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Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 1999 / 14 Kislev, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility --
The nice thing about pendulums is that they eventually swing back. Several unrelated events in recent weeks prove the rule and suggest that Americans are fed up with 20th-century victimology and its illegitimate offspring, the government self-esteem worker.

A state Supreme Court, for example, rules that children may be spanked without parents' fear of being charged with abuse; a local school board says violent hoodlums won't be tolerated regardless of how many celebrities and television cameras show up; a state board of education resolves that children should be disciplined rather than drugged into appropriate behavior.

Bless my stars and stripes, but common sense seems to be making a comeback. As you give thanks this week, consider these glad tidings:

In Colorado a few days ago, the State Board of Education passed a resolution recognizing that many discipline problems are just that, rather than biological disorders requiring psychotropic remedy. The board resolved to encourage school personnel to use "proven academic and/or classroom management solutions to resolve behavior, attention and learning difficulties."

The board also resolved "to encourage greater communication and education among parents, educators and medical professionals about the effect of psychotropic drugs on student achievement and our ability to provide a safe and civil learning environment."

In other words, some "children" might benefit more from consequences than from drugs when it comes to discipline and learning. Such as, perhaps, being expelled for rioting? Or getting a well-placed exclamation point on the behind rather than yet-another-lecture-ho-hum-can-I-go-watch-TV

Ask teachers what's wrong with education these days, and most will tell you: No discipline. No consequences. No "guts" among administrators emasculated by civil-rights agitators, litigators and self-esteem parents too busy to notice that Johnny's, well, just a little monster, frankly.

School board members in Decatur, Ill., tried to say as much when they recently issued two-year expulsions to six students who rioted at a football game.

Was the expulsion deserved?




About time?

You bet.

Predictably, civil-rights czar Jesse "The Reverend" Jackson appeared on the scene and demanded that the boys be readmitted to school. These "children" -- three of whom are freshmen for the third time -- are being deprived of their right to an education and need help not punishment, Jackson says.

The reverend may be right that the boys need help, but that doesn't preclude the need for punishment as well. Our failure to endorse punishment as an option, both to parents and teachers, is surely responsible for the escalation in disrespect, violence and other social pathologies common among youth as never before.

In a compromise, the school board has reduced the boys' expulsion to one year and offered placement in an alternative school, where the students can continue "learning." A fair enough compromise, though Jackson, who reminds me of one of those old vets who never got word that the war ended, plans to persevere.

The boys, meanwhile, might havebenefited long ago from a visit with another man of the cloth, the Rev. Donald Cobble, who wound up in court on child-abuse charges for spanking his son with a leather strap. A few days ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the case, ruling that Cobble had a right to discipline his son absent "substantial risk" of injury.

Individually, we may disagree with the draconian measures both of Cobble and the Decatur school board. We may even take issue with the Colorado Board of Education's implication that some misbehavior can't be excused with a doctor's note.

But, collectively, we might enjoy a sigh of relief as the pendulum begins its journey back toward personal responsibility, accountability and consequences.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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