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

What Do You Hear?

To hear, we must listen. And so it was on April 20, 1999, at a scheduled town hall meeting on Safe and Disciplined Schools, I heard an anonymous Caldwell High School student say…

“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?”

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).”

We must stop racing towards the goals that policies set for us! Instead, leaders must stop talking at us. We all have to start listening and learning from our own past, from our own people. We need to 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. That makes it a 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.