Fixing our schools

The Foundations of Our Public Schools Need Repair

I’ve read and listened to many innovative ideas on what needs to be done to improve our schools. Integrating technology and bringing our children into the modern age of education. How education is advancing and the models of old need to be replaced. There is certainly a lot of validity in many of these ideas.

However, I like to compare it to picking out new wallpaper for a house that has such a severely damaged foundation that it is ready to crumble. Before we discuss the pretty wallpaper we would like to use, let’s secure the foundation first.

The old saying that the inmates are running the prison can be applied to many of our schools. A school CANNOT function without the proper learning environment. I am not advocating the return to corporal punishment and silence unless spoken to. What I am recommending is a rebirth of discipline and respect. I discuss these issues in detail in my latest book, Shaking Up Public Education.

Americans are known for their independence and out spoken points of view. We want a nation of leaders. We do not want our children to walk in lock-step with everyone else. We want them to be self-confident enough to question leadership and challenge authority. You can’t tell me what to do, I’m an American.

These are certainly admirable qualities but the pendulum has swung too far. Parents have gone from demanding that their children be held accountable to their first-line of defense. Our respect for authority has diminished to the point of, “How dare you accuse my child of doing something wrong.” instead of parents telling their children, “How dare you do something wrong.”

The word disciplinarian has become another word for child abuser. Discipline now has an evil connotation. If you discipline children you must hate children. If you hold children accountable you are unfairly punishing them.

You discipline a child because you love and care about them. You hold them accountable because you are teaching them that their actions have consequences. I would argue that people who don’t discipline are the abusers. They are encouraging destructive behavior that is harmful. Properly disciplining children is tough work. It’s much easier to overlook the behavior without inflicting any consequences.

This all relates back to our schools where lack of respect, violence, and bullying have all risen to epidemic proportions. It is time the leadership within our schools demands accountability from the student body. Authoritative teachers need to be praised for their commitment to creating an environment where learning can occur without disrespectful behavior. Praised for creating an environment where no child fears for their safety.

Lack of discipline and accountability are the rote causes for our school failures. Make no mistake about it, until these problems are addressed, success can never be achieved.


One thought on “The Foundations of Our Public Schools Need Repair

  1. Rebecca Gray

    I completely agree that our children need to be accountable. However, I do believe that there are ways to do this other than taking the “authoritarian” approach. This issue is often presented as being black and white – you either control kids or you don’t. What I’m really interested in is self-control. Otherwise, the best we can do is control kids through external means.

    Too often, being an authoritarian means getting into a power struggle, which results in the child being pushed away (ie. separated from the group, suspended, expelled), and acting out even more. Kids who are punished often are much more focused on the punisher than on their behaviour and choices. We have them focused on the wrong thing.

    We need to build relationships with kids, bringing them closer to us as opposed to pushing them away. When a child lets us into their world, we can have a huge impact. Then we can set the stage for kids to evaluate their own behavior.

    We can teach kids to behave when there is someone supervising, or we can teach kids to be good people – and then it doesn’t matter if there is an authoritarian who is monitoring them.


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