Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 1999 / 14 Kislev, 5760
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
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
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?
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
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Tribune Media Services