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July 20th, 2017

Insight

No Discipline, No Peace

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published June 8, 2015

   No Discipline, No Peace

This week, an article is making the rounds describing the millions St. Paul, Minnesota, taxpayers have spent on "white privilege" training for teachers and administrators in their public schools. The program preaches, among other things, that standards of good student behavior are a function of "white privilege"; holding black children to those standards, therefore, is racist.

The result, according to teachers and parents, is chaos and anarchy. Students skip classes, use vulgar language, destroy property and disrupt classes. There have been incidents of violence as well, with few consequences. One high school teacher remarked, "There are those that believe that by suspending kids we are building a pipeline to prison. I think that by not, we are. (W)e're telling these kids ... You can assault somebody and we're gonna let you come back here."

This is not new, and St. Paul is no outlier. A year ago, the National Center for Education Statistics released the "Indicators of School Crime and Safety" report, which showed a dramatic increase in incidents of violence in American schools, including over 600,000 thefts and nearly 750,000 "violent victimizations," 89,000 of which were characterized as "seriously violent." Roughly 74 percent of public schools reported violent crime on the premises. Ten percent of public school teachers reported being threatened or physically attacked. (In one horrific case this year, a teacher in Long Island was knocked unconscious and repeatedly kicked in the head while she lay on the floor.)

Families and teachers are fed up. The St. Paul school district has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of children moved to non-district schools, two-thirds of which came from low-income families. The teachers' union pressed for — and got — new representatives on the school board.

Meanwhile, Baltimore is still making headlines — now about increased violence, record-setting murder rates and a substantial reduction in arrests. The Baltimore police are afraid of reprisals, fearful of lawsuits and, in many instances, impeded from doing their jobs by threatening crowds. Criminals are paying attention. One West Baltimore resident was quoted as saying: "Before it was over-policing. Now there's no police. ... People feel as though they can do things and get away with it."

Detect a pattern here?

When discipline is removed, chaos reigns. And in poorer neighborhoods, as in urban schools, it is those whose need is greatest who are hurt most by boneheaded policies.

When police are hampered in their ability to impose order, it is not those living in gated communities whose lives are most affected, but those who are living on the front lines of urban violence. And when ivory-tower academicians float bogus theories about the discriminatory impact of imposing discipline in schools, it is not those who can escape to private schools who are most negatively impacted, but those who are stuck in schools where there is no control and no accountability.

In the "Bizarro World" that is progressive academic policy, it is "racist" to expect civilized behavior. Garbage. Good behavior in school has nothing to do with race or color. And while children's learning styles certainly differ, all children need discipline, structure and reasonable expectations, and all children benefit from them. What is racist is saying that a child cannot be expected to sit still, do his or her work, follow instructions or treat others with respect because he or she is black.

In fact, it is worse than racist. It is immoral and destructive. As news items and untold social science papers reveal, the most at-risk children see very little discipline in their homes. They see very little discipline in their neighborhoods. Taking discipline out of schools deprives students of possibly their only chance to have set expectations and the benefits that come with those expectations.

Learning that there will be consequences for their poor choices at an early age makes it less likely that these kids will have run-ins with the police later on. In other words, good behavior in schools today will produce safer neighborhoods tomorrow.

The absurd and destructive experimentation with nonsensical educational policies needs to be brought to a screeching halt, and those responsible for these policies should be unceremoniously fired. While their theories no doubt produced entertaining reading in Ph.D. theses, their efforts have failed — at a staggering personal and societal cost.

St. Paul families and teachers are retaking control of their schools. Across the country, other communities should do the same.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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