March 02, 2007
School of hard knocks
The details involving two savage beatings of Philadelphia teachers by their "students" (a word I use advisedly), make me question whether the words "education" and "school" mean what they're supposed to mean.
....One moment Burd, 60, was in the hallway of Germantown High with a 17-year-old senior whose iPod he had confiscated in class. The next moment he was in the ambulance.OK, sorry to interrupt, but isn't there something wrong right there? If he had to take the class for a second time, how is that consistent with doing good work? He'd turned his life around -- only he preferred listening to his iPod instead of the teacher, and then broke the teacher's neck for trying to stop him?
As what? As an enforcer for Tony Soprano?
OK, sorry I interrupted. I just want to understand.
"He's a bright kid. I had a rapport with him. I don't know where [the rage] came from. I don't understand, and I find it frustrating because I care about these kids. They're angry at something that has nothing to do with you."If they are so angry that they have to break their teachers' necks, I don't understand either, and quite frankly, I don't want to understand. It isn't the teacher's fault that they are that way, and it isn't his fault that he cannot help them. I don't believe that the majority of students are that way, though. I think the problem consists of a minority of angry violent kids who don't belong in normal schools, but are tolerated.
Reading on, it becomes quite clear that violent, disruptive kids have to be tolerated, and that teachers are no more allowed to get rid of them than jailers are allowed to discharge inmates for being disruptive:
"It's way worse than people know," Lelah Marie, who teaches Spanish at Paul Robeson High, said by phone. "We are living in one universe and they are in another, where the kids have all sorts of tiny MP3 players and phones. They take calls in class, and do not stop talking."At least she didn't blame the iPods! (Good for her.) Anyway, I am sorry to hear that the students "really dislike" teachers making contact, but the purpose of a school is education, not confinement. If kids refuse to behave, they should be sent to the principal's office and then home. If the conduct is repeated, they should simply not be allowed to return. The schools have a duty to the other kids to ensure that they have the opportunity to be educated, not confined with and terrorized by juvenile delinquents.
...High school kids, unsupervised, are the most feral little beasts on the planet, and we saw no reason why we should subject our kids to that ordeal. The most common response to that statement was usually, "It makes them tougher" or "They learn how to cope with a hostile environment, like they may encounter in the adult world".The problem here is that their "supervisors" are not allowed to supervise them. They aren't even allowed to really behave as the jailers that they are. At least jailers have some self defense capability, and they aren't forced to pretend that they're "teaching."
Daniel Rubin leaves us with the teacher feeling overwhelmed:
Today, Burd is scheduled for surgery. The doctors plan to rebuild his neck using parts of his hip. He's not ready to think about whether he'll step inside Germantown High again, let alone teach another class.I'm sure it is, and my heart goes out to this man. He should have been allowed to teach students instead of being forced into the role of unacknowledged daytime jailer.
In today's Inquirer, there's an interview with another teacher who thought he was going to teach music, but got his jaw broken instead:
While he tried to teach jazz, Klein said, students made phone calls in class, brought in bags of fast food, and listened to their own music on "electronic devices."Sorry, but that is a very dangerous "policy," and if I were a teacher I would refuse to follow it. Many of the bad kids have bad parents -- some of whom can be counted on to be more dangerous than Junior. Whoever wrote this inane policy must have watched too much "Leave it to Beaver" in which a call from Miss Landers would set the whole Cleaver family into a tizzy. Against Beaver! Today's Philadelphia Cleavers would be more likely to be waiting for teach with some "discipline" of their own in mind!
Today's piece continues:
But on Friday, Oct. 27, a student in his worst class - third period - told him to stop calling parents or he would regret it.Well, I have to say, I can't fault the students for honesty in this instance.
There was indeed nothing he could do, and his feral charges knew it:
Throughout the days of the harassment and threats, Klein said, he went to the school's security office to report them and fill out the required forms.I wonder how much self defense training they give these poor "teachers." Actually, I think they might have a good lawsuit, because the schools clearly are analogous to jails in many ways, and if they sent in a jailer with no self defense training, no special equipment, and no back up, they would definitely be liable.
As for his future as a
Klein said he did not know whether he would return to a Philadelphia classroom.I'm sure he is living a nightmare, and like Mr. Burd he has my sympathy. But I have to disagree with the use of the word "school" in this context.
A school is a place of education. Philadelphia "schools" turn out illiterate graduates, and they are violent and dangerous places which force good children who want to learn to be subjected to the tender mercies of violent thugs.
When a teacher is beaten nearly to death, it makes the newspapers. Innocent children have to cope any way they can, and if they are abused or beaten, they'll be taken about as seriously as an abused inmate. I suppose you could say (as du Toit pointed out) that "It makes them tougher." You might even say that "They learn how to cope with a hostile environment, like they may encounter in the adult world." True on both accounts.
But is it education? Is it fair to call these places schools? Is it fair to characterize these young thugs as "students" and their unprotected custodians as "teachers"?
I don't think so.
The dishonesty involved is sometimes overwhelming.
posted by Eric on 03.02.07 at 03:45 PM
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