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Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: Back To School – Begin New Year By Addressing Student Discipline

“It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.”(S) Frederick Douglass
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

(S) Albert Einstein, Among Others

Recently there has been much discussion in the news media pertaining to the various education “horror” stories about our public schools. It has been reported that America’s public schools are falling behind other schools in the international community. This is especially true when it comes to our inner city, at risk and disadvantaged student populations. For example, America’s schools are increasingly falling behind in vital subjects such as “STEM,” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and foreign language proficiency.

There is much conversation about what to do and how to catch up with the world’s more efficient and effective education programs, particularly among the more modern, developing and advanced nations. However, there is one topic/solution that I find to be routinely omitted from “resolving America’s education dilemma.”

That vital and critical component is the “disciplinary” shortcomings and realities that exist in too many of our declining and failing schools. Moreover, this vital and critical aspect of the “teaching-learning” process is still being hampered and something needs to be done about it. In this era of “political correctness” and “don’t blame the victim,” not many people will even utter its name or cause.

Probably the number one problem in (too many of) our public schools is “discipline.” There are still too many disruptive students and uncaring parents in our midst. Too often, these students are tolerated and allowed to go unchecked. Too often, they prevent teachers from teaching and students from learning. An answer has to be found for this ongoing dilemma, otherwise, further improvement in our public schools will be difficult – if not impossible – to achieve. In essence, these “few” are detrimental to the “many.”

These “few” are discipline problems for an assortment of reasons, beginning with birth conditions and family upbringing. They need help and they should be given help. However, they and their parents need to be held accountable for their disruptive conduct and flagrant behavior.

Many of these children get very little support and involvement from their parents and other caregivers. They come to school unprepared: lack of sleep, nourishment, nurturing, supervision, and the like. They come to school without pencil, paper or book. They lack a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for learning. Many of these issues/problems are beyond the scope of the classroom teacher.

Accordingly, these students act out and become disruptive in the classroom to the detriment of everyone else. They lack motivation and fail to understand the importance of getting a “good education.” Too often, parents don’t care, or they don’t have the capacity to bring their children under control.

Imagine how much more progress could be made with our children if we could eradicate this “discipline problem.” Parental involvement and family support are key components of the “education triad”: student-parent-teacher. It takes all three to ensure a quality education for all of our children. Our children need to be encouraged to perform and achieve at their maximum potential.

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It has been said that it takes a whole village to raise a child. However, I firmly believe that the parents/family of that child need to be at the center and forefront of that village. This calls for the parents/family to give love, support and guidance. Only they can ensure that this is done – daily, regularly, consistently and unrelentingly. This should be(come) their “labor of love.”

My comments are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This issue is highly intricate and innately complex. Furthermore, we must bring it out into the open and deal with it. Otherwise, we will miss an opportunity to “make things better” for all of our children. Therefore, let us begin the new school year by improving our public schools for all of our children.

John L. Horton is a Norfolk resident and frequent contributor to this newspaper.

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