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 donâ€™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 â€œfunâ€), but itâ€™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 â€œbig carrot/big stickâ€ 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.