A recent article in the daily paper portrayed the demise of a historic south Texas high school. The school has been sanctioned for not meeting state mandates on performance, and the very real threat that the school will be closed and the staff fired has raised its ugly head for several years.
How did that happen?
Well, while the high school was evacuating for its daily bomb threat, a student in a first grade class was sitting staring at a wall. The student’s mother had broken into the classroom once, cursing out the world in general and looking for papers the student didn’t have. Shortly after, the student’s older brother, girlfriend, and father broke into the room, looking for the mother.
The student spent the year staring at the wall, broken by fits of disrupting class, learning to read when so inclined, and occasionally doing a page or two of work, showing that he could, indeed perform, but chose to do nothing. Except stare at the wall and wait for the next parental interruption.
Across towns, the high school kids were urinating in stairwells, threatening the student who said all the troublemakers should be shipped out of town, blowing their standardized state test, and beating the crap out of each other for slights real or imagined—all the while chatting, texting and filming the mayhem.
Teachers were being threatened with job loss, loss of life, loss of credibility and loss of anything they might own through lawsuits if they dared raise a voice or a hand to the delinquents making the school their own.
And the first grader was sent to a second grade teacher to sit out a field trip. The idea was to impose consequences on the child, to help him understand that doing his work was not optional, that he could create order in his life, at least at school, by following rules and learning required material.
But the child did not sit out the field trip, because the older brother arrived with money for the trip. When told “no” again, he pulled the child out of school, suddenly remembering a convenient doctor’s appointment. After the imaginary doctor’s appointment, that child turned up at the local pizza place, smirking and happy and enjoying every minute of the consequences someone tried to impose upon him.
That child might not attend the high school that survived almost a century of turmoil—it might no longer exist when and if he makes it from elementary to secondary. Teachers, counselors, and all the others who struggle day to day to make sense of the world for increasingly un-parented children will try, over and over, to make him see that he must contribute to his own education, his own success in life, or he will face a very hard reality someday down the road. Harder, even, than the road he has traveled so far without the real love that discipline and limits convey to children.
But whether he attends the historic high school, drops out in sixth grade, or goes somewhere else—he likely will be one of the students urinating on stairwells, attacking other students and threatening teachers—he will be the problem.
Politically correct, political, and sometimes well-meaning individuals will blame educators, the school system, and socioeconomics. Who will stand up and stay the parents should have been held accountable? Who will say the school should have sent the parents to court when the student pulled the same stunt during a second field trip?
Who will ask what was done when the father came in belligerent and accusing when the child did not meet promotion criteria and was retained?
Some of the high school students came into the school late, from other areas and without adequate educations. Sadly, most were the product of times which place all accountability on teachers—and none on the parents and the students.
Field trips and high school mayhem are one and the same when the underlying issue is ignored: educators should not be held accountable for the behavior of students if they are unable to impose consequences or sanctions. And when simple, civil behavior is foreign to students—there is no way up or out for those students, those teachers, or our schools.