It’s the Discipline, Stupid!

(Part One)

     Ah, that’s the word that the modern day spineless, inept, and lazy administrators simply do not want to hear!  In fact, hardly an educrat (those central office administrators [especially including the harlot superintendents who bounce around the country looking for the next unsuspecting school board which will dole an obscene salary and benefits package for the next “messiah” who promises to miraculously “raise the test scores], the Department of Education staffers [both at both the state and federal levels], the legislators, and, yes, even Sonny, our newest “education” governor) even want to entertain the notion that discipline (actually a lack thereof) has anything to do with the dismal shape that public education is in.  Of all of the dramatic changes in public schools in the last thirty years (computers and so forth), the most dramatic change of all is the breakdown of discipline in so many of our schools, especially schools in more urban settings.


     Hey, educrats, the emperor is naked! 


     It does not matter one bit what the curriculum is if the students (and I use that word loosely) are running the ship.  That is what is happening today.  There has been a mutiny on the educational ship.  The teacher is no longer captain of the educational ship; rather, the defiant and disruptive children and their irate and irresponsible parents are now in charge of this rudderless ship.  In the old days (about thirty years ago), most administrators in Georgia schools ran a pretty taut ship – and there are still a few left, but they are dinosaurs (a dying breed).  Since Georgia voters were duped into voting for a constitutional amendment in 1992 which mandated that all superintendents of Georgia school systems be appointed instead of elected, these “professional” superintendents have managed to drive the Georgia schools deeper into the educational abyss.  These “gypsies” no longer want to address the real issues which confront the teachers who are on the frontline of the educational battle each day.  In the old days, if discipline went south under a particular elected superintendent, then the teachers and a host of their friends and concerned citizens would mount an effective campaign to rid the county of that ineffective superintendent at the next election.  This “market-driven” way of dealing with ineffective superintendents might not have been so savory in polite society, but it did the trick, and our schools were safer and the students knew that the teachers were the bosses of their classrooms.  You did not have kids demanding to be sent to the office because they wanted to make a “case” against their “mean” and “unfair” teacher! 


     When I was a 27 year old assistant principal of a large high school in charge of discipline, the students knew that there were no “free trips” to my office.  If they were sent to my office, they were going to get something, and the least that they were going to get was a paddling!  Yes, I paddled students, and I was paddled myself when I was a student in the Georgia schools.  A good paddling is what many students need – immediate feedback for their mischievous ways.  If their conduct approached miscreant status, then they needed to go home for one or two weeks.  I let Mom and Dad take care of them; I gave their teachers and fellow students a break.  Sometimes, I just had to make a case to get certain juvenile delinquents expelled for the remainder of the quarter (we were on quarters back then) or for the remainder of the year.  And, when I made the case, I did not sugarcoat things that the students did or said.  I wanted the school board members to have a graphic insight on what this student actually did or said.  If a student called a teacher a “mother fucker,” I did not put in the report that the student simply used “profanity.”  I wrote in the report which went to the school board that this student called Mr. Jones a “motherfucker.” 


     For school board members to have a graphic understanding of what is going on in the school’s engine room, you had to be graphic.  Otherwise, the school board members will think that it was just as polite and clean in the engine room as it is on the deck of the ship where they are being served the umbrella-clad margaritas.  That year alone, I took 13 students to the school board for expulsion, and all 13 were expelled by these rather shocked school board members.  The school was better off.  The students who wanted to learn were better able to learn.  It was not perfect, but you could hear a pin drop in the halls.  Students arrived to class on time.  If a student defied a teacher (or, “bowed up to the teacher,” as we called it), that student knew that there were going to be swift and sure punishment forthcoming.  After a short while, the students get the message:  This is a place where learning takes place, not a place for you to sell drugs, to simply carry out your game of “cops and robbers” with the teachers, or a place for you to display your “street cred” by bullying fellow students.  Today, cursing out teachers and totally defying them is an everyday occurrence.  The pitiful administrators turn a deaf ear to these situations – even when teachers reduce complaints to writing.  In fact, these obscene administrators even proceed to put the teachers on onerous “Professional Development Plans” when they complain about the horrid conditions!  These lazy administrators (who are just breathing air and drawing fat paychecks) DO NOT want to hear it!  They are lazy and inept but they are also keenly aware that the superintendent DOES NOT want to hear about disciplinary problems.  The superintendent wants to candycoat everything going on in the school system, acting as if he or she has an acute interest and love for the county’s children – until the school systems in Spokane or Fresno or Birmingham come calling with much more money and benefits, then this “vagabond” or “gypsy” or “harlot” goes trotting off into the sunset, forgetting about all of the little kiddies whom he or she had convinced the school board that he or she cared so much for. 


     The whole appointed superintendent game is a sham and one of the major reasons why discipline has gone awry, resulting in chaotic schools with learning dramatically and detrimentally affected.  But the new superintendent will come to town, promising “reform,” like they all do.  The new superintendent will be taken on the obligatory meatloaf and mash potato civic circuit (Rotary Club, Chamber Breakfast, Kiwanis Supper), promising to “raise test scores” (has anyone EVEN been able to do this without later being found out that systematic cheating was done – like in the Houston, Texas, situation?) which will result in bringing in more high tech industries into the county.  The new superintendent will bring in his or her hired guns to scare the hell out of the teaching corps, threatening them with severe disciplinary action if the teacher even deigns to communicate about school matters with school board members, even if the teacher and school board member are members of the same Sunday School class.  In this appointed superintendent sham, school board members have to be kept ignorant of what is really going on in the school buildings. 


     Teachers, have a good year and do not hesitate to call on us if you need us.  For those who are not already members of MACE, don’t wait too late to join!  MACE is the only teacher's union in Georgia addressing critical issues like the lack of discipline in the schools.  In fact, MACE is really the only organization in the State of Georgia that openly talks about this “impolite” subject which virtually all educrats want to sweep under the rug.  However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has recently done a few articles touching upon the issue of discipline or lack thereof.  I hope that the AJC will continue to focus some light on the subject.  Remember what I have always said:  You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.  The two are inextricably linked.  You cannot have the former until you first establish the latter.  There are some schools who have some bright, talented, and strong administrators.  In fact, at the spa yesterday, I talked to a teacher who teaches at one of the high schools in Fayette County.  He was very pleased with his administration and very happy with his teaching conditions.  I guarantee you that learning takes place in his classroom.  But these situations are becoming fewer and fewer.  They are now the exceptions to the rule.


August 28, 2006


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