. Maybe we need parents like that to set up Parents' Schools :)

5/10/2007 2:44 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I'd definitely agree there needs to be more parental education. I've seen parents who cheerfully put their infants and toddlers in front of the tv for hours, saying "it keeps them happy and quiet" and read of an increasing trend to replace the traditional breakfast drinks of orange juice and milk with soda (a practice that was vigorously defended on a message board, incidentally).

5/10/2007 6:45 AM  
Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Crypticlife, please be more accurate in your depiction of my statement. One of the skills I teach my English students is to always use quotes when possible. You state that I "should do a little more research before claiming a politician has no involvement." But if you read my post correctly, it states, "With all due respect to Representative Fleischmann, I wonder what makes him an expert on student discipline. Of the twenty-four bills introduced by Fleischmann, only one related to education." I imply--and yes, I looked at his bio--that he is not properly informed: a belief I have because he is not in the classroom; and not amount of time Chairing a committee in the legislature will provide him with an understanding of the day in and day out "daily grind" of teaching.
Furthermore, I state that "it is their [parents] responsibility to teach their children how to act." Just because a child's behavior "degrades" as they enter the school house, doesn't mean the parents are not still in some way responsible. The children are legally under their parents care--making the parents responsible for their children's actions.

5/11/2007 3:47 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"a belief I have because he is not in the classroom; and not amount of time Chairing a committee in the legislature will provide him with an understanding of the day in and day out "daily grind" of teaching."

Okay, sure -- my point is that if this statement is the standard, legislators could never pass any legislation regarding school practices at all. Of course he didn't go into classes to teach, but you don't really know what he actually did do before passing this, do you? One would think he'd spoken to teachers, administrators, and possibly members of the public, other legislators, psychologists, etc. He could have done research in other districts that have enacted such rules, or used some type of modeling formulae. Did you research what he actually did do prior to introducing this bill? Are you really saying that introducing bills on education would have been the only way you would have considered him informed? If so, how could he have introduced the first few?

As far as the parental responsibility principle goes, perhaps I'm not clear on what you mean by "parents should be held accountable" for their children's behavior. You mean the parent should be serving the suspension? If all you mean is that the parents should be vilified whenever their child does anything wrong, that's exactly what happens already.

5/12/2007 2:27 AM  
Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Well, you raise a valid concern. But, truthfully, I do have concerns about how many of our elected officials make decisions that affect the classroom without really understanding. Sure, talk to a pscyhologist or an educational reasearch theorists, but I just have a hard time believing that his decision was based off of any conversations with classroom teachers. I could be wrong.
Women who wish for the right to choose what they do with their body, have used similar arguments. How can a man, who can't have this experience, determine what I do with my body--the practices of womanhood.
I raise an outlandish viewpoint to simply say that I get leary when publicly elected officials make determinations about the best way to "practice" my profession.

As far as parental responsibility, I generally mean that they are culpable--worthy of censure. The reality is that there is nothing that the schools or anyone else can really do--which means that we will always have irresponsible kids and irresponsible parents. I guess that means I will have to gripe about it on my blog.

5/12/2007 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Betty said...

Teachers need some form of discipline to fall back on when students are out of control. Students realize that there is little the teacher can do. Our school hired a teacher for inschool suspensions, work was sent to the students from all of their teachers, and the students had to work and remain quiet all day. I must admit that more learning took place in the regular classroom when some of these students were busy doing their work in a controlled setting.

5/18/2007 8:33 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Betty, I think In-School Suspension is great, but there are a couple of problems. First of all, you need to have the right person running it--preferably someone with a drill seargent's mentality. As I'm sure you know, that's actually easier than it sounds, because you're going to be dealing with the worst element in the student body--the kids most likely to challenge a teacher and to push the limits. I've seen ISS situations that were totally ineffective because they were run poorly. The other problem is an obvious one with so many schools being strapped for cash--you need money to hire someone to do the job. If a school district can afford it, though, and if they can find the right person for the job, it would almost always be preferable to out-of-school suspension.

5/19/2007 11:40 AM  

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