Monday, May 16, 2011

More on Life's Lessons Unlearned

There is a young man in a Connecticut high school, he was punished for breaking the school rules. But, some people had a problem with his punishment.
Two state lawmakers -- and more than 170,000 people on social networking sites -- have lined up to support a Connecticut teen who remains banned from his senior prom following Thursday's announcement that the decision to keep him out will not be reversed.
So eventually 193,000 people joined in support, and eventually the administration reversed its decision.

What is wrong with you people?

Was the punishment fair? No. Guess what -- the punishment never fits the crime. Ever. Please tell me when it does.  Carl explores this topic in his review of Canadian and United States expulsion policies.  (Oh yes, if you are a Sikh feel free to threaten your classmates with a dagger.)

So now that the kid gets to go to his prom after all, what did he learn? Maybe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease... but I doubt it... he probably thinks he got justice or something stupid like that.

Instead, he could have learned any of the following lessons:

1. If you break the rules, there will be consequences.
2. Life isn't fair, sometimes you lose for no good reason.
3. Respecting authority is important.

The whole thing stinks. Look, the child isn't a minor, he is 18 years old. So he should be able to handle some consequences of his actions.  Even  if a minor, he is old enough to know right from wrong.  He deliberately broke the rules, and now he got away with it.  Actually now I think he is more likely to claim temporary insanity in committing a felony. Work the system! What a horrible example the administration is. They buckled under the pressure.

Basically everyone in this story is exhibiting what is wrong with America. People if you don't like the public schools, put your kids in a private one. Lawmakers, if you don't like the administration's policies then pass a law to change them, but back up the public school administration no matter what. Kids, if you break the rules, expect to pay the price.  Oh Yes, if you are one of the 193,000 supporters, think of all the poor children that cant afford to go to prom this year.

I haven't read a story that disgusted me more about everyone concerned in a long time.


suek said...

I disagree with you somewhat. Reason: he didn't break the rules in the sense that it's _very_ unlikely that there's a rule that says you are not allowed to tape 12 inch letters on the front of the school. The "rule" that was "broken" was one that states that anyone who is suspended after 1 May is automatically barred from the prom. In other words, it wasn't the action that was the "rule", it was the automatic punishment.

I disagree on the basis that we need more thoughtful application of rules and punishments - in our courts as well as our schools. It's the "cut and dried" part of administration that I disagree with. The "punishment should fit the crime". One of the news anchors commented that "instead of banning him from the prom, maybe he could pick up litter for a couple of Saturdays"...well, yes...except that sort of punishment is prohibited in public schools. Maybe we should reconsider that option?

(Though I agree with your point in general - that injustice simply does sometimes occur. And it's _only_ a prom, for heaven's sake - which leads to thought about a different problem..)

Lame-R said...

That punishment would've been just fine by me as I never went to the prom anyways. However, it was not school punishments that worried me--it was my parents. If I got in trouble at school, even if it wasn't my fault, I was automatically in trouble at home and that was much worse.

And therein lies, imo, a tremendous part of the education discussion that is all-too-often overlooked: parental involvement.

Yes, schools should be able to hold students accountable. However, it is my firm belief that parents should hold their children even more accountable than their school does. But perhaps notions of character and family reputation and personal honor are too quaint for modern sensibilities. Nevertheless, absent these things, there is only so much we can do to 'fix' the educational system.

After 1 year spent teaching I became fond of joking that kids these days are fine--it's the parents who are derelict.

OBloodyHell said...

I'm not really clear on what he got suspended for in the first place?

Taping letters (i.e., an innocuous message) is a suspendable offense? Gimme a break, that's ludicrous.

They could have, and should have, if there was any real, actual problem here that I'm not seeing, given him a week's detention, such detention tied to helping clean the school grounds of litter and trash.

Sorry, Carl, I'm kinda with Sue, here -- this isn't even a rational punishment, nor does your argument have merit -- he clearly didn't know of or expect the kind of punishment he would get, as there would be no reason for the message if he expected to get prevented from going to the prom for it.

I agree with you that the law is sometimes both unjust and unfair, but that's where judges and juries are intended to step in and fix the problem (or else why is there Jury Nullification?).

In this case, the message sent is perhaps a dubious one, but the principal is acting as a judge in this case, and should be setting the punishment to a reasonable equity to the crime.

Hence, I'd say that the principal should be doing something to punish the student (for whatever subtle thing wrong they did), perhaps as suggested above, but it should somehow match the error to the punishment.

Sorry, my own experience with the PS system is that they do NOTHING but inflict injustices on good students, often by rewarding bad ones.

Typically, the punishment for a bad student picking a fight with a good one? They both get suspended.

Wait, what? The bad student gets a vacation, the good student gets harm to his grades -- clearly, he should have been more servile to the bad student. "See, be a good little sheep".

Oh, yeah, that's just. Just Peachy.

suek said...

You know another factor?? The young man in question didn't instigate all the reaction. He and his parents didn't sue the school. It appears that he was willing to accept the decision - it was that _other_ people felt it was out of line with simple justice.

Bob in LA said...

The common theme in the comments today is personal responsibility, starting with the parents. Perhaps we can take a clue from Tiger Mom.

"Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job.""

Amy Chua is a good writer, it is worth a read if you haven't. I meant to add to the article. .