Monday, December 05, 2005

Here's Your Textbook, Now Get In The Box!

I remember my grammar school days fondly – the rote memorization, the diagramming of sentences, the hours of hours of pointless, mind numbing, spirit crushing mathematics exercises that were forced upon us ever since we were old enough to hold a pencil without jabbing ourselves in the eye – it’s times like that which make a person look back and wonder why more students didn’t strap on an Uzi and go gunning for the assistant principal. In retrospect though the answer was quite simple: we were a generation that respected the authority of the school. If a teacher told us to quit talking, we did, immediately and without question. We didn’t flip her the bird, mutter under our breath, or stand defiantly in her face and tell her to perform a reverse bowel movement with her ruler. One reason for our tacit acceptance of the ruling class in school was the fact that teachers were an extension of our parents – Mom and Dad expected us to succeed academically, and disappointing the teachers was, in effect, disappointing our parents.

Another, some may say more tangible reason, behind our classroom compliance was the fact that teachers during my time in elementary school, were endowed with the license of “corporeal punishment,” a concept which has sadly gone the way of the Flock Of Seagulls haircut. Mouthing off to your third grade teacher was tantamount to spitting on Jesus, and, as such, was received with all the warmth of a Neo-Nazi Pride parade. Law and order was set in stone around second grade where we watched in a mixture of puzzlement and horror as Chris Palmieri had the back of his knuckles smacked with a yardstick after telling the teacher to “shut up.” He didn’t summon a lawyer, call the ACLU on his cell phone, or contact the local paper. He sat there, cried, and later that night was swatted again by his parents for angering the teacher.

We had learned a valuable lesson that day, one that went far beyond “don’t talk back to the teacher or you’ll get hit.” No, we learned that there were consequences to our actions, and if we wanted to succeed, we must always choose the right thing to do, lest we suffer the penalty. And if you slipped and forgot, and decided to take a walk on the wild side by swiping chalk or cheating on your vocabulary test, a sharp rebuke, followed by a swift rap on the knuckles put you back on the road to decency post haste.

Nowadays, the line between right and wrong has been blurred by liberal educators, over-indulgent parents, greedy lawyers and grant-seeking “researchers.” Hitting children, they say, teaches them only violence and disdain for authority, and more diplomatic behavior modification techniques should be sought. By the way, the people who buy into that Holistic mumbo jumbo are the very same people who would refuse to ban “Grand Theft Auto,” on the grounds that it would violate free speech.

Take a look at this article from the Hartford Courant. It doesn’t involve corporeal punishment or psychobabble, but within the article lies a quote which reflects contemporary society’s dangerously misguided attitude towards crime and punishment. If you don’t want to read the whole article, allow me to sum it up for you:

In an effort to cut down on unruly behavior, students in Hartford-area schools are being fined $103 by the police every time they are caught cursing. If the students can’t afford the fine, the parents will have to foot the bill. In one instance, a sophomore was ticketed by police for swearing at an officer as she was being handcuffed for attempting to take a swing at him. It’s a good thing that I’m not a police officer in Hartford, because if some spoiled, subhuman teenager tried to hit me, I’d beat her until she couldn’t grow anymore. That’s right, I said “her,” as the student in question is a girl. I blame rap “music.”

Here’s the best part:

George Sugai, who teaches school discipline at UConn's Neag School of Education, is skeptical of the effort. "Research says that punishing kids doesn't teach them the right way to act," he said.

This quote tells me two things:

One, George Sugai has never been a public high school teacher a day in his life, and,
Two, George Sugai is an idiot.

I would love to see the taxpayer-funded research paper that uncovers the ground-breaking discovery that punishment fails to teach right from wrong. It’s not about your humanistic notion of morality, Mr. Sugai; no one cares if the students understand the moral implications of cursing at authority figures. Apparently, given the predilection towards violence at Hartford public schools, the best we as a civilized society can expect from these savages is forced righteousness in the form of operant conditioning.

I don’t want to bore my readers with lots of jargon or complex explanations; suffice it to say that operant conditioning works like this:

If a student shows up to class on time, takes copious notes, spends ample time studying those notes, and attains a perfect score on his test, then that student should be rewarded with an A+ and a shiny gold star. Positive reinforcement theory tells us that the student is then inspired to continue his performance by repeating the desired behaviors.

If however, a student is late to class, curses at the teacher, and takes a swing at a cop, then he should be struck in the larynx with the butt-end of a riot baton. Negative reinforcement theory tells us that this produces an undesired outcome, prompting the student to seek other, more appropriate behaviors.

Or, you could fine them $103. I suppose you have to start somewhere.

2 Comments:

Blogger Moni said...

Wow!!! That was so succinct and very true. Department of Defense(DOD) schools have long been a proponate of making the parents reponsible for the children's behavior. It works. It's time civilian school did the same. I hate it when you're right! lol I remember Flock of Segulls. Did you have a haircut like that? :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 9:40:00 PM  
Blogger Valannin said...

I hate it when I'm right, too. It only shows us how much closer to the end we are.

Haircut like Flock of Seagulls? Nah, I went in for the Morissey look myself...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 9:48:00 PM  

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