Dr. Slammy in 2008: Discipline and the sanctity of the learning environment

Hi. I’m Sam Smith, and I’m running for President.

The discipline question is one of the most difficult ones facing this campaign, and even as we construct the strategic platform plank we’re sobered by the tactical realities that must be faced.

Some schools are dangerous places. A lot more are significantly less effective than they should be because of disruptive students and the fact that we seem not to have the mechanisms to deal with them. A couple problem students can have a dramatic impact on the function of the classroom and the resulting learning by other students. The DS08 campaign does not believe anyone has a right to infringe upon the learning atmosphere, because in doing so they undermine the ultimate goal of universal opportunity.

Obviously, the details on this issue are, and will remain, sticky. We probably don’t want to return to the sorts of classes my generation endured, where teachers not only had unquestioned authority to administer corporal punishment (sometimes for “fun”), but it’s just about impossible to ignore the correlation between the elimination of corporal punishment and the rise of discipline problems. Even if we were to adopt corporal punishment measures, it’s hard to envision how they could even be implemented in environments where gangs are overtly present.

We must and we will develop “big carrot/big stick” measures to assure the sanctity of the teaching environment. Students who cannot be persuaded to learn will be removed from the environment and alternative programs for their habilitation will be developed. Teachers will be armed with the tools they need to make sure their classrooms and hallways are safe, pro-learning spaces. In the short term this may imply security measures that seem heavy-handed, but it’s our expectation that a systematic rewards model that shows meaningful results will eliminate the need for “stick-first” approaches in due time.

Schools are not warehouses and they’re not detention centers for juvenile delinquents. Teachers aren’t prison guards and when we ask them to be every student in the school suffers – with consequences that endure for the rest of their lives.

The unfortunate truth is that not all can be saved, and the only rational policy response to this fact is to assure that those who cannot and will not respect the sanctity of the educational environment will be excluded.

12 replies »

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  2. Dr. Slammy,

    I hereby endores you for the office of the President of the United States. Although I disagreee with you vehemently on most subjects, I admire your stand on education. For that reason, I am compelled to give my endorsement.

    None of the declared candidates in either party give me any reason to vote for them.


  3. Thanks. To my of thinking, if we sort out education, a lot of the other issues out there are going fix themselves, almost as if by magic. But America would have so much less to argue about – then where would we be? 🙂

  4. I agree with you 100%. As a former teaching assistant at a state university I saw the total paralysis of the system in dealing with this question. The mentality that students are clients/customers leads to educators being considered as little more than flight-attendants. Now I believe that teachers can only facilitate learning, but we can do so only if we receive the same level of respect that students are accorded. The pendulum has swing too far the other way and a balance needs to be found or else idiocracy looks increasingly like america’s future.

  5. Respect is critical, isn’t it? You can’t teach without the respect of your students, and there’s no way in the hell they’re going to respect you when it’s clear that the school system, administrators and society in general don’t.

    We pay a lot of lip service in this country to how much we revere teachers, but in too many places it’s nothing but cheap talk. We’re in trouble and we’re going to stay that way until we get to the point where it’s clear to anybody paying any attention at all that teachers and the educational process are revered in our society.

  6. I do get respect from most of my students (most are freshmen), but I have a different problem – entitlement. They seem to think they will automatically get an extra credit assignment, study guide, etc. And if they miss class they e-mail me and ask me to send them notes for the days they missed! When did that start happening!?!

  7. You may remember I commented a few months ago on whether there was really a need today for a college education.

    Looks like “conservatives” (who were for deregulation and outsourcing before they were against it) are now questioning the value of college education.

    I really hate Phyllis Schafly for the dingy broad she is and because she’s to the right of Ronnie Rayguns, but here’s her latest column she’s paid to write as an “expert”.

    Always the “conservatives” who sell the country out and then want to save it once they see the mess they’ve made.

  8. Dom Pierre, Isn’t it Australia that, instead of sending aspiring young business-people to college, apprentices them directly to corporations? It’s like internship without a college to assign you.

    Dr. S, Re corporal punishment. With my son, whom I can’t seem to disabuse of the notion that I’m his peer, I’ve often felt that without being allowed to spank him, I’m like a taxi driver who’s cab has no horn. (Happened to me once.)

    I secretly suspect that rules and laws have been enacted to halt corporal punishment not because of the practice itself, but to curb serial physical abusers.

    I certainly don’t believe in corporal punishment for real. But I do believe in yelling your head off to shake a kid up — and to siphon off frustration and keep you from hitting him.

  9. I’m not sure if Aus is doing that today (or if they used to do that), except that back in the 60s-70s, higher education was free (from what I hear second-hand), and I suspect that’s why Aus’ has been enjoying an economic boom the last decade. Today, the direction has been to follow the recent US model of higher education & higher costs.

    I confess, I loved Melbourne and Sydney when i was there.