Politically Motivated Bad Behavior

Bad behavior is routinely accepted — to a degree. Rudeness, bullying, and intimidation — to the point of an armed showdown with authorities — is where many draw the line of civility while others argue that this type of uncivil “disobedience” has become a necessity.

by Amelia Templeton OPB

by Amelia Templeton OPB

Are actions without regard to how they affect others really what the People must now do to lobby for change?

Currently, the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appears to be almost over. But, this type of fighting over hotly contested political issues will more than likely go on like it has in the past — politically motivated but without party affiliation.

“The right has no monopoly on the kind of people who’ll justify violence or extremism based on what they think are infallible beliefs.”

This time the confrontation with the government of the People began over land rights and mandatory minimum sentencing policies. Other times, as reporter Rocky Barker explained, “I saw environmental activists hound foresters and range conservationists” and “it wasn’t long ago that ecoterrorism was the big fear…”

“What makes the harassment, threats, intimidation, bullying and disrespect worse is that it happens routinely around the West.”

It’s happening routinely around the world!

In Barker’s article, he went on to elaborate on the fact that congress and the executive branch are the ones making and executing the laws while federal employees are the ones on the front lines taking the heat when heated disputes arise over public policies.

What creates “the heat”? Friction.

indexWhen we have two opposing views and the sides are unwilling or unable to make an honest attempt to listen to, clearly see, and do their very best to understand the opposing point of view, compromise becomes impossible. Frustration results. Absolutism rubs people the wrong way… creating friction.

Eventually, frustration results in bad behavior. That said, there is no excusing disobedience that crosses the line to terrorism. But there is good reason for all of us to try to comprehend why we continue to see acts of violence perpetuated by frustrated individuals.

We need to look more closely for the root cause of the frustration in this country over public policies.

As Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who came to America in the early 1800’s to see our great republic, observed…

“Americans frequently change the laws, but the foundation of the Constitution is respected.”

He warned…

“I think that in changing their administrative processes as often as they do, the inhabitants of the United States compromise the future of republican government.

Constantly hindered in their projects by the continuous volatility of legislation, it is feared that men will in the end consider the republic as an inconvenient way of living in society; the evil resulting from the instability of secondary laws would then put the existence of fundamental laws in question, and would indirectly bring a revolution…”

He also predicted that we would move rapidly into despotism — ruled by absolutism. Have we arrived at that point in time?

Political revolution, by definition, is a fundamental change in a political organization. In the 1800’s, Americans frequently changed the laws? Now? I don’t think so. I think the laws are being changed on us, not by us. In the 1800’s, the foundation of the Constitution was respected? Now? I think the foundation is being ignored, eroded, and misconstrued.

But, this is the political season of seasons. There is no better time than now to ask our representatives and potential representatives to step up to the front lines and explain what they see as the foundation of our country.

My personal views on federal lands, the Constitution, and the tactics it takes to be heard are in opposition to the armed occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but, I would also hope something good could still come out of this disastrous, misguided attempt at “civil” disobedience.

The people of Burns should be heard.

Waitress Linda Gainer “is one of many people who say the occupation has torn her community apart. Gainer has fed nearly everyone involved with the standoff: occupiers, FBI agents, journalists, visiting environmentalists and others, but has received criticism for permitting the occupiers to buy food from her cafe.”

“People say that we’re unpatriotic, we’re terrorists,” she said. “You shouldn’t go around and say nasty things about people just because you don’t agree on something.”

Another view:

The Malheur occupation has broken down that spirit of cooperation, said Vanessa Leathers-King, 33, whose great-great grandfather was the first in her family to ranch in the county. She divided the community into three groups: Bundy allies, federal government allies, and a lot of people who identify a bit with both — like her.

“I believe there is a lot of government overreach that is affecting this way of life, affecting small towns,” Leathers-King said. “The part I don’t agree with is taking illegal action to change it.”

Even so, she feels her neighbors have labeled her an occupation supporter, and she pulled her son out of school after students bullied him for being a “Bundy-lover.”

We’ve all heard the old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” but we don’t seem to be able to recognize the destructive nature of absolutism itself — in each of us.
In the case of this armed occupation, one dead so far. One community divided. The total damage? Unknown. The chance for something good to come out of this—up to us.images

By our apathy, we’ve killed our kids

imagesGuest Opinion By Timothy Coman (originally published in December of 1999)

Tonight my heart hangs extremely heavy. I know the holidays are upon us, but this year has brought so much pain and agony for so many, I think we must sit and reflect. As I watched over and over the video clippings from Columbine, Jonesboro, Springfield and Pearl tragedies, I am reminded just where we have come to in our society.

So many people want answers, so many want justice, and yet, we should be looking at our own selves. We taught Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to hate, yes, we did. We helped assassinate Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott. By our actions, we allowed this to happen. No one single entity is to blame, we are all to blame.

Our children are medicated from the time they leave the hospital till often times before they leave high school. We all look for a quick fix, a fast solution, a McDonald’s drive-thru experience, often thinking or believing this is the answer, and yet we continue to be so blind.

We murder children in the name of convenience; we assassinate others’ character to gain power, wealth or strength, and morality is what you and I feel is right within our own eyes. Everyone wants to know about gun control, prayer in school, metal detectors or the newest idea which will save us all from whom?

Ourselves, that’s who.

It doesn’t matter who becomes president as long as he has the right charisma, a nice look, the right speech, the all-feel-good message that has lulled us to sleep, and while we slept, our children killed each other, and why? Because we have taught them so easily that it’s OK to kill—as long as you are justified in your beliefs. Preachers shout morality, and yet sin runs rampant in their own homes and places of worship.

The politician shouts gun control, and yet has no difficulty cheating on his or her mate as long as no one else gets hurt. Parents sacrifice their children for money, bigger homes, nicer lifestyles, when all their kids want is them.

How many times have both the Harrises and Klebolds asked; “Why didn’t we see something?” — Why didn’t we all see something? Why have we all been duped into believing it’s someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility. When will we take responsibility. Is it that hard or have forgotten how. Either way, we killed these children and many more like them by our apathy, and refusal to care.

It’s long past time, the hour is late. In a perfect utopia, people would get right, change their lives, love their kids, reach out and take their neighbor’s hand. Did we ever live in a “Leave it to Beaver” society, or has it always been this way? I ask you the question today; can we afford to murder any more of these children? Will our apathy allow another Columbine to exist? Do we really ever remember these people after a few years? Do we even care that people died in Oklahoma? Do the crowds still mourn at the site of the federal building, or is it just a passing moment?

I hope for each of us that Columbine burns deep in the hearts and minds of all of us forever. As Eric Harris was quoted as saying in one of the videos he made; “Our goal is to haunt everyone’s minds and thoughts of this terror.” And you know, my friend, I hope this tragedy is never forgotten. Let us never forget by our apathy, those young people we have murdered in America, land of the hated and home of the forgotten. Please think about this. I ask you today, would you have said yes like Cassie did?

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Whether or not all the details of the Columbine shooting were correct when this was originally published is not the point. The question is, when? When will we care enough to take on the heart of the problem  — social change?

The list of shootings grows longer as we recall the more recent and forget the past. It’s a problem.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

It’s our problem because we have never been short on solutions; we haven’t cared enough to hear them.

April 20th

This year, April 20th was Easter. So that is my excuse for not remembering the Columbine High School tragedy on that date.

I was reminded yesterday because I started re-reading my own book and the first chapter is about school safety and discipline. These are tough topics to cover in a short blog but here is the gist of it….

Misconduct —be it disrupting a class, bullying, or outright violence—is a symptom. We would be foolish to think it will ever go away completely; we would be wise to recognize that we must always work to identify the underlying cause as soon as a problem is acknowledged. We shouldn’t just look away and think things will get better without conscious efforts.

Many school and community people do understand that the best thing we can do is prevent behavioral problems—the causes of the symptoms. The “means” aren’t easy but the “ends” are necessary for existence of a civil society.

The school climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to learning are the same climates and conditions that prevent bullying and other disruptive behaviors. Creating the right learning environment (where it doesn’t exist) and continually fostering that environment is the best we can do. So how much attention is the public giving to these issues of such importance?

Common Core, and the whole standardization movement, has dominated the national conversation on education. We are all getting sucked in! Me too.

But now I’m resisting except I must once again make this point; “standards” are being confused with expectations. And “standards” are being given unjustified priority in education reforms.

If we are going to talk about “expectations,” they should be about ideas like the ones offered by Carl Bosch in Schools Under Siege: Guns, Gangs, and Hidden Dangers (1997). He recommended that we “hold high expectations” of students. But he asked that we “clearly define expectations of respect, dignity, and responsibility.” These are “standards” of behavior the public system of free schools should feel obligated to promote.

My notes from back in 1999, now 15 years ago, indicated Bosch stressed that primary prevention of discipline issues resides in 1) uncovering the reasons behind inappropriate behavior, 2) the proper training and teaching of the skills children need, and he stressed that 3) consistency and fairness were important qualities for children to learn that adults should model.

Yesterday, this quote came across my desk and I consider it helpful….

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”

Robert Ingersoll

Today, I hope all will step back a moment to remember and consider what is important. And we should be thankful that some still remember the tragedies and many still work towards solutions — every day.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

To Parents

Could these words have been clearer?
From a Nation at Risk to Parents,
“You have the right to demand for your children the best our schools and colleges can provide. Your vigilance and your refusal to be satisfied with less than the best are the imperative first step. But your right to a proper education for your children carries a double responsibility. As surely as you are your child’s first and most influential teacher, your child’s ideas about education and its significance begin with you. You must be a living example of what you expect your children to honor and to emulate. Moreover, you bear a responsibility to participate actively in your child’s education.” (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, p35)

Yes, the message could be clearer.

YOU are your child’s first and most influential teacher.
YOU are a living example for your child; stress the importance of education.
YOUR vigilance is imperative to our schools being the best.
YOUR responsibility is to participate actively.

To the Public: What door can you open?

To the Public: What door can you open?

Because I was given the opportunity to write for The Federalist Papers Project yesterday, I tried to make the message clearer, today.

Maybe opportunity does open the door to improvement. Please think about (and act upon) what doors of opportunity we can leave open for the next generation.

What Do You Hear?

“I think it’s funny how people can come to meetings and complain, but do you actually see them stepping in and doing something about it?” Anonymous Caldwell High School student at a town hall meeting on Safe and Disciplined Schools, April 20, 1999

Will we ever listen to them — parents, students, teachers, and caring citizens?

“Will we hear the call of others? Adults across our country continue to struggle to be taken seriously on the issues surrounding safe and disciplined schools. As Pedro Noguera put it in his book City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, ‘if we truly seek to create a different future, one that is more peaceful and nonviolent than the present, we must actively go about creating it’ (2003, 141)… as Katherine C. says, we must ‘do rather than talk’ (The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present, pg. 9).”

Stop racing towards what policy has set for the goal! Stop talking at us! Start listening and learning from our own past, from our own people. Stop wasting our money, our time, and our precious human resources.

People, please ask yourselves: Do we have the courage to face the facts, face our own mistakes?

Perfecting our union starts with improving our own quality of thought. It starts with each new generation and it is our societal obligation to improve our schools — it starts with safety and discipline — it starts with our devotion to education and our belief that we can do better. As a Virginia Tech survivor (Colin Goddard) said, “There has to be a way to change the culture of violence in our society.”

If you are listening, what do you hear? I hear solutions.

The Culture of Our Society

“Education experts” fight over how much in-school and out-of-school factors contribute to student’s outcomes. Meanwhile, headlines in my newspaper today read, Doctors help students make the grade — with drugs.” I thought it was going to be about college students; it wasn’t.

They talked about young students, adolescents! If a student has “trouble listening to instructions and concentrating,” there’s a drug for that. Need a competitive edge, there’s a drug for that. I know I’m not the only one that sees the wrong in this.

So where do we point the finger of blame; “overcrowded classrooms,” the “frustrated parents” asking for the drugs, competition and the need for kids to “perform better”? Or will we hear the truth in what this pediatrician said,

“We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment, so we have to modify the kid.”

Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

We don’t have time or resources to work with these troubled kids, but, we have a drug for that. This kind of “medical reasoning” will keep some Wall Street stock numbers up. Some will enjoy that high.

This isn’t just one dramatization, it’s wide-spread and it’s real.

Long ago, teacher Sarah McIntosh Puglist described the culture of her school to me as “test-based.” Yesterday she wrote about the culture once again saying, “…now I’m afraid many look upon struggling kids as something to resent.” Have children become a bother to society?

All should be able to see that the school culture can’t help but be influenced by the culture of our society. This is assuming that people (kids and adults alike) don’t quit being people when they walk through the schoolhouse doors.

If ever there is a time to stop and think; this is it.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

School Culture and Change

In my last blog (Understanding Change), when I asked the question “who will take control of the direction [of reform],” I wasn’t thinking about the movie I was about to see but it played right in to the question.

The movie, Won’t Back Down, may not have been intended to be interpreted the way I did, but here it is. I saw the “union thugs” dressed in red (stop) and the parentroopers dressed in green (go). I saw the protest signs for “choice” and heard the familiar words of the reform wars —tenure and bad teachers, can’t and won’t. Swept up in the emotion, I cheered for the underdogs and shared in the pain of the parents portrayed on the big screen. I’ve walked in their shoes, but, without the fairytale ending.

What I didn’t see was a law that will force schools to improve. Rather, what the movie demonstrated was the power of ordinary people. What I saw was the right leadership rising up, and, the question of control of the direction of reform was answered. I saw community organizing to support a public school; community stepped up. And I saw the “culture” of the school change from one of hopelessness to one beneficial to both teaching and learning.

“If culture changes, everything changes.” T. Donahoe 1997

I saw the change we need, but, understand that the means to that end must not harm children, destroy neighborhoods, or undermine the strong foundation of our institution of public education. “Dreams, visions and wild hopes are mighty weapons…” Eric Hoffer 1951. Let’s hope they aren’t being used for the wrong reasons.

Discover more about school culture and change.